CHAPTER 34
TREES AND SHRUBS*

Sections:

34.1    Definitions.

34.2    Protection during development activity. (Work done pursuant to a development proposal approved by the city.)

34.3    Violations.

34.4    Permit applications.

34.5    Tree plan.

34.6    Permit issuance or denial.

34.7    Criteria for approving tree removal permit.

34.7-5    Replacement trees.

34.8    Appeals.

34.9    Exemptions.

34.10    Obstruction.

34.11    Maintenance of trees on public property.

34.12    Penalties.

*    For state law as to “Tree Planting Act of 1931,” see Sts. & H C.A., §§ 22000 to 22202. As to “Park and Playground Act of 1909,” see Gov. C.A., §§ 38000 to 38213.
As to hitching animals to trees, see § 5.12 of this Code. As to collection of brush, tree, etc., trimmings and stumps, see § 16.14. As to removal of trees from parks, see § 21.7.

34.1 Definitions.

As used in this chapter:

(a)    “Caliper” is the diameter of the trunk of a tree measured at four feet above natural grade. In the case of multitrunked trees, “caliper” is the sum of each trunk measured at four feet above the grade.

(b)    “Deadwood” means limbs, branches or a portion of a tree void of green leaves during a season of the year when green leaves should be present.

(c)    “Damage” means any action taken which causes injury, disfigurement or death of a tree.

(d)    “Dripline” means a series of points formed by the vertical dripping of water from the outermost branches and leaves of a tree.

(e)    “Front yard” means that portion of private property as designated in the city zoning code.

(f)    “Heritage tree” is of historical value because of its association with a place, building, natural feature of the land, or an event of local, regional or national historic significance. It could be found on private or public property.

(g)    “Mature tree” is any variety of tree that has a caliper of at least four inches.

(h)    “Protection” means the safeguarding of trees through proper treatment.

(i)    “Removal” means uprooting, cutting or severing of the main trunk of a tree.

(j)    “Significant tree” is a tree that has a caliper of one foot or more.

(k)    “Oak tree” shall mean species of tree of the genus Quercus.

(l)    “Native species tree” means any species of tree native to Southern California as defined by resolution adopted by the city council.

(m)    “Intentional violation” means a violation of Chapter 34 (Trees and Shrubs) that is committed by any person or entity who has actual or presumed knowledge of the requirements of Chapter 34 or who has previously violated the provisions of Chapter 34. A commercial arborist/tree trimmer, a real estate developer, a general contractor, or anyone who has previously filed an application for a tree trimming or removal permit in the city shall be presumed to know the provisions of Chapter 34.

(n)    “Real estate developer” means a person or entity that is engaged in the business of constructing or rehabilitating commercial or residential structures within the city for sale or lease to third parties. (Ord. No. 1991, § 2; Ord. No. 2051, § 5; Ord. No. 2126, § 2; Ord. No. 2237, § 3, 2012.)

34.2 Protection during development activity. (Work done pursuant to a development proposal approved by the city.)

(a)    No grading shall occur within the dripline of a significant or heritage tree.

(b)    No structure shall be located nor shall any construction requiring a permit occur within six feet of the trunk of a significant or heritage tree. (Ord. No. 1991, § 4; Ord. No. 2126, § 12.)

34.3 Violations.

(a)    It is unlawful for any person to remove or transplant any significant or mature heritage tree, a significant, or a mature native species tree, or a significant or mature Oak tree from any property within the city unless a tree removal permit is first obtained from the city.

(b)    It is unlawful for any person to trim or prune more than twenty percent of the live foliage or limbs of any significant or mature heritage tree located within the city within any twelve-month period, or cause the same to be done, without first obtaining a tree trimming permit from the city.

(c)    It is unlawful for any person to trim or prune more than ten percent of the live foliage or limbs of any significant or mature Oak or a significant or mature native species tree located within the city within any twelve-month period, or cause the same to be done, without first obtaining a tree trimming permit from the city.

(d)    It is unlawful for any person to damage or cause to be damaged any significant or mature heritage tree, significant or mature Oak tree, or significant or mature native species tree located within the city.

