Chapter 8.77


8.77.010    Purpose.

8.77.020    Definitions.

8.77.030    Creation and establishment of a city tree board.

8.77.040    Term of office.

8.77.050    Compensation.

8.77.060    Duties and responsibilities.

8.77.070    Operation.

8.77.080    Street tree species to be planted.

8.77.090    Spacing.

8.77.100    Distance from curb and sidewalk.

8.77.110    Distance from street corners and fire hydrants.

8.77.120    Utilities.

8.77.130    Public tree care.

8.77.140    Tree topping.

8.77.150    Pruning over streets and rights-of-way.

8.77.160    Dead or diseased tree removal on private property.

8.77.165    Appeal of dead or diseased tree removal on private property.

8.77.170    Review by city council.

8.77.180    Removal of stumps.

8.77.190    Interference with tree board.

8.77.200    Arborist’s license and bond.

8.77.210    Penalty.

8.77.010 Purpose.

1.    The purpose of this chapter is to encourage responsible management of trees within city parks, rights-of-way, facilities and open spaces. Proper planting, pruning, and maintenance are required to promote the community’s tree resource and the benefits it provides.

2.    The city council, city departments, and tree board recognize the need to establish a public tree management program as part of the urban forestry program. The focus of the urban forestry program will be balancing the needs of the community and the urban forest. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.020 Definitions.

The following words and phrases when used in this chapter shall have the following meanings unless a different meaning is clearly required by the context:

“Associated vegetation” shall mean native or nonnative trees, shrubs and ground covers within city parks, rights-of-way, facilities and open spaces.

“City” shall mean the city of Yakima.

“City arborist” shall mean the contracted or city employee who is a current certified arborist by the International Society of Arboriculture and works under the direction of the parks and recreation manager.

“Director” shall mean the public works director, or his or her designee.

“Hazard tree” or “hazardous tree” shall mean any tree subject to this chapter rated as such by the city according to the tree hazard evaluation standards established by the International Society of Arboriculture.

“Maintain” or “maintenance” shall mean the entire care of trees within city parks, rights-of-way, and open spaces, as well as the preparation of ground, fertilizing, mulching, planting, disease and insect control, trimming, pruning, staking, root control, watering, leaf litter, weed removal, and removal of dead and dying trees, unless specifically so stated.

“Park trees” are herein defined as trees, shrubs, bushes and all other woody vegetation in public parks having individual names, and all open space areas owned by the city.

“Planting” shall mean to install public trees permanently in the ground.

“Planting strip” shall mean the area available for planting including tree pits between the street curb, the edge of the traveled portion of roadway and the property line.

“Property owner” shall mean the person owning such property as shown by the records of the assessor’s office of Yakima County, Washington.

“Pruning” shall mean cutting or removing any part of the branching structure of a plant in the crown, trunk, and/or root areas as per the best management practices from the American National Standard for Tree Care Operations pruning standards for tree care operators.

“Public trees” shall mean all trees within city parks, rights-of-way, and open spaces.

“Removal” shall mean removal of a tree within city parks, rights-of-way, and open spaces.

“Responsible official” means that the public works director will perform as the “responsible official” in cooperation with the parks and recreation manager. The public works director shall have the final authority on interpretation and enforcement of this chapter. The city arborist is designated as the person who advises the parks and recreation manager, and director on public tree related issues.

“Street trees” are herein defined as trees, shrubs, bushes, and all other woody vegetation on land lying between property lines on either side of all streets, avenues, or ways within the city. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.030 Creation and establishment of a city tree board.

There is hereby created and established a tree board for the city of Yakima, Washington, which shall consist of five members. One of the members of the tree board shall be the city arborist. One of the members of the tree board shall be recommended by the Yakima arboretum. At least two of the seats on the board shall be filled by tree care specialists. The tree board shall consist of city residents, except in the case of the tree care specialists and the member recommended by the Yakima arboretum. The city should, however, fill the seats on the tree board with city residents when possible. (Ord. 2020-004 § 1, 2020: Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.040 Term of office.

