96 Trees Along Ambaum Blvd. SW Have Been Marked For Death By City

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Driving through Burien this morning, many motorists may have noticed large “X’s” marked on dozens of trees along Ambaum Blvd. SW, starting around SW 140th and continuing on and off to around SW 112th.

At first we thought that perhaps these were just taggings from one-half of the dreaded new “Tic Tac Toe” gang. We shivered in anticipation: would we be seeing other trees marked “O” tomorrow? And who ultimately would win this contest?

However, once we saw construction crews by SW 112th working near trees that were also marked, our comical internal voice was quickly shuttered when we had a cold realization:

Could these marked trees be (gulp), marked for Death?

We asked Jenn Ramirez Robson, management analyst for the City of Burien, who confirmed our suspicions:

Sidewalk and curb improvements along Ambaum are part of our larger 2010/2011 Overlay Program. The idea is to get this work done before we begin paving Ambaum between SW 112th and SW 156th next year. We knew that some number of trees would need to be replaced due to the damage caused to the sidewalks. This week a landscape architect went through with project planners and marked the trees with a white “X” on those that would require replacement. A total of 96 trees were identified.

Trees are starting to be removed on Ambaum near SW 112th.

The trees that are currently in placed are called London Plane. One gardening source I found said this:

The London Plane tree is a hybrid of the American and Oriental Plane tree and is particularly well adapted to urban conditions. This handsome tree needs plenty of space to grow and is suitable for large properties only.

These trees were planted 20-30 years ago before much was known about what kind of trees might work well around sidewalks and pavement. The roots from these trees grow close to the surface and wreak all sorts of havoc. In the case of Ambaum Boulevard, the roots have not only buckled sidewalks but they have also pushed out curbs and have begun to grow up and out from the street itself. Because the roots are causing damage in so many directions cutting the problem roots would not leave enough stability for the tree. It should also be noted that the trees are too old and established to be transferred to another location. The trees will be removed sometime before the end of the year. They will be replaced with one of the following in the spring:

  • Pyrus calleryana ‘Glen’s Form’/ Chanticleer Pear
  • Tilia cordata ‘Corzam’/ Corinthian Linden
  • Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’/ Pyramidal European Hornbeam

For more information about road construction in Burien people can:

On Oct. 22nd, we had posted the following info about the Ambaum construction project:

Curb and Sidewalk Improvements on Ambaum Blvd
Construction crews have begun improvements to curbs and sidewalks on Ambaum Boulevard beginning at SW 112th and working their way south to SW 156th St. The right lane may be closed for short periods of time to accommodate the work. This work should take 4-6 weeks. During the same period, or directly following, crews will do the same type of work starting at SW 156th and work their way north to SW 112th. The City is working closely with Metro Transit to minimize impacts for bus riders.

Sadly, no word of the destruction of 96 big trees had ever been mentioned on the city’s website, nor in any recorded “Burien Alert” robocalls. Many of these trees provide excellent fall colors in a sort of umbrella-like pattern over a significant portion of Ambaum Blvd. SW, and we, for one, will be saddened to see them go.

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How do you feel about the city removing 96 trees along Ambaum Blvd. SW?

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30 Responses to “96 Trees Along Ambaum Blvd. SW Have Been Marked For Death By City”
  1. dolly says:

    this is ridiculous. let’s not remove the only decent view ambaum blvd has to offer. every fall, i drive down this street and enjoy the beautiful colors those trees have to offer. seriously? not to mention the money it will cost to rip them all up! thanks but no thanks!

    • Jack says:

      So, I would rather watch where I walking a little more, and have the beautiful trees. Ambaum is butt- ugly and needs the trees to keep from seeing all the mish-mash of stores from the 60’s era. Is there not a way to solve the problems?

  2. Erin says:

    So sad to see those beautiful trees go but as a runner my knees understand the need for flat sidewalks. It is one of my most favorite places to see in the fall but as you look closely at all the sidewalks you can see the need. I just hope they replace it with similar trees, larger than smaller.

  3. Eric says:

    This is yet another example of the City of Burien doing its bit to promote global warming. After all splendid older trees that provide shade and make the drive in Burien enjoyable mean nothing. Most cities would kill to have a main street lined with big older trees. Not Burien. Look at what happened to First Avenue and the trees we were told would be planted there.

    Burien will not be happy until it is known as the ugliest city on the west coast. I for one am disgusted.

  4. Terri says:

    It is sad to see them go – they are nice trees. However – one look at the picture and there is no way to safely walk, run, or push a stroller along these sidewalks. And what would the other commenters here say when a root manages to puncture your tire when you are on your way to an important personal appointment. Tough decision that had to be made. Glad to see they are replacing the trees and we can look forward to foilage again.

