Chapter 8.60


8.60.010    Title.

8.60.020    Findings.

8.60.030    Purposes and intent.

8.60.040    Definitions.

8.60.050    Master tree plan – Regulations.

8.60.060    Property owner’s responsibility for street trees.

8.60.070    Work on street trees authorized by permit.

8.60.080    Permit application.

8.60.090    Permit review and decision.

8.60.100    Appeal process.

8.60.110    Construction on parking strip prohibited.

8.60.120    Prohibitions.

8.60.130    Licensing of private tree care firms.

8.60.140    Designated administrative responsibilities.

8.60.150    Performance evaluation of program.

8.60.160    Cooperation and coordination between city departments and other agencies.

8.60.170    Penalties for violation.

8.60.180    Severability.

8.60.010 Title.

This chapter shall be known as the city of Millbrae tree protection and urban forestry program. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.01).

8.60.020 Findings.

Information obtained from two studies of the city’s street tree population indicates an undesirably large percentage of trees of one tree species; a sparse tree density based on the national average of trees per mile of street; and a decline in the number of tree species as a result of improper and inadequate tree maintenance and pruning. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.02).

8.60.030 Purposes and intent.

This chapter establishes policies, regulations and standards necessary to ensure the city will continue to realize the benefits provided by its urban forest. The purposes of this chapter are to:

A.    Establish and maintain the maximum amount of tree cover on public lands in the city;

B.    Maintain city trees in a healthy and nonhazardous condition through good arboricultural practices and community education programs;

C.    Establish and maintain appropriate diversity in tree species and age classes to provide a stable and sustainable urban forest;

D.    Promote and maintain the assessed values of private property for tax purposes; and

E.    Promote and maintain the aesthetic value of the community generally. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.03).

8.60.040 Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter, the following words shall have the meaning ascribed to them in this section:

A.    “Alter” means to take action by cutting or pruning any tree, or by filling, surfacing, grading, compacting or changing the drainage pattern of the soil around any tree in a manner that threatens to diminish the vigor of the tree.

B.    “Applicant” means a property owner who has submitted an application to the parks and recreation department for a permit to undertake work authorized by this chapter on a street tree.

C.    “City” means the city of Millbrae acting by and through its authorized representatives.

D.    “Department” means the parks and recreation department.

E.    “Director” means the parks and recreation director or designee.

F.    “Master Tree Plan” means a strategic plan, developed by the parks and recreation department and adopted by the city council, which identifies the placement of tree species within the city’s rights-of-way and in city parks, regulates the care and maintenance of those trees, and sets policy for the future enhancement of the city’s tree population.

G.    “Parking strip” includes the area between the curb or curb and gutter and the sidewalk and includes all planting and landscaping treatments therein.

H.    “Person” means any individual, firm, association or corporation, and any agent, employee or representative thereof.

I.    “Property owner” means the person who owns the property that abuts the street and parking strip wherein a street tree is or may be placed.

J.    “Pruning” includes the removal of deadwood, the removal of branches from the trunk up to eight feet from the ground, or crown thinning.

K.    “Street” is the area dedicated to the city containing any and all of the following: the roadway, median islands, gutters, curbs, parking strips, sidewalks and any property adjacent to the sidewalk, improved or unimproved, included as part of the total width of property dedicated or otherwise conveyed to the city for the purpose of constructing the street. The area adjacent to the sidewalk is often an extension of front or side yards, varies from location to location, and its boundary is not readily distinguishable. The boundary can be determined by contacting the city’s department of public works, engineering department.

L.    “Street tree” includes any woody perennial plant located in any street, including a parking strip, having a single main axis or stem commonly achieving a minimum of ten feet in height and capable of shaping and pruning to develop a branch-free trunk at least nine feet in height. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.04).

8.60.050 Master tree plan – Regulations.

It is the policy of the city to implement a master tree plan, to encourage new tree planting of street trees, and to ensure a consistent and adequate program for the preservation and proper maintenance of the present street tree population.

The city council, by resolution, will adopt a master tree plan prescribing regulations on the care, preservation and proliferation of street trees in the city. A copy of this plan will be available for public inspection upon request, and all work performed on any street tree shall be in accordance with applicable regulations in said plan. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.05).

8.60.060 Property owner’s responsibility for street trees.

The city shall have ownership and control of all street trees now or hereafter in any street, including a parking strip within the city limits, but the property owner shall be responsible for the care and maintenance of such trees.

