Trees in Mountain View

History of Trees in Mountain View

Mountain View’s dedication to the preservation of trees dates back to 1960 when the City Council introduced the first ordinance establishing tree care services. In 1961 a Street Tree Ordinance was adopted, and in 1975 a Heritage Tree Ordinance. In 1993 the city got its first tree inventory, and transitioned to using Treekeeper as the online database to track all the work being done on public trees. 

In 2006, a nonprofit organization called Mountain View Trees was formed. It was composed of residents and volunteers on a mission to supplement the City’s efforts and to “sustain and enhance the trees of Mountain View through community stewardship, education and advocacy.” In 2013 consultants completed a tree canopy assessment, which mapped the location and extent of overall canopy (public and private) across the City. It informed a resource analysis that  expounded the composition, benefits, and value of the city’s trees.

On September 15, 2015, Mountain View’s first ever comprehensive Community Tree Master Plan (CTMP) was formally adopted by the City Council. The purpose of the CTMP is to provide a guide for managing, enhancing and growing Mountain View’s tree canopy over the next 10 to 15 years. Goals include increasing canopy cover by five percentage points from 17.7 to 22.7% by planting 11,000 additional trees, adopting new parking lot shade goals, implementing forestry practices that protect wildlife, and increasing outreach and awareness regarding the benefits of trees.

A more thorough history and timeline can be found on pages 12-13 of the CTMP.

Urban Forest Stats

  • The City of Mountain View has been recognized as a Tree City USA since 2001, a designation from the National Arbor Day Foundation that recognizes the community’s commitment to the urban forest. This is a great designation for a city to maintain.
  • Mountain View’s community urban forest includes 26,166 trees on streets, in parks, and at City facilities. If we tried to replace these trees with trees of similar size, species, and condition it would cost nearly $85.7 million! The benefit investment ratio (BIR) is 1:5.43, which means for every $1 invested in trees we get $5.43 in benefits, which is fantastic.
  • Mountain View’s community trees (public trees) comprise more than 230 unique species. The top ten species represent 55% of the overall population. The predominant species are coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens, 10%), London planetree (Platanus acerifolia, 9%), and Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis, 7%). 
  • Currently there are 1,346 acres of tree canopy, both public and private, in Mountain View covering 17.7% of the City. Community trees provide approximately 350 acres (26%) of the overall canopy cover. That means street and park trees contribute significantly to overall tree canopy, but an even larger proportion come from private property trees.
  • Including regular trimming and tree training, an average of 3,515 public trees are trimmed annually in Mountain View. The average pruning cycle is approximately 7.4 years, however, some areas and tree species are pruned more frequently (2-3 years) than others, resulting in a longer period between maintenance for some trees.

Canopy Programs in Mountain View

In January 2019 Canopy presented the Arnold Soforenko Award to Mountain View Trees, thanking them for their efforts in and contribution to sustaining and enhancing the urban forest in Mountain View since 2006. It was at this time that they “merged” with Canopy, and now Canopy serves at the nonprofit organization for Mountain View’s urban forest activities. 

Through this merger Canopy has been able to expand our efforts in tree planting and stewardship, education, and advocacy across the city. Working with the City of Mountain View, Canopy engages volunteers in tree planting trees in parks and at schools, and subsequently cares for the trees. Educating the community about trees and urban forestry often takes place during Community Forestry School, Tree Walks, and special events like tree talks.

Check out Canopy’s online event calendar to see if there are any events or volunteer opportunities happening in Mountain View.

City Trees and Private Trees

Trees growing on public property or in a street right-of-way are city-owned (public) trees

Heritage Trees, even if they are on private property, are trees protected by the City of Mountain View and are subject to city regulations.

Residents are responsible for trees growing on their own private property, or privately-owned trees. 

City Trees

The Forestry and Roadway Landscape Division is responsible for the management of community trees. In addition to street trees, the Division maintains trees at 39 urban parks and along nine miles of trails on Stevens Creek, Permanente Creek, Hetch-Hetchy, Bay, and the Transit-Oriented Development Trails. 

