New Regulations Protect Trees on Private Property

Burien City Council Adopts Tree Code Amendments
Posted on 10/07/2022
Illustration of bird in tree. Check mark.

The Burien City Council adopted new tree regulations to protect trees on private property in Burien during their October 3, 2022 meeting. The regulations go into effect on October 12, 2022. While fines will not go into effect until March 1, 2023, the City of Burien will keep a record of violations.

The revised regulations require private property owners to secure a tree permit before:

  • Removing exceptional trees, defined as a tree that is large for its species.
  • Removing more than one tree per year. More trees may be removed if lot is greater than 5,000 square feet.
  • When tree removal results in a lot below the required tree credit density, which is based on lot size. The larger the lot, the more trees must be preserved or replanted.
  • Topping trees.
  • Pruning more than 25 percent of a tree’s canopy.

A permit is not required for removal of small trees that are not considered “significant”, which are trees below six inches in diameter at 4.5 feet above the ground. A permit is not required for pruning a hedge.

Every single family residential and multifamily residential lot must preserve a minimum tree credit density which varies based on the size of the lot. If tree removal results in less than the minimum tree credits on a lot, trees must be replaced. This ensures that every lot will have some number of trees on the property.

The regulations emphasize retention of large and healthy trees during construction of new developments and replacing trees that have been removed. Additional tree protection standards have been added to ensure that the trees identified for retention are adequately protected throughout development.

The revised regulations require fines for illegal tree removal that range from $700 to $15,000. This allows for an education period prior to penalizing people who violate the code.

Separate code sections regulate shorelines, critical areas (stream, wetlands, and landslide hazard areas) and public property. All trees in shorelines, critical areas and their buffers, and public property require permits for removal, no matter their size.

The new regulations support goals of the City of Burien’s Comprehensive Plan, Climate Action Plan, and Green Burien Urban Forest Stewardship Plan.