Mountain View Tree Regulations

The Forestry and Roadway Landscape Division is responsible for the maintenance of roadway and median landscaping and management of the urban forest including maintenance of inventoried street trees (including those in parks) and enforcement of the City’s Heritage Tree Ordinance. The Division is also responsible for maintenance of the downtown Castro street and Civic Center area and administration of the City’s Integrated Pest Management Program. 

In 2022 the City of Mountain View published a Tree Technical Manual and a companion Guide to Trees for single-family homes to help residents and businesses interpret city urban forest regulations and recommended best tree management practices. A comprehensive new Urban Forest plan was started in 2023 as part of a city-wide Biodiversity Strategy to provide recommendations on the management of the urban forest and environmentally friendly practices in the City.

Tree Ordinance (Chapter 32)

The Mountain View Tree Ordinance (Chapter 32) was established in 1961. The ordinance is intended to protect the community’s street trees and includes regulations for their pruning and care. To encourage the preservation of large, mature trees the Heritage Tree Ordinance (Chapter 32.22-32.39) was adopted in 1975. 

Municipal regulations that provide for the preservation, care, and protection of Mountain View’s community and Heritage trees are defined by City Code, CHAPTER 32 TREES, SHRUBS AND PLANTS. 

Municipal Code 32, Article I – GENERAL 

Chapter 32.1: Tree Regulations for the City of Mountain View, provides the definition of a street tree and defines ownership and liability. Specifically, this Chapter:

  • Prohibits damage to street trees.  
  • Provides the Director of Parks and Recreation with the authority to enforce this Chapter and the authority to plant, trim, spray, preserve, and remove street trees.  
  • Prohibits any person from cutting, trimming, pruning, planting, spraying, removing, or otherwise injuring or interfering with a street tree without prior written permission of the Director of Parks and Recreation.  
  • Requires the protection of street trees during construction or repair projects.  
  • Defines the liability for hazards on private property.  
  • Confers the responsibility for watering street trees to the adjacent property owner. 

Municipal Code 32 Article II ‒ PROTECTION OF THE URBAN FOREST 

Chapter 32.2 sets forth the policies for the preservation of heritage trees and their contribution to the welfare and aesthetics of the community, including:  

  • Defining a “Heritage Tree” as any tree that has a trunk circumference of 48 inches or more measured at fifty-four inches (54”) above grade. Three genus; oak (Quercus), redwood (Sequoia), and cedar (Cedrus) are considered Heritage if they have a circumference of 12 inches or more.  
  • Conferring the responsibility to maintain and preserve all Heritage Trees to the property owner.  
  • Prohibiting the willful injury, damage, destruction, relocation, or removal of a Heritage tree except by permit.  
  • Requiring the protection of Heritage Trees during construction and grading projects.
  • Defining the application process and terms for obtaining a permit to remove a Heritage Tree.  
  • Defining the Director of Community Services or his/her designee as authority for the administration and enforcement of Heritage Tree preservation in non development related situations.  
  • Defining a specific permitting process for development-related removals.  
  • Defining criteria and conditions for granting a permit to remove a Heritage Tree.
  • Defining the process for appealing the permit or denial to remove a Heritage Tree.
  • Defining the process for post-removal permits when a Heritage Tree is removed with a permit. 
  • Defining penalties, restitution, and methods for tree valuation pursuant to this ordinance.
  • Defining the role of the Urban Forestry Board and granting the following powers and duties: 
    • Act as the decision-making body for Heritage Tree appeals (the exception is for decisions made by the Development Review Committee). 
    • Make recommendations for modification to this ordinance. 
    • Assist with the planning of urban forest management. 
    • Make recommendations for appropriate mitigation for removals associated with City capital projects. 

Heritage Tree Program 

Because large trees provide benefits that enhance the health and welfare of the entire community, the Heritage Tree Program is intended to protect large trees from indiscriminate or unnecessary removal. 

When a request is received to remove a tree, a Certified Arborist reviews the request, inspects the tree(s), and prepares a report in support or denial.

For both development and non development removals:  

  • If removal is approved, a notice, visible from the public right-of-way is posted on the tree(s) for a minimum of 10 days before it can be removed.
  • Notice and additional information, including number of trees, species, size, and exact location are posted on the City’s website.
  • An appeals process allows any person to be heard if they are aggrieved or affected by a decision to either remove or deny a tree removal.

Non-development and residential property situations

In non-development and residential property situations:

  • The removal of a Heritage Tree is generally only permitted when the tree is dead, dying, or otherwise structurally unsound. 
  • The Forestry Division is responsible for the evaluation and approval of requests for tree removal. Application fees help to recover the costs associated with the permit request. 
  • The Parks and Recreation Commission, which also serves as the Urban Forestry Board, is the decision-making body. When an appeal is received, forestry staff prepares a presentation for the hearing. 
  • In non-development situations, the property owner is typically required to plant a 24-inch box replacement tree(s) or pay an in-lieu fee. 

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

Development-related situations

In development-related applications:

  • A staff member and/or contractor that is a Certified Arborist serves in an advisory capacity to the Community Development Department. They assist with the review of project plans and proposed mitigation measures, including preservation strategies and tree replacement species and quantities. 
  • Appeals for tree removals are heard by the City Council. 
  • Trees removed through development are subject to mitigation which may include planting replacement trees on site and/or paying in-lieu fees.

See more information on development-related regulations on the City’s Community Development Department Trees and Landscaping webpage.

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