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Translation Disclaimer

Parks Division
Parks Division

Tree Pruning and Removal

Forestry pruning 1

The city's Urban Forestry Unit makes all determinations about whether a city tree needs to be pruned or removed; and the nature of any pruning that will be done. The decision to prune or remove a city tree, or not, is based on the condition of the tree at the time of the inspection. The pruning and removal of city trees is done primarily by Urban Forestry staff. City trees may also be pruned or removed by city contractors, and private contractors that have an approved pruning or removal permit. 

City trees are not pruned or removed for views; to minimize fruit, seed, or leaf drop; to increase sunlight to a landscape or property; based solely on the presence of pests or disease; or for other discretionary purposes. This is an important distinction between the maintenance of city trees and the type of pruning you may prefer to perform on your own privately owned trees. 

If you have additional questions, call (510) 981-6660 or send an email to trees@cityofberkeley.info  


Tree Pruning and Removal FAQ

What is a "city tree"? Do I own the tree in front of my house?

Any tree growing on the city maintained portion of the public right-of-way, or on city-owned property is a "city tree". This refers to any tree growing between the sidewalk and the street or in a street median; and any tree in a city park, or on any other property owned by the City of Berkeley. All trees in these areas are city trees and are maintained by the City of Berkeley, regardless of who planted them.

How do I contact the city about pruning a city tree?

You can submit a request the following three ways: 

Call Customer Service at 311 if in the city limits, or at 510-981-CITY (2489). A case will be created based on your request, and you will be provided with a case number.

Send your request by email to trees@cityofberkeley.info. A case will be created, the site will be inspected, and the inspector will make an attempt to contact you with the results of the inspection.

Call the Parks Division Office at 510-981-6660. A case will be created based on your call, the site will be inspected, and the inspector will make an attempt to contact you with the results of the inspection.

How do I get a city tree pruned or removed?

Contact the city and request that the city tree be inspected for pruning or removal. Include the reason you are requesting to have the tree pruned or removed. Once your request is received, an arborist will inspect the tree and make an attempt to contact you with the results of the inspection. This usually takes 2-4 weeks. If it is determined that there is work to be done, it will be added to an upcoming work schedule. 

How long does it take to get a city tree pruned or removed? How does the city prioritize the tree pruning and removals? 

Emergency work and tree conditions that pose an immediate risk to the public are done as soon as possible. Often, this will be the same day that the request is made, or it may be done within the next several days. Other standard pruning work is scheduled according to the order in which it was received. Pruning is also prioritized based on the nature of the work and condition of the tree, or scheduled seasonally depending on the species of the tree.

Will I be notified before work is done to the city tree?

Once a city tree has been inspected, the case will be updated. The arborist will attempt to contact the requestor and let them know whether any work will be done, and what that work will be. There will be no direct notification before the city crew arrives to work on city trees. In many cases No Parking signs will be posted 72 hours in advance of when the work is expected to begin. Because the same crews that perform requested maintenance also respond to tree-related emergencies, it is not possible to provide any assurances about when the crew will arrive or when a job will be completed.

What if I am on the pruning schedule, but I will be out of town and my vehicle is parked under the tree? 

Parking on city streets, at one location, cannot exceed 72 consecutive hours. This includes vehicles that have a neighborhood parking permit. Any vehicle parked on the street may be towed if No Parking signs have been posted for a minimum of 72 hours. If you are ever leaving your car on the street in excess of 72 hours, it is recommended that you make arrangements with friends or neighbors to avoid the chance of your vehicle being towed. 

Do I need a permit to prune or remove a city tree myself? What if I hire a private arborist to do the work?

Yes, a permit is required for pruning or removal of a city tree by anyone other than city staff. The pruning or removal of a city tree without written approval from the Urban Forestry Unit of the City of Berkeley Parks Division is a violation of the B.M.C. 12.44.020. Residents can apply for a no-cost permit and the tree will be inspected. A city arborist will determine whether to approve or deny the permit based on the nature of the request and the condition of the tree. The city requires that anyone other than city staff who works on public trees be a state licensed contractor, have a City of Berkeley business license, and have liability and workers compensation insurance that meets the city’s minimum requirements. 

Do I need a permit to prune or remove a tree on private property? 

You do not need a permit to prune or remove any tree on private property, with the exception of coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia). Coast live oak is the only species that the city restricts the removal of on private property.

What species are protected trees in the City of Berkeley?

The only tree species with any restrictions in the City of Berkeley is the coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia). Ordinance No. 6,905-N.S. placed a moratorium on the removal of coast live oak trees, and prohibits any pruning that is excessive and injurious to the tree. This is defined as the removal of more than one-fourth (25%) of the functioning leaf, stem, or root system of a tree in any 24 month period. This applies to single stem trees with a circumference of 18” (5.7” diameter) or multi-stem trees with a combined circumference of 26 inches (8.3” combined diameter) measured at 4 feet from grade. Exceptions to this ordinance must be approved by the city manager or their designee, such as the city arborist.

What if I have a dangerous tree or a tree-related emergency?

If it is concerning a city tree, or a private tree that is posing an immediate danger to the public, contact Berkeley Police or Fire by calling (510) 981-5900, or 911 in the case of a life-threatening situation. If it is a private tree that does not pose an immediate danger to the general public, you should contact a tree service contractor. It is recommended that the tree owner hire a licensed and insured contractor. 

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Parks Division, 1326 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94702
Questions or comments? Email: trees@cityofberkeley.info Phone: (510) 981-6660
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
TTY: (510) 981-6903