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Tree Permits

Belmont Tree Regulations

(Summary of 2017 Ordinance) 

Goals of Tree Regulations

➤ Promote the retention of native trees and the planting of native and locally acclimated trees, as these type of trees are especially valuable to the city and the urban forest as a whole.

➤ Encourage the preservation and maintenance of healthy, non-invasive trees while allowing for reasonable and conforming use of private property.

➤ Encourage the replacement of trees removed by necessity with native, drought tolerant, and locally adapted tree species.

➤ Create public awareness of the tree ordinance, and best practices for tree management.

➤ Create an efficient and cost effective tree removal permit process for trees that are:

  • Unsafe or unhealthy
  • In poor condition
  • Cause a significant fire hazard
  • Adversely impact utilities or cause significant property damage

Permit Requirements

A permit is required to remove a “Protected Tree”, except when: 1) a city official determines that the tree poses an imminent danger to people or property; 2) a city official determines that the tree is a substantial fire hazard; or 3) the tree is planted, grown and held for sale as part of a licensed nursery business.  

Protected Trees                                                                                                                                                                          

Principal Native Trees - Coast Live Oak, Valley Oak, Redwood, Madrone, Bay Laurel, or Buckeye having a single main stem or trunk of 10 inches or more diameter at 4.5 feet above grade height (DBH), or up to three of the largest secondary stems totaling 10 inches or more DBH.

City Tree - Any woody, perennial plant, regardless of size, located in a city park, a designated open space, or on any other city property. A single or multi-stemmed shrub or bush is not a city tree.

Large Diameter Tree - A woody, perennial plant characterized by having a single main stem or trunk of 14 inches or more DBH, or up to three of the largest secondary stems totaling 18 inches or more DBH.

Replacement tree - Any tree, regardless of size, which has been planted as required mitigation for the previous removal of another tree at the same site or elsewhere in the city.

Right-of-Way Tree - A tree located in a public street right-of-way.

Permit Application

The Parks and Recreation Department reviews tree removal applications when a tree is proposed for removal because it is creating an imminent danger to persons and/or real property, or when tree removal is not associated with any planning permit entitlements.  For further information, the Parks and Recreation Department may be contacted at (650) 595-7441.

The Community Development Department reviews tree removal applications when reviewing applications for other development entitlements (i.e., Building Permits, Design Reviews, Variances, etc.).  A Permit Application form is required, and the decision maker may require an Arborist Report or Standard Tree Protection Measures, as appropriate (application materials are available on the City’s website).  For further information, the Community Development Department may be contacted by telephone at (650) 595-7417 or via electronic mail at . Staff at the Permit Center are also available to assist applicants Monday-Friday from 2:00PM to 4:00PM. 

Review Criteria  

The reviewing authority must base its determination to approve, conditionally approve or deny an application for a tree removal permit on a balancing of specific Criteria supporting retention or removal of the tree (i.e., the tree’s species, condition, and location, proximity of the tree to existing or proposed structures, etc.); however, the reviewing authority is required to issue a permit to remove the following trees without consideration of these criteria:

➤Blue Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

➤Dwarf Blue Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus 'Compacta')

➤Monterey Pine

➤Palm (all species);

➤Acacia (all species)

➤A dead tree (any species); and

➤Any tree that a public utility is required to remove under California Public Utility Commission regulations.

Replanting Requirements & In-lieu Planting Fees

For each Protected Tree removed, the applicant must plant a “Preferred Species Tree”, minimum 15 gallons, or pay an “in-lieu of planting fee” established by the City Council.  Preferred Species trees include: 1) principal native trees, as defined in the Tree Ordinance; and 2) native or locally acclimated tree species designated as preferred species trees by the City Manager (in consultation with the City Arborist).  The list of Preferred Species Trees is provided on the City’s website.