Tree Protection - What & Why

What's Happening Now?

We are in the process of replacing Director's Rule 16-2008, Designation of Exceptional Trees, with a new, updated Director's Rule. The Draft Director's Rule 13-2020

  • Expands the definition of exceptional trees by adding additional species and protecting certain species at smaller diameters
  • Establishes a definition of significant trees as trees at least six inches in diameter that are not exceptional
  • Updates and simplify tree planting and replacement requirements
  • Provides tree protection and retention strategies for use when dividing land 
  • Provides additional mitigation requirements when an exceptional tree is allowed to be removed for development
  • Updates requirements for tree risk assessments when proposing to remove an exceptional tree 
  • Requires all Seattle-based tree service providers to certify they are aware of existing tree protections, requirements, and penalties

The Draft Director's Rule, and associated documents, are posted on the Project Documents page. SDCI is taking comments on the Draft Director's Rule during a 30-day public comment period that ends on August 17. We will also accept comments until the rule is completed and adopted, which we expect will be this summer.  If you wish to send us written comments, send them to or by mail to Director, Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, 700 5th Avenue, Suite 1900, P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, Washington 98124-4019.

SDCI administers and enforces the City's tree protection regulations, Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 25.11 Tree Protection, that apply to private property. The purpose of the code is to provide protections for certain trees.

SDCI is part of the City's team that is updating the Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP). For information on this process please visit the UFMP web page. In September of 2019, the Mayor and City Council adopted a resolution (Resolution 31902) asking SDCI to explore strategies to strengthen tree protections. We are preparing to respond to the Council's direction. Sign up on our listserv if you'd like to receive updates on our progress.

Project Benefits

Updates to tree protections can provide a number of benefits including:

  • Add to and compliment tree protection improvements made by SDCI in the past two years
  • Update rules and business practices for tree protection 
  • Recommendations for any changes needed to the tree protection code 
  • Balance regulations protecting trees with supporting future growth and density as provided in the City's Comprehensive Plan

The End Result

Anticipated results from this project in 2020 include:

  • Updates to Director's Rule 16-2008
  • New business practices to support tree protection
  • Upgrades to technology and record keeping