It shall be the duty and responsibility of all property owners to maintain street trees within parking strips fronting upon or abutting said owner’s property in a safe and healthy condition. This maintenance shall include watering as needed, and keeping such strips free from weeds or any obstructions contrary to public safety. All watering requirements shall be waived or modified to the extent they are inconsistent with governmental restrictions on water use. Nothing in this chapter shall be deemed to impose any liability for injury or damages or a duty of care or maintenance upon the city or upon any of its officers or employees. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.06).

8.60.070 Work on street trees authorized by permit.

Unless authorized by permit, no person or property owner shall plant, prune, remove, alter or undertake any other work on a street tree. In addition to applicable regulations that may be adopted by the city council pursuant to MMC 8.60.050, this section governs the work or alteration of a street tree that may be authorized by permit.

A.    Pruning. Permits to prune street trees will authorize pruning in accordance with the following standards and methods:

1.    Removal of low-hanging branches, the existence of which interferes with visibility on, free use of, or access to any portion of any street, including sidewalks;

2.    Crown thinning, crown cleaning and the selective removal of branches, not to exceed thirty-three percent of the tree area, specifically for the purpose of increasing light penetration and air circulation within the crown;

3.    Removal of any deadwood;

4.    Maintenance of trunk and main lateral branches as well as the symmetrical appearance or natural shape of the tree.

The director may authorize by permit pruning standards and methods that exceed the restrictions specified above if the application presents unusual or justifiable circumstances warranting such an exception. Such circumstances may include particular conditions or qualities related to the street tree or the neighborhood, including consideration of the preservation of unique neighborhood characteristics, such as the restoration of a view or sunlight.

B.    Planting. Trees of a species recommended in the master tree plan may be planted in any street after obtaining a permit from the director.

C.    Removal. No removal of a street tree will be authorized or a permit issued therefor unless the applicant presents a compelling reason for the removal. Such reasons are as follows:

1.    The necessity to replace a tree, in order to preserve sunlight or a view, with a low growth form species;

2.    The necessity to remove the tree in order to construct any proposed improvements to allow economic enjoyment of the property;

3.    The necessity to remove the tree because it is dead or infected, and therefore presents a danger to the public or neighboring trees;

4.    The necessity to remove the tree because its roots are interfering with sewer or other utility lines or are damaging sidewalks in cases in which other mitigation methods are not reasonably feasible.

In each case of removal, the director also must make findings as to (1) whether there will be an adverse effect on erosion, soil retention and diversion or increased flow of surface waters as a result of the tree removal; and (2) the number of street trees existing in the neighborhood and the effect of the removal on the established tree standard in that area.

If a permit is issued for removal, the director will attach as a condition the applicant’s replacement of the street tree and designate on the permit the type of tree, as may be recommended by the applicant from the master tree plan. The director may designate another street tree planting site for the planting of the replacement tree. If a tree removal is authorized by permit, the department shall send a notice to the owners of property within three hundred feet of the applicant advising of the authorized tree removal and the reasons therefor.

D.    Public utility companies subject to the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission may perform pruning or other alteration of street trees, as is necessary, to comply with the safety regulations of said commission and to maintain the safe operation of their facilities. On an annual basis, such companies shall obtain a permit from the director and they shall notify the department at least three working days prior to undertaking any such pruning or other work on a street tree, except in cases of emergency. The director shall cause such pruning work to be inspected, when appropriate, to ensure that the pruning practices and procedures as referenced in this chapter and in the city’s master tree plan are followed. The director shall have the authority to stop any tree pruning or other work performed by a public utility company if such practices are not being followed. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.07).

8.60.080 Permit application.

Any property owner desiring to perform any work on or alter in any manner a street tree shall apply to the department for a permit. The application for a permit:

A.    Shall be made on forms provided by the department for this purpose;

B.    Shall describe the proposed work or alteration and the reasons for same;

C.    Shall be accompanied by a photo of the tree; and

D.    In the case of removal, shall specify the number and location of the trees to be removed by type and the reason for removal of each. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.08).

8.60.090 Permit review and decision.

A.    In addition to those factors set forth in MMC 8.60.070, the director will review each application to determine whether the proposed work (a) will create, continue or aggravate any hazardous condition or public nuisance; (b) will prevent or interfere with the growth, location or planting of street trees under the master tree plan; and (c) is otherwise consistent with the standards and regulations set forth in the master tree plan.

