Tree Permits

Types of Trees & Permitting

The planting, removal, or alteration of the following trees requires a permit:

  1. A protected tree.
    1. A protected tree means any
      1. Heritage tree, meaning any tree which has a trunk with a circumference exceeding sixty (60) inches, measured twenty-four (24) inches above the ground level;
      2. Oak tree, including Coast Live Oaks, California Black Oaks, Interior Live Oaks, Canyon Live Oaks, Engelmann Oaks, or Valley Oaks
      3. Dedicated tree, meaning a tree of special significance so designated by resolution of the Town Council.
  2. An undesirable tree.
    1. An undesirable tree means a Blue Gum Eucalyptus, Monterey Pine, Monterey Cypress, Coast Redwood, or any other species of tree (regardless of height or circumference) that generally grows more than three feet per year in height and is capable of reaching a height of over thirty-five (35) feet at maturity.
    2. An undesirable tree may still constitute a protected tree if it meets the criteria of a protected tree.
    3. Tree height at maturity and tree growth rates are determined using a recent edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book. Trees characterized as having a “fast growth” rate shall be presumed to grow at least three feet in height per year, and trees characterized as having a “moderate to fast growth” rate shall be presumed to grow less than three feet in height per year.
    4. If the necessary information on height and growth rate is not available in the Western Garden Book, other information sources may be substituted in the reasonable discretion of the Director of Community Development.
  3. Trees on Town property.
    1. The planning, removal, or alteration of any tree on Town property is prohibited without the prior issuance of a permit, except that in cases of Town action on Town property, only the removal or alteration of a ‘protected tree’ or the planting of an undesirable tree shall require a permit.

On undeveloped property, including property which could be subdivided, removal or alteration of any tree is prohibited without the prior issuance of a permit.

In Single-Family or Two-Family-Residential Zones, removal or alteration of any Protected Tree or planting of any Undesirable Tree is prohibited without the prior issuance of a permit.

On property with any other zoning than single-family or two-family-residential, removal or alteration of any tree is prohibited without the prior issuance of a permit.  

Exceptions from Permit Requirement

A permit will not be required if the planting, alteration, or removal of a tree has been authorized by a zoning, subdivision or other valid permit issued by the Town. The burden shall be on the applicant to demonstrate such approval.

If personal injury or property damage is imminently threatened, or the fire marshal declares a tree to be a fire hazard, the chief of police, superintendent of public works, director of community development, or town manager may authorize or order the removal or alteration of a tree without a permit. The removal or alteration carried out in such an emergency shall be reported to the director of community development on the first business day following the work.

How to Apply for a Tree Permit

  1. Submit a complete application, an aerial photo and/or site plan showing the number of trees and locations of trees to be removed, altered, or planted, to
  2. Colored ribbon must be placed around the trunk of each tree. Please provide photos of the ribbon-taped trees, identified by number. Identifying ribbons must stay in place until the 10-day application appeal period closes, or if appealed, until the decision on the appeal is final.
  3. If replacement landscaping is proposed, provide a preliminary planting plan. Applicants are encouraged to use native and drought-resistant landscaping.