The term of the five persons to be appointed by the mayor shall be three years except that the term of two of the members appointed to the first board shall be for only one year and the term of two members of the first board shall be for two years. In the event that a vacancy shall occur during the term of any member, his or her successor shall be appointed for the unexpired portion of the term. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.050 Compensation.

Members of the board shall serve without compensation. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.060 Duties and responsibilities.

It shall be the responsibility of the tree board to study, investigate, develop, update, and administer a written plan for the care, preservation, pruning, planting, replanting, removal or disposition of trees and shrubs in parks, along streets and in other city-owned public areas. Such plan will be presented annually to the city council, and upon city council’s acceptance and approval shall constitute the official comprehensive city tree plan for the city of Yakima, Washington. The tree board, when requested by the city council, shall consider, investigate, make findings, report and make recommendations regarding any special matter or question coming within the scope of its work. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.070 Operation.

The tree board shall choose its own officers, make its own rules and regulations and keep minutes of its proceedings. Minutes of its proceedings shall be forwarded to the Yakima city clerk. All meetings shall be held at Yakima City Hall after appropriate notice is provided to the public of the meeting time and date. All meetings shall be open to the public and comply with the Open Public Meetings Act. The tree board shall be subject to the Public Records Act. A majority of the members shall be a quorum for the transaction of business. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.080 Street tree species to be planted.

The city of Yakima public works department shall maintain a list of approved street trees species for the city. Upon establishment of the tree board, the tree board shall review the list of currently approved trees, and provide the city arborist and director with a report of recommendations for additional trees to be added and/or removed from the list of approved trees. No species other than those included in this list may be planted as street trees without written permission of the tree board. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.090 Spacing.

The spacing of street trees will be in accordance with the species size classes (small, medium, and large) as identified by the list of approved street trees on file with the city public works office, and no trees may be planted closer together than the following: small trees, thirty feet; medium trees, forty feet; and large trees, fifty feet; except in special plantings designed or approved by a landscape architect. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.100 Distance from curb and sidewalk.

The distance trees may be planted from curbs or curb lines and sidewalks will be in accordance with the three species size classes identified by the list of approved street trees: small, medium, and large, and no trees may be planted closer to any curb or sidewalk than the following: small trees, two feet; medium trees, three feet; and large trees, four feet. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.110 Distance from street corners and fire hydrants.

No street tree shall be planted closer than thirty-five feet from any street corner, measured from the point of nearest intersecting curbs or curb lines. No street tree shall be planted closer than ten feet from any fire hydrant. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.120 Utilities.

No street trees other than those species listed as small trees on the city’s list of approved street trees may be planted under or within ten lateral feet of any overhead utility wire, or over or within five lateral feet of any underground water line, sewer line, transmission line or other utility. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.130 Public tree care.

1.    The city shall have the right to plant, prune, maintain and remove trees, plants and shrubs within the lines of all city streets, alleys, avenues, lanes, squares and public grounds, as may be necessary to insure public safety or to preserve or enhance the symmetry and beauty of such public grounds.

2.    The tree board may provide a written recommendation to the city arborist for the removal of any tree or part thereof which is in an unsafe condition or which by reason of its nature is injurious to sewers, electric power lines, gas lines, water lines, or other public improvements, or is affected with any injurious fungus, insect or other pest. Upon receiving the tree board’s recommendation, the city arborist shall forward the board’s recommendation to the director who shall make the final decision to remove the tree, and the method for removal. In the event that the hazard tree is a street tree, the tree shall be removed in accordance with YMC 8.80.080 and 8.80.200. This section does not prohibit the planting of street trees by adjacent property owners providing that the selection and location of said trees is in accordance with YMC 8.77.080 through 8.77.120. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.140 Tree topping.

