25.36.1    Purpose and Intent

25.36.2    Definitions

25.36.3    Protected Trees

25.36.4    Prohibited Acts and Penalties

25.36.5    Administrative Tree Removal Permits

25.36.6    Tree Conservation and Mitigation Planning During Projects that Require City Review

25.36.7    Tree Removal Criteria

25.36.8    Conservation of Public Trees

25.36.9    Mitigation Requirements

25.36.10    Emergency Exemption

25.36.11    Adopt-A-Tree Program

25.36.1 Purpose and Intent

The City of Fairfield lies in a valley and foothill landscape dotted with native oaks and other trees. Over time, residents have planted many trees as they settled in the community. These trees, native and imported, provide beauty and protection from summer heat, increase property values, enhance community pride, preserve wildlife habitat, reduce air and noise pollution, and reduce soil erosion. Because of these benefits, the City has determined that it is necessary for the public health and welfare to conserve tree resources by protecting significant trees from unnecessary destruction or removal, encouraging the replacement of trees lost to disease, natural hazards, or human intervention. The City has also determined that street trees, park trees, and other trees on public lands ("public trees") contribute to the quality of life in the community. The intent of this ordinance is to establish mechanisms and policies for protecting public trees from unnecessary removal, maintaining public trees in good health, and replacing public trees where necessary so that the community may continue to enjoy the many benefits associated with trees.

This ordinance is enacted to:

A.    Protect trees during the development process.

B.    Promote the conservation of tree resources.

C.    Protect the City’s public, park, and street trees.

D.    Permit the reasonable use of property while conserving the City’s public and private tree resources.

E.    Facilitate the planting and maintenance of Public Trees by civic groups, neighborhood organizations, businesses, and homeowners.

25.36.2 Definitions

A.    Parkway Strip: A strip of land located:

1.    Between the edge of the street or curb and outer edge of the sidewalk, or

2.    Within the public planting/landscaping easement.

B.    Protected Tree: A tree listed in Section 25.36.3 and protected by this ordinance.

C.    Public Tree: Trees located on public property, including trees in parks, trees in public rights-of-way, trees in parkway strips, and trees in median islands.

D.    Theme Trees: Trees which have been selected and approved for a development project because they contribute specific aesthetic, cultural, or environmental benefits to the City or the project.

25.36.3 Protected Trees

The following trees are hereby designated as protected trees by this ordinance:

A.    All trees on public property.

B.    Trees planted or preserved on private property or within the public right of way which were:

1.    Required by the City as a condition of approval for the project; or

2.    Shown on a landscape drawing or plan for a project approved by the City.

C.    The following species of trees located on undeveloped private properties which exceed 6 inches in caliper or diameter at breast height. Breast height is measured at a point located 4-1/2 feet above the existing ground level of the tree:


Native Oaks



Bay Laurel

Umbelluraria californica



Arbutus menziesi



Aesculus californica

D.    Trees or groups of trees having one or more of the following characteristics, as determined by the City during project review or through special studies:

1.    Demonstrated habitat value.

2.    Historical or cultural value, as documented by published sources.

3.    Important aesthetic value.

4.    Uniqueness or rarity.

5.    Unusual size or age.

25.36.4 Prohibited Acts and Penalties

A.    Prohibited acts. Except as authorized by a Tree Removal Permit as defined in Section 25.36.5, or unless authorized as part of discretionary project approval by the Department, the Commission, or the City Council, or per the Public Tree Conservation Policies, established in Section 25.36.8, and/or as adopted by resolution of the Council, it shall be unlawful for any person or City department to remove, cut down, conduct excessive unnatural pruning, topping, or disfigurement of any protected tree, or perform any act which results in the premature death or decline of a protected tree.

B.    Penalties. Every individual violation of this ordinance shall constitute an infraction as provided for in Section 1.7 of the City Code. Said violations shall be subject to Administrative Citations and other penalties as established in the City Code.

    In addition, parties who violate this Ordinance shall be required to complete additional mitigation, including the planting of mitigation trees at a penalty ratio as established in Section 25.36.9D.

25.36.5 Administrative Tree Removal Permits

A.    Permit requirement. Any person proposing to remove a protected tree not as part of a project subject to review by the Department, the Commission, or the Council, or where such removal is not subject to the Public Tree Conservation Policy referenced in Section 25.36.8 shall make application to the Director of Community Development for a Tree Removal Permit. The application must be submitted prior to the time desired to physically perform the regulated activity, and the permit shall be processed in accordance with the procedures for Minor Discretionary Approval items (see Section 25.40.4).

