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City Council Approves Update to Tree Regulations to Protect Our Urban Forest

Post Date:07/03/2019

On Tuesday, July 2, the San Luis Obispo City Council approved changes to the City’s tree regulations that will clarify the review process for both residents and developers.   

Trees are an important part of the natural, urban and economic environment. Council review of this item began with visuals of how over the last 50 years the City has increased density, and, with that growth, increased the size and canopy of the urban forest. The intent of the regulations is to continue the growth and health of the City’s valued urban forest. 

The updated regulations protect and preserve trees throughout the City and discourages requests to remove healthy trees that are not a threat to people or property.

In most circumstances, a tree removal permit is required for tree removal needs within the City. Tree removal permits are not required when the tree is an imminent threat to public safety or if the tree is located on a single-family residential lot meeting the following criteria:

  1. A designated native species and the trunk is less than 10 inches in diameter; or when the tree is non-native, and the trunk is less than 20 inches; and
  2. Not located within a creek setback area; and
  3. Not a designated street tree, and is not located within 10 feet of the back of the sidewalk; and
  4. Planting or retaining the tree was not a condition of development, or
  5. A palm and the trunk is less than 12 inches

With the updated ordinance, the review process was clarified, and it outlines criteria to base tree removals according to the permit type requested. The City Arborist will review residential permit applications, focusing on the health of the tree and safety of the area to determine whether it can be removed. For larger projects such as commercial or housing developments, the permit application will be reviewed by advisory bodies including the Tree Committee, Planning Commission, and City Council with recommendations provided by the City Arborist and the Director of Community Development. 

To encourage growth of the City’s Urban Forest, there are now requirements to plant a minimum of one new tree for each tree removed on the same property, or, two new trees for each tree removed on a different property such as a public park or open space.

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