Chapter 23.54


23.54.010    Purpose.

23.54.020    Applicability.

23.54.030    Landscape plan requirements.

23.54.040    Landscape development standards.

23.54.050    Special landscape provisions.

23.54.060    Irrigation.

23.54.070    Maintenance.

23.54.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to establish minimum landscape standards to enhance the appearance of developments, reduce heat and glare, control soil erosion, conserve water, establish a buffer and/or screen between residential and nonresidential land uses, and to ensure the ongoing maintenance of landscape areas. Additional provisions regarding tree removal and replacement are listed in EGMC Title 19 and in the City’s adopted design guidelines. [Ord. 26-2006 §3, eff. 8-11-2006]

23.54.020 Applicability.

The provisions of this chapter apply to all land uses as follows:

A. New Projects. New nonresidential projects, multifamily residential projects, and single-family residential subdivisions shall provide landscaping in compliance with the requirements of this chapter.

B. Existing Development. Where an existing nonresidential development proposes an amendment that increases the building square footage by 10 percent or more, the designated approving authority for design review shall evaluate the existing landscape to ensure compliance with applicable provisions of this chapter as deemed necessary.

C. Alternative Requirements. In conjunction with a development application, the designated approving authority may grant modifications to the standards of this chapter to accommodate alternatives to required landscape materials or methods where the designated approving authority first determines that the proposed alternative will be equally effective in achieving the intent of this chapter. [Ord. 26-2006 §3, eff. 8-11-2006]

23.54.030 Landscape plan requirements.

A. Preliminary Landscape Plans. Preliminary landscape plans shall be submitted in conjunction with all design review projects. The preliminary landscape plan is a conceptual plan that depicts general descriptions of types, locations, and quantities of planned landscaping and shall be prepared by a landscape architect registered to practice in the State of California. Submittal requirements are listed on the current permit application forms.

B. Final Landscape and Irrigation Plans. Final landscape and irrigation plans shall be submitted in conjunction with improvement plans prior to the issuance of building permits for all new development projects. Such plans shall be prepared by a landscape architect registered to practice in the State of California. Submittal requirements are listed on the current permit application forms. Changes to approved landscaping or irrigation plans shall not be made without prior written approval of the Development Services Director. The construction/installation of landscape and irrigation improvements shall be accomplished in compliance with the approved plans as a prerequisite to any final approval/clearance of the use or development to which it relates. [Ord. 24-2015 §11 (Exh. I), eff. 2-12-2016; Ord. 26-2006 §3, eff. 8-11-2006]

23.54.040 Landscape development standards.

A. General Location for Landscape Improvements. Landscaping shall be provided in the following locations for all types of developments, unless the designated approving authority determines that the required landscape is not necessary to fulfill the purposes of this chapter. Supplemental landscape design provisions are listed in the City of Elk Grove design guidelines.

1. Setbacks. All setback areas required by this title shall be landscaped in compliance with this chapter, except where a required setback is occupied by a sidewalk or driveway, or is enclosed and screened from abutting public rights-of-way. Required setbacks and minimum landscape areas are listed in Table 23.54-1.

2. Unused Areas. All areas of a multifamily or nonresidential project site not intended for a specific use (including areas planned for future phases of a phased development), shall be landscaped with existing natural vegetation, wild flowers, native grasses or similar.

3. Parking Areas. Within parking lots, landscaping shall be used for shade and climate control, to enhance project design, and to screen the visual impact of vehicles and large expanses of pavement consistent with the provisions of this chapter.

B. Landscape Area Requirements by Zoning District. Minimum landscape area requirements are listed below by zoning district consistent with Division III, Zoning Districts, Allowable Land Uses, and Development Standards, of this title. This table does not apply to agricultural and agricultural residential zoning districts.

Table 23.54-1

Minimum Landscape Requirements by Zoning District 

Zoning Districts

Minimum Landscape Coverage1

Minimum Landscape Planter Width

Abutting Street2

Abutting Interior Property Line3

Abutting Residential Property


RD-1 – RD-7





RD-10 – RD-15


No minimum4



RD-20 – RD-30


20 ft.

10 ft.

10 ft.




25 ft.

6 ft.

10 ft.



25 ft.

6 ft.

10 ft.



25 ft.

6 ft.

10 ft.



25 ft.

6 ft.

10 ft.




25 ft.

6 ft.

25 ft.



25 ft.

6 ft.

25 ft.


1. Minimum landscape coverage required is the minimum percentage of net lot area that must be maintained with a pervious surface, preferably landscape planting.

2. Listed planter widths are minimums. Established landscape corridors may be wider than the listed minimum, in which case the requirement is to comply with the landscape corridor provisions for a particular street and/or area.