B.    Application contents. An application for administrative tree removal permit shall contain:

1.    A brief statement of the reasons for the removal of the protected tree(s), with documentation that one or more of the Tree Removal Criteria described in Section 25.36.7 below exist. The Department may require a report or letter from a certified arborist, horticulturist, botanist, or other qualified person confirming the criterion has been met;

2.    Written consent of the owner of record of the land on which the proposed activity is to occur; and

3.    Any other relevant information deemed necessary by the Director.

C.    Director review. The Director shall review the request for tree removal based on the criteria established in Section 25.36.7.

D.    Mitigation requirements. The Director may require mitigation as a condition of approval for the Tree Removal Permit. If required, mitigation shall be in accordance with Section 25.36.9.

25.36.6 Tree Conservation and Mitigation Planning During Projects that Require City Review

A.    An applicant proposing to remove (a) protected tree(s) as part of a project which otherwise requires review and action by City staff, the Commission, or the City Council, shall provide the following information to the City for use during project review:

1.    A scaled drawing showing:

a.    All protected trees that the applicant is proposing to preserve that might be impacted by development. These trees should be identified by species or type, condition, and size.

b.    All protected trees proposed for removal. The applicant shall provide a table summarizing the size (diameter), condition, species, and other pertinent information such as canopy size. The applicant shall indicate the reason(s) for the removal of any protected tree. The City will review the tree removal requests based on the criteria in Section 25.36.7.

B.    Prior to issuance of a grading permit or building permit, the applicant shall provide a detailed mitigation plan. The plan shall address the following issues:

1.    Mitigation of potential impacts on preserved protected trees. If construction activities could impact protected trees which are to be preserved, the applicant shall provide a mitigation plan that indicates construction practices, tree care measures, irrigation methods, if any, aeration techniques, retaining walls and other grading improvements, and other measures which could increase the survival rates of trees to be saved. All construction projects that would impact the area underneath a protected tree’s dripline shall comply with City standards for acceptable construction practices adopted by the Planning Commission with the advice of the Open Space Commission.

2.    Mitigation of trees removed during development.

a.    On-site mitigation. When on-site mitigation is proposed, the plan shall indicate tree planting locations, size and species of trees to be planted, and planting and irrigation methods.

b.    Off-site mitigation. Because removal of protected trees has neighborhood and citywide impacts, as well as site-specific impacts, off-site mitigation is appropriate to help preserve the City’s overall quality of life and tree resources. Mitigation measures help preserve the extent and value of the City’s public and private tree resources. Off-site mitigation may be appropriate when on-site mitigation is not possible, when another site is available and preferred for mitigation planting, and a reasonable relationship exists between the impacts being created as a result of the tree removal and the benefits of the off-site mitigation. The Department of Community Development may approve one or both of the following two options for off-site mitigation:

1.    The applicant implements a specific mitigation plan for an off-site location approved by the City which incorporates planting, irrigation, and monitoring (and replacement) for a five year period. The City may require a deposit to ensure that maintenance activities are implemented.

2.    If a specific site has not been identified, the applicants may pay an in-lieu fee equal to the reasonable expenses incurred by the City or its contractors in installing off-site mitigation trees.

25.36.7 Tree Removal Criteria

As discussed in Section 25.36.1 (Purpose and Intent), the City has determined that trees have significant public value. Loss of trees results in less shade, increased impacts due to air and noise pollution, reduced wildlife habitat, and a less attractive community. It is the intent of the City to protect the quality of life in the community by encouraging the conservation of tree resources. Protected trees should only be removed when their condition or circumstances require removal of the trees. In general, this can be demonstrated only if at least one of the following conditions exist:

A.    The tree has been damaged by thunderstorms, windstorms, floods, earthquakes, fires, life-threatening illness, or other natural disasters, and it is determined to be dangerous to the public health and safety.

B.    There is no feasible alternative to removal of the tree which will allow the owner reasonable use of the property permitted under the zoning ordinance and/or general plan.

C.    The applicant provides written documentation from a utility or City department that continued existence of the tree interferes with existing utilities or structures.

D.    The tree is dead or in a state of severe irreversible decline, as defined by an arborist or equally qualified individual.

E.    The tree has a contagious disease which threatens other trees.

F.    Removal of a tree benefits the overall environmental health of the parcel. In general, this will occur if it can be demonstrated that removal of the tree will encourage healthier, more vigorous growth of similar trees in the area.

