Friday, February 06, 2009

Striking that Balance

Trees are a far cry from an afterthought in Brisbane. We are fortunate to still have native tree species such as the California Bay, Coast Live Oak, and California Buckeye (as shown below) residing in town. Because they make up such a wide portion of Brisbane's natural landscape, there are great efforts on the part of the community and the City to ensure that proper measures are taken to ensure for their preservation and enjoyment.

It should be of no much surprise, then, that in Brisbane, it is necessary to obtain a permit for removal or severe trimming of large trees or "Protected Trees" within the City. ("Severe trimming" is the removal of more than 50% of the foliage crown or more than 30% of the height of the tree; a permit is now required for trimming more that these amounts.)

As for Protected Trees, they include any of the three shown above, which are primary native tree species on San Bruno Mtn., but also include ones that:
  • City Council has determined as being a unique a contributor to the scenic beauty of the City

  • provide a special benefit to the natural environment or wildlife

  • are greater than 30" in circumference (approx. 10" in diameter) at 24" above grade level, with there being 3 or more of them on a single property

  • the City maintains (could include Street Trees like the Brisbane Box, or those required by the City to be planted as a replacement tree for an unlawfully removed tree)

So, it isn't impossible to have a Protected Tree removed, but doing so without a permit would be unlawful and you could incur an infraction. And again, if you're thinking about doing some severe cutting, say to that overgrown pine in your backyard, a permit to do so MUST be obtained first.

To download an Application for Tree Removal, click here and submit it to Fred Smith, Assistant to the City Manager, 50 Park Place, Brisbane. If you have any questions you can contact Fred at 508-2110 or send him an email at

Brisbane’s trees contribute to the quality of life in the community and protection of trees enhances property values as well as the environment. It is also understood that, as property owners, individuals should be able to determine what kinds of trees should be maintained on their respective properties. That is where the City's Tree Regulations seeks to strike a balance. Thanks for doing your part to ensure that gets done!

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