Seattle Residents Wary of Urban Greening Efforts

Parts of the city desperately need more trees, but some residents worry about the long-term effects of tree planting in neighborhoods.

August 15, 2019, 11:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink

Pioneer Square, Seattle

DeymosHR / Shutterstock

Carolyn Bick reports that efforts to improve Seattle’s tree protections and increase tree canopy coverage have been met with resistance from residents in South Seattle neighborhoods.

These lower-income communities of color have fewer trees than other parts of Seattle, and the areas have some of the worst health outcomes in the city. Research has shown a clear relationship between green space and public health, and South Seattle residents say they want more trees. But they fear the gentrification that could follow from such improvements.

Residents also have been critical of advocacy and outreach efforts. "For too long, they say, white-led environmental organizations have come into South Seattle communities of color with the assumption that they know better than the residents themselves what people there need,” says Bick.

Community advocates say that the city and advocacy groups need to better understand the perspectives and situations of local residents. "Ultimately, [Andrew] Schiffer said, gentrification is happening; and while greening the area may be making it more attractive for wealthy people and developers, the best way to ensure the existing community isn’t displaced is by making sure the community is involved," notes Bick.

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