If removal of a tree is proposed on the basis of items (D), (E), or (F), the Department may require the applicant to have prepared a report from an arborist, horticulturist, botanist or other qualified person documenting that the criterion clearly exists.

25.36.8 Conservation of Public Trees

Fairfield’s Public Trees, including street trees, park trees, and trees on other public property, are an important element in Fairfield’s quality of life. They provide shade, beauty, enhanced property values, relief from noise and dust, and, if conditions allow, habitat for birds and small animals. The City intends to be proactive in conserving the values associated with these trees, minimizing unnecessary removal, replacing them when necessary, and encouraging new tree planting whenever possible.

The Public Works Department, as advised by the Department of Community Development, shall have primary responsibility for the management of Public Trees.

A.    The Department of Public Works, in collaboration with the Department of Community Development, shall develop a conservation policy for Public Trees. This policy may include application requirements as established by the Department of Public Works. Except as defined in Sections 25.36.8 (B) and (C) below, the policy will govern the removal of Public Trees and will establish a process, administered by the Public Works Department, for managing such removals and mitigation measures. This policy shall be reviewed by the Open Space Commission and the Planning Commission and adopted by resolution of the City Council.

B.    When Theme Trees within the right-of-way, median strip or other public property are removed by the Public Works Department or City contractors, said trees should be replaced by the same species. If the tree is to be replaced with another species or type, the replacements shall be approved by the Director of Community Development, in cooperation with the Public Works Department.

C.    If the tree is a native oak, bay laurel, madrone, or buckeye on public property whose trunk(s) exceed six (6) inches in diameter at a point measured at 4-1/2 feet above the existing ground level of the tree, a Tree Removal Permit must be obtained from the Department of Community Development per Section 25.36.5 of this Ordinance. The Director of Community Development shall work with the Public Works Department to identify appropriate mitigation measures, as defined in Section 25.36.9, for removal of the tree.

D.    The Director of Community Development is directed to work with the Director of Public Works to develop a list of recommended street trees and theme trees for use on public and private property in the City of Fairfield. Said list will be reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission.

25.36.9 Mitigation Requirements.

Trees contribute significant benefits to the City. When a tree is removed, the overall quality of the community can be degraded. Mitigation can alleviate or eliminate these impacts. Mitigation for approved removal of trees shall be reviewed and approved by the Department of Community Development on a case-by-case basis. Criteria used to review mitigation plans may include:

A.    Whether the mitigation plan replaces the environmental, cultural, aesthetic, or other values of the lost trees.

B.    The availability of land, either on-site or off-site, for mitigation planting.

C.    Survivability, size, and value of the proposed replacement trees.

D.    Provisions for maintenance and survival of the replacement trees.

It is the policy of the City to encourage the replacement of protected trees on an inch-for-inch basis. Staff shall review the specific mitigation program for each project on a case-by-case basis. To determine the number of replacement inches, the applicant should use the diameter or caliper of the tree proposed for removal, measured at breast height (4-1/2 feet above the normal surface). Inches of replacement may be translated into standard nursery planting sizes using the following formulas:

24” boxed tree


3 replacement inches

15 gallon tree


1 replacement inch

5 gallon tree


1/2 replacement inch

Parties who remove a tree in violation of this Ordinance shall be subjected to a mitigation requirement of 3 (three) inches for every inch removed. Additional mitigation requirements may be imposed as determined necessary by the Director of Community Development.

25.36.10 Emergency Exemption

A tree may be removed without prior granting of a tree removal permit when removal of said tree is immediately necessary to protect public or private property or human health and safety from imminent danger or harm.

25.36.11 Adopt-A-Tree Program

Because preservation of Public Trees in parkway strips and public parks throughout the City is of importance to maintaining the quality of the City’s neighborhoods, and because volunteers and property owner participation can assist in the maintenance and planting of such Public Trees, the City Council hereby establishes an “Adopt-A-Tree” program.

A.    The Director of Public Works, working with the Directors of the Community Development and Community Services Departments, is authorized to develop appropriate standards to permit and encourage neighborhoods, civic organizations, and other interested parties to “adopt” Public Trees.

B.    The Director of Public Works is authorized to enter into contracts with interested parties to implement the “Adopt-A-Tree” program. These contracts may provide for organizations or individuals to perform, under City oversight, tree planting, routine maintenance, watering, and other activities to ensure the health of the trees.

C.    The City is authorized to provide appropriate assistance to parties involved in an “Adopt-A-Tree” program.