The city of Seattle is considering a new green code that calls for removal of invasives, oversight of planting plans in even private landscapes (I think that's what it means, although I can't quite believe it) and 75% native plants when replacing landscapes. Honestly, this is hard to take seriously as it lacks specifics and is so out of line with the nursery industry and home gardeners.
Scott Vergara, in his excellent response to the city (below) asks what this means for our public landscapes - an arboretum filled with salal and big leaf maple? His letter is filled with specific examples and questions. Please read it and weigh in with the city as soon as possible.
Here's the City's proposal, with information on who to contact:
Green Code Provisions
Please send your comments to Kathleen Petrie at firstname.lastname@example.org or Attn: Kathleen Petrie, 700 5th Avenue, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA 98124
4. Invasive species and native vegetation:
The following draft code concept is under co-development by participating jurisdictions in the Puget Sound Region. The intent is to encourage native plan selection in order to reduce the use of fertilizers, water and the strain often imposed on native environments by foreign constraining species. This provision would apply to all new vegetated landscapes, or those to be replaced. This draft concept does not yet appear in proper code format, but comments are appreciated based on the information provided.
Invasive plant species shall be prohibited from a building site.
A plan shall be submitted to show that existing invasive species will be removed, and that 75% of all new plantings will be native to Western Washington. Said plan shall be prepared by a qualified professional or generated based upon published recommendations.
Existing native plant life shall be protected whenever possible.
And here's Scott's response:
Dear Ms. Petrie:
I would like to submit the following comments.
As a professional horticulturist with well over 35 years of practical work experiences ranging from working in independent garden centers, large wholesale nurseries as well as small retail operations, teaching over 14 subjects in horticulture programs at community colleges in the Puget Sound region, working as the Executive Director of the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, WA in the early 1990’s I feel compelled to comment on the draft Green Code Provisions 4 Invasive species and native vegetation provision.
I realize this is a draft concept but the vagueness and over reaching aspects had me staring at my computer screen utterly speechless for several minutes as I reread the section, thinking of the disastrous impact implementation of this provision would have on a region wide industry that generates many millions of dollars in sales and tax revenues and provides thousands of jobs. Equally important to realize would be the negative culture changing impact on a region known nationally and internationally as a horticultural Mecca. People visit the region to see native/natural areas such as the Olympic Peninsula AND the fantastic plantings of the URBAN horticulture scene.
The 75% requirement of western Washington natives for all new plantings is draconian and intrusive. I found no distinction between commercial, private, or governmental agency properties. Since the draft suggests this applies to “replacement” plantings, does this require that every time a planting of annuals or perennials is reworked you can only replant 25% back into similar plants and the other 75% must be natives, and this repeats each year? You can see where this is going. What about edible landscaping, fruit trees and vegetable beds? If a windstorm topples a tree and this destroys a planting of four specimens of Acer palmatium does that mean you can only replant one Acer palmatum and have to plant only western Washington natives in the remaining area? Would several windstorms turn the world renowned collections at the Washington Park Arboretum of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens into a non descript assemblage of big-leaf maples, alders, salal, and Douglas-fir?
Plans for new and replacement landscapes are to be submitted for review?! Really???? Who will do the reviews? Appeal process? Who pays for this? Is there staff and funding available? As you can gather from my questions, I find this part of the code to likely be unmanageable.
The idea that all new and replacement landscape plans must be prepared by a “qualified professional” or generated based upon “published recommendations” is just plan scary. Who are these “qualified professionals”? Would these qualified individuals be required to be certified as to being knowledgeable about all the various micro climates and soil conditions in our region and which plants are suitable? Who is going to pay for these professional plans? Any “qualified professional” who suggests that a big-leaf maple be installed in residential of business plantings should have their appellation stripped and sent to work on a cleanup crew after an ice storm.
Who would put together the “published recommendations”? Would this be the same group that proposed this section of the code in the first place? And these people were qualified because of……???? And who picked them to be on the advisory groups? And how were they vetted? And just because a plant is on some list, doesn’t mean it is available. Listing a plant as being “native” to a region or stream drainage or to your one acre back yard does not mean it is suitable or appropriate throughout the specific site being landscaped for the first time or in the landscape being replaced. Let’s not venture into the area of provenance and ecotypes just yet.
Also, how would this be enforced? Who would do the enforcing? There is money in city budgets to pay for this? I really don’t think city governments should look to the US Congress and follow their lead of unfunded mandates. I would hope we are better than that.
I appreciate your thoughtful consideration of my comments and act to withdraw this premature proposal. Invasive species are a huge problem, one that needs to be worked on throughout our region. However, attempting to turn back the hands of time to try and remake a NON Native environment like the metropolitan Seattle area into a pre 1492 setting, demonstrates in my honest opinion, severe myopia and a simplistic thought process.
Hopefully you have stirred up some people with this proposal and received at least a few comments. Hopefully more eyes will be watching what comes out of various committees and what attempts at code revisions are contemplated.
P.O. BOX 419
BURLEY, WA 98322-0419