Menlo Park desires a thick urban forest to protect and preserve the scenic beauty and natural environment of the city. Menlo Park’s urban forest provides multiple environmental, economic and aesthetic benefits for residents, businesses and visitors. Trees provide shade and reduce energy consumption. They improve air and water quality, provide habitat value, attract tourists, businesses and customers, and impart a distinct character to our city.
Menlo Park is a Tree City USA and was honored with the Arbor Day Foundation’s Growth Award. Our urban forestry program maintains, sustains and enhances Menlo Park's tree canopy.
Where could I get an application to remove or heavily prune a heritage tree?
Permit applicants may submit applications online through the City’s online permit portal. Please register for an account by creating a username and password. Under the "Public Works" tab, select "Create an application." After reviewing conditions and terms, the heritage tree application can be found under "Select a Record Type" in under smaller font "Public Works" tab. Select "Heritage Tree Permit" and continue application.
Do I need a permit to remove a dead heritage tree?
Yes, but there is no application fee. An arborist report is not required if the application is submitted with pictures to show evidence the heritage tree is dead. A replacement tree and/or an in lieu fee are also required.
What is required for heritage trees related to development applications?
In addition to the heritage tree permit application, the applicant must submit a complete arborist report which must be written by a consulting arborist from the City-approved list. A complete arborist report includes:
- An arborist report may, but not limited to include, tree inventory table, the tree appraisal value of each heritage tree
A tree protection and mitigation guidelines to disclose the tree protection fencing requirements and other details
A tree plan/site map to include a replacement tree plan
Any other support documentations, such as diagrams or pictures.
Could the city arborist come out and take a look at my tree before I apply for a permit?
No. The arborist will evaluate your tree after the application has been submitted. Exception: if the tree is a street tree, the City takes responsibility for the removal.
Can the City recommend a certified arborist?
The named arborists (not the company) submitted their qualifications to demonstrate their ability to comply with the city’s heritage tree ordinance, view the city-approved consulting arborists list. Permit applications are required to be accompanied by an arborist report prepared by one of those approved arborists. The only exception is under Criterion 1 (the heritage tree is dead) if the application is submitted with pictures, then when no arborist report is required.
On what basis does the city arborist approve a permit?
The decision making criteria described in Menlo Park Municipal Section 13.24.050(a) are closely tied to industry standards and require the provision of evidence to demonstrate a heritage tree is: dead, dying or poses a significant risk, significantly restricts reasonable economic enjoyment of the property, or interferes with utilities.
|Decision making criteria
|Criterion 1: Death
||The heritage tree is dead.
|Criterion 2: Tree risk rating
||The condition of heritage tree poses a high or extreme risk rating under the International Society of Arboriculture Best Management Practices.
|Criterion 3: Tree health rating
||The heritage tree is (a) dying or has a severe disease, pest infestation, intolerance to adverse site conditions, or (b) likely to die within a year.
|Criterion 4: Species
||The heritage tree has been designated as invasive or low species desirability.
|Criterion 5: Development
||The heritage tree interferes with (a) proposed development, repair, alteration, or improvement of a site or (b) the heritage tree is causing/contributing to structural damage to a habitable building. There is no financially feasible and reasonable design alternative that would permit preservation of the heritage tree.
|Criterion 6: Utility Inference
||The removal is requested by a utility, public transportation agency, or other governmental agency due to a health or safety risk resulting from the heritage tree’s interference with existing or planned public infrastructure. There is no financially feasible and reasonable design alternative that would permit preservation of the heritage tree.
How do I measure a tree that has multiple trunks?
Multi-trunk trees, where the trunk splits at 4.5 feet above the ground or less, are measured below the main union.
Multi-stemmed trees with a union occurring below the existing grade shall be considered individual trees and diameter measurements will be taken for each individual stem to determine trunk diameter – independent of the other stem diameters.
How much of a heritage tree can I prune without a permit?
Up to one fourth of canopy and/or roots.
What do I need to submit to the City for a permit application to remove or heavily prune a Heritage tree?
- Completed application form
- Payment (check for fee)
- Completed certified arborist form
- Replacement tree plan, which may be either a written statement or landscape plan to state the tree replacement species, container size, planting location, and in lieu fee payment (if applicable)
How do I find the status of my permit application?
- Go to the City's online permit portal.
- Towards the end of the webpage under Public Works, click "Search Application."
- Under General Search, find the Record Type section and select "Heritage Tree Permit."
Can I appeal the decision?
Who can appeal is dependent on how the city arborist makes his decision and the appeal period is 15 days after the decision date.
- If the decision is based on Criterion 1, 2, 3, or 4, only the permit applicant may appeal.
- If the decision is based on Criterion 5 or 6, any community member (residents, property owners, permit applicants) may appeal.
Please refer to the heritage tree ordinance for more details on the decision making criteria or the City website and refer to the Master Fee Schedule(PDF, 706KB) for the appeal fee.
Do I have to plant a replacement tree?
The overall goal of the Heritage Tree Ordinance’s replacement requirement is to ensure continued canopy cover is maintained or increased. Ideally, the replacement tree(s) should replace the removed canopy cover in a period of approximately 15 to 20 years.
The City provides a list of recommended trees in the administrative guidelines, but here are other options:
- Visit Cal Poly’s SelecTree webpage to help select a replacement tree and fill in at least these characteristics:
- Mature height must be greater or equal to 35 feet; and
- Select the “California Native” option
- Confirm on UC Davis’s Water Use Classification of Landscape Species webpage that the selected replacement tree’s water usage is either very low, low, or moderate/medium.
- Confirm the selected tree has an overall desirability of 4 or less as defined in the Western Chapter International Society of Arboriculture: Species Classification and Group Assignment, 2004, or the most current edition. Your project arborist may have a copy of the book.
What if I don’t have any space on my property to replant a tree that has been approved for removal?
Applicants must submit a written statement to explain why they are unable to meet the tree replacement requirement. The city arborist may have to inspect the property and determine whether there is space for the replacement tree. If the written statement is approved, applicants may pay an in lieu fee. For development-related removals, the in lieu fee will be the appraised value of the heritage trees. For non-development projects, the in lieu fee is based on the monetary value of the replacement tree, which correlates with the size of the heritage tree truck diameter. For more information, please review the administrative guidelines(PDF, 394KB).
Is there a public platform to track permit applications, pending appeals, and proposed tree replacements?
To the extent permitted by law, the City shall make publicly available all heritage tree permit removal and pruning applications, replacement tree requirements and appeals. Applicants shall submit pictures of the replacement trees once they has be planted in the ground.
What are tree appraisals and why are they required?
For development projects, the appraised value (calculated by City-approved certified arborist) of all heritage trees on site shall be submitted with the arborist report prior to the issuance of any building permit. The tree replacement and trunk formula are common tree appraisal methodologies as described in the most recent edition of the Guide for Plant Appraisal. The appraised values will be used to evaluate the value of replacement trees and any potential violation fees.
Will notices be required for decisions made under Criterion 1, 2, 3, or 4?
A notice of removal posting is not required and nearby property owners will not be noticed. This is because only the permit applicant may appeal the decision.