The City has settled the second of two civil suits against West Seattle homeowners who the City alleged hired people to cut down a swath of a greenbelt in late 2015 or early 2016 to improve the homeowners’ views.
The unpermitted tree cutting near the 3200 block of 35th Ave. SW occurred in environmentally critical areas on a steep slope near the defendants’ homes. In its two lawsuits, the City alleged that two separate groups of people were responsible for cutting two distinct areas of City trees. Between the two cuttings, 153 trees of varying sizes, including many big-leaf maples and Scouler’s willows, were felled and left crisscrossing the area. The first suit settled in 2017 for $440,000. In the second suit the City sought damages from Kostas Kyrimis, Linda Kyrimis, Nancy Despain, Wendy Sweigart, Leroy Bernard, Joyce Bernard, Charles King, Shirley King and Bruce Gross. The defendants have agreed to pay the City a total of $360,000 to resolve the matter.
Parks remediation of the area is already under way, and Parks plans to use the settlement funds to continue its work restoring the site and other greenbelt areas in the City.
“This settlement, and the one before it, demonstrate the City’s commitment to the protection of the public’s green spaces. In addition to recovering money for the City to restore such spaces, the settlements serve as a deterrent to future cutting and provide notice that the City will seek damages where others harm our natural resources,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said.
“Seattle Parks and Recreation is committed to protecting parkland from illegal acts of destruction, and we hope that this settlement, as well as the one before, act as a deterrent to those who might think to cut trees on public land,” said Interim Superintendent Christopher Williams. “In collaboration with volunteers and the Green Seattle Partnership, we have been working tirelessly to restore this critical environmental area. To date, we have installed more than 5,500 native plants, including 620 trees. These settlements fund our restoration efforts and support us in engaging the public, especially youth, in ongoing forest restoration work in West Seattle.”
“Under President Obama, I was on the frontlines, fighting for and protecting the environment,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “With this settlement, the City is making a statement about the importance of preserving our valuable natural resources for our communities now and into the future. Protecting our environment – from fighting climate change to embracing sustainability – is critical for our communities for decades to come.”
“Saplings now adorn a hillside where the trees once stood, though it will be decades before our West Seattle greenbelt is truly restored,” Council Member Lisa Herbold said. “Thank you to City Attorney Holmes and his team for securing this $360,000 settlement, in addition to the $440,000 settlement from last spring; I expect these clear consequences will make someone think twice before considering arboricide in the future. I’m glad the funds will be going to restore this greenbelt, and other greenbelts in Seattle.”
“Every Seattleite suffers a loss when someone intentionally damages public lands,” said Council Member Debora Juarez. “This settlement not only empowers the City to restore the affected area, it also sends the clear message that this offensive behavior will not be tolerated.”