Regulated trees are specific species and categories of trees identified in our ordinance that are protected (Title 8, Palo Alto Municipal Code). These trees must be maintained in accordance with regulations and require permits for pruning, removal or any activities that might impact them. Regulated trees can fall under three broad categories; public trees, protected public and private trees, and designated public and private trees.
For information on tree-related code enforcement issues, please see this Planning Department webpage: Code Enforcement
All public trees are regulated. Public or street trees are all trees growing within the street right-of-way, on public property such as parks, and outside private property. In some cases property lines lie several feet behind the sidewalks. A permit from the Public Works and Planning Departments is required prior to any work on or within the drip-line of any public/street tree.
Protected trees include trees of specific species or distinctive character, public or private. Individual species of trees that are protected are all Coast Live Oaks, Valley Oaks (greater than 11.5 inches in diameter), and Coast Redwood (greater than 18 inches in diameter). Heritage Trees are also protected. Heritage trees are individual trees of any size or species or historical significance that are deemed as such by City Council. Property owners may also nominate a tree for Heritage Tree status if it has characteristics that are distinctive.
Designated trees are all trees (public and private), when associated with a development project, that are specifically designated by the City to be saved and protected on public and private property which is subject to discretionary development review. These instances can include variances, home improvement exceptions, architectural reviews, site and design reviews, subdivision reviews, etc.
Trees that are under or near power lines are regulated. The State of California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) requires all utilities in the state to maintain vegetation clearance from their electric conductors and related equipment. The City of Palo Alto, as operator of its own electric utility, must be in compliance with CPUC rules. To comply with these rules and to deliver safe and reliable power to the residents and businesses of Palo Alto, the City has in place a Line Clearing Program.
Please call (650) 496-5953 if you have questions about City-related tree services.
Public Works Urban Forestry Section
Tree Planting, Public Tree Maintenance, Utility Line Clearance
Phone: (650) 496-5953
P.O. Box 10250
Palo Alto, CA 94303
Planning & Development
Urban Forestry counter hours: 9-12, Mon-Thurs.
285 Hamilton Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Last updated on August 23, 2021