024. Treed and Trapped

In the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to euthanize the four trees presently occupying the parking strip out in front of the house.

According to their DNA, they are named Ornamental Japanese Plum trees, but most of my neighbors just call them butt-ugly.

It wasn’t always this way, though.  When those trees were in their prime, they were glorious, especially in the spring.  I bet the same neighbors who disparage them today, curled up and purred when they saw them looking like this.


The expected life of this kind of tree is 20 to 25 years but the actual age of these four is 42 years.  The years have not been kind.  Their trunks are tilted, bent or stooped, their somewhat deformed limbs are growing some grayish stuff, and their bark is peeling off.


The parking strip they reside in is otherwise covered with concrete, and the trees’ roots have corrupted it with bulges, breaks, and misalignments. I finally realized I was going to have to take action.  The trees – and the concrete — will have to be put to a merciful death.

Since I made that decision, this is the chronology of my progress:

I requested bids on doing the removal of the trees and concrete and learned that the lowest estimate is $805 plus dump fees. Of course, this does not include the cost of the replacement trees, new soil and soil amendments, compost, slate for the new walkway, ground cover, and closing costs for the second mortgage I may need as way of payment.

Next I am informed by the Department of Engineering that I will not be allowed to even discuss this project with my friends until I have called 1-800-424-5555.  I am connected with a man who schedules and coordinates inspections by all the utilities which may be at play underground.

Besides my name, the man needs to know when the house was built, its address, zip code, which side of 50th Street it’s on, an estimate of how many feet it is from the cross streets 47th and 50th and 48th and 50th and other information up to but excluding how long ago the house was painted and how often I clean out the gutters.

After he finished his interrogation, the man said “Or, you could have just given me the GPS coordinates of the house”.  I would have been glad to so had I known what they are but I didn’t.  I wouldn’t have remembered them anyway, because I can’t even remember my social security number or my bra size.  Besides, why couldn’t he just look it up on zillow.com?

Finally the young man informed me that within two business days of my call, representatives from the following agencies will be coming out to paint cryptic lines, messages and symbols on the yard and parking strip: Seattle City Light, Puget Sound Energy, Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Department of Transportation, Qwest, and Comcast.  And they did.  They each defaced the property with paint in their own hue of the color palette: gold, yellow, red, pink, and blue.  The hieroglyphics will be imponderable to anyone, including hapless landscapers but, at least, the marks are now present and accounted for so everyone can feel good about that.

That call must have triggered the next email that came from the Department of Transportation.  It advised me that when I submit the permit for the tree removal and replacement, I will need to also request approval for the removal of the concrete on the planting strip since this involves use of the public right of way (pursuit to Use Code 54).  And I will be responsible for paying an inspection deposit of $150.

Well, that seems reasonable.  This fellow must be making a wage of $450 per hour and compensation to the City must be made for the 20 minutes it’s going to take for him to drive over in his Ferrari, and snap a photo of the freaking parking strip of a poor old widow lady who’s living on a fixed income.  And who always pays her taxes on time and this is the thanks she gets.

Next, I become fully advised of what I should have been aware of all along, dummy me.  I am the technical owner of the trees and the concrete, but the parking strip is owned by the City of Seattle.

According to Joyce Kilmer’s poem, “Only God can make a tree”.  What God may not realize about parking strips is that, yes, He CAN make a tree, but He CANNOT plant or remove it.  Not without a permit from the City.

So I submit the application.  After a phone call and email from a city arborist, I learn that she will come out and make her inspection.  After she did so, she called me to give me an oral report.  This will be followed by a written report and hopefully, the approved permit.  During the phone call, she said “The trees are old and unattractive.  And they are diseased.  They should be promptly removed.  Also, after removal,  the tree to the right of the driveway cannot be replaced because it’s there illegally. It’s too close to the utility lines.”

It wasn’t till after she hung up that I got ticked off.  That tree-expert-genius has some nerve.  What does she mean “old, unattractive, diseased”?  Nobody insults my trees and gets away with it.

Listen, if you think about it, those trees are still contributing to society. While they can’t produce plums or blossoms any more, they still have leaves.  During those five or six days that we had sunshine in Seattle this summer, those trees were giving out shade.  That counts for something.  Birds could make nests in the branches.  Crows could park there.  Yeah,  Miss Tree-Expert-Smartie-Pants, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Just because they stoop over a little doesn’t mean life support should be cut off.  We’re not talking mercy killing here, kiddo, this is the big M.  For Murder.

And what does she mean OLD?.  Those trees aren’t even elderly.  They’re just mature.  They’re only HALF MY AGE.  And nobody is suggesting removing me.   Yet.

That’s all for now.  I have to go fill out another form.

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2 Responses to 024. Treed and Trapped

  1. Linda Lewis says:

    I can’t believe no one responded to this blog! I mean such languge….

    “Yeah, Miss Tree-Expert-Smartie-Pants, put that in your pipe and smoke it.
    Just because they stoop over a little doesn’t mean life support should be cut off. We’re not talking mercy killing here, kiddo, this is the big M. For Murder.”

    ….However, I know just what you mean…almost. I feel like I should take the 5th Amendment here and not say anymore, because ignorance of the law is no excuse.
    Now, 20 years or so ago, I had two prickly, full blooming hawthorne trees in my front yard that I pruned myself. They looked like lollipops. But, they were hard to mow around and the roots were uprooting. I decided I could no longer deal with these. You know if you prune, things come back twice as thick. Well, I hired a tree service to cut them at the base. When they came out to cut them down, I almost cried. I DID feel like a murderer! How could I cut down a living thing(s)? It didn’t take long. But…then I had to deal with two flat tree stumps, so low to the ground that people would trip on them if they parked their car in front. It took another year before I hired someone to come and take the stumps out. Am I glad now that I didn’t know the legal way to do it. Maybe it wasn’t the law then. But what I do know now is my oil tank needed to be replaced just before Christmas. I had insurance, but, I still have to figure out what to do with the misplanted plants and landscaping boulders that are piled in a heap. There is just a gigantic mud puddle in my front garden. I think maybe I’m finally being punished for not knowing the proper way to take trees out.

  2. Pingback: 209. Strip-Tease | Going on 80

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