Late last week we received several emails from readers who saw SDOT removing the trees along the side of Starbucks on Boston St. The crew was working on the sidewalk replacement project that we wrote about in mid-July. The project did not originally include tree removal. The sidewalk was slated for replacement and the tree pits were to be enlarged.
When the trees were ripped out last week, QAV reader Geoff Saunders sent us the photo of the SDOT crew in action (thanks, Geoff!). By the time I got up to Boston and Queen Anne Ave N, the trees were completely gone. As of this weekend, the construction area is prepped for the sidewalk, with no hint that there were ever trees in the space.
We contacted both SDOT and Picture Perfect Queen Anne (PPQA) about the tree removal. According to PPQA, tree removal was not originally included in the project plan, so we contacted SDOT about the removal of the trees.
SDOT prepared a statement for QAV readers, to explain their justification for tree removal and plans for the future.
Here’s the statement from SDOT – it’s lengthy, but explains their rationale:
During a sidewalk repair project, SDOT removes the old sidewalk, examines the tree roots, and evaluates tree health and structure. Root pruning is routinely performed as part of this process as a means to preserve both tree and sidewalk. In some cases, the amount of root pruning necessary to construct a new sidewalk exceeds the threshold that could sustain a healthy tree.
In this case, the westernmost tree and easternmost tree required extensive root pruning, which would have severely affected their health, jeopardized their structural stability and caused safety risks. Therefore, SDOT determined the best plan is to replace them.
The center tree (the smallest one) did not require such extensive root pruning, so it could have been preserved for the time being. However, all three trees were Ash, which adapt poorly to – and often decline after – root pruning. Given that this smaller tree was impacted by root loss, the decision was made to replace all three trees to support the community’s desire for uniformity along the block, while adding diversity to the street tree population. There is the potential future threat of Emerald Ash Borer finding its way to Seattle, and SDOT weighs that risk when considering opportunities to replace Ash trees in the street tree population. The replacement Gingko trees are extremely insect and disease resistant and have demonstrated excellent health and vigor in other business districts where we have recently planted them.
The bad news: the old trees are gone, and it’ll be a while before the new trees provide the benefits of mature trees. The good news: Gingko trees will replace them.
However, let’s hope the Gingkos are male trees, as a Seattle Times article from 2009 notes that the female trees can be very smelly and drop “sticky, slimy” seeds:
“Female ginkgoes produce the troublesome seeds, which are covered in a fleshy coating that contains butyric acid, also found in rancid butter.”
According to the article, many cities have decided to remove their Gingko trees or replace the female trees with male trees. The city of Seattle has Gingko trees listed on their approved Street Tree List, so they’ve been used elsewhere in the city – hopefully without too much olfactory impact!
UPDATE: It’s a boy! SDOT has confirmed that the Gingko trees are all males, so no stinky, messy trees.