(e)    It is unlawful to remove any tree that is part of a watershed, wildlife habitat, and/or erosion control on hillsides without first obtaining a tree removal permit from the city.

(f)    It is unlawful for any person to remove any tree or shrub from the parkway area between a sidewalk or private property line and street curb, without the written permission of the public works director or designee. (Ord. No. 1991, § 6; Ord. No. 2126, § 3; Ord. No. 2237, § 5, 2012.)

34.4 Permit applications.

(a)    Any person applying for a tree removal permit or tree trimming permit shall file with the public works director an application in writing on a form furnished by the director. Such application form shall contain the following information:

(1)    The name and residence or business address of the applicant;

(2)    The location or description of the property on which the proposed trees are to be removed or trimmed;

(3)    A tree plan, if the application is for a tree removal permit;

(4)    The name and state contractor’s license number of the person who will perform the work. Permits shall only be issued to persons possessing a C-27 or C-61 (D-49) state contracting license;

(5)    Additional information as the public works director may require. This information may include, but is not limited to, a list obtained from the county assessor of the names of the owners of all parcels within a one hundred-foot radius of the property upon which the trees are to be removed or trimmed.

(b)    The application shall be accompanied by a nonrefundable fee in an amount established by resolution of the city council. (Ord. No. 1991, § 8; Ord. No. 2051, §§ 1—4; Ord. No. 2126, § 4.)

34.5 Tree plan.

A tree plan to be submitted with an application for a tree removal permit shall contain the following information:

(a)    The location of all trees on the property with all heritage trees, mature trees, native species trees, oak trees, and significant trees identified.

(b)    The tree species and trunk caliper of all trees to be removed.

(c)    The reason for removal. Any trees proposed for removal due to poor health or condition shall have the condition of the tree documented in a letter report prepared and signed by an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).

(d)    An arborist review of the tree plan may be required per the determination of the public works director or his/her designee or by the commission. The arborist shall be contracted and managed by the city and all fees incurred shall be the responsibility of the property owner. (Ord. No. 1991, § 10; Ord. No. 2126, § 5.)

34.6 Permit issuance or denial.

Upon receipt of the application, the director shall, if the application is for a tree removal permit, cause notice to be sent by first-class mail to property owners and tenants of property located within a one hundred-foot radius of the subject property. Such property owners shall be given fifteen calendar days from the date of mailing within which to comment on the application. All comments shall be made in writing to the director. Upon expiration of the fifteen-day period, or upon filing if for a tree trimming permit only, the application shall be reviewed by the director, who shall, after considering the application pursuant to the criteria set forth in Section 34.7 and any comments received by interested residents, approve, conditionally approve, or deny the application. The decision of the director shall be made in writing and provided to the applicant and to any interested persons who commented on the application. The director, in his or her sole discretion, may refer any application to the commission for consideration of the application. Should the application be referred to the commission, the commission shall make its decision after holding a noticed public meeting. The decision of the director or the commission shall take effect fifteen days after the date of mailing of the decision to the applicant and any interested persons. (Ord. No. 1991, § 12; Ord. No. 2126, § 6.)

34.7 Criteria for approving tree removal permit.

(a)    Subject to the imposition of conditions pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, a tree removal permit may be issued in any one of the following instances:

(1)    Where the tree itself, its excess foliage or its limbs poses a reasonable risk of injury or harm to any persons or property, or is interfering with a structure or building, and there is no feasible and reasonable alternative to mitigate the interference.

(2)    Where, upon taking into account the size, shape, topography and existing trees upon the lot, the denial of the permit would create an unreasonable hardship on the property owner.

(3)    Where a written determination has been made by an ISA certified arborist, after a visual inspection and scientific evaluation that the tree is so diseased or damaged that it is no longer viable or is a threat to property or to other trees. The director or commission may waive the requirement for an arborist’s statement when the tree can reasonably be determined to be dead by a lay person’s visual inspection, or when, after conducting an inspection of the tree, the director determines that the tree poses an obvious and imminent threat to life or property.

(4)    For the removal of significant or mature trees, where the proposed replacement tree planting provides greater benefits than the existing tree’s value, benefits or species.

