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Illegal tree cut makes views worse for some West Seattle homeowners

West Seattle neighbors who hired landscapers to cut down 150 trees may not have actually increased their property values. (AP)

The alleged decision by a group of West Seattle homeowners to improve their views by illegally razing an acre of trees on city property might have backfired for some.

Bailey Stober, with the King County Assessor’s office, says the department sent a team to re-evaluate property values after they received a call from an angry neighbor.

“I think folks that had originally reached out to us were concerned that specific people in their neighborhood were going to have these fantastic, incredible, amazing views now that they didn’t originally have,” Stober said. “And they thought that that should change their property taxes in an upward direction and their value in an upward direction.”

Related: Seattle council member suggests eyesore deterrent to tree cutting

However, the county’s chief assessor found that not all the homeowners in the neighborhood actually benefited from the views.

“We noticed that, where a homeowner had previously only had a great water view, they now have a freeway view in addition to that. And that’s obviously less desirable,” Stober said. “So not everybody got a positive outcome from this happening; there was a lot of negative outcomes, in fact.”

An attorney for the homeowners told the Seattle City Council that the group hired someone to trim some of the trees to improve views, but because of a miscommunication, 150 mature maples were chopped.

Because the neighborhood was already scheduled to have property values re-evaluated later this year, the assessor’s team did a full inspection.

Current home values on the 3200 block of 35th Avenue Southwest, which sits above the sloping green belt, range between $356,000 and $1,137,000, for an average of $719,385, according to King County records.

Stober says the re-evaluation will be a process that takes into account not just the views, but home condition as well the selling price of comparable homes. The full assessment will be completed by summer.

While he couldn’t give concrete figures for which homes would have higher or lower values, and how much the change would be, Stober guessed that all the home values will go up — even the ones with views marred by the clear cut. And, the properties with enhanced views could see their values skyrocket.

“If you just look at the city of Seattle on average, the values are going up,” Stober said. “They’re going up from Roosevelt to West Seattle, to South Seattle up to the Seattle-Shoreline border. And that’s just because comps are driving those sales up. So we look at comparables and what houses are selling for. And in Seattle, they have a higher value than most. It’s a desirable place to live.”

Meanwhile, the city attorney’s office is investigating the unpermitted tree cutting as a potential felony. If charges are brought against the homeowners, who have not yet been named, they could face fines and jail time.


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