Chapter 12.20


12.20.010    Overall canopy coverage.

12.20.020    Categories of Protected Trees.

12.20.030    Planting and maintenance of Protected Trees.

12.20.040    Pruning and Removal of Protected Trees.

12.20.050    Public Tree protection.

12.20.060    Wildlife protection.

12.20.070    Replacement of Protected Trees.

12.20.080    Canopy coverage goals.

12.20.090    Appropriate variation for individual situations.

12.20.100    Alternatives when Protected Trees cannot be replaced on site.

12.20.010 Overall canopy coverage.

The entire community benefits from a healthy and full Tree canopy and root system. The city of Pacific Grove shall strive to achieve a 25-year city-wide canopy cover target to maintain the existing canopy cover with the goal of a total canopy cover of 33 percent. The city shall develop and implement programs to maximize opportunities for the planting of Public Trees. The city shall encourage reporting on the Removal of non-Protected Trees to track changes in the overall canopy coverage. [Ord. 13-013 § 3, 2013; Ord. 12-017 § 6, 2012].

12.20.020 Categories of Protected Trees.

(a) Five categories of Trees are protected as specified below:

(1) Native Trees. All Gowen cypress, regardless of size; all Coast live oak, Monterey cypress, Shore pine, Torrey pine, and Monterey pine six inches or greater in trunk diameter, measured at 54 inches above native grade.

(2) All Other Private Trees. In addition to subsection (a)(1) of this section, all other Trees on private property, regardless of species, 12 inches or greater in trunk diameter, measured at 54 inches above native grade.

(3) Monarch Butterfly Habitat Trees. All Trees in or within 100 yards of designated Monarch sanctuaries. For the purposes of this title, the following sites are designated as Monarch sanctuaries, serving as official Pacific Grove Monarch butterfly over-wintering sites:

(A) Monarch Grove Sanctuary. That portion of land bordered on the east and west by Ridge Road and Grove Acre Avenue, respectively, on the south by Short Street, and on the north by the northerly boundary of assessor’s parcel numbers 006-361-30-031, -032, -033, and -034, extended from Grove Acre easterly to Ridge Road.

(B) Washington Park Site. That portion of land bordered on the east and west by Alder Street and Melrose Avenue, respectively, on the north by Pine Avenue, and on the south by the imaginary extension of Junipero Avenue westerly from Alder to Melrose.

(4) Public Trees. All Trees on Public Property six inches or greater in trunk diameter, measured at 54 inches above native grade, and all Street Trees, regardless of size.

(5) Designated Trees. All Trees that are otherwise Protected and will be impacted as a result of Development, both proposed for Pruning or Removal and where the Development will impact the Critical Root Zone of the Tree that requires protection during construction, and all Trees otherwise identified – during Development or otherwise – for special protection by the property owner. Trees that are proposed to be Removed as part of a Development project shall be processed as part of the community Development permit application and approval process, and replaced in accordance with this chapter, Chapter 12.30 PGMC, and the Urban Forestry Standards.

(b) Nothing in this title limits or modifies the existing authority of the city under PGMC Title 23 (Zoning) to require Trees not covered by this title to be identified, retained, protected, and/or planted as conditions of the approval of Development. [Ord. 13-013 § 3, 2013; Ord. 12-017 § 6, 2012].

12.20.030 Planting and maintenance of Protected Trees.

(a) The city, its residents, and its property owners benefit by having the right Tree planted in the right place. Native Trees are preferred, where Feasible. Trees to be planted should be selected from a list of appropriate Landscape Trees for Pacific Grove, whenever possible. The planting and maintenance of Protected Trees shall be in accordance with the city’s Urban Forestry Standards.

(b) Planting of Public and Street Trees shall be in conformance with an approved management plan for Trees on public property, including a Street Tree landscaping plan, developed and updated from time to time by the beautification and natural resources commission and approved by the city council. Street Tree plantings shall be considered first from the viewpoint of the people passing on or using the Streets, the benefits to storm water management, the extension of pavement life due to the shade they provide, the adjacent property owner, and from the other broader community benefits. Of secondary consideration is the enhancement, embellishment, or other benefit of the properties abutting the Street or Public Property. [Ord. 13-013 § 3, 2013; Ord. 12-017 § 6, 2012].