3. Standards apply to interior property lines along the perimeter of the project site and are not intended to require landscaping between parcels of an integrated development. The designated approving authority may grant reductions to the minimum landscape planter width where two commercial properties adjoin to encourage improved access and circulation and to eliminate duplicate planting requirements.

4. Minimum setback and corresponding landscape standards to be determined in conjunction with required design review application.

C. Landscape Design and Planting Requirements. Landscape design and construction for new development shall be compatible with the surrounding urban and natural environment. Landscape planting for all new multifamily and nonresidential development shall comply with the plant type, size, and spacing provisions listed below.

1. Landscape Design. Landscaping shall be designed as an integral part of the overall site plan with the purpose of enhancing building design, public views and spaces, and providing buffers, transitions, and screening.

a. Planting design shall have focal points at project entries, plaza areas, and other areas of interest using distinct planting and/or landscape features.

b. As appropriate, building and site design shall include use of pots, vases, wall planters, and/or raised planters, as well as flowering vines both on walls and arbors.

2. Plant Type. Landscape planting shall include drought-tolerant, ornamental, and native species (especially along natural corridors), shall complement the architectural design of structures on the site, and shall be suitable for the soil and climatic conditions specific to the site.

a. Planting Layout and Plant Diversity. Plant selection shall vary in type and planting pattern. Informal planting patterns are preferred over uniform and entirely symmetrical planting patterns. Use of flowering trees and colorful planting are encouraged in conjunction with evergreen species. Groupings of shrubs shall contain multiple plant types, interspersed with varying heights and blooming seasons for year-round interest.

b. Water-Efficient Landscape. Consistent with the purposes of Section 65591 of the California Government Code (Water Conservation in Landscaping Act), all new multifamily and nonresidential development shall comply with EGMC Chapter 14.10, Water Efficient Landscape Requirements.

c. Street and Parking Lot Trees. A minimum of thirty (30%) percent of the street trees and parking lot trees, respectively, shall be an evergreen species.

d. Trees planted within ten (10' 0") feet of a street, sidewalk, paved trail, or walkway shall be a deep-rooted species or shall be separated from hardscapes by a root barrier to prevent physical damage to public improvements.

3. Planting Size, Spacing, and Planter Widths. In order to achieve an immediate effect of a landscape installation and to allow sustained growth of planting materials, minimum plant material sizes, plant spacing, and minimum planter widths (inside measurement) are as follows:

a. Trees. The minimum planting size for trees shall be fifteen (15) gallon, and one-third (1/3) (thirty-three (33%) percent) of all trees on a project site planted at a minimum twenty-four (24") inch box size. For nonresidential development, tree spacing within the perimeter planters along streets and abutting residential property shall be planted no further apart on center than the mature diameter of the proposed species. Minimum planter widths for trees shall be between five (5' 0") feet and ten (10' 0") feet, consistent with the City-adopted master tree list for street trees and parking lot trees. Tree planting within public parks shall comply with the minimum planting size requirement of fifteen (15) gallon, but are not subject to the twenty-four (24") inch box tree planting size.

b. Shrubs. Shrub planting shall be a minimum five-gallon size, with fifteen (15) gallon minimum size required where an immediate landscape screen is conditioned by the designated approving authority (e.g., screening of headlights from drive-through aisles). When planted to serve as a hedge or screen, shrubs shall be planted with two to four feet of spacing, depending on the plant species.

c. Groundcover. Plants used for mass planting may be grown in flats of up to sixty-four (64) plants or in individual one-gallon containers. Rooted cuttings from flats shall be planted no farther apart than twelve (12) inches on center, and containerized woody, shrub groundcover plantings shall be planted no farther apart than three (3' 0") feet on center in order to achieve full coverage within one (1) year. Minimum planter width for groundcover is two (2' 0") feet, with the exception of sod, which requires a minimum planter width of six (6' 0") feet.

d. Additional Spacing Provisions. Tree spacing shall ensure unobstructed access for vehicles and pedestrians and provide clear vision at intersections. Specifically, tree planting shall comply with the following spacing criteria:

i. Trees or shrubs with a full-grown height equal to or greater than thirty-six (36") inches shall not be planted in any clear-vision triangle.

ii. A minimum distance of fifteen (15' 0") feet is required between the center of trees and shrubs to all light standards. [Ord. 14-2017 §3 (Exh. C), eff. 6-23-2017; Ord. 27-2013 §11, eff. 2-7-2014; Ord. 12-2012 §§8(A), (B), eff. 7-27-2012; Ord. 8-2011 §§24(A), (B), eff. 6-24-2011; Ord. 28-2007 §3, eff. 10-26-2007; Ord. 26-2006 §3, eff. 8-11-2006]

