Chapter 12.49


12.49.001    Title.

12.49.005    Findings.

12.49.010    Definitions.

12.49.015    Purpose and intent.

12.49.020    Jurisdiction.

12.49.025    Urban forestry management plan.

12.49.030    Municipal arborist – Duties and powers.

12.49.035    Coordination.

12.49.040    Permit required for street tree maintenance.

12.49.045    Utilities exempted from permit requirements for maintenance.

12.49.050    Permit required for planting.

12.49.055    Permit required for tree removal and replacement trees.

12.49.060    Public nuisances.

12.49.070    Abatement of public nuisances.

12.49.080    Licensing and supervision of tree care specialists.

12.49.090    Harming public street trees forbidden.

12.49.100    Protection of street trees during construction.

12.49.110    New developments.

12.49.120    Topping – Prohibited.

12.49.130    Routine care and maintenance.

12.49.140    Emergency tree maintenance – When.

12.49.150    Liability disclaimer.

12.49.170    Noninterference with officials.

12.49.190    Penalties for violation.

12.49.200    Appeals.

12.49.001 Title.

The title of this chapter shall be urban forestry practices. (Ord. 2000-10 § 2, 2000).

12.49.005 Findings.

The urban forest provides many health, social, aesthetic, ecological, and economic benefits within the city. The city council further finds that the city’s urban forest is declining due to the following circumstances: (a) The canopy is aging and many mature street trees are being removed for reasons of age, disease, or conflict with adjoining structures (streets, sidewalks, utility lines, etc.), and often replacement planting is unsatisfactory, or is not done at all; (b) Inappropriate street tree maintenance practices, especially those related to pruning, often contribute to a decline in the health and quality of trees. The topping of street trees, in particular, creates an unnatural and unsightly appearance, frequently leading to weak branching, rot, falling limbs and even catastrophic collapse; (c) There is a general lack of public awareness concerning the importance of street trees. This is compounded by inconsistent applications of appropriate street tree care procedures and species selection by homeowners and contractors; and (d) Biodiversity in the species, genus, and family of trees is extremely important to the overall health and longevity of a tree population, since insects and diseases generally impact certain tree species and their close relatives.

The city urgently needs programs to enhance public awareness, and appropriate funding and legislation to establish and enforce urban forestry regulations. Essential tools for this process include an inventory and assessment of the urban forest, a comprehensive master plan for developing and managing the forest, and the continuous monitoring and periodic updating of this chapter. (Ord. 2021-29 § 1, 2021; Ord. 2000-10 § 3, 2000).

12.49.010 Definitions.

A. “Abutting property” means real property having lines in common with adjacent real property or public right-of-way.

B. “City” means the city of Walla Walla, Washington.

C. “City council” means the city council of the city of Walla Walla, Washington.

D. “Clearview triangle” means a method of providing adequate visual clearance for vehicular and pedestrian traffic approaching a street intersection, as established in Chapter 20.114, Clearview Triangle.

E. “DBH” means the diameter at breast height; the average diameter of a street tree measured at a height of four and one-half feet above the ground.

F. “Emergency” means damage to utility systems or to public or private property, or an immediate threat to the welfare of persons, due to storm or other acts of God or other accident which requires immediate attention to alleviate the condition or commence or complete repairs.

G. “Groundcover” means a planting of low plants that cover the ground.

H. “Maintenance” means the act of pruning (removing limbs larger than one inch in diameter on Class I trees, or larger than two inches in diameter on Class II and larger trees), guying, or other approved horticultural practices. “Maintenance” work requires a permit, as opposed to “routine care” which does not. Such work applies to street trees located in or overhanging the public right-of-way; provided, that such pruning shall be done so as to retain the normal canopy and natural figure of the street tree.

I. “Municipal arborist” means the city’s director of parks and recreation, or such other person appointed by the city manager to carry out the provisions of this chapter.

J. “Owner” means the person in whom is vested the ownership, dominion, or title of real property.

K. “Urban forestry advisory commission” means the city parks, recreation, and urban forestry advisory board.

L. “Permit” means written authorization from the municipal arborist to perform work on street trees in the public right-of-way including maintenance, removal, and street tree planting, within certain guidelines.