12.20.040 Pruning and Removal of Protected Trees.

(a) Substantial Pruning or Removal of any Protected Tree requires a permit, as described in Chapter 12.60 PGMC (Permit Application and Processing), except in an Emergency. All such work shall be done under the direction of the city arborist. A Tree that serves as part of a windbreak system, or assists in storm water drainage or the avoidance of soil erosion, or serves as a component of a wildlife habitat, is to be preserved if Feasible. Acceptable criteria for Substantial Pruning or Removal of any Protected Tree are as follows:

(1) The tree risk assessment level is “high” or “extreme” (see PGMC 12.40.020 (Actions to be undertaken for dead Trees and Trees assessed as High-Risk)) and there are not more cost-effective remedial solutions.

(2) The Tree is causing or is projected to cause significant damage to hardscape (house foundations, driveways, retaining walls, patios, etc.), utility service lines, or infrastructure (sidewalk, curb, storm drain, Street, etc.) and there are not more cost-effective remedial solutions.

(3) The Tree is within the fuel management zone around an occupancy, or is within a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone, as defined by CalFire, and such work is necessary to reduce the risks due to wildfire (see the Urban Forestry Standards, Flammable Fuel Management).

(4) The Tree is determined to be a nuisance (see PGMC 12.40.030), and there are not more cost-effective remedial solutions.

(b) A permit is not required for Pruning of less than 25 percent of the live branches of the entire Tree within a 12-month period; and/or cutting or Removal of any live limb with a diameter less than six inches or a circumference less than 19 inches at any point on such limb, or cutting or Removal of roots less than four inches in diameter.

(c) Pruning or Removal of Monarch butterfly habitat Trees shall be prohibited except as prescribed in the approved Monarch sanctuary habitat management plan or upon a finding by the city council that such is necessary for proper maintenance of the site or for public health, safety, or welfare.

(d) Pruning or Removal of Trees within 100 yards of any boundary of a Monarch sanctuary shall be prohibited during the months of October through April unless deemed necessary by the city arborist and confirmed by the public works director for public health, safety, or welfare. Any Person aggrieved by or objecting to any exercise of authority by the public works director under this section shall have the right of appeal to the city council in accordance with Chapter 12.70 PGMC.

(e) No Protected Tree shall be Pruned to an extent that destroys its identity as a Tree, unless conditions for Removal exist and the Tree is to remain as a Snag for the purpose of wildlife habitat.

(f) A Protected Tree shall not be Substantially Pruned or Removed for the purpose of securing or improving a view, for acquiring more sunlight or air, or to reduce organic litter, unless the Tree is to be replaced, subject to conditions determined by the city arborist. The city shall strive to preserve view corridors, as defined in the General Plan, through the maintenance and Pruning of Public Trees and by encouraging private property owners to maintain and Prune their Trees.

(g) A Protected Tree shall not be Removed solely because it is diseased if the disease is readily curable or is not spreading. In cases where an applicant for a Tree permit feels that the Tree is diseased, the city arborist may require an analysis of the Tree to determine the type, extent, and degree to which the disease directly affects the Tree. Such testing shall be performed by an independent expert chosen by agreement of the applicant and city arborist. Cost of the analysis shall be borne by the applicant. [Ord. 13-013 § 3, 2013; Ord. 12-017 § 6, 2012].

12.20.050 Public Tree protection.

Unless authorized by permit, no person shall:

(a) Remove, top, or in any way damage, destroy, injure, or mutilate a Public Tree.

(b) Fasten any sign, wire, or injurious material to any Public Tree, other than a Public Tree under PGMC 12.60.050.

(c) Excavate any ditch or tunnel, or place concrete or other pavement, within the Critical Root Zone of any Public Tree. [Ord. 13-013 § 3, 2013; Ord. 12-017 § 6, 2012].

12.20.060 Wildlife protection.

Tree Pruning and Removal activities shall take place outside the nesting periods of listed threatened, endangered, or special status species as specified by the California Department of Fish and Game or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Upon the discovering of any large nest, property owners and contractors shall consult the city arborist or a qualified biologist for appropriate Pruning and Removal times, best management practices, and inspections to ensure wildlife protection measures are being followed. [Ord. 13-013 § 3, 2013; Ord. 12-017 § 6, 2012].

