Roots of trees tore up sidewalks along Central Avenue South. City crews removed the trees as part of the street repair project. Courtesy Photo/City of Kent

Kent’s Central, James street trees growing, growing, gone

The city of Kent's policy to replace trees removed during street projects won't apply to recent construction completed along Central Avenue South and East James Street.

The city of Kent’s policy to replace trees removed during street projects won’t apply to recent construction completed along Central Avenue South and East James Street.

There are exceptions to the rule and each street has reasons for not replacing the trees, said City Public Works Director Tim LaPorte during an interview.

For starters, roots from the large trees that lined both streets tore up sidewalks.

“The trees that were planted there in the late 60s or early 70s were beautiful trees,” LaPorte said. “I believe they were sweet gums, a gorgeous tree but as arborists say a beautiful tree but wrong location because they need space to grow.

“It was a major mistake the city made 40 or 50 years ago. They planted a lot of beautiful trees but a lot has been learned since then about urban forestry. There is no way we would ever plant that kind of tree today. They started to crack the sidewalks.”

City officials initially announced plans last year to replace trees along Central Avenue South and East James Street until city staff and consultants decided neither street had room for new trees.

“We have used up every inch,” LaPorte said about a lack of space for trees along Central Avenue South. “It started as a two-lane road, then to three and then to five lanes with utilities with no room for landscaping.”

The city a couple of years ago installed underground piping along the east side Central Avenue to pump overflow Mill Creek water from James Street to the Green River. Cable, telephone, water and sewer lines also fill up space.

“It’s like looking under the hood of a car, there is no extra room,” LaPorte said.

City staff is working with property owners along Central Avenue to see where crews could put in plantings, most likely shrubs.

“We do want to improve the greenery along Central,” LaPorte said.

Nothing, however, has been finalized yet. People shouldn’t expect to see any new plantings until next year. No date has been set for any new landscaping.

“We are still meeting with businesses to see what makes sense to them,” LaPorte said. “We have had a divided response. A lot don’t want any trees because they have a business and want people to see their sign.”

The $6.3 million Central Avenue project included repaving the road between Willis Street and the Green River bridge as well as replacing the sidewalks, curb and gutter; replacing an aging water main; and installing a protective lining to the sewer system.

As far as East James Street, city staff and consultants saw no room for trees.

“James Street is a narrow (3-foot) strip,” LaPorte said. “We had a lot of discussion with neighbors and experts, and if we put trees in it will destroy the sidewalks in 10 years and we would have to start all over.”

Crews are planting shrubs this fall along the street.

“James Street will look really nice in April or May because the shrubs will have taken,” LaPorte said. “They will not be mature but sizable enough for nice greenery.”

The James Street projects included $1.7 million to repave the street up the East Hill and put in new sidewalks and plantings. Crews also installed a new James Street pump station at a cost of $2.3 million to remove overflow water when Mill Creek floods.

LaPorte also has requested $375,000 in each of the next two years in the 2017-18 city budget from the business and occupation tax revenue to replace other trees before they tear up sidewalks across town.

“We need to be more aggressive about replacing the trees before they lift up the sidewalks,” LaPorte said to the council at a Tuesday workshop. “There are a lot of trees throughout town that are at the point. I have pointed out that perhaps the street trees on First Avenue should be replaced pretty soon because they are just about at that point where they start lifting the sidewalk.”

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

File photo
Auburn woman, 31, accused of fatal stabbing in Shoreline

Charged with second-degree murder of 25-year-old woman

Police vehicle
Man arrested after fleeing state trooper in Kent, hitting pedestrian in SeaTac

Pursuit Monday results in potential charges of vehicular assault, attempting to elude

King County Elections offers Vote Center at ShoWare Center in Kent

For people who need assistance or missed registration deadlines

Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Alvin Sweet is a resident of Martin Court in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Martin Court is a former motel which was transformed into a supportive housing complex two decades ago. New funding from King County’s Health through Housing ordinance could expand this type of program across the county.
King County wants to buy motels for emergency, affordable housing

The concept has proven results in addressing homelessness.

State Capitol Building in Olympia.
Kent City Council sets social justice reform as top state legislative request

City wants funds for mental health professional co-responder program

A Lunar Rover on the Moon surface. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent/Boeing
Lunar Rover Vehicles built in Kent receive state historic landmark status

Buggies still on the Moon from Apollo trips in early 1970s

Courtesy photo
State demanded more drop boxes, and now it must pay for them

A King County judge says a law requiring more ballot boxes was an illegal unfunded mandate.

Auburn School District Superintendent Alan Spicciati. Courtesy photo
Students back in Auburn schools? ‘We are not there yet’

Auburn School District Superintendent Alan Spicciati wrote parents a letter to explain delay.

Murals dress up light rail station construction fencing in Kent | Photos

57 pieces decorate stretch of Pacific Highway South on West Hill

Most Read