Street tree information can be found on the City website here.

Detailed FAQs about Street trees are on the City website here. (Street tree drop-down). 

How do I request the planting of a street tree?

Call the Forestry Division to request a tree. Staff will evaluate your property to see if there is appropriate planting space. Considerations for planting include spacing, proximity to sewer, gas and water service lines, as well as proximity to sidewalks, driveways, streetlights, etc. Street tree planting is typically scheduled in the fall.

How can I determine which trees are street trees? 

Street trees are planted in two locations along city streets. Some are planted in the “parking strip,” the open space that runs between the curb and the sidewalk. Where a parking strip doesn’t exist, street trees are planted within the public right-of-way behind the sidewalk (in the front yard of the property owner), typically within 5 feet of the sidewalk. If you are unsure if a tree is a street tree, contact the Forestry Division at (650) 903-6273 or by email at [email protected]. Staff will visit your location to make a determination. 

Who do I contact if I want my street tree evaluated or pruned?

Please contact the Forestry Division at (650) 903-6273 or by email at [email protected]. Staff will be happy to provide information on your street tree or make a site visit to evaluate the tree.

Who owns Mountain View’s street trees?

Street trees planted in Mountain View are owned by the property owner. The city has the authority to plant, prune or remove street trees. However this does not affect ownership or liability. Information on street trees may be found in the City Code, Chapter 32 Trees, Shrubs and Plants, Article 1.

Who is responsible for watering new street trees?

The property owner is responsible for watering young street trees. The first two years are critical and the tree will need to be watered weekly from spring through fall (during the dry season).

I have an issue with roots from the street tree. Who is responsible?

The property owner is responsible for damage caused by tree roots and for mitigating root issues on private property. The city may repair damage caused by roots to public improvements such as sidewalk, curb and gutter.

I don’t like my street tree. Can it be replaced with another tree?

In most cases, no. Typically, only trees that are dead, dying or structurally unsound will be removed. Contact the Forestry Division at (650) 903-6273 or by email at [email protected] if you would like your tree evaluated for replacement.

Heritage Trees

Forestry staff are also responsible for the administration and enforcement of the City’s Heritage Tree Ordinance for residential and nondevelopment applications. 

Detailed FAQs about Heritage trees are on the City website here

How do I know if I have a Heritage tree?

Mountain View’s City Code Chapter 32, Article II, defines a “Heritage Tree” as any tree that has a trunk with a circumference of forty-eight inches (48″) or more measured at fifty-four inches (54″) above natural grade. Multi-trunk trees are measured just below the first major trunk fork. Three species, quercus (oak), sequoia (redwood) or cedrus (cedar) are considered “Heritage” if they have a circumference of twelve inches (12″) measured at fifty-four inches (54″) above natural grade.

What responsibility do I have if there is a Heritage tree on my property?

Mountain View’s ordinance states that if you own or control property in the City, you are responsible for maintaining and preserving all Heritage trees in a state of good health.  It is against the City ordinance to willfully injure, damage, destroy, move or remove a Heritage tree unless granted a removal permit by the City.

How do I obtain a removal application for a Heritage Tree?

Any Heritage Tree(s) proposed for removal require a removal permit, which is issued by the Community Services Department’s Forestry and Roadway Division if the property is a single family home or multi-family up to 4 units. All other properties, including multi-family over 4 units, commercial, industrial, etc are processed by the Community Development Department’s Planning Division.

You can obtain an “Application for Heritage Tree Removal Permit” by following the steps on the City website.

Private Trees

Private property trees are owned and maintained by the owner, resident, and/or tenant. The City does not manage or regulate private trees unless it is a Heritage tree. 

If you need a tree report, removal, pruning, or consultation, we recommend hiring a Certified Arborist. Learn more here: Hiring an Arborist

If you are interested in planting trees, you can learn more here: How to select and plant trees

If you need tips for how to manage your trees, you can learn more here: Caring for trees

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

Sign Up