M. “Person” means every person, firm, association, partnership, corporation, and individual.

N. “Planting strip” means that portion of the public right-of-way not covered by a sidewalk or other paving lying between the property line and that portion of the street or highway usually used for vehicular traffic or parking.

O. In addition to its ordinary meaning, “public right-of-way” means the platted portion of a subdivision used for purposes of a street or alley that may or may not be approved or currently used for vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

P. “Removal” means the act of cutting down or removing any street tree from the public right-of-way.

Q. “Replacement tree” means a street tree provided to or by the abutting property owner and approved by the city for planting by the abutting property owner as a replacement for a street tree removed from a particular location in the public right-of-way.

R. “Routine care” means the act of watering and pruning of street trees; provided, that pruning be limited to the removal of limbs one inch in diameter or smaller on Class I trees and two inches in diameter or smaller on Class II or larger trees.

S. “Street” means that portion of the public right-of-way that is improved and maintained for vehicular circulation providing primary access to abutting properties or parking.

T. “Street tree” means trees located in, or that portion over-hanging, any public right-of-way within the city. A private street tree is a tree planted on private property, near the public right-of-way, at the direction of the city. A private street tree is considered a street tree for purposes of this chapter.

U. “Topping” means the indiscriminate cutting back of tree branches to stubs or to lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal role.

V. “Tree care specialist” means any person or company engaging in, or intending to engage in, the primary business of street tree care within the city.

W. Tree Classification.

1. Class I. A street tree which will attain a mature height of less than approximately twenty-five feet;

2. Class II. A street tree which will attain a mature height of approximately twenty-five to fifty feet;

3. Class III. A street tree which will attain a mature height of approximately fifty to seventy feet;

4. Class IV. A street tree which will attain a mature height of greater than seventy feet. (Ord. 2021-29 § 2, 2021; Ord. 2017-45 § 25, 2017: Ord. 2008-02 § 13, 2008: Ord. 2000-10 § 4, 2000: Ord. 93-A-25 § 1, 1993; Ord. A-3332 §§ 1, 2, 1984; Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.015 Purpose and intent.

The purpose of this chapter is to maintain or improve upon the conditions noted in Section 12.49.005, Findings, and to create the framework for administering this chapter by providing the standards for establishing, maintaining, and protecting the city’s street trees. The urban forest provides many health, social, aesthetic, ecological, and economic benefits within the city. This chapter is intended to sustain the benefits these community assets provide and foster city-wide awareness of support for, and contributions to the urban forestry objectives contained in this chapter.

It is the city’s policy to: (a) line its streets with large trees to the extent practicable; (b) encourage new street tree plantings on other public and private property to ensure a rich and diverse urban forest into perpetuity; (c) encourage proper tree care to maintain safe and healthy street trees; (d) provide flexibility in tree selection and planting based on site conditions, zoning and landowner objectives; and (e) make every effort to replace or repair public facilities without removing or damaging adjacent street trees.

The primary goals which are supported by this chapter are to: (a) establish the maximum urban street tree canopy and maintain it in a healthy condition to ensure longevity and species diversity; (b) promote conservation of Walla Walla’s urban forest by cost-effective management; and (c) build community support for the urban forest programs. (Ord. 2000-10 § 5, 2000).

12.49.020 Jurisdiction.

The city shall have control of all trees now or hereafter in any city street, park, public right-of-way or easement, street trees on private property, or on other city property, and shall have the power to cause the planting, maintenance, removal, and replacement of such street trees. The city shall not regulate trees on private property except private street trees, heritage trees (Chapter 12.50, Heritage Trees), public nuisances (Chapter 8.05, Nuisances), and development landscaping regulations (Chapter 20.106, Landscaping and Screening), or as referenced elsewhere in the municipal code. (Ord. 2000-10 § 6, 2000: Ord. 93-A-25 § 2, 1993: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.025 Urban forestry management plan.

Effective and sustained stewardship of the urban forest, including its street and public trees, can be accomplished only on the basis of a comprehensive, dynamic policy and planning document owned by the public. The municipal arborist, with the advice and participation of the parks, recreation, and urban forestry advisory board, shall regularly update the urban forestry management plan (UFMP) for adoption by the city council. The UFMP shall incorporate the following elements: (a) a statement of policies and objectives for urban forest management in Walla Walla; (b) an inventory of street trees and other public trees, providing information needed for planning and maintenance of the urban forest; (c) a city-wide street and public tree planting and renewal program, providing for new plantings and the replacement of declining and diseased trees, including schedules and probable budget requirements; (d) arboricultural standards for tree planting, pruning, maintenance, and selection; (e) other standards or criteria necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter and the UFMP; and (f) a process for the UFMP’s continued updating and improvement.