(b)    A tree removal permit may be issued that is conditional upon the replacement or transplanting of the tree(s) either on-site or off-site. Such replacement shall be subject to the following provisions:

(1)    Designation by the director or the commission of the number, size, species and location of replacement tree(s) based on consideration of the size and species of the established tree(s) proposed for removal, the significance the tree(s) proposed to be removed has on the landscaping as seen from public view, the size of the lot, and the number of existing trees on the lot.

(2)    Because of their size and/or significance, single tree(s) that have been removed may be required to be replaced with multiple trees, subject to review and approval by the director or his/her designee. If the subject property cannot accommodate multiple trees, alternative locations within the city (public right-of-way, park, etc.) may be designated.

(3)    An existing tree(s) on-site may be designated to serve as a replacement tree(s) upon commission approval.

(4)    If replacement trees are required, the property owner must agree to accept the conditions of replacement by his or her signature on the application before issuance of the permit.

(5)    When the work designated in the permit is completed, the applicant shall contact the public works department for an inspection of the work.

(6)    Should the tree designated as a replacement not survive for a period of at least two years, further replacement shall be required.

(7)    Where the permit allows the removal, replacement, or transplanting of tree(s), director or commission may, in their discretion, require the applicant to post a bond or surety to replace the tree(s) that do not survive a five-year period. The amount of the bond or surety shall be in accordance with the “Guide for Plant Appraisal” (ISA publication, most recent edition).

(8)    Unless otherwise stated in the conditions of approval, the permit shall be valid for a period of one year. (Ord. No. 1991, § 14; amended during 4/04 supplement; Ord. No. 2126, § 7; Ord. No. 2188, § 1, 2009; Ord. No. 2191, § 1, 2009; Ord. No. 2237, § 2, 2012.)

34.7-5 Replacement trees.

The number of replacement trees is determined by the size of the existing tree. One twenty-four-inch box replacement tree shall be required for each ten-inch increment of the diameter of the existing tree, or portion thereof, for significant trees; and two twenty-four-inch box native species replacement trees shall be required for each ten-inch increment of the diameter, or portion thereof, for Oak and native species trees and heritage trees. Specifically, a tree with a diameter of up to ten inches requires one replacement tree, a tree with a diameter between eleven and twenty inches requires two replacement trees, a tree with a diameter between twenty-one and thirty inches requires three replacement trees and so forth. (Ord. No. 2237, § 2, 2012.)

34.8 Appeals.

The applicant or any interested party may appeal the decision of the director to the natural resources commission by filing an appeal in writing submitted to the secretary of the commission within fifteen days after the date of decision of the director. Decisions of the commission may be appealed to the city council by filing such appeal in writing submitted to the city clerk within fifteen days after the date of decision of the commission. The appeal shall specifically identify the grounds upon which the appeal will be taken and summarize the facts and points of law in support of the appeal. (Ord. No. 1991, § 16; Ord. No. 2126, § 8.)

34.9 Exemptions.

(a)    No permit is required for the removal or trimming or pruning of a tree damaged by a storm, fire, or other natural disaster and determined to be dangerous by the public works director, police chief, fire chief, or code enforcement officer.

(b)    No permit is required when the fire department has deemed the removal of the tree(s) is critical to providing an effective firebreak.

(c)    Public utility companies required to remove or trim trees, upon submittal of a letter to the public works director outlining the specific trees along with reasons for removal or trimming, shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter.

(d)    The city and its contractors will not be required to obtain permits, but shall otherwise comply with this chapter.

(e)    No permit is required for the removal or trimming or pruning of hedges. (Ord. No. 1991, § 17; Ord. No. 2126, § 9.)

34.10 Obstruction.

(a)    It is unlawful for any person, firm or corporation owning, leasing, occupying, having charge or control of any lot or premises in the city, to keep or maintain thereon any tree, shrub or plant, or portion thereof, that interferes with or obstructs the free passage of pedestrians along or upon adjacent public sidewalks or of vehicles along or upon adjacent public rights-of-way.

