Trees on Private Property

When you prune or remove a tree on your private property, a heritage tree permit might be required.

When Do You Need a Permit?

When requesting to remove a tree that meets the criteria of a heritage tree (see description below).

When pruning a tree and removing up to one-quarter of the crown or existing foliage of the tree, or up to one-quarter of the root system of a tree that meets the criteria of a heritage tree (see description below).

What Is a Heritage Tree?

Any native Bay (Umbellularia californica), Buckeye (Aesculus species), Oak (Quercus species), Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), or Pine (Pinus radiata) tree that has a diameter of six inches or more measured at fifty-four inches above natural grade;

Any tree or stand of trees designated by resolution of the city council to be of special historical value or of significant community benefit;

A stand of trees, the nature of which makes each dependent on the others for survival; or 

Any other tree with a trunk diameter of ten (10) inches or more, measured at fifty-four (54) inches above natural grade.

The City's Heritage Tree Ordinance declares such trees, whether located on City or private property, to be an asset to the community at large and provides penalties for removing or improperly pruning these trees.

Who Needs a Permit?

Any person who wishes to remove or prune, or cause to be removed or pruned any heritage tree from any parcel of property that they own in the city either public or private.

Note: Removal or pruning of heritage trees in conjunction with a planning or building permit application also requires a separate heritage tree permit.

How Do I Get a Removal or Pruning Permit?

Any person desiring to remove or prune one or more heritage trees must contact the Community Services Department for a permit. You will need to submit a certified arborist report to us by email that includes the following information:

  • Why does the tree need to be pruned or removed
  • The diameter of the tree at fifty-four inches above natural grade
  • The cost estimate of the work listed on the arborist report
  • A current picture of the tree

If you are requesting a removal permit, please include the species and size of tree you will be replanting or if you will be paying the in lieu fee. See "Do I have to replace a tree after one is removed" below.

Our Parks Manager and Director of Community Services will review the information provided in the report and determine if a Heritage Tree Permit will be issued. The Community Services Director will issue the permit while considering the following conditions:

  • The condition of the tree or trees with respect to disease, danger of falling, proximity to existing or proposed structures and interference with utility services;
  • The necessity to remove the tree or trees in order to construct any proposed improvements to allow reasonable economic enjoyment of the property;
  • The topography of the land and the effect of the removal of the tree on erosion, soil retention and diversion or increased flow of surface waters;
  • The number of trees existing in the neighborhood on improved property and the effect the removal would have on the established standard of the area and property values;
  • The number of trees the particular parcel can adequately support according to good arboricultural practices.

Do I Have to Replace a Tree After One Is Removed?

Trees removed with a valid tree removal permit shall be replaced in accordance with the recommendation of the City Arborist. Replacement recommendations shall be formulated on the basis of location, condition, value, age, and reasons for tree removal. Tree replacement shall be a minimum of either two 24-inch box size trees, or one 36-inch box size tree, for each heritage tree removed and will also require a $450 refundable deposit per tree removal. If you choose to not replace the tree, there is an in lieu fee of $450 per tree removed.

Permit Fees

  • Pruning Permit Fee - $76
  • Tree Removal Permit Fee - $114
  • Private Tree Replacement In Lieu Fee - $450 (per tree removed)
  • Private Tree Replacement Refundable Deposit - $450 (per tree removed)

Trees removed without a valid permit shall be replaced by double the quantities specified above. If it is determined that replanting is not feasible and/or appropriate, the applicant may be required to make a payment of equal value to the cost of the purchase and installation of the replacement tree(s) made to the city tree planting fund.

What Trees Are Exempt?

In the case of an emergency, when a tree poses an imminent hazard or danger to life or property, it may be removed by order of any member of the Police, Fire, or Community Services Department. Provided further, that any franchised public utility or representative of the City may remove trees that interfere with the safe and efficient operation of the public service for which they are responsible.

What if My Request for Removal or Pruning Is Denied?

Any person may request the Community Services Director to appeal a decision on a permit application. Such a request shall be made in writing, signed by the person making the request, shall state the reasons the request is made and shall be filed not later than 5 pm of the tenth calendar day after the decision. The Community Services Director will review the request and render a decision.

For further information, please call the Community Services Department at 650-616-7196.