Pleasanton, CA Tree Preservation Ordinance
Type: Municipal Code
17.16.003 Purpose and intent
The City lies largely in a valley in which substantial portions were and are covered by native and indigenous trees. The City recognizes that preservation of such trees enhances the natural scenic beauty, sustains the long term potential increase in property values, which encourages quality development, maintains the ecology, moderates the effect of extreme temperatures, prevents the erosion of topsoil, helps create an identity and quality, which enhances the attractiveness of the City to visitors and increases the oxygen output of the area which is needed to combat air pollution. For these reasons the City Council finds that in order to promote the public health, safety and general welfare of the City while at the same time recognizing individual rights to develop and maintain private property in a manner which will not be prejudicial to the public interest it is necessary to enact regulations controlling the removal and preservation of Heritage trees within the City. However, the City Council also recognizes that under certain circumstances Heritage trees may properly be removed. Those circumstances include where Heritage trees are dangerous; are dead or diseased; are so situated on undeveloped land that their preservation would preclude feasible development; are so abundant their removal would not destroy the area's natural beauty or ecology or cause erosion; or have a significant impact on the property. It is the intent of this chapter to preserve as many Heritage trees as possible throughout the City through staff review and the development review process.
For the purpose of this chapter, certain words and terms used in this chapter are defined as follows:
1. "Heritage tree" means any of the following:
- 1. Any single-trunked tree with a circumference of fifty-five inches or more measured four and one half feet above ground level;
- 2. Any multi-trunked tree of which the two largest trunks have a circumference of fifty-five inches or more measured four and one half feet above ground level;
- 3. Any tree thirty-five feet or more in height;
- 4. Any tree of particular historical significance specifically designated by official action;
- 5. A stand of trees the nature of which makes each dependent upon the other for survival or the area's natural beauty.
2. "Director" means the Director of Public Works and Utilities or the Director's designated representative.
3. "Topping" means heading back of the crown and/or creating large stubs without regard to form.
4. "Certified or consulting arborist" means an arborist who is registered with the International Society of Arboriculture and approved by the Director.
5. "Applicant" means a property owner requesting permission to remove a tree on improved property.
6. "Significant impact" means an unreasonable interference with the normal and intended use of the property. In determining whether there is a significant impact, the typical longevity of the subject tree species, as well as the size of the tree relative to the property, shall be considered. Normal maintenance, including but not limited to, pruning, and leaf removal and minor damage to paving shall not be considered when making a determination of significant impact.
The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to fruit or nut trees when part of an orchard, the produce of which is used for commercial purposes.
1. No person shall remove, destroy or disfigure, any Heritage tree growing within the city without a permit except as provided in this chapter.
2. Normal maintenance pruning of Heritage trees shall not require a permit but shall in all cases be in conformance with the guidelines of the International Society of Arboriculture, Tree Pruning Guidelines, current edition. Pruning which, in the opinion of the Director, varies from these guidelines shall be subject to fines and penalties as provided in Section 17.16.110 of this chapter.
17.16.020 Permit Procedure.
1. Except as provided in Section 17.16.050, any person desiring to remove any Heritage tree in the City shall make application to the Director. Said application shall contain the number, species, size and location of Heritage trees to be removed and a brief statement of the reason for removal as well as any other pertinent information the Director may require. The permit, if granted, shall entitle the applicant to remove only those Heritage trees designated by permit.
2. The Director shall visit and inspect the property, the Heritage tree or trees in question, and the surrounding area and shall ascertain the following:
- 1. The condition of the Heritage tree with respect to disease, general health, damage, public nuisance, danger of falling, proximity to existing or proposed structures, interference with utility service and whether or not the Heritage tree acts as host for a plant which is parasitic to another species of tree which is in danger of being exterminated by the parasite;
- 2. Whether the tree has a significant impact on the property:
- 3. The necessity to remove any Heritage tree in order to construct any proposed improvements to allow for the economic enjoyment of the property;
- 4. The number of existing trees in the neighborhood or area on improved property and the effect removal would have upon the public health, safety, general welfare of residents and upon the property value and beauty of the area;
- 5. The topography of the land upon which the Heritage tree or trees are situated and the effect of removal thereof upon erosion, soil retention and diversion or flow of surface waters;
- 6. Good forestry practices, i.e., the number of healthy trees that a given parcel of land will support.
3. The Director may refer any application to any City department or commission for review and recommendation.
17.16.025 Significant Impact - Administrative Hearing.
1. Where the applicant applies to remove a Heritage tree on grounds that it has a significant impact on the property, the Director shall conduct a hearing. The hearing shall be set not less than fifteen (15) days and not more than sixty (60) days from the date the application is filed.
2. The Director shall send notice of the hearing to all property owners and residents within three hundred feet (300')
3. At the hearing, the applicant and any interested party shall be given the opportunity to be heard concerning the preservation or removal of the Heritage tree.