23.54.050 Special landscape provisions.

A. Perimeter Landscape. Minimum width of perimeter landscape along adjoining streets and interior property lines is identified in Table 23.54-1. Within the perimeter landscape planter adjoining all streets, street trees shall be planted at a maximum spacing of fifty (50' 0") lineal feet on center, located between five (5' 0") feet and ten (10' 0") feet from the back of the sidewalk. Within the perimeter landscape planter along interior property lines, screen trees shall be planted at a minimum spacing of thirty (30' 0") lineal feet on center, located between five (5' 0") feet and ten (10' 0") feet from the property line. Additionally, where nonresidential property abuts residential property, the required landscape planter shall include evergreen screen trees at thirty (30' 0") feet on center, large growing shrubs at eight feet on center and climbing vines, planted between large shrubs, at eight (8” 0") feet on center. (See City’s screen tree list, large growing shrubs and climbing vine list.)

B. Residential Landscape. For single-family and two-family residential zoning districts, a minimum of twenty-five (25%) percent of the net lot area and forty (40%) percent of the front yard area shall be pervious surface.

C. Parking Lot Landscape. Parking lot landscape includes perimeter planters abutting parking lots and drive aisles, tree planting for parking lot shade, and a combination of continuous planting strips and landscaped islands throughout the parking lot. See Figure 23.54-1.

Figure 23.54-1

Parking Lot and Corresponding Landscape Design

1. Landscaped Islands. In addition to the perimeter landscaping required by this chapter, parking lots of five (5) spaces or more shall provide a landscaped island measuring a minimum of eight (8' 0") feet by sixteen (16' 0") feet at a ratio of one (1) island for every eight (8) spaces. As a minimum, the islands shall be placed every ten (10) spaces. In conjunction with a land use or development permit application, the designated approving authority may eliminate or reduce the number of required landscaped islands when paved and parking areas are used for materials, storage, stock, and trade (e.g., vehicle sales and storage). When a request to eliminate or reduce the number of required landscaped islands is not part of a land use or development permit application, a minor design review permit shall be required.

2. Planters. All landscaping shall be within planters bounded by a curb at least six (6") inches high. No planter shall be smaller than twenty-five (25 ft2) square feet, excluding curbing. Each planter shall include an irrigation system.

D. Parking Lot Screening. Landscaping within the perimeter planter abutting any street right-of-way shall be designed and maintained for partial screening of vehicles to a minimum height of thirty-six (36") inches, measured from the finished grade of the parking lot. Screening materials may include a combination of plant materials, earthen berms, solid masonry walls, raised planters, or other screening devices authorized by the designated approving authority and which meet the intent of this screening requirement. See Figure 23.54-2. Earthen berms shall be constructed with slopes no steeper than one (1' 0") vertical foot for each five (5' 0") horizontal feet (twenty (20%) percent slope), with a preferable two (2' 0") foot wide crest on top of the mound.

Figure 23.54-2

Parking Lot Screening

E. Landscape Corridors. Existing sidewalks (except at street intersections) and bus turnouts may meander from a minimum five (5' 0") foot setback to a maximum of twenty (20' 0") feet from the edge of pavement. The parkway area between the public street and the sidewalk shall be landscaped and planted with a street tree at least every fifty (50' 0") feet. The parkway shall be a minimum of eight (8' 0") feet in width for the location of the street tree. See Figure 23.54-3.

Figure 23.54-3

Landscape Corridors

F. Project Entry Landscaping. Entries to multi-tenant projects shall be designed as special statements reflective of the character and scale of the project in order to establish identity for tenants, visitors, and patrons. Flowering access plantings and specimen trees shall be used to reinforce the entry statement.

G. Buffering Between Uses. A landscape buffer shall be provided between residential and nonresidential uses and between single-family uses and multifamily uses containing three (3) or more units. Buffer areas shall include a minimum ten (10' 0") foot-wide planter strip with both deciduous and evergreen trees planted a maximum of thirty (30' 0") feet on center (see Figure 23.54-4).

Figure 23.54-4

Buffering Between Uses

H. Clear-Vision Triangle. Planting materials shall be designed to ensure that planting within the clear-vision triangle at driveway and street intersections will not exceed thirty-six (36") inches in height at full maturity.

I. Sound Walls/Masonry Walls. Where setback and open space areas are screened from public view by walls or similar approved structures, landscaping shall be provided such that fifty (50%) percent of the wall shall be covered by landscape material within five (5) years.

J. Screening of Drive-Through Aisles. In order to screen vehicles in a drive-through lane and associated headlights from view of abutting street rights-of-way, a minimum three (3' 0") foot tall landscape barrier shall be established along the outer edge of drive-through aisles.

