Tree and Stump Removal
Tree Removal Program
The City of Palo Alto manages approximately 37,000 trees on City property including along streets, in parks, and around city facilities. The Urban Forestry Section provides all required care (using both City and contract resources) for public trees during the tree’s lifespan including planting, pruning, line clearing and tree removal. Acknowledging the ultimate decline of a tree, eventual removal of a public tree will be necessary. All Urban Forestry Section staff actions are directed toward building and enhancing the urban forest, and public trees are removed only when necessary as a last resort.
Why do we need to remove trees?
In wild-land areas, forests follow natural life processes. The trees of the natural forest grow old, contract diseases and eventually die. After the tree falls on the forest floor, it eventually decays and supplies nutrients back into the soil. This self-sustaining natural process, unfortunately, cannot take place in urban areas because of the nature and conditions of the urban forest. The Palo Alto urban forest needs to be conscientiously managed in order to protect the health, safety and property of the residents and businesses.
Public Works Urban Forestry Section
Phone: (650) 496-5953
Planning & Development
Urban Forestry counter hours: 9-12, Mon-Thurs.
The Removal Process
Trees that are removal candidates are identified by requests from residents or businesses, through the development process (as described below in Private Development Projects), through routine field work by Urban Forestry Section staff, or by other City staff or contract employees. All potential public tree removals are inspected and may be approved by Urban Forestry Section staff arborists (Urban Forester, Arborists, Project Managers, and Tree Trim-Line Clear Leads). Inspections may require multiple site visits and are often a collaborative effort between staff members.
Private Development Projects
Proposed private building projects with potential negative impacts to publicly-owned trees are subject to the Planning Department's permitting and public hearing process which includes the Public Works Urban Forester and/or Arborist's inspection and approval. Removals caused by private projects are considered a taking from the public tree-scape. Trees that fall under this category are not permitted for removal unless the final planting plan results in an overall improvement to the public tree-scape. Typically, healthy and viable trees are protected through these projects. Occasionally, removals are permitted to facilitate an improvement to the public tree-scape. To be considered an improvement the project must include at least one of the following criteria:
Stump removal occurs after the tree has been removed to the ground. Because of the specialized nature of the work and the equipment required, the City contracts with a private company to remove stumps. For cost efficiency, the project manager waits for an accumulation of stumps before the removals proceed, and stump removal may be delayed for up to six months after tree removal. Once the appropriate quantity of stumps are accumulated, a list is compiled and the contractor will commence removal. The contractor will temporarily remove all public and private improvements within the stump removal site and will remove all stump and roots using specialized grinding equipment. The hole created by stump removal is filled to grade with native soil and mixed with the ground stump chips. This prepares the area around the stump for replanting. If the site is found suitable to support tree growth, a new tree will be planted. Replanting will occur during the optimum replant season, which is generally November through March.
Replanting After Removal
If a vacant site (where a public tree was removed) is suitable to support a new tree, the site is replanted with a suitable tree species. Because the stump has to be placed on a stump removal list and because the planting season is typically during the dormant season, this process -- from removal to replanting -- may take up to 1.5 years.
A current list of tree removal locations including a brief reason for the removal can be found here: Tree Removal List. If you have further questions, please call the Urban Forestry Section at 650-496-5953.