Private Trees: Q&A

What type of trees are ‘protected’ in Palo Alto?

The Valley Oak, Coast Live Oak and the Coastal Redwood are protected. There are city regulations regarding maintaining the health or removal of these trees. (Learn more)

Do I need a permit to prune one of the protected trees on my property?

No. But it should be pruned so that the health of the tree is not compromised and a violation is avoided. Section 5.00 of the Tree Technical Manual.

In which cases may I be allowed to remove a protected tree located on a single-family residential lot?

In general, you are allowed to remove a protected tree located on a single-family residential lot when:

  1. The tree is deemed to be dead or hazardous by a certified arborist.
  2. The tree trunk or basal flare is under the building footprint of an existing building (for example, uplifts the foundation, contacts or damages eaves, gutters, etc.).

This question is covered in more detail in Section 3.00 of the Tree Technical Manual.

I wish to remove a protected tree. What is the process?

You must first apply to the City of Palo Alto for permission to remove a protected tree. The application process you must follow is covered in Section 3.00 in the Tree Technical Manual. This is a summary of the process:

  1. Obtain a report from an ISA-certified arborist that includes the arborist’s name, certification #, company letterhead, and the following information for each tree:
    a. Species (common and scientific name)
    b. Size (diameter, height and crown spread)
    c. Condition (foliage, vigor, structural integrity, etc.)
    d. Prognosis (dangerous, imminent hazard, property damage, etc.).
    e. Life expectancy
    f. Location diagram (and photograph, if desired)
  2. Fill out a City of Palo Alto Application for a review of your request to remove a protected tree (the zone, parcel # and  historic category in Box 2 are not required). Note that the city charges a fee for reviewing the application.
  3. Call 650-329-2441 for an appointment at the Development Center located at 285 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto CA 94301.
  4. Bring the arborist report, application form, and a check or credit card for payment of the review process fee, to the Development Center.

Would someone from the City come out and take a look at my sick tree?

Unfortunately the city does not provide that service. We suggest you consult Canopy’s Arborist List or the yellow pages to find a local certified arborist.

I have an elm tree that has been diagnosed with Dutch Elm Disease. Does the City or the County get involved with this?

No. The state’s and county’s former programs have been discontinued. Diseased trees are left to the private tree care industry to manage. Note that wood from an infected elm may not be taken out of the County.

I am planning to buy a property or rebuild/improve my home. There are protected trees on the lot. How does this affect me?

There are a number of issues involved with answering this question. Besides the restrictions regarding removing trees, there are regulations regarding the protection of the trees during any kind of construction. This is covered in Section 2.00 of the Tree Technical Manual. It is recommended that a private certified arborist act as the ‘Project Arborist’ during construction.

I have a tree that is starting to interfere with power lines. What can be done?

Learn more about Palo Alto’s Right Tree Right Place program, which provides rebates and incentives to remove and replace hazardous trees. Contact Public Works at [email protected] or 650-496-5963. Maintenance and protection of power lines are taken care of by the City.

Sign up for local tree news, events, volunteer opportunities, and more.

Sign Up

Tree windbreaks can reduce residential heating costs 10-15%; while shading and evaporative cooling from trees can cut residential air-conditioning costs 20-50%.

Volunteer Learn