4. After considering all relevant evidence, the Director shall issue a written decision to preserve or remove the tree.
5. The Director shall send a copy of the written decision to the applicant and neighboring property owners and residents within three hundred feet (300') of the tree.
6. Unless appealed, the decision of the Director shall become effective twenty days after being issued.
7. The Director's decision may be appealed as provided in Section 17.16.040.
17.16.030 Action by Director- Findings.
1. The Director shall issue a permit to remove a Heritage tree or trees if it is determined that one of the following conditions exists:
- 1. The Heritage tree is in such a dangerous or hazardous condition as to threaten or endanger the safety of people, structures, other property or other Heritage trees;
- 2. The Heritage tree has a significant impact on the property;
- 3. The Heritage tree is dead, dying or diseased and good forestry practices cannot be reasonably undertaken to preserve the tree; or
- 4. Where the Heritage tree in question is not diseased or hazardous, the removal of the tree is consistent with the purpose and intent of this chapter and in keeping with the health, safety and general welfare of the community.
- 5. The Director shall notify the applicant in writing of the determination giving the reason for the application's approval or denial.
1. The Director's decision may be appealed. Such appeal must be submitted in writing to the City Clerk within twenty days of the decision, shall briefly state facts and the grounds of the appeal and be signed by the appellant.
2. Any appeal concerning property with four or fewer residential units on the subject property, not concerning new development, shall be heard by the Heritage Tree Board of Appeals. All other appeals shall be heard by the City Council.
3. The City Clerk shall set a date for hearing before the appropriate appellate body and shall notify all interested parties. The Director shall submit a report to the appropriate appellate body, along with any departmental recommendations.
4. The appellate body shall conduct a hearing on the appeal. Following the hearing of any such appeal, the appellate body may affirm, reverse or modify the action of the Director and may take any action thereon which would have been authorized in the first instance. The action of the appellate body on any such appeal shall be final and conclusive.
17.16.044 Heritage Tree Board of Appeals - Established.
There is created and established a Board of Appeals consisting of three members, two Planning Commissioners and one Park and Recreation Commissioner appointed by their respective Commissions. The Board shall elect a chairperson. The Director shall be an ex officio member of said Board and shall serve as secretary. The Board shall adopt reasonable rules and regulations for conducting its business.
17.16.046 Heritage Tree Board of Appeals - Duties:
The Board of Appeals shall:
1. Hold a hearing within forty-five (45) days after the City's receipt of appeal, to hear such testimony by any department of the City, the appellant, or any interested party.
2. Make written findings of fact upholding, reversing or modifying the Director's decision. The decision of the Board shall be final.
17.16.050 New property development.
1. Any person desiring to remove one or more trees on any property in the City which is related to the development of such property requiring City approval or where any tree may be affected by a proposed development shall include in the application to the appropriate City reviewing body as part of the regular application, the following:
- 1. A tree survey plan, including all trees which will be affected by the new development. The survey, noting all trees 6" in diameter and greater, shall specify the precise location of trunk and dripline, size, health and species of all existing trees on the property with a special notation of those classified as a Heritage tree;
- 2. The applicant shall provide a report by a certified or consulting arborist. The report, based on the findings of the tree survey plan and other necessary information, shall be used to determine the health of existing trees, the effects of the proposed development upon the trees, recommendations for any special precautions necessary for their preservation and shall also indicate which trees are proposed for removal;
- 3. The tree survey plan and report shall be forwarded to the Director who shall, after making a field visit to the property, indicate in writing which trees are recommended for preservation using the same standards set forth in Section 17.16.020. This report shall be made part of the staff report to the City reviewing body upon its consideration of the application for new property development;
- 4. The City reviewing body through its site and landscaping plan review shall endeavor to preserve all trees recommended for preservation by the Director. The City reviewing body may determine that any of the trees recommended for preservation should be removed, if there is evidence submitted to it, that due to special site grading or other unusual characteristics associated with the property, the preservation of the tree(s) would significantly preclude feasible development of the property;
- 5. Approval of final site or landscape plans by the appropriate City reviewing body indicating which trees are to be removed shall constitute the approval and permit for the purpose of this chapter; and
- 6. Prior to issuance of a grading or building permit, the applicant shall secure an appraisal of the condition and replacement value of all trees included in the tree report affected by the development which are required to remain within the development. The appraisal of each tree shall recognize the location of the tree in the proposed development. The appraisal shall be performed in accordance with the current edition of the "Guide for Plant Appraisal" under the auspices of the International Society of Arboriculture. The appraisal shall be performed at the applicant's expense, and the appraiser shall be subject to the Director's approval.
