SLU residents fight to save mature trees

Chris Daniels reports.

SEATTLE - It's a branch of the city that's become an urban jungle filled with a particular type of bird.

"Five yellow cranes right in the middle, four of them you can see from here," said Hellmet Golde, peering out a window at the Mirabella Retirement Community off of Denny Way.

"There's development on every block, from Denny Way to Valley," said John Pehrson, who, along with Golde, has lived at Mirabella for the past six years. The men, aged 88 and 85 respectively, say they've been fascinated at the growth. But when they saw the plans for a new complex across the street, they weren't smiling.

"There is very little green space," said Pehrson, as he pointed down to the small pocket park on Fairview. "It seems like a travesty to take down trees that are 70 years old in the middle of this development."

Those trees are part of a small private park near The Seattle Times old headquarters. A Canadian developer Onni had submitted plans to bulldoze the trees as part of a massive mixed use development. Pehrson, Golde and a group of Mirabella residents cried foul.

"It gives shelter to the birds and it's important for ecological reasons," said Hellmet.

The group has put together a photo book on the history of the park and the benefits to their neighborhood. They also vowed to take extreme measures, even for a pair of octogenarians.

"(We) jokingly said, we're all seniors, we'd chain ourselves to the trees - maybe we would, maybe we would," said Pehrson.

Golde said it worked for him years ago.

"Got a group of faculty and students together at UW at the surrounding trees they wanted to cut down and they didn't. So it helps," he said.

Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw noticed the kerfuffle. She sat down with the developer's team and was issued a guarantee late last month it would work around the urban woods.

"According to our plan reviewers, the plans that we have reviewed show the preservation of the Seattle Times Park and associated trees," DPD spokesperson Wendy Shark said Thursday.

An attorney for Onni declined comment Thursday. The company is expected to appear before a Seattle Landmark and Preservation Board next week about the project.

The Mirabella residents say they're already declaring victory in the face of a forest of prosperity.

"We've already set up a little table and had champagne," Pehrson said, walking through the park.


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