12.20.070 Replacement of Protected Trees.

Removal of any Protected Tree on a property that will continue to meet the canopy coverage goals in this chapter after the Removal shall not require replacement. For the Removal of all other Protected Trees, whether living or dead, as well as in those cases where the Tree is being left as a Snag, one replacement Tree shall be required for each Protected Tree Removed.

Replacement Trees shall be of a Suitable species and planted in a Suitable location, as agreed to by the city arborist and the property owner. If agreement cannot be reached, the beautification and natural resources commission will determine the matter. Owners are encouraged to select replacement Trees from the approved list identified in the Landscape Trees for Pacific Grove. Invasive Trees will not be approved. For Upper Canopy Trees on lots with available landscape area in excess of 2,000 square feet, at least half of all replacement Trees shall be Native Trees as defined in PGMC 12.20.020(a)(1).

The city arborist or designee shall inspect replacement Trees during the first two years after planting to monitor survivability and growth progress. Dead Trees or Trees in an irreversible decline shall be replaced by the property owner at the owner’s expense. A new species and replacement planting location may be agreed to at that time. [Ord. 13-013 § 3, 2013; Ord. 12-017 § 6, 2012].

12.20.080 Canopy coverage goals.

The desired overall nature and scope of Tree canopy to achieve a mixed, healthy urban forest is as follows:

(a) Residential Properties. The canopy coverage goal for Trees on residential properties shall be based on the available landscape area, if feasible, as follows:

Available Landscape Area

Upper Canopy Trees

Lower Canopy Trees

Up to 2,000 square feet

0 – 1

1 – 2

2,001 – 3,000 square feet


2 – 3

3,001 – 4,000 square feet


3 – 4

Over 4,000 square feet



In accordance with PGMC Title 23, Zoning, “site coverage” means the sum of Building Coverage plus areas covered by impervious surfaces. In residential zoning districts, maximum site coverage is 60 percent. For proposed Developments on residential properties with site coverage exceeding 60 percent, owners shall be encouraged to Remove impervious surface area and to plant Trees to achieve the canopy coverage goal where appropriate.

On residential properties where the number of Trees after proposed Removal(s) would exceed the canopy coverage goals above, no replacement Tree(s) shall be required.

(b) Commercial and Governmental Properties. One Tree per 30 feet of frontage, with a minimum of two Trees, if space is available. In parks and open space, the city shall strive to achieve at least 33 percent canopy coverage, where appropriate.

(c) Parking Lots. Thirty-three percent of paved parking lots shall be shaded with Tree canopies, and in conjunction with low impact Development landscaping for storm water management. [Ord. 13-013 § 3, 2013; Ord. 12-017 § 6, 2012].

12.20.090 Appropriate variation for individual situations.

While the overall canopy coverage standards shall serve as the community-wide desired levels of forest cover, the appropriate configuration (number, size, species, and placement) for a given parcel will depend on a series of interrelated factors, as determined by the city arborist:

(a) Neighborhood, zoning district, and parcel objectives and aesthetics;

(b) Existing canopy coverage on the lot;

(c) Adjacent properties and land uses;

(d) Size and location of structures;

(e) Existing infrastructure and potential for adverse impacts;

(f) Topography and soil conditions;

(g) Storm water management and erosion prevention;

(h) Windbreak potential;

(i) Viewshed protection;

(j) Wildlife habitat protection;

(k) Long-term health potential of the replacement Tree. [Ord. 13-013 § 3, 2013; Ord. 12-017 § 6, 2012].

12.20.100 Alternatives when Protected Trees cannot be replaced on site.

In some circumstances, crowding or other physical constraints make it impossible or undesirable to replace a Protected Tree on site to meet the desired coverage levels.

(a) For replacement of Native Trees and Monarch butterfly Trees, or Removal of a Public Tree if initiated by a private party, a fee established by resolution of the city council shall be paid to the city of Pacific Grove and deposited into the Community Tree Program Fund.

(b) As established by the adopted fee schedule, a sum of money (an in-lieu fee) will be deposited in the Community Tree Program Fund, to be used solely for the planting and maintenance of Trees on city property.

Payment of in-lieu fees cannot be made as an alternative to replacement on site unless findings can be made that the Tree replacement planting is not Feasible, based on the criteria identified in PGMC 12.20.090 (Appropriate variation for individual situations). [Ord. 13-013 § 3, 2013; Ord. 12-017 § 6, 2012].