Intersection of street trees and sidewalk projects
By law, we are required to address issues with our sidewalks that are out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under Title II of the ADA, we are required to perform a self-evaluation of our current services, policies, and practices to ensure we are in ADA compliance. The self-evaluation includes facilities within the rights-of-way, as well as sites and building facilities. That includes sidewalks.
Whenever we begin a sidewalk project, whether to construct a new sidewalk or repair and improve existing sidewalks, one of the first things we hear about is concern for the trees. There is no question the residents of Shoreline love their trees. We do too. Unfortunately, many of the street trees planted 30, 40, and 50 years ago were not the right trees to plant as street trees. We are now having to deal with that poor planning.
Many of our street trees are just too big to be planted next to sidewalks and need to be removed in order to have sidewalks that are not buckling and cracking and are safe for people to use. In the past, we have looked at individual sidewalk projects to see if we can save mature street trees when possible. The safe routes to school project at Einstein is one example where we reduced the size of the amenity zone at one point to save three mature cherry trees at the back of the sidewalk. We will continue to look for these options in the future. However, in many instances, there just are not any options aside from removing a tree. There have been times in the past where we have made expensive adjustments to a project to save a tree. Unfortunately, just a few years later, we have had to go back and make additional repairs to the sidewalk due to continued tree growth and still ended up removing the trees.
Whenever we remove a tree as part of a street or sidewalk improvement project, we replace the tree with one that is appropriate for that location. The City has adopted a right-of-way street tree list that identifies what types of trees can be planted where. The list applies to any trees planted or replaced in the City’s right-of-way. Planting the right tree in the right place helps ensure the health of our urban forest and protects our infrastructure.