Street Tree Pruning Program

The Urban Forestry Section is responsible for pruning all public street trees. Privately-hired tree service companies or homeowners are not allowed to prune public trees without a permit. The most compelling reason to prune trees is to develop a strong, safe framework, but pruning is also done for clearance, visibility, and safety. Pruning is accomplished in accordance with the Tree Technical Manual which references the ISA Tree Pruning Guidelines, ANSI A300-2008. These are industry standards, "species-specific", that promote the natural shape and health of the tree.

The City has two programs for pruning public trees. The first is contract area pruning, done by contractors. Contract area pruning is done area by area. There are six main Street Tree Areas (STA 1-6) and two auxiliary areas (STA 7 & 8). The area pruning contractor focuses on one area at a time in a cycle. Each public tree is pruned at least once every seven years.

Map showing street tree pruning area boundries  

The second program is the in-house tree crews and arborists which inspect and make appointments for pruning trees when they are outside of the area contract locations. Both services compliment each other to provide the most efficient tree maintenance for public trees.

Pruning in Progress: Area 2


Routine Tree Pruning to Take Place Over Next 4-6 Months

Beginning the week of March 4th, West Coast Arborists, Inc., will begin pruning street trees as part of the Palo Alto Urban Forestry department’s routine pruning cycle. The pruning will take place in the right-of-way areas of the following neighborhoods, or a portion of the neighborhoods:

  • Mid-Town
  • Leland Manor
  • Embarcadero Oaks
  • Garland Park
  • Triple El

Pruning the nearly 5,000 street trees in these neighborhoods should take four to six months to complete.  Watch for a door hanger on your door a few days before the trees in your neighborhood will be pruned.  We respectfully request that you and your neighbors refrain from parking beneath the street tree(s) in front of your house on the date that will be noted on the door hanger.

All pruning will be conducted by International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Tree Workers, and supervised by ISA Certified Arborists.

The goal is to prune the trees at a minimum, and meet the following objectives:

  • Improving tree health and structure
  • Providing vehicle and pedestrian clearance
  • Increasing visibility for streetlights, signs, and traffic signals

During this same time period, trees located inside parks throughout the city may also be pruned. This work will focus primarily on improving tree health and branching structure.

Some species grow faster, or may have defects and need to be more extensively pruned to remain in good form until our next pruning cycle.

For more information contact the Urban Forestry Project Manager for this program, Derek Sproat at (650) 496-6985 or

Please contact the Urban Forestry Section at (650) 496-5953 for any other questions on pruning trees or to request a pruning inspection.