B.    The director will also consider the condition of the street tree with respect to disease, danger of falling, proximity to existing or proposed structures, and interference with utility facilities and services.

C.    The director shall issue a decision to grant or deny a permit within ten days of application. The permit shall be effective for a period of thirty days from the date that the permit decision becomes final and conclusive as set forth in MMC 8.60.100.

D.    The issuance of a permit pursuant to this chapter shall not create any liability of the city with regard to the work to be performed, and the applicant for such permit shall hold harmless the city, its officers and employees from any damage or injury that may occur in connection with or resulting from such work. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.09).

8.60.100 Appeal process.

A.    Any person may appeal the decision of the director to the city council by filing an appeal in writing with the city clerk no later than five p.m. on the tenth calendar day after the date the decision on the permit was issued. The city clerk shall set the matter for review by the city council at a regular council meeting scheduled within thirty days of the notice of appeal and provide notice by mail of the date, time, and place of the meeting to the appellant and the applicant at least seven days prior thereto.

B.    The determination of the director shall become final and conclusive on the eleventh calendar day following the date of the decision if no appeal is filed as specified above. Pruning, removal or any other work on a street tree authorized by permit shall not commence during the ten-day appeal period. If any appeal is filed, no work on a street tree authorized by permit may commence until the city council renders a decision on the appeal. The city council may affirm, revise or modify the director’s decision or remand the matter back to the director for further investigation and resolution. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.10).

8.60.110 Construction on parking strip prohibited.

Parking strips shall be used for landscape treatments only. It is unlawful to construct any improvements within the parking strip other than landscaping, provided that bricks, cobblestones or stepping stones may be placed in the parking strip for reasonable access to parked vehicles. Such bricks or stones shall be placed on earth and shall not be cemented or grouted in any fashion. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.11).

8.60.120 Prohibitions.

It shall be a violation of this chapter for any person to:

A.    Abuse, destroy or mutilate any street tree;

B.    Attach or place any rope, wire (other than one used to support a young or broken tree), sign, poster, handbill or other things to or on any street tree;

C.    Allow or cause to allow any harmful gaseous, liquid or solid substance to come in contact with the roots, trunks or leaves of a street tree;

D.    Allow or cause to allow soil erosion around the roots of such trees;

E.    Prune, plant, remove, alter or undertake any work on a street tree without a permit or in a manner that violates a permit issued by the department;

F.    Refuse or neglect to replace a street tree that has been removed;

G.    Use parking strips in a manner other than that prescribed in MMC 8.60.110. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.12).

8.60.130 Licensing of private tree care firms.

Any person or business that performs pruning, trimming, removing or altering any street tree in Millbrae for compensation shall comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.13).

8.60.140 Designated administrative responsibilities.

The director shall have the authority and responsibility to administer and enforce the provisions of this chapter. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.14).

8.60.150 Performance evaluation of program.

The department shall collect and maintain all records and data necessary to objectively evaluate whether progress is being made toward the stated goals of this chapter. An annual summary and analysis of the evaluation, and recommendations for action shall be prepared at the direction of the parks and recreation director and presented to the city council. The city council shall consider the report and recommendations and take such actions deemed necessary to accomplish the goals of this chapter. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.15).

8.60.160 Cooperation and coordination between city departments and other agencies.

A.    The public works department shall notify the parks and recreation department of any applications for new curb, gutter, sidewalk or driveway installations, or such other improvements which may require the removal of or cause injury to any street tree, or interfere with the goals, objectives or policies of the master tree plan.

B.    The public works department and the parks and recreation department shall notify one another of approved public utility maintenance work on overhead wires, underground pipes or conduits, or such other facilities which may require removal of or alteration to a street tree, or cause any injury to street trees. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.16).

8.60.170 Penalties for violation.

The penalties for violations of any provisions of this chapter are set forth in Chapter 1.05 MMC. (Ord. 598, § 2, Amended by Ord. 680, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.17).

8.60.180 Severability.

Should any part or provision of this chapter be declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, the same shall not affect the validity of the ordinance as a whole or any part thereof other than the part held to be invalid. (Ord. 598, § 2; 1976 Code § 8-12.18).