Tree knocks out power and others threaten; City responds by removing the tree but what about the damage?
A large Alder tree on the hillside just adjacent to 2159 Harbor Ave SW suddenly broke and fell around 8:39pm on Aug. 12 crashing down and smashing a classic 1997 Mercedes Benz SL500 AMG and stopping traffic. In the process it knocked out power for more than 3000 people in the area. It exploded a transformer on the pole and shards of it remained on the street on Tuesday.
The tree fall also literally melted the cable TV lines into the home, and the homeowners remain without power. No word on full restoration as yet.
But the tree is one of several that are at an extreme lean on the hillside. The owners of the home and car who asked not to be identified, said that three trees have fallen over the last five years. They have asked the city to top or trim the trees but were told there was a backlog and they would have to wait.
In the meantime, some of the trees are literally hanging over the home which the owners say has been in their family for generations.
On Tuesday, after assessing the damage the city responded by sending crews to remove the downed tree.
There was no word on whether the City would pay to compensate the owners for the close to $20,000 loss of the vehicle, or for the damage to their home. In a city right of way, if the city did not plant the trees, maintaining them might still be the responsibility of the owner of the adjacent property. The website MaggianoLaw.com says :Accidents like falling branches and falling trees often deal with the concept of “premises liability.” This means that the owner of a property is liable for injuries sustained on the property due to dangerous conditions, lack of maintenance, and certain other factors." which suggests that since the city owns the property they must compensate the homeowners. But it's not immediately clear if that is the case.
The owners said they wanted to express their gratitude for the people from Seattle Parks who came out to remove the tree.
In general, the following rules apply when removing trees or otherwise modifying vegetation.
The City of Seattle has rules regarding the removal of trees.
"Environmentally critical areas. You cannot remove any trees or otherwise modify vegetation from the following environmentally critical areas (ECA) without an ECA Restoration Plan approval or issued building permit:
- Landslide-prone critical areas
- Steep slope erosion hazard areas and their buffers
- Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas
- Riparian corridors
- Wetlands and their buffers"
The issue is that the city has a process to determine which are "Hazard trees" and those hanging over the home have not been designated as such as yet. Here's the link to the full information on that process.
But in brief the City says, "SDCI will approve the removal of a tree protected by the Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance or Environmentally Critical Areas (ECAs) Regulations, provided you demonstrate the tree poses a significant risk of causing damage to people or property."
To start that process you must complete your application online through the Seattle Services Portal, https://cosaccela.seattle.gov/ portal/
But given the fact that the City says they have a backlog, not a hard claim to believe, even filling out a form like this means you will likely have to wait.