The municipal arborist shall collect and maintain all records and data necessary to objectively evaluate whether progress is being made toward the stated goals of the UFMP. An annual summary and analysis of the evaluation, and recommendations for action shall be prepared and presented to the city council. (Ord. 2021-29 § 3, 2021; Ord. 2008-02 § 14, 2008: Ord. 2000-10 § 7, 2000).

12.49.030 Municipal arborist – Duties and powers.

The municipal arborist for the city shall: (a) have full authority and jurisdiction to determine the applicability in each circumstance of regulations contained in this chapter, or of any adopted arboricultural standards and regulations referenced in this chapter; (b) have the authority to issue permits for the planting and removal of street trees to ensure safety, proper workmanship, and to maintain the quality of the urban forest; and (c) shall license tree maintenance contractors as specified in Section 12.49.080. (Ord. 2000-10 § 8, 2000: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.035 Coordination.

The municipal arborist and divisions of the city government shall endeavor to share plans, specifications, requests, ideas and other data affecting existing or potential street trees and tree sites in a timely and cooperative manner in order to provide for coordination and the most feasible use of all public lands and resources. (Ord. 2000-10 § 9, 2000).

12.49.040 Permit required for street tree maintenance.

The responsible property owner proposing street tree maintenance work must first secure a permit for this work. Application for such permit must be made at least ten working days in advance of the time proposed for such work. The city arborist shall provide printed standards for proper arboricultural maintenance procedures with any street tree permit issued.

The municipal arborist shall issue a permit for such maintenance if in his judgment the street tree(s) in question would benefit from such work to regain appearance, vigor, or structural integrity. The municipal arborist, before issuing any permit for such maintenance, shall determine that the workmanship and method proposed in the permit application are satisfactory. Work authorized by said permit shall be completed within the time specified and in the manner therein described. Any permit shall be void if any of its terms are violated and the penalties prescribed in this chapter shall be applied. (Ord. 2000-10 § 10, 2000: Ord. A-3507 § 2, 1987: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.045 Utilities exempted from permit requirements for maintenance.

Public and private utilities operating under the jurisdiction of their respective franchise agreements or policies with the city may, without a permit, perform such maintenance and construction, including street tree pruning, as may be required to provide utility service or comply with the public safety regulations under which they operate; provided, the utility notifies the municipal arborist at least five working days before undertaking such work, unless an emergency exists. Work on and around street trees shall conform with all relevant street tree maintenance standards and specifications prescribed in this chapter. The municipal arborist shall have the authority to stop or modify any work on or around street trees that does not conform to these standards. (Ord. 2000-10 § 11, 2000).

12.49.050 Permit required for planting.

Any person desiring to plant a street tree in the public right-of-way must first obtain a planting permit from the municipal arborist and shall comply with the conditions set forth in such written permit. (Ord. 2000-10 § 12, 2000: Ord. A-3332 § 3, 1984: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.055 Permit required for tree removal and replacement trees.

A permit is required to remove any street tree. The responsible property owner must apply for a removal permit from the municipal arborist. Not less than five calendar days from requesting the permit, applicant shall post an official public notice, provided by the city, informing the public of the proposed removal. The notice shall be posted in a prominent location adjacent to the street tree and visible from the public sidewalk and street.

Individuals may send comments regarding the proposed removal to the municipal arborist, in writing and within the time period stated on the notice.

After considering written responses to the notice, the municipal arborist may issue a removal permit based on the application, if in his judgement (a) the street tree in question is dead, diseased, hazardous, or otherwise inappropriate; (b) the workmanship and methods proposed for removal are satisfactory; and (c) replacement of the street tree is assured, if appropriate. The municipal arborist shall act to avoid unnecessary delays in issuance of permits, but no work shall be started before the permit is issued.

The abutting property owner is responsible for proper execution of the authorized work. Persons performing the work shall notify the municipal arborist at least two business days prior to starting the work.

Work authorized by the permit shall be completed within the time specified and in the manner therein described. The permit shall be void if any of its terms are violated, and the penalties prescribed in this chapter shall be applied.