It shall be unlawful as a normal practice for any person, firm, or city department to top any street tree, park tree, or other tree on public property. Topping is defined as the severe cutting back of limbs to stubs larger than three inches in diameter within the tree’s crown to such a degree so as to remove the normal canopy and disfigure the tree. Trees severely damaged by storms or other causes, or certain trees under utility wires or other obstructions where other pruning practices are impractical, may be exempted from this chapter by the recommendation of the tree board, and approved by the director. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.150 Pruning over streets and rights-of-way.

Every owner of any tree overhanging any street or right-of-way within the city shall prune the branches so that such branches shall not obstruct the light from any street lamp or obstruct the view of any street intersection and so that there shall be a clear space of eight feet above the surface of the street or sidewalk. Said owners shall remove all dead, diseased or dangerous trees, or broken or decayed limbs, which constitute a menace to the safety of the public. The city shall have the right to prune any tree or shrub on private property which overhangs public right-of-way or interferes with the public health and/or safety of the public in accordance with YMC 8.80.080. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.160 Dead or diseased tree removal on private property.

The city shall have the right to cause the removal of any dead or diseased trees on private property within the city when such trees constitute a hazard to life and property, or harbor insects or disease, which constitute a potential threat to other trees within the city. The tree board will notify in writing the city arborist of the location of the tree, which needs removal. The city arborist will then conduct an assessment of the tree, and provide the director a written report and recommendation as to the disposition of the tree. In the event that the director decides that the tree should be removed, the owners of such tree shall be notified in writing by hand delivery, or by regular and certified mail. Removal shall be done by said owners at their own expense within sixty days after the date of service of notice. In the event of failure of owners to comply with such provisions, the city shall have the authority to remove such trees and charge the cost of removal. If the cost of removal is not paid within thirty days of invoice, the costs of removal shall constitute a lien on the owners’ property. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.165 Appeal of dead or diseased tree removal on private property.*

In the event that the property owner does not agree with the recommendation of the city arborist and decision of the director, the property owner may submit a letter of appeal to the director within fourteen calendar days of the date of the notice of removal. The letter shall outline why the property owner does not agree with the recommendation, and include as an attachment any report of any expert retained by the property owner. Upon receipt of the letter of appeal, the director, or his or her designee, shall schedule an open record public hearing before the tree board at its next available meeting. Notice of the public hearing shall be provided to the appellant no later than ten business days prior to the public hearing. The appellant and their tree care representative and/or expert shall appear before the tree board and present evidence outlining why the identified tree does not qualify for removal under YMC 8.77.160. The tree board shall have ten business days to provide the property owner with the tree board’s determination. Upon receipt of the tree board’s determination, the director shall modify his or her decision, if necessary, based on the tree board’s determination. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

*    Code reviser’s note: Ord. 2016-032 adds these provisions as Section 8.77.160. The section has been renumbered to avoid duplication of numbering.

8.77.170 Review by city council.

A decision to remove a dead or diseased tree made by the tree board after appeal pursuant to YMC 8.77.165 may be appealed by filing a notice of appeal with the city clerk within twenty days of the date of the decision. Any appeals of the tree board’s decisions shall be made in a closed record public hearing heard by the Yakima city council. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.180 Removal of stumps.

All stumps of street trees and park trees shall be removed below the surface of the ground so that the top of the stump shall not project above the surface of the ground. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.190 Interference with tree board.

It shall be unlawful for any person to prevent, delay or interfere with a city employee, tree board member, or any of its agents or contractors while engaging in the planting, cultivating, mulching, pruning, spraying, or removing of any street trees, park trees, or trees on private grounds, as authorized in this chapter. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.200 Arborist’s license and bond.

It shall be unlawful for any person or firm to engage in the business or occupation of pruning, treating, or removing street trees or park trees within the city without first obtaining all necessary Washington State licenses and a city of Yakima business license in accordance with YMC Chapter 5.52; however, no license shall be required of any public service company or city employee doing such work in the pursuit of their public service endeavors. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).

8.77.210 Penalty.

A violation of this chapter shall be a civil infraction subject to a maximum penalty of two hundred fifty dollars per violation. Each day in which any violation shall continue shall be deemed a separate offense. (Ord. 2016-032 § 1 (part), 2016).