(b)    Every fence, sign, wall, hedge, tree, shrub or planting located within seventy-five feet of the point of intersection of the centerlines of streets or within seventy-five feet of the point of intersection of the centerline of a street and a railroad right-of-way, that is more than thirty-six inches in height measured from the nearest adjacent public street level and that, in the opinion of the director constitutes an obstruction to the clear view of motorists on the streets is declared to be a public nuisance; provided, however, that nothing in this section shall be deemed to apply to a wall, building or structure that has been or that may be constructed under a permit issued by the building department of the city. (Ord. No. 1991, § 18; Ord. No. 2126, § 10.)

34.11 Maintenance of trees on public property.

The public works department shall be responsible for the maintenance of trees on public property including but not limited to public rights-of-way and public parks. The public works department shall prepare and implement the annual work plan for the maintenance of trees on public property. (Ord. No. 2051, § 6.)

34.12 Penalties.

Any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor, except, at the discretion of the city prosecutor, the violation may be reduced to an infraction. Persons violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall be subject to the following:

(a)    Penalties for any person who unintentionally violates the provisions of this chapter shall be as follows: the standard inspection fee; double the required tree removal permit fee; and planting double the number of replacement trees required pursuant to section 34.7-5.

(b)    Penalties for an intentional violation shall be as follows: the penalties described in subsection a of this section plus payment of a tree replacement fee in an amount up to, but not to exceed double the value of the destroyed, removed, or damaged tree. The city arborist shall determine the value of the destroyed, removed, or damaged tree by using the most recent edition of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Guide for Plant Appraisal.

(c)    Penalties for an intentional violation in connection with development or anticipated future development on the property shall be as follows: the penalties described in subsections a and b plus the city manager may refer the violation to the city prosecutor for criminal charges. The city manager may also refer the violation to the planning commission for public hearing. The burden of proof shall be on the city to demonstrate that there is clear and convincing evidence to a reasonable certainty that there is an intentional violation. The planning commission, after considering all of the evidence, may impose the additional penalty of prohibiting the issuance of building or construction-related permits for a period up to five years from the date of the violation for the property upon which the violation occurred.

In determining whether building permit may be issued with regard to the aforementioned prohibition, the planning commission shall consider whether the tree violation appears to be in furtherance of a development, as evidenced in the extent of damage, removal, damage to the root system, and/or excessive trimming of trees within the buildable area of a property; oral or written admissions or repeated actions taken in spite of prior warnings; notices of violations; and the number and size of the damaged and/or removed trees.

Intentional violations in the context of development or anticipated development of property shall require the planning commission to determine whether restitution trees are to be planted on the property on which the violation occurred, public land with costs paid to the city for tree selection, planting and maintenance, or a combination of both. The restitution trees shall be subject to a survival guarantee pursuant to section 34.7(b)(6) and (7).

For purposes of this section, the violation shall be presumed to have occurred on the date the city has actual knowledge of the violation, and the violator shall have the burden of proving an earlier commencement date, if entitlement to an earlier date is claimed.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned prohibition, building or construction-related permits may be issued if in the opinion of the director of planning and building, they are necessary for the preservation of public health, safety or welfare.

Payment of any penalty and planting of replacement trees shall occur within sixty calendar days of the date the violator was directed to take such action, except the public works director shall have discretion to grant an extension for replacement tree planting upon the violator’s showing of good cause. If the violator does not complete planting of replacement trees within the allotted time, the public works director may procure and plant the requisite replacement trees, and the violator shall be responsible for reimbursing the city for such additional costs within thirty days of the city’s issuance of a billing statement.

If the costs are not recovered by the city in sixty calendar days, the city manager can instruct that the outstanding obligation be collected in any of the following manners:

(1)    A civil action in the name of the city, in any court of competent jurisdiction; or

(2)    Use of a debt collection agency; or

(3)    A lien on the subject property.

(d)    All penalties and additional costs related to a tree violation must be paid to the city prior to its issuance of building or construction-related permits unless, in the opinion of the director of planning and building, such permits are necessary for the preservation of public health, safety or welfare. (Ord. No. 2126, § 11; Ord. No. 2237, § 4, 2012.)