2. Prior to acceptance of subdivision improvements, the developer shall submit to the Director a final tree report to be performed by a certified or consulting arborist. This report shall consider all trees that were to remain within the development. The report shall note the trees' health in relation to the initially reported condition of the trees and shall note any changes in the trees' numbers or physical conditions. The applicant will then be responsible for the loss of any tree not previously approved for removal. For trees which are not Heritage trees which were removed, the developer shall pay a fine in the amount equal to the appraised value of the subject tree. For Heritage trees which were removed, the developer shall pay a fine in the amount of or the appraised value of such tree. The applicant shall remain responsible for the health and survival of all trees within the development for a period of one year following acceptance of the public improvements of the development.
3. Prior to the issuance of any permit allowing construction to begin, the applicant shall post cash, bond or other security satisfactory to the Director, in the penal sum of five thousand dollars for each tree required to be preserved, or twenty-five thousand dollars, whichever is less. The cash, bond or other security shall be retained for a period of one year following acceptance of the public improvements for the development and shall be forfeited in an amount equal to five thousand dollars per tree as a civil penalty in the event that a tree or trees required to be preserved are removed, destroyed or disfigured.
4. An applicant with a proposed development which requires underground utilities shall avoid the installation of said utilities within the dripline of existing trees whenever possible. In the event that this is unavoidable, all trenching shall be done by hand, taking extreme caution to avoid damage to the root structure. Work within the dripline of existing trees shall be supervised at all times by a certified or consulting arborist.
5. Any decision by a City reviewing body under this section may be appealed as in Section 17.16.040 of this Chapter.
17.16.060 Emergency action.
A person may remove or prune a Heritage tree without a permit if there is an emergency caused by a Heritage tree being in a hazardous or dangerous condition requiring immediate action for the safety of structures or human life. In such event, the Director shall be notified at the earliest opportunity in order to confirm the emergency situation. If the Director determines that the situation was not an emergency requiring immediate action, the person removing or damaging the Heritage tree shall be subject to fines and penalties set forth in Section 17.16.110.
17.16.070 Protection of existing trees.
All persons, shall comply with the following precautions:
1. Prior to the commencement of construction, install a sturdy fence at the dripline of any tree which will be affected by the construction and prohibit any storage of construction materials or other materials inside the fence. The dripline shall not be altered in any way so as to increase the encroachment of the construction.
2. Prohibit excavation, grading, drainage and leveling within the dripline of the tree unless approved by the Director.
3. Prohibit disposal or depositing of oil, gasoline, chemicals or other harmful materials within the dripline or in drainage channels, swales or areas that may lead to the dripline.
4. Prohibit the attachment of wires, signs and ropes to any Heritage tree.
5. Design utility services and irrigation lines to be located outside of the dripline when feasible.
6. Retain the services of a certified or consulting arborist for periodic monitoring of the project site and the health of those trees to be preserved. The certified or consulting arborist shall be present whenever activities occur which pose a potential threat to the health of the trees to be preserved.
7. The Director shall be notified of any damage that occurs to a tree during construction so that proper treatment may be administered.
17.16.080 Pruning and maintenance.
All pruning of Heritage trees shall be performed by a licensed contractor familiar with International Society of Arboriculture pruning guidelines and shall comply with the guidelines established by the International Society of Arboriculture, Tree Pruning Guidelines, current edition and any special conditions as determined by the Director. For developments which require a tree report, a certified or consulting arborist shall be in reasonable charge of all activities involving Heritage trees. (Prior code 2-17.11) 17.16.090 Public utilities.
1. Any public utility installing or maintaining any overhead wires or underground pipes or conduits in the vicinity of a Heritage tree shall obtain permission from the Director before performing any work, including pruning, which may cause injury to the Heritage tree.
2. The Director shall inspect said pruning work to ensure that appropriate pruning practices are followed. The public utility shall follow pruning practices conforming to the International Society of Arboriculture Pruning Standards to promote the well-being of the tree. Topping shall not be permitted unless specifically approved by the Director. The Director shall stop any tree pruning performed by a utility if said practices are not being followed.
17.16.100 Insurance Requirements.
Any person engaged in the business of pruning Heritage trees within the City of Pleasanton shall be a California licensed contractor and shall carry public liability and property damage insurance as determined by the City Attorney.
Fines and penalties.
1. Any person who unlawfully removes or destroys a Heritage tree shall pay a civil penalty in the amount of the appraised value of the tree. If there is inadequate plant material to properly appraise the tree, the penalty shall be five thousand dollars. Any person who unlawfully disfigures a Heritage tree whether through vandalism, improper pruning or other actions, shall pay a civil penalty commensurate with the damage; the amount shall be determined by the Director in accordance with the "Guide for Plant Appraisal" under the auspices of the International Society of Arboriculture. The collection of the penalties may be enforced by civil action brought in the name of the City by the City Attorney.
2. The cost of replacement plant material may be considered as partial payment of any penalty under this chapter.
17.16.120 Additional provisions.
The provisions of this chapter shall supplement but not supplant other provisions of this code relating to the preservation of trees.