Tree Removal

As outlined in the City of Los Altos Tree Protection Ordinance (LAMC Chapter 11.08), all trees, regardless of species, that are 48-inches or larger in circumference (approx. 15-inches in diameter) are protected and require a Tree Removal Permit before they can be removed. The purpose of the Tree Protection Ordinance is to preserve and maintain the City’s urban forest and rural character by retaining and/or replacing large mature trees when possible and where appropriate.

Permit Applications and Additional Resources

Protected Trees

  1. Any tree that is 48-inches (four feet) or greater in circumference when measured at 48-inches above the ground.
  2. Any tree designated by the Historical Commission as a Heritage Tree or any tree under official consideration for a Heritage Tree designation. (All Canary Island Palm trees on Rinconada Court are designated as Heritage Trees.)
  3. Any tree which was required to be either saved or planted in conjunction with a development review approval (i.e. new two-story house).
  4. Any tree located within a public right-of-way.
  5. Any tree located on property zoned other than single-family residential.

Tree Removal Criteria

  1. The condition of the tree with respect to disease, imminent danger of falling, proximity to existing or proposed structures and interference with utility services.
  2. The necessity to remove the tree for economic or other enjoyment of the property.
  3. The topography of the land and the effect of the tree removal upon erosion, soil retention and the diversion or increased flow of surface waters.
  4. The number, species, size and location of existing trees in the area and the effect the removal would have upon shade, privacy impact, scenic beauty, property values and any established standards of the area.
  5. The number of healthy trees the property is able to support according to good forestry practices.
  6. The approximate age of the tree compared with average life span for that species.
  7. Whether there are any reasonable and feasible alternatives that would allow for the preservation of the tree.

In some cases an applicant may be requested to provide a report from an arborist that evaluates the condition of the subject tree(s). As a condition of approval, an applicant may be required to plant one or more replacement trees.

The applicant or any interested party may appeal an approval/denial of a Tree Removal Permit application to the City Council. Appeals shall be submitted to the City within ten (10) calendar days of the decision by filing a written statement outlining the reasons for the appeal along with the appropriate appeal fee.