  5. mac says:

    20-30 years ago folks didn’t know “what kind of trees might work well around sidewalks and pavement”? Because cities didn’t have sidewalks prior to that time or trees hadn’t been planted near pavement before then? Sorry, but that’s just a goofy statement.

    • Coverofnight says:

      It does seem like a goofy statement, but it is true. I’ve dealt with many municipalities throughout this state and I see this problem all the time. The one thing we have going for us in Western Washington is that it rains so much, everything grows like weeds – so it won’t be long before these new trees take and provide a pleasant drive down Ambaum. This is one of the few good decisions that the City of Burien has made. Now, if they’d only fire that parking enforcement guy, there’d probably be enough money to provide some pretty Christmas lights along that stretch of road in the new trees.

  6. Burienite says:

    While it’ll be sad to see them go, the city is going to replace them with trees that’ll do less damage to the curb and sidewalks.

    Where the city has failed, is again by not properly communicating with the citizens about the plan. The city has a pretty good website, and this is obviously a project that will drastically change the Ambaum corridor (albeit temporary), so why couldn’t the city have done an email alert, or at least posted something on the website. Also, many people (like me) read the weekly council meeting packets, and I don’t remeber seeing ANYTHING about this project or any mention of how the trees were going to be axed.

    To the City of Burien: All you city staffers need to pull you heads out, and be better about communicating. Remeber, you work for the citizens and you are there to serve the citizens.

  7. Jay says:

    Hate to see trees go period. But it is necessary to remove them due to the damage they are causing. I know it’s hard but has to be done.

    Remember folks, the City isn’t here to make everyone happy! They do do things that you or I would disagree with at times. They must do things for the best of Burien in mind. Probably should have been done years ago.

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      Yes, they were the wrong trees planted with public funds from the Forward Thrust bond issue many years ago. However, the city’s proposed replacements are small scale and will never be majestic.

  8. Jane says:

    There are many alternative solutions to removing these wonderful trees. They do become huge trees eventually. The same trees grow in Pioneer Park downtown. But they could remove alternate trees to give the others some room, consult an arborist who specializes in saving old trees, and use permeable pavers instead of impermeable pavement for their improvements. These pavers allow room for the roots and can let water sink into the soil instead of running into the city drains and the sound. The pavers can also be set high enough to be flat and allow existing roots to get enough water to stop seeking the surface water. Check out the Low Impact Development Manual for solutions: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGLJ_en&q=low+impact+development+manual+

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      It is a good question why permeable concrete is not being used in the new sidewalks. I recall the permeable concrete was one of Mayor McGilton’s sacred cows!

  9. firefly says:

    Excellent comment Jane. There is something else the city doesn’t understand about removing old trees. These trees provide a noise and emissions buffer from the airport and absorb CO2. By the way, Sea-Tac is the greatest single producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. New trees may not survive however due to the high emission rates in our neighborhoods. Just look at the trees planted along the roadway next to the new runway wall. The ones with exposure to the airfield are all dead. The ones tucked behind the wall and buffered from the runways are alive, barely. Instead of removing trees, they should be planting more of them, especially evergreens all over the place. They keep us healthy.

  10. thom grey says:

    Duh City Staff and dude Bloggers,
    This is still one more thing that the city failed to mention at the presentation about the street overlay project at its City Council Meetings. Duh, like they also forgot to mention that we will be paying a new vehicle tax for the next 20 years to cover the cost of chopping down these trees. It is going to be just another half a** project like Burien always does-like the animal control, like sending vicious animal to other cities to bite people in the face, like the unfinished 1st Ave. project. Maybe they can put some other merchants out of business with this project too. My friends come to visit me in Burien and laugh their heads off about how crappy things are done here. Will they buy a condo here? Heck no. They still refer to the Town square project as a place that looks like it was hit with a nuclear bomb and the rubble remains. Or they remind me of the junk art wire woman who looked like she was going to bit the top off the condo complex. Burien has a way of taking the word class and removing the cl- off of the word. Dudes, what do you want to bet that Mikie Martin will still try to give himself another award for clopping down the trees rather than hiring an arborist and thinning them. Boo! Hiss! that dude does a lousy job of communicating with us the citizens.

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      As to that new vehicle tax/fee: I was the ONLY person to show up at council meetings to oppose the tax/fee. We defeated a prior vehicle tax proposal that was on the ballot last year and I predicted the city would ignore the 75% NO vote. That they did, and only me, myself and I stood against it.

      So, where are folks when plans are being formulated at city hall?

  11. Lisa B. says:

    “Tic-Tac-Toe” gang was pretty funny!

    I am sad to see the trees go but walking those sidewalks has been a bit treacherous. That and cars zooming by right next to you, it always makes me nervous. The sidewalks are in pretty bad shape in some places.

