Frequently Asked Questions
Click here for more Alameda County Tree Ordinance information.
- Why does the County have a Tree Ordinance?
- What trees are protected under the Ordinance?
- How do I determine where the County right-of-way is?
- When are Tree Permits required?
- Where can I get a Tree Permit?
- Is there a Tree Permit application fee?
- What is the permit process?
- Can I top, stub, head back or pollard my tree?
- Why do removed trees need to be replaced with another tree?
- What if a tree has caused damage to the sidewalk or other paved surfaces?
- What if a tree has caused damage to the sewer line?
- What services does the Public Works Agency provide?
Why does the County have a Tree Ordinance?
The purpose of the Alameda County Tree Ordinance is to: promote the health, safety and general welfare of the public; enhance the beauty of the environment; establish standards and regulations for planting, maintaining, removing, protecting and to preserve all public trees and landscaping within the County right-of-way.
What trees are protected under the Ordinance?
All trees located within the County right-of-way are protected. "Trees" are defined as any tree that meets the following criteria: any woody perennial plant characterized by having a single trunk or multi-trunk structure at least ten feet high and having a major trunk that is at least two inches in diameter taken at 4.5 feet from the ground (DBH). It shall also include those plants generally designated as trees and any trees that have been planted as replacement trees under the County Tree Ordinance or any trees planted by the County. (Sec. 12.11.100.A)
How do I determine where the County right-of-way is?
Call the Public Works Agency at (510) 670-5500 and County staff will assist in determining the County right-of-way for your property. It is also denoted on the deed to the property.
When are Tree Permits required?
Permits are required to plant, prune or remove a tree within the County right-of-way. Minor pruning (cutting of branches that are 1" in diameter or less) can be performed without a permit. Individual property owners who retain a contractor possessing a current annual maintenance permit with the County will not need to apply for an individual permit. Contact the Public Works Agency at (510) 670-5500 to obtain a list of contractors with current yearly permits.
Where can I get a Tree Permit?
Permit applications can be obtained by calling (510) 670-5480 or in person at the Public Works Agency building at 399 Elmhurst St. in Hayward. Permit applications are also available here (PDF - 117kb)*.
Is there a Tree Permit application fee?
Yes, there is a non-refundable $35 application fee that covers a portion of the cost of the inspection. The County covers the costs associated with the Urban Forestry Program, permit processing, and shares a portion of the inspection costs.
Yearly permits are available for maintenance only for qualifying contractors. If a contractor in possession of a yearly (non-site specific) permit is hired, the homeowner will not need to apply for a site-specific permit.
What is the permit process?
An applicant completes the permit application and submits it to the Public Works Agency along with the accompanying payment. Permit applications can be submitted by mail or in person at the Alameda County Permit Center located at 399 Elmhurst St. Upon receipt of the completed application and payment, the Public Works Agency staff will issue a receipt of payment, inspect the tree, evaluate the proposed work for ordinance compliance, approve or deny the permit application, and notify the applicant by mail.
Can I top, stub, head back or pollard my tree?
Topping, stubbing, heading back or pollarding is not allowed under the ordinance and does not comply with California State Government Code Section 53067. A tree that has been pollarded in the past may continue to be pollarded in the future so long as the property owner obtains the Director's prior, written approval. (Sec. 12.11.120)
Why do removed trees need to be replaced with another tree?
- Per the Ordinance any tree that has been approved for removal will need to be replaced with another tree from the County's Recommended Tree List. (Section 12.11.140 ) This restoration is necessary to preserve and sustain the integrity and vigor of the urban forest. An urban forest is a significant contributor to community image, pride, and quality of life. The urban forest of Alameda County serves its residents by providing benefits that:
- enhance the natural scenic beauty of an area
- may increase property values by 5-20%
- protect the surrounding area from soil erosion
- moderate the effects of extreme weather conditions and temperatures
- improve air quality including increasing the oxygen output of the area which combats air pollution
- create the identity and quality of the County's businesses and residences
- improve the attractiveness of the County to visitors
What if a tree has caused damage to the sidewalk or other paved surfaces?
The main goal of the Ordinance is to preserve the existing trees in the County. When repairing concrete damage, trees can often be root pruned to allow the necessary repairs. The use of a root barrier will extend the life of the adjacent concrete. For Sidewalk Repair information, please call (510) 670-5500.
What if a tree has caused damage to the sewer line?
The Ordinance does not allow for trees to be removed due to sewer complications. Often trees are blamed for sewer line problems when in actuality the problems associated with tree roots are primarily caused by aging porous clay pipes. Once replaced with new plastic pipes tree roots no longer seek out the pipes as they are non-porous.
Violations can be reported to (510) 670-5500. The Public Works Agency's Arborist will inspect the violation and provide a response if requested. The Ordinance includes civil penalties: fines may be three times the appraised value of the tree or $500.00 whichever is greater.
What services does the Public Works Agency provide?
The Public Works Agency will provide emergency response, field inspections, customer service, permit issuance and public outreach.
* Portable Document Format (PDF) file requires the free Adobe Reader.