Urge Portland City Council to Protect Trees on Industrial and Commercial Lands

The Portland City Council is about to drop the ball (again) regarding protecting trees on industrial and commercial lands. We need your voice now to ensure that Portland City Council steps up and holds Portland’s business community accountable for protecting trees.

Almost this entire stand of trees at the edge of Smith and Bybee Lakes is scheduled to be removed because of the City's ongoing failure to enact tree protections on Industrial lands. Photo by Bob Sallinger.

There has been a last minute change to the Council agenda today and there may not be an opportunity for public testimony. However we encourage people to show up and wear green to support invited testimony from groups like Portland Audubon and the Portland Youth Climate Council regarding the “Big Tree Amendment” or proposed removal of exemptions to Title 11 (Tree Code). We are disappointed that Council may not address the exemption for tree preservation and tree density standards on commercial and industrial Lands as was recommended by both the Planning and Sustainability Commission and the Urban Forestry Commission.

We will be voicing this disappointment as invited testimony this afternoon as part of the short council work session and will continue to push for a swift remedy to these inequitable exemptions. Read our testimony here.

Please consider sending an email to council urging them to take the following actions to protect trees;

1) Extend the sunset clause on the big tree amendments for five years or remove it altogether,

2) Remove the exemptions from the tree code for commercial and industrial land either today or if additional process time is required, by the end of the first quarter of 2020, and

3) Commit to funding a comprehensive update of Title 11 (Tree Code) in the 2021 budget cycle.

Contact Information for City Council

  1. Submit commits to City Council and/or and come to the hearing on December 5 at 3 p.m. and testify in support of removing exemptions for tree preservation and density standards on industrial and commercial lands.
Mayor Ted Wheeler 503-823-4127 MayorWheeler@portlandoregon.gov
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty 503-823-4151 joann@portlandoregon.gov
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly 503-823-4682 Chloe@portlandoregon.gov
Commissioner Nick Fish 503-823-3589 nick@portlandoregon.gov

Copy and paste emails: joann@portlandoregon.gov, Chloe@portlandoregon.gov, nick@portlandoregon.gov, MayorWheeler@portlandoregon.gov

**Commissioner Amanda Fritz has already stated her support for lifting the exemptions

In 2011, when Portland adopted its Tree Code (Title 11), Council caved to industry pressure and added a last minute amendment to exempt commercial and industrial landowners from tree preservation and density standards. The City conceded to industry arguments that it could not add new tree protections on these lands until the city updated its industrial lands inventory. Council assured the public that it would revisit this issue once the inventory was completed, but has failed to follow through on its promise in the more than three years that have elapsed since a new industrial land inventory was completed in 2016. As a result, industrial and commercial landowners have been able to avoid any responsibility for protecting and mitigating for trees for nearly a decade! 

This fall, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission and the Portland Urban Forestry Commission recommended to council that they lift the exemptions, but it now appears that the Mayor’s office is going to kick this issue down the road (again) and delay consideration of ending the commercial and industrial land exemptions indefinitely.

It is time to end the free for all for commercial and industrial landowners when it comes to protecting trees and it is long past time for council to stop ducking this issue and hold industry accountable. The impacts are very real–Right now the new owners of Wapato Jail are proposing to cut down a 40 foot wide, 2,400 foot long stand of trees at the edge of Smith and Bybee Lakes so they can put up warehouses and there is absolutely nothing in the code to hold them accountable.

On December 5 at 3 p.m., Council will consider two issues related to trees: They will consider extending protections for large trees in private development situations and they will consider lifting the exemptions from tree preservation and density standards in commercial and industrial lands. It is critical that council hear that they should follow through on BOTH of these things.

Here’s How You Can Help

  1. Contact the Mayor’s Office by phone or email (MayorWheeler@portlandoregon.gov, 503-823-4127) and let them know that you want them to take immediate action to remove exemptions for tree preservation and density standards on industrial and commercial lands.
  2. Submit commits to City Council and/or and come to the hearing on December 5 at 3 p.m. and wear green in support of removing exemptions for tree preservation and density standards on industrial and commercial lands.

Talking Points

  • Support for extending existing big tree protections in private development situations  which will be approved at the same hearing.
  • Support council taking immediate steps to remove exemptions for Title 11 to ensure that industrial and commercial properties are held to the same tree preservation and density standards as everyone else in the City.
    • It is long past time for City Council to remove the exemptions for protecting and mitigating for trees on industrial and commercial lands. 
    • These sites are often located in sensitive environmental areas (such as next to rivers and streams) and near low income neighborhoods. Protecting trees on these lands is a matter of both environmental protection and environmental justice. 
    • Our urban tree canopy is an essential tool to fight climate change impacts and the entire City needs to play a role in improving community health and landscape resilience–industrial and commercial land owners should not be exempt.
    • Council had already delayed for far too long on this issue and it is doing significant damage to our environment and our most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Thanks for doing your part to protect our environment and community and keep an eye out for more information on the December Council meeting!