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Update on Development of Ruby Bishop Property

The destruction of the massive cedar tree by the developer at 916 32nd Avenue South took away the huge root system that absorbed part of the large underground aquifer coming down the hillside. City regulations require a re-vegetation plan for mitigation of tree removal. (SMC 25.09.065) An environmental consultant for the project calculated that mitigation would require the planting of 57 trees on the site. The reviewer then notes that “The available space to plant trees at appropriate spacing after development will not support 57 new trees.” The document continues, “The reviewer for this project has accepted 5 trees as an alternative.” This remarkable statement was offered with no justification.

Concerned neighbors had tried for weeks to get an explanation from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections agent on the case. Calls and emails were ignored. Eventually, the neighbors reached the agent’s supervisor, who responded promptly, if not satisfactorily. She “explained” that the standards used for determining re-vegetation don’t have to be followed by developers. How the necessity for hillside stabilization will be met, given the presence of the aquifer on this hillside, has not been explained. Perhaps readers will recall the great 1898 landslide on this very hillside that covered 75 acres and washed a sawmill into the lake. (See my Leschi News column of June 2021.)

Nevertheless, a building permit was issued on October 14. In the second week of November, digging was done for the house foundation. The lower part of that excavation quickly filled with water, which is no surprise. Neighbors below the site are concerned that the swimming pool they have wanted will encompass their backyard and basement.

Meanwhile, the developer was in negotiations for months with the City Attorney’s office regarding the fine of over $90,000 for illegally removing the site’s massive cedar tree. Though it is not clear to outsiders what there was to be negotiated, a settlement was reached, and a reduced fine of $40,000 has been paid. This amounts, of course, to nothing for the developer, which bought the land for a little over $1 million and will sell the two houses it builds for about $7 million.

Neighbors had hoped that this crime would get the treatment it needs from Seattle’s newly elected tough-on-crime city attorney. Apparently, this is not the type of crime her office intends to be tough on.

If concerned citizens wish for more of an explanation, the person who responded, Christy Carr, is the Environmental Lead–Land Use Division, Policy and Technical Team, in the Department of Construction and Inspections. She can be reached at 206-615-1393 or Please advise me, c/o this publication, of anything you learn that is of interest.

~Roger Lippman


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