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Homeowners come forward in city’s tree removal investigation

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SEATTLE -- More than 100 trees in West Seattle were destroyed near the 35th Avenue SW and City View intersection. The city is now assessing the damage and trying to determine who’s responsible.

West Seattle homeowners Karen and Jeff Templeton know the value of a clear view of Seattle’s skyline.

However, they say there’s no excuse for anyone from their neighborhood to cut down some 150 trees on city property.

“One or two trees, you think nobody would notice. But, I mean, this is a pretty brazen act; like we wouldn’t all wake up this morning and notice?” said Karen Templeton.

Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes said the damage, first reported by neighbors in January, is estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he also said the area is vulnerable to landslides.

“This is high-risk area, and there’s a reason the city maintains this,” said Holmes. “It’s unstable, fragile terrain.”

Holmes says the attorney representing at least one of the home owners came forward in February with a letter stating his client “wishes to work with parks to rectify any damage that may have been done.”

That attorney, Clayton Graham, tells Q13 News in a statement that his client, "along with other neighbors," hired a landscaping business only to top and prune the trees "to improve the view from their respective residences" and that they, too, were both surprised and dismayed that they had been cut instead.

They are claims Holmes said will be part of an overall investigation.

“Let us do our job,” said Holmes. "The city is going to be made whole, and we’re going to make sure that we’ve identified all the culpable parties and look at what are civil damages and criminal culpability.”

They’re actions many neighbors are hoping to see, too.

“It’s terrible for anybody to do something like that,” said Jeff Templeton. “They have no ethics, no morals. They don’t care about the environment, they don’t care about anybody.”

The city attorney says those responsible could face felony charges.