Man camps out in huge cedar tree in Wedgwood to keep it from being chopped down

SEATTLE — On the same day a red cedar tree was planned to be chopped down by a developer in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood, someone climbed it and set up a hammock Friday morning.

The activist, who said their name was “Droplet,” told us he will not come down until changes are made by the developer, Legacy Group Capital.

“This beautiful tree I’ve spent the day with, this very old red cedar is unfortunately, the last information we had as a group, slated to be cut,” said Droplet.

The beloved tree is one of five that are set to be removed Friday, but the city confirmed late Friday morning that the tree removal company did not yet get the approval needed to cut down the cedar.

According to the city, “a tree service provider needs to apply for public notice and then must wait at least six days after the public notice is approved and posted before they remove the tree.”

“That is heartening news that we essentially have time bought. The place that this tree holds in this forest, this neighborhood. If that was gone it would be really hard,” Droplet said.

According to Sandy Shettler, the developers divided the lot in such a way that the tree is now too big for the lot.

“The decision of whether or not to save the trees after July 30 will be with the person developing that property,” said Shettler.

That change also requires developers who want to remove trees to plant a replacement or pay the city for each tree removed.

“Our trees are a cash cow for the city and so they will be coming down. Money will be flowing into SDCI. The trees are worth more dead than alive,” said Shettler.

The red cedar tree on Northeast 88th Street is one of thousands on the last 6,000 list. It’s a list of more than 6,300 trees in Seattle with trunks 30 inches or wider.

People living in the area for years said a big reason they love their neighborhood is because of the greenery.

Neighbors rallied on Thursday in the hopes it could be saved.

They worry that chopping down the trees sets a bad precedent.

“With the current policies in place, it’s just a matter of time until we don’t have any trees left in the neighborhood like this. Developers are coming in and if you sell to a developer, there’s a very high chance that they decide they need to cut down your trees to make it work,” said resident Ryan Joyce.

Neighbors say cutting down the tree is unnecessary.

We heard a lot of nostalgic stories about the man who once owned the space where the tree is, and how much he tended to it and loved it.

Beyond emotions, neighbors say they’re concerned that efforts like these will fundamentally change the city.

“One of the special things about this area is the tree canopy. It’s not as frying hot as when I lived in Burien, and if we don’t take steps to protect it now, you can plant another tree — which they’re not even planning to do — but in order for it to get as big as this, that’s another hundred years,” said another neighbor.

According to the removal notice posted by the city, the cedar is defined as an “exceptional” tree, which provides unique value to the community.

We reached out to the developer, Legacy Group Capital, for comment, and they released this statement:

One of Legacy’s core principles is to facilitate the development of affordable housing, which is in high demand and desperately needed in this region and market. We understand the importance of striking a balance between addressing the housing crisis and being responsible stewards of our natural surroundings. While we are not the owner of this project, we are the lender and assisted the builder in their permitting. We understand the sensitive nature of the tree canopy, we all live in this area and share a collective commitment to the preservation and enhancement of our local environment. Legacy is in the practice of removing trees only when absolutely necessary after careful consideration of the site’s constraints and approval by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections.

According to the Seattle Times, between 2016 and 2021, about 255 acres of tree canopy have been lost — that’s an area roughly the size of Green Lake — and one of the biggest causes is construction.