In a large metropolitan area like Seattle, it's easy to get lost in all the ongoing construction and development projects. For many, most of these projects are small developments here and small changes there. For active Magnolia architect David Moehring, each project is a piece in a small puzzle that he says paints a picture of fewer trees, large changes and increased environmental risk.

"I love Seattle, and it has a beautiful mix of developments and trees, I think they can go hand-in-hand," Moehring said. “I'm not concerned about the smaller things, but I am concerned about the bigger picture."

Moehring has his hands in many projects in his neighborhood and Queen Anne. In November, he spoke at a public meeting involving Queen Anne residents and the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections regarding a project to build 11 residential units on 3640 13th Ave. W.

Moehring and other residents expressed concerns about large, prominent trees in the area that would be removed if the project moved forward.

On Jan. 3, SDCI sent a correction letter to the 13th Avenue West project developer, claiming some of the tree inventory and assessment reports submitted by the developer were inaccurate and needed to be fixed before the project could move forward. According to the SDCI letter, three Japanese false-cypress trees and one English hawthorn were misidentified, and two trees on the 3640 block were not included in the report (a fig tree and a 15.5-inch common apple tree). A few trees that were marked as "not exceptional" in the developer's report to SDCI were measured by Seattle employees and qualified as exceptional trees, meaning they are protected under city code.

In an email to a group called the Queen Anne North Community, Moehring expressed satisfaction with the recent developments. 

"Good news!" Moehring's email states. "Trees may be political tools above everything else that they do."

One of Moehring’s most recent moves to save trees and protect current residential areas in Queen Anne and Magnolia was an appeal to the Seattle Hearing Examiner against a development proposed next to Moehring's home.

The project is for nine row houses on 2300 W. Emerson St., on the corner of West Emerson Street and 23rd Avenue West.

Moehring appealed a a determination of nonsignificance (DNS) by SDCI that wouldn’t require developers to provide an environmental impact statement (EIS).

"This particular site has an existing triplex on it," Moehring said.  "Along the perimeter, there are two large — I think they're fir — trees. And on the Emerson side, I think there are two smaller trees. What I noticed when I looked into this property development is that there was no real consideration for the trees. I'm an architect, I am obviously in support of new homes, but I also know that people here and myself value the trees that we have and there is a chance to retain those. I don't think what's taking place follows city code."

Moehring said he and his wife live in a potential landslide area, and he worries the property development could create more risk for slides if the trees are removed.

"When I saw the architect’s rendering for what they are doing … they are removing the existing retaining soil and the trees, which are a significant component of soil retention," Moehring said.

The applicant for the project is Julian Weber with JW Architects in Seattle. Weber did not respond to a request for comment from the Queen Anne and Magnolia News.

Moehring submitted his appeal to the hearing examiner in September and the hearing was set for Jan. 22-25. Moehring received support from multiple neighbors in the form of letters to the Seattle Hearing Examiner's Office, but the examiner dismissed the case on Jan. 11.

A summary judgment document submitted on Jan. 11 states "(Moehring) failed to adequately argue and produce evidence to show that they could meet their burden of demonstrating the likelihood of any significant negative environmental impact. "

"Where (Moehring) made allegations that such impact might occur, or dismissed the motion arguments by indicating they would present adequate evidence at the hearing, this was not sufficient to meet their burden when examined under summary judgment. On this bases the appeal should be dismissed," the document states.

Moehring submitted a request for the examiner to reconsider the appeal this week.

Moehring is also involved in many other active fights against projects in the area. He said neighbors are unhappy with how SDCI has been handling projects and feel that city codes are not being enforced.

"I know there are people who are going through building permits, and SDCI is really looking at the documents hard,” Moehring said. “Some people are upset because it's taking them years to get the permit to modify their house or to make a basement or something like that. But at the same time, it seems that either there is a different standard applied from SDCI for development projects when it comes to following the code strictly, especially when it comes to tree protection. I think the city codes were well written and they have a lot of consideration for what to do with trees. But a lot of the time there is a lot of exceptions that has been nestled in.”

In an email sent to the Queen Anne North Community on Jan. 3, Moehring claims the Seattle City Council is looking at removing codes for tree preservation in order to create easier ways to develop more affordable housing.

Councilmember Rob Johnson proposed a revised tree ordinance last year that generated protests from local conservationists and the Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance, which argued protections were being removed for exceptional trees and groves, among other concerns. Johnson and other members of the council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee ended up tabling the ordinance.

For Moehring, his efforts in the community are a volunteer role he plays to help his neighbors.

"I have a bigger picture in mind," Moehring said. "When you look at these things one-on-one, it's not a big deal. But in a period of 10 to 15 years, and everyone is allowed to develop without thinking of the trees, we'll see a loss in our tree canopy. I know many neighbors who are near these projects, and they don't always know much about them, so I'm trying to use what I've learned over the years and do the best I can to help them determine if they want these projects or not."