At a Sept. 24 extended meeting, the Bellevue City Council heard the results of the latest citywide tree canopy assessment.
The tree canopy assessment is a report conducted by the city every 10 years since 1986. Jennifer Ewing, manager of the environmental stewardship program, gave the city council a rundown of the results found by the most recent assessment.
The first study, conducted in 1986, listed the total tree canopy at 45 percent. Since then the percentage has dropped every time a new assessment is done, with 40 percent in 1999, and 38 percent in 2007. The 2018 assessment found the total tree canopy was 37 percent. Ewing noted that the difference between 2007 and 2018 was mostly caused by different methodology to calculate the tree canopy and that the amount had not changed in a significant way.
After the 2007 study, the city council adopted a goal of 40 percent tree canopy for the city into the comprehensive plan. With the new study complete the city will work on developing a plan to reach that goal.
The study was done alongside Mercer Island and King Conservation District’s tree canopy assessment for 13 other cities.
“All the cities were working with consistent data sets using LiDAR data and aerial imagery from 2017 all working with the same consulting firm using consistent methods and data,” Ewing said. “This is the first of it’s time, where so many cities have joined together to do this type of study. It not only allows us to compare with other cities, but also allowed for some economies of scale in terms of cost of the study.”
The study found Bellevue parks have a canopy of 64 percent, and that parks make up 20 percent of the city’s total canopy. The majority of the city’s canopy, a total of 65 percent, is located in suburban residential areas. The city categorized each of the land use areas in terms of canopy as well, with commercial mixed use at 7 percent, industrial at 1 percent, and urban residential at 7 percent.
In order to reach the citywide 40-percent goal, Ewing said the city would need an additional 670 acres of canopy.
The city now will develop an action plan to achieve the 40-percent goal. That plan will include setting goals by land-use type and neighborhood, and building partnerships with residents, businesses and schools.
A video archive of the meeting an be found on the city of Bellevue’s website.