Unless otherwise stated in any permit or abatement order, any street tree that is removed must be replaced at the direction of the municipal arborist with another satisfactory specimen, planted and maintained in accordance with the requirements of this chapter. The stump of the street tree shall be removed to at least six inches below the surrounding grade. (Ord. 2000-10 § 13, 2000).

12.49.060 Public nuisances.

Any street tree, or portion thereof, in disrepair, interfering with public or private utilities, or which interferes with or restricts the full use or visibility of any public street, sidewalk, alley or intersection to any person lawfully using such right-of-way may constitute a public nuisance, as defined in Chapter 8.05, Nuisances, and Chapter 12.44, Overhanging Vegetation. A public nuisance may further include any tree on public or private property, which harbors insects or disease infestations that may readily spread to, infect and cause permanent harm to neighboring trees. (Ord. 2000-10 § 14, 2000: Ord. A-3332 § 4, 1984: Ord. A-3293 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.070 Abatement of public nuisances.

Upon determination by the enforcement officer of the city that a tree constitutes a public nuisance, the officer shall give written notice to the responsible property owner as provided in Chapter 8.05, Nuisances. Failure to comply with such notice will constitute a violation of this code. In the case of utility line clearance, the municipal arborist will notify the affected utility company for resolution. (Ord. 2000-10 § 15, 2000: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.080 Licensing and supervision of tree care specialists.

Two years from the effective date of this ordinance, any person or company engaged in the business of tree care within the city, specifically major pruning (limbs greater than two inches diameter), repair, or the removal of trees greater than six inches DBH in size, shall possess, in addition to any other permits or licenses that may be required to carry out such work in the city, a valid city-issued tree care specialist license. This license will be available from the municipal arborist upon application, proof of compliance with certain requirements, and payment of required fees.

The requirements for individual/company licensing as a tree care specialist shall include, but not be limited to: (a) possession of a valid Washington State Contractor’s license, of required by the state; and (b) adequate liability insurance as determined and set forth by the city; and (c) possession of formal certification as a professional arborist by the International Society of Arboriculture or the National Arborist Association; or (d) current certification as an arborist in training by either of said organizations; or (e) the employment of a person so certified who will be responsible for and oversee all tree work within the city by the person/company being licensed and will certify that all such work meets the city’s arboreal guidelines and specifications; or (f) an equivalent certification as determined by the municipal arborist; and (g) demonstration of familiarity with the requirements of this chapter. The municipal arborist will promptly act upon each application for licensing as a tree care specialist, and shall not unreasonably withhold issuance of such license, provided the applicant meets the conditions specified for licensing.

The municipal arborist is empowered to inspect any work being performed in the city by such contractors and if it is judged by the municipal arborist to be substandard or not in compliance with the city’s guidelines and specifications or with the terms of the permit issued for the work, the contractor will be deemed to be in violation of this chapter and may be penalized accordingly, including the revocation of the contractor’s license as a tree care specialist. Any license so revoked will be considered for reinstatement by the municipal arborist upon reapplication and satisfactory remedy, as determined by the municipal arborist. License revocation may be appealed in accordance with Section 12.49.200.

Licensed tree care specialists shall be required to renew their tree care specialist license within twenty-four months of its initial and any subsequent issuance in the manner set forth at the time of renewal.

The fee for the initial issuance of the tree care specialist license shall be fifty dollars. The fee for the reissuance of the tree care specialist license shall be twenty-five dollars. (Ord. 2000-10 § 16, 2000: Ord. A-3332 § 5, 1984: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.090 Harming public street trees forbidden.

Unless specifically authorized by the municipal arborist, no person shall damage, transplant, or remove any street tree or other city-owned tree.

Unless specifically authorized by the municipal arborist, no person shall place any object, fill or other material which may impede the free passage of air, water, or nutrients to the roots of any street tree on city property. Likewise, no activity is permitted which may compact the soils encompassing the root zone of any such street tree, and thus impede the free passage of air, water, and nutrients to that street tree. (Ord. 2000-10 § 17, 2000: Ord. A-3243 § 2(part), 1982).