  12. napavine says:

    152nd st should be next. Stop planting trees that you know will outgrow there enviroment. We live in the city. If you want trees, go to the woods.

  13. Shari says:

    I’d say the same thing Lisa B. said. Really sad– that stretch of Ambaum is one of the few honestly beautiful drives around here in the spring and fall. But if it’s dangerous, it’s dangerous, and injuries and lawsuits can’t be helpful for the city in the long run. What a shame. I also like what Jane says about what to do/not do when this is re-done.
    Does anybody know what typically happens to the wood in these situations? I’m wondering if these trees (London Plane?) can be used for furniture or any kind of artwork– Urban Hardwoods does some pretty amazing stuff with wood that would otherwise have been thrown into a landfill… would be great to see this used for something in a Burien public space if that would be at all possible and not ridiculously costly. http://www.urbanhardwoods.com/company/process.aspx

  14. Karl says:

    I don’t like seeing the trees cut down; I think they are an important part of Burien. However, I am glad they are replacing the trees with others that will not cause so much damage later. Had they started with better trees, they would remain.

    As a resident, I’d like better communication from Burien on what is happening in the neighborhood. Perhaps this information is available already but needs better advertisement.

  15. tripC says:

    Boy, all of these trees coming down sure make me proud to live in Burien, WA. “Tree City USA”. Hey, while we are at it, let’s also take down the trees in Seahurst Park, we have construction to do. Don’t worry….. Your recognized tree friendly City will replant them with something more human friendly, (and easier for us to deal with).


  16. Jack says:

    Help me with this! I walk down the West end of 152nd all the times and that is what the sidewalk looks like without trees!
    Burien is truly ugly. I wish that someone was in charge that could proceed with better planning and make the slum lords clean up the apartments.

    • Shari says:

      That’s a really good point. The trees are part of a general concern about the appearance of this place. And I think Jack’s onto something in that it has an awful lot to do with how run down properties are allowed to get. Where does code enforcement stand on the city’s list of budget and planning priorities? Is it being emphasized in the selection of the new council member and/or highlighted in the visioning process for the next 10-20 years? I know code enforcement ends up costing time and money, but I wonder if we looked at some small cities that are considered good examples if we might not find a much stronger emphasis on code enforcement for residences?

  17. tripC says:

    The only way that the citizens of Burien will have a voice in the Cities decision making process is to get involved in the process. Jim Branson had the right idea, the people need to make their voice heard, and push for a Tree Board, or Department, and help Burien truly become a “Tree City USA” Are the trees of Burien important to you? Voicing an opinion on this blog gets a conversation going, but true action happens if you write, e-mail, call, or appear before the city council, and make your views known.


  18. Ryan says:

    There are solutions to axing all the trees, and some of them have been suggested here, like using permeable pavers as the side walk when near the trees.
    I find it inexcusable that city counsel members can make a decision like this without public input.
    They are going to tax us for this upgrade, so we the people should be the ones making the decision, not city counsel members.
    Let’s see different plans and the cost of those plans, and vote the solution.
    In any case I think the city should listen to the voices of the majority, what is next, are they going to cut these down at night so no one knows.

  19. paul bunyan says:

    I just want the firewood,

  20. Really? says:

    I had a class in urban landscape architecture from noted local Landscape Architect Rich Haag many years ago. He was responsible for the initial landscaping plans for the Seattle Center. Rich told stories of laughing at Seattle when he specified the planting lists for the Center. A large portion of his recommended plantings included trees that “showed” their dominance over “man” by busting up sidewalks and bearing fruit. Well, over the years, Seattle has had to replace all of those plantings that had their way with the sidewalks and once a year left their fruit all over the walkways, but Rich always knew that mother nature was getting even. One issue that really hasn’t been mentioned yet in this string, is the real liability the City of Burien has in providing sidewalks in such poor conditions. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not allow any tripping hazards more than a small fraction of an inch. We all would have to pay for settlements brought about by allowing these sidewalks to continue in poor shape.

    • Lee Moyer says:

      If that is all there is to the story, it would seem that “noted architect” Rich Haag would be best noted for screwing his customer and then laughing about it.

  21. Stephen Lamphear says:

    Obviously, what Burien residents feel about the majestic Ambaum trees is superfluous. Since the trees are coming down anyway, we might focus on their replacements. All the trees types being considered by the city are very small scale — none are majestic. The “boulevard” aspect of Ambaum expects majestic trees. Studies show that street trees slow down traffic speed – but small scale trees are hardly noticed.

    I’ve suggested Oak, Beech, Buckeye, Black and English Walnut, Ash, Norway Maple, Hickory………there are other large scale hardwoods that would embellish Ambaum.

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