Trees and Urban Forestry

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Trees: City and Private

City Council and citizen goals are to provide an attractive, healthy, and safe urban forest. Trees beautify our city, reduce energy needs, purify the air, provide shade and improve the environmental, economic, and social quality of San Luis Obispo. Within Public Works, the Urban Forest Services staff is made up of a City Arborist and three Urban Foresters, who are all ISA certified arborists. They care for and manage over 20,000 public trees on designated public property within the City limits. We value our green infrastructure and its many benefits. This program provides for the sustainability and longevity of the urban forest canopy for future generations, preserving our community's way of life.

Pruning and Maintaining the Urban Forest
The Urban Foresters prune, replace and care for City street trees, City park trees and trees on City-owned property. The City is mapped out into 9 maintenance areas. City trees (not private) are pruned on a predetermined schedule by area. City trees that are dead, dying or in eminent danger of failure or other emergencies including limbs down, broken cracked or hanging branches will be addressed as needed. Citizens wishing to have their Street Trees pruned on a more frequent basis may hire a Certified Arborist who must contact the City Arborist at 781-7023 for authorization prior to pruning.

Urban Forest Regulations
The City's Tree Ordinance No. 1544 2010 Series (see link below) is enforced by Urban Forest Services. The associated standards and policies related to trees are important to sustaining the urban forest. The review of Planning and Building documents, landscape plans and tree installation inspections (Blue Card Sign-offs) related to development are part of this division's duties. The Urban Foresters also send out Abatement notices to property owners for privately-owned vegetation encroaching into the right of way (sidewalk and street) for the safety and accessibility for our residents.

Removing Trees in San Luis Obispo
The City requires an approved Tree Removal Application on file in most cases. See FAQs below for specifics. Some removal applications are referred to The Tree Committee for review. The Tree Committee is a volunteer citizen group made up of 7 members and acts as an advisory body to the Director and City Council. They meet and review tree removal applications and other urban forest related activities on a monthly basis.

Commemorative Grove Trees
The Commemorative Grove at Laguna Lake Park is located at 504 Madonna Rd. This grove is a designated area of the park set aside for people to commemorate a special person or event by planting a tree. These trees become living monuments identified with a custom plaque. Please visit our Commemorative Grove Page for more information and view a map of the Commemorative Grove.

Heritage Trees
Trees play an important role in the cultural heritage and history of San Luis Obispo. These landmark trees are typically large specimens or of unusual species identified and approved by Tree Committee and City Council resolution. Please visit our Heritage Tree Page for more information and to view a map of the Heritage Trees located throughout the City.

Key Contacts:
Ron Combs, City Arborist (805) 781-7023

Frequently Asked Questions: (Click question to expand/contract answers)

  • Trees and Urban Forestry

    • 1. When does a tree in the City of San Luis Obispo require a Tree Removal Permit?

    • 2. How much does it cost to submit a tree removal application?

    • 3. Can anyone remove a tree in the City of San Luis Obispo?

    • 4. Can a tree be removed without paying for a tree removal permit?

    • 5. What are "Street Trees" and who maintains them? Can a Street Tree be removed?

    • 6. What qualifications are required by the City when hiring a tree care contractor to prune my private trees or the City Street Tree in front of my property?