Trees4Livability presents tree code recommendations to Bellevue City Council

“We will be the ones around to feel the effects of the actions you take now,” said Laeth English.

At the March 21 Bellevue City Council meeting, the nonprofit Trees4Livability proposed recommendations on tree canopy preservation as part of the Development Department’s workplan for 2022-2023.

Trees4Livability founder, Khaiersta English, was the first to speak from the organization, and she brought up the importance of protecting Bellevue’s tree canopy with ongoing development. She also presented a slideshow which showed the cities that Bellevue’s tree codes were compared against in the tree code study, including Lynnwood, Federal Way, Redmond, Sammamish, Kirkland, Renton, Seattle, and Mercer Island, among others.

Thirty-one-year Lake Hills resident and Bellevue architect, Rick Chesmore, was next to speak to the council, and he expressed his views surrounding Bellevue’s tree canopy.

“As architects, we consider the landscape including trees to be vital to the design. We should be able to develop and preserve at the same time,” said Chesmore. “As a longtime Bellevue homeowner and architect, I’m deeply concerned about the depletion of our important tree canopy. I have seen properties completely cleared of every tree, every bush, and every blade of grass—this type of development must be stopped immediately.”

Chesmore laid out some well-known benefits of trees, such as filtering air and being a habitat for wildlife, but he also emphasized how trees can act as stress relief and create feelings of connectivity with nature. He then asked for more restrictive tree codes to be put in place.

Laeth English, who is a seventh grader at Odle Middle School as well as English’s son, spoke out about the importance of Bellevue’s tree canopy for future generations.

“I’m here to talk with you about our future,” said Laeth. “In 2044, when I’m an adult, I hope Bellevue will have beautiful trees. When you make planning decisions for Bellevue, please keep my generation in mind—we will be the ones around to feel the effects of the actions you take now.”

Laeth referenced Redmond’s tree replacement policy for landmark trees and compared Bellevue’s lack of tree replacement codes when it comes to cutting down landmark trees.

Later in the city council meeting, Mayor Lynne Robinson commented on maintaining and protecting Bellevue’s tree canopy, which creates local character.

“Beyond the environmental impact, [tree codes are] a character issue for our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Robinson. “I know a lot of people have strong feelings about it, and we are hearing from many of them. I am interested in addressing that.”

The strong feelings of ensuring tree protection are being felt across generations.

According to English, Laeth is working to push the Trees4Livability campaign forward at his school. Khaiersta relayed how Laeth spoke with the Associated Student Body, who invited him to create a video to be played at school and additionally, Laeth has worked with the school’s principal to request permission to distribute flyers on bulletin boards at school.

Trees4Livability will continue to collect signatures for their tree code petition until the end of March.