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Trees: Rules About This Important Part of our Environment

We support the health of trees in our community as part of our Climate Action Plan. The following rules help protect trees throughout San Carlos. We also encourage initiatives like planting new trees.

If you are considering removing or planting a tree, consult our City’s Tree Protection Ordinance: Landscaping Standards within the Zoning Ordinance, Section 18.18.070.

New Trees

New trees must be planted with new developments. Once trees are planted, we have regulations to protect trees of a certain size, as well as some species.

Protected Trees

A Protected Tree is either a Significant or Heritage Tree. Significant Trees are at least 36 inches in circumference (approximately 11-and-a-half inches in diameter), measured 4 feet above the ground. Heritage Trees are trees native to the area. They include buckeye, madrone, coast live oak, valley oak, interior live oak, redwood and California bay laurel trees. Each of the Heritage Tree species has its own unique size requirements needed to gain the Heritage label.

If a property owner wants to remove a Protected (Significant or Heritage) Tree, he or she must apply for a Tree Removal Permit (SCMC 18.18.070, C). We will send out a licensed arborist to evaluate the tree. The arborist then creates a report outlining the health and conditions of that tree. To issue a Tree Removal Permit, we must find that the Significant or Heritage Tree is either diseased, causing substantial property damage, or in danger of falling. A tree that negatively affects general health and safety may be removed in many cases. If a Protected Tree is removed, we can require a property owner to plant a replacement tree.

Additional fees and fines are imposed for anyone removing a Protected Tree without a permit. For example, a Tree Removal Permit is required at double the regular cost and the tree that was removed must be replaced. Also, a property owner who improperly removes a Protected Tree must pay a civil penalty of $2,500 or the value of the tree, whichever is less.

For questions about obtaining a Tree Removal Permit reference the Tree Removal Application or contact our Community Development at (650) 802-4263 or emailing