SEATTLE – The City of Seattle is suing people it says are responsible for illegally cutting 150 trees in West Seattle. City Attorney Pete Holmes says the city is seeking $1.6 million in damages.
The tree cutting happened in January on 1.5 acres of city property along the 3200 block of 35th Avenue Southwest. The neighborhood is mostly view property that looks back on downtown Seattle, the Cascades, and Mount Rainier.
The city says someone took a chainsaw to 150 trees, leaving parts of the trunks standing. Their branches were left strewn in every direction.
Holmes says the property is in an environmentally critical area on a steep slope. The tree cutting could result in an unstable hillside and lead to landslides in the future. The trees included big-leaf maples and Scouler’s willows.
"No one has yet come forward to give the City the full story of what happened despite SPD's best efforts and extensive investigation. However, we are satisfied that we now know enough to proceed with civil lawsuits,” said Holmes in a statement.
Holmes says he expects more people involved will be found. The city is alleging those responsible should have known it was illegal to cut down trees that are on city property, and that no permits were obtained.
Seattle Police are still investigating and Holmes says they could refer the case to him or the King County Prosecutor’s Office for charges.
Clayton Graham, an attorney for someone who hired contractors to do the work, told KING 5 the following in March via email.
"...a client who, along with other neighbors, hired a landscaping business to top and prune some trees to improve the view from their respective residences. After limited discussions with the contractors, my client returned from an out-of-town trip to find the scene shown in the news reports: To our clients’ surprise and dismay, several trees were cut at or near the base, as opposed to just limited pruning work."
Graham says this group of neighbors offered to restore any damage caused by the work. However, while they admit to hiring the contractors to do the end at the north end of the impacted area, they claim they are not responsible for the tree clearing at the south end of the impacted area.