12.49.100 Protection of street trees during construction.

All street trees shall be protected during adjacent construction or excavation work by a substantial barrier not less than four feet high and four foot radius, or a distance from the street tree trunk in feet equal to the street tree’s critical root zone, whichever is greater, unless other means or dimensions are authorized by the municipal arborist. All vehicular traffic, building materials, earth, or other debris shall be kept outside the barrier.

No excavation or boring of any kind or placement of any structure, walk, driveway, or curbing will be undertaken without approval of the municipal arborist within a radius of ten feet or a distance from the street tree trunk in feet equal to the street tree’s critical root zone, whichever is greater. (Ord. 2017-45 § 26, 2017: Ord. 2000-10 § 18, 2000: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.110 New developments.

The municipal arborist shall require the planting of street trees on land, public or private, bordering all streets in any new subdivision or commercial development and along any widened or realigned street in accordance with the urban forestry management master plan and other provisions of this code. Tree planting plans for the new development shall adhere to the principles of urban forest biodiversity following the ten-twenty-thirty rule. This means that no tree species should represent more than ten percent, no tree genus should represent more than twenty percent, and no tree family should represent more than thirty percent of the total tree population. All such planting shall be done in accordance with the city’s arboricultural standards and specifications. (Ord. 2021-29 § 4, 2021; Ord. 2000-10 § 19, 2000: Ord. A-3332 § 6, 1984: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.120 Topping – Prohibited.

Topping of street trees or other city-owned trees in the city shall be prohibited except in cases of emergency or as authorized by the municipal arborist. (Ord. 2000-10 § 20, 2000: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.130 Routine care and maintenance.

Owners of property abutting any street tree are responsible to provide routine care and maintenance to such tree and at property owner’s cost, unless agreed to otherwise by the city. Care and maintenance shall be performed using proper arboricultural procedures, and in accordance with standards set forth in this code.

Should any property owner neglect or refuse to provide routine care or maintenance for any such tree, and should the tree become a public nuisance as described in Section 12.49.060, the city arborist may cause such work to be done at property owner’s expense.

Property owners shall be liable for injuries or damages caused by the property owner’s failure to provide routine care and maintenance to trees covered in this section, and as otherwise required by this code. (Ord. 2000-10 § 21, 2000: Ord. A-3332 § 7, 1984: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.140 Emergency tree maintenance – When.

Extraordinary street tree maintenance procedures may be taken by utility companies, contractors, property owners, and by the city due to unforeseen circumstances or conditions that impose an immediate threat to utility systems, public or private property, or the welfare of persons residing or traveling near the street tree in question. Only the work required to remove the immediate threat shall be performed and, before performing additional work, the individual or company performing said work shall apply for a permit on the next regular working day and receive authorization from the municipal arborist. (Ord. 2000-10 § 22, 2000: Ord. A-3507 § 2, 1987: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.150 Liability disclaimer.

Nothing contained in this chapter shall be deemed to impose any liability upon the city, its officers or employees, nor to relieve the owner of any private property from the duty to keep any tree or plant upon any street tree area on his property or under his control in such condition as to prevent it from constituting a hazard or an impediment to travel or visibility upon any street, park, alley, or public place within the city. (Ord. 2000-10 § 23, 2000: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.170 Noninterference with officials.

No person, firm, or corporation shall interfere with the municipal arborist or persons acting under his authority while engaged in the inspection, planting, pruning, treatment, or removal of any tree, shrub or plant within the city. (Ord. 2000-10 § 24, 2000: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.190 Penalties for violation.

Any person, partnership, firm, corporation, or other legal entity violating or failing to comply with any provision of this chapter shall be found to have committed an infraction and shall be punishable by a penalty not to exceed five hundred dollars. Each such person or entity shall be found to have committed a separate infraction for each and every day during any portion of which any violation of any provision of this chapter is committee, continued or permitted by any such person or entity, and such person or entity shall be punished accordingly. The remedies for violation or failure to comply described are in addition to all other remedies provided or authorized by law. (Ord. 2000-10 § 25, 2000: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).

12.49.200 Appeals.

Any person aggrieved or dissatisfied with any order of the municipal arborist may appeal said order by filing written notice of appeal with the municipal arborist not more than ten days after the date of the order issued by the municipal arborist. The appeal process as described in Chapter 20.38 of this code will generally apply to this chapter. (Ord. 2000-10 § 26, 2000: Ord. A-3243 § 1(part), 1982).