K. Parking Lot Shade Requirement. Landscape trees throughout the parking lots of multifamily and nonresidential developments shall be planted and maintained to ensure that, within fifteen (15) years after establishment of the parking lot, a minimum percentage of the parking lot is shaded in accordance with Table 23.54-2. The percentage of area required to be shaded shall be based on the number of off-street parking spaces provided. The level of growth assumed at fifteen (15) years is as determined by the Development Services Director.

Table 23.54-2

Parking Lot Shade Requirements 

Size of Parking Lot by Parking Spaces

Percent of Shade Requirement

5 – 24 spaces

30% minimum

25 – 49 spaces

40% minimum

50+ spaces

50% minimum

Future shade is calculated by adding the portion of the canopy area of each proposed tree (using diameter of the tree crown in fifteen (15) years) that is covering the paved lot at high noon, exclusive of overlapping canopies. Shade calculations shall be consistent with fifteen (15) year canopy coverage estimates. Shade tree selection shall be approved by the Development Services Director. See Figure 23.54-5. In conjunction with a land use or development permit application, the designated approving authority may allow alternative shade structures (including solar carports, green roof carports, etc.) in lieu of parking lot trees when it can be demonstrated that 1) there is a secondary benefit (including energy conservation, public art, etc.), and 2) stormwater management can adequately accommodate any increase in drainage, as determined by the approving authority. When an alternative shade structure is proposed and is not part of a land use or development permit application, a minor design review permit shall be required. The approving authority will consider the potential for additional tree planting on or off site where the alternative shade solution does not involve trees.

Figure 23.54-5

Parking Lot Shade Requirements

[Ord. 14-2017 §3 (Exh. C), eff. 6-23-2017; Ord. 24-2015 §11 (Exh. I), eff. 2-12-2016; Ord. 12-2012 §8(C), eff. 7-27-2012; Ord. 8-2011 §24(C), eff. 6-24-2011; Ord. 28-2007 §3, eff. 10-26-2007; Ord. 26-2006 §3, eff. 8-11-2006]

23.54.060 Irrigation.

Landscape areas shall be supported by a permanent, automatic irrigation system coordinated to meet the needs of various planting areas. Proper irrigation shall be provided for healthy plant growth and maturation, and shall be designed to avoid the watering of structures, public ways, and pedestrian access.

A. Irrigation systems shall be designed to avoid runoff, excessive low head drainage, overspray or other similar conditions where water flows or drifts onto adjacent property, nonirrigated areas, walks, roadways or structures.

B. Automatic controllers shall be set to water between 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. to reduce evaporation.

C. An irrigation schedule indicating the four seasons of watering cycles is recommended for all irrigated landscape areas, and is required for those projects with a total landscape area of two thousand five hundred (2,500 ft2) square feet or more.

D. Low-volume irrigation systems with automatic controllers shall be required. Low-volume irrigation systems include low-volume sprinkler heads, dry emitters, and bubbler emitters. [Ord. 26-2006 §3, eff. 8-11-2006]

23.54.070 Maintenance.

All landscaped areas shall be permanently maintained by watering, clearing of debris and litter, weeding, pruning, insect control, and replacement of plant materials and irrigation equipment as needed to preserve the health and appearance of plant materials. All landscaping shall be maintained in such a manner as to not restrict designated pedestrian access. All trees, shrubs, and plants which, due to accident, damage, disease, or other cause, fail to show a healthy growth shall be replaced, in kind, pursuant to the approved landscape plans within thirty (30) days from the identified damage date.

A. The owners of all landscaped property shall be responsible for the proper maintenance of the landscaping and irrigation systems.

B. If landscaping is not being properly maintained, the property owner shall be notified by the City. If after thirty (30) days from the City’s notification the landscaping is still not being maintained, then the City may perform any type of maintenance necessary to ensure compliance with this chapter, the cost of which will be considered a lien on the property until paid in full by the property owner, tenant or their agent, if any.

C. The designated approving authority may require that the applicant post a maintenance bond or other performance assurance for a period not to exceed nine (9) months from the date of issuance of the certificate of occupancy or final installation of plant material, whichever is later, to ensure survival and maintenance of the required landscaping. The Director shall be responsible for establishing the exact sum of the bond, which shall be based upon a responsible replacement cost of all plant materials plus the cost of installation.

D. Tree Pruning and Shrub Maintenance. Trees and shrubs shall not overhang or encroach upon walkways, drives, parking areas, and traffic signs to the extent that they interfere with the use of these areas. Tree limbs which overhang public sidewalks shall be kept trimmed to a height of at least ten (10' 0") feet above the sidewalk level. Tree limbs which overhang the street shall be kept trimmed to a height of at least thirteen (13' 0") feet above the street level.

E. Grass and turf shall be kept free of weeds. [Ord. 26-2006 §3, eff. 8-11-2006]