Retired health-care manager Jim Davis spent much of his weekend perched 25 feet up a tree in his Magnolia neighborhood determined to save the lofty pine, which stands near electrical wires.
Seattle is known as a city of tree-huggers, and now it’s a city of at least one tree-sitter.
Retired health-care manager Jim Davis spent much of his weekend perched 25 feet up a tree in his Magnolia neighborhood, determined to save the lofty pine, which stands near electrical wires.
Munching on a turkey sandwich packed by his wife, watching a caterpillar inch by and admiring a jumble of branches that reminded the 59-year-old of a Salvador Dali sculpture, Davis surveyed bulldozers carrying out their work below.
He achieved his goal Monday morning when Seattle City Light workers arrived to talk him down with the promise that the pine wouldn’t be immediately axed.
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“They’re going to look at the tree again, and I feel good about that,” Davis said.
The tree sits on private property near 29th Avenue West where the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has issued permits for a builder to demolish an existing single-family home and construct a new one.
The pine was recently slated for removal after the builder contacted City Light about installing temporary electrical service during construction.
“Upon review of the tree’s location, close proximity to the primary high-voltage line, previous trimming work done, and upcoming trim work for the temporary power line, it was determined that the best course of action was to remove the tree, as it would put a great deal of stress on the tree,” City Light spokeswoman Mary Dorsey said.
Davis, who frequently walks his dog — a white poodle named Grace — past the property, said he first became worried on April 6, when he saw bulldozers at the site.
“It’s a beautiful tree. It’s big and wide, and it has a lot of branches,” Davis said. “I’m a Seattleite and we love our trees. I just want to know, is it absolutely necessary that they cut it down?”
His concern grew Friday when he saw an orange City Light “tree removal public notice.” He fired off emails to the utility, the DPD and City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw.
A hiking enthusiast who leads treks with The Mountaineers club, Davis returned to the site Saturday morning to have another look.
The bulldozers arrived and “I looked around and thought, ‘Let’s see if I can get this tree to Monday,’ ” he said. “I put my hiking stuff together and went up. I hadn’t climbed a tree since I was a kid, so it was a workout. But I was very, very careful and I found a good spot.”
That was at about 9:30 a.m., and Davis spent the rest of the day in the tree. A worker told him the pine wouldn’t be coming down right away, but Davis was skeptical, so he stayed put. He climbed back up Sunday, then descended when the bulldozers didn’t show up.
Davis was aloft again Monday morning when City Light officials found him.
“Currently, the tree is not coming down. The tree will be trimmed to make way for temporary electrical service during construction,” Dorsey, the City Light spokeswoman, said at midday Monday.
“Seattle City Light is always willing to discuss options and work with the community to find the best solutions. Once the construction is complete, the permanent service location may require additional trimming or removal of the tree.”
Trees on private property are regulated by the DPD unless they enter the public right of way, as the pine on 29th Avenue West does.
In that case, they’re regulated by the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry section, according to the DPD. As of Monday afternoon, the section had yet to receive a tree-removal request from City Light, a spokeswoman said.
The Urban Forestry section can approve or deny requests from City Light, said City Arborist Nolan Rundquist, who works in the section.
Seattle has an exceptional tree policy that is species-specific. It generally protects trees with diameters of at least 30 inches. The pine in question measures approximately 24.75 inches, according to Dorsey.
Efforts to reach the owner of the property were unsuccessful Monday.