Tree Removal

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Tree removal in Portola Valley.  Do you have a tree on your property that you would like to remove?  Perhaps it is causing damage to your home's foundation, appears to be dead or dying, or has become a potential safety hazard.  Some trees in town are considered significant trees and require a permit for removal, while others do not.  Therefore, the first thing you need to determine is whether the tree is significant.  

What is a significant tree?  Habitats in Portola Valley range from natural oak woodland to moist/riparian areas that support a number of native trees that the Town seeks to protect. If you have one of the trees listed below that meets or exceeds either the circumference or diameter listed, it is considered a “significant tree”, and you are required to apply for a site development permit (tree removal permit), even if the tree appears to be dead (Portola Valley Municipal Code Section 15.12.070.A). Please note that the circumference or diameter is measured fifty-four (54) inches above natural grade.

                                                                       Circumference    Diameter

Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)                    36"               11.5"
Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii)                           36"               11.5"
Valley Oak (Quercus lobata)                             36"               11.5"
Blue Oak (Quercus douglasii)                           16"                 5.0"
Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)            54"               17.2"
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)                 54"               17.2"
California Bay Laurel (Umbrellularia californica)  36"               11.5"
   (if multiple trunk, measurements pertain to largest trunk)
Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)                 24"                7.6"
Madrone (Arbutus menziesii)                            24"                7.6"

Removing a significant tree.
  If you propose to remove a significant tree, you will be required to complete the Application for Site Development Permit for Removal of Significant Tree(s) and pay the $82.00 application processing fee. If the tree is dead due to Sudden Oak Death (SOD) or any other reason, the fee will be waived. If you have had an arborist evaluate the tree, please include the arborist’s letter with your application. 

Upon receipt of the application and fee, Town Planning staff will contact you to arrange a site inspection. Staff will take into consideration the reason for removal, any arborist reports available, and will physically review the location and siting of the tree in relation to structures and public view and the condition of the tree.

After the initial site inspection, staff may determine that further review is required by the Town’s Conservation Committee. Staff will forward the application to the Conservation Committee for review and recommendation. The Conservation Committee will place the item on their next available agenda for consideration. The Conservation Committee meets on the 4th Tuesday of every month. Members of the Conservation Committee will make an inspection of the tree, review the documents received, and provide their findings to the full Committee for consideration. After the Conservation Committee meeting, the Chair of the Committee will report their findings back to staff. Staff will then inform you as to the Conservation Committee findings.

If the tree can be removed, a signed copy of the site development permit will be returned to you. We request that you contact your neighbors to let them know that you are planning on undertaking tree removal prior to commencement of any work.

If you need to replant in the area of the tree removal, the Town requests that you review the Town’s Native Plant List for a selection of appropriate replacement trees and/or shrubs.

Removing a non-significant tree.  If the tree that you need to remove is not listed on the significant tree list above (e.g. Monterey Pine, Eucalyptus, Magnolia, etc.) or is smaller than the minimum circumference and diameter specified, you do not need a permit from the Town. If you desire to replant in the area of the tree removal, the Town requests that you review the Town’s Native Plant List for a selection of appropriate replacement trees and/or shrubs. 

Permitted hours for tree removal activity in Portola Valley.  Removal of trees is subject to the Town’s construction hours and may only occur Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tree removal may not take place on weekends or Town holidays. (PVMC Section 9.10).

Tree trimming.  No permit is required to perform tree trimming or thinning; however, we do strongly recommend that the work be conducted under the direction of a certified arborist. Any trimming or other actions which could potentially injure the a significant tree, such as substantially reducing the tree in size, would require a site development permit and follow the same process as described above for removal of a significant tree. Tree trimming is also subject to the Town’s construction hours noted above.