TreePeople is committed to trees. We promote the environmental, social, and economic value of trees. They have the ability to cool a warming planet, to reduce CO2, and to protect communities. In fact, the right trees planted in the right place can help mitigate the spread of wildfires, recycle and clean water, and most importantly, improve human health and well-being.
In addition to planting trees in urban areas and mountain forests, TreePeople is dedicated to promoting the value of trees through environmental education programs and promoting policies that protect and support them. We work tirelessly to make all of this possible, but always need the help of tree lovers like you to donate, volunteer, or become community activists who will help us advocate for and protect them.
Based on the most common questions we receive about trees, we have provided a resource below for fellow tree lovers who want to know how to get trees, find out if they are healthy, or want to know how to keep trees from being unnecessarily removed.
Trees are a vital part of our urban infrastructure and play a critical role in environmental quality, human health and well-being, green economy, social cohesion, and climate mitigation and adaptation.
Trees are cost effective long-term investments and add real value in dollars and cents to a community. In fact, the larger the tree, the greater the benefits – trees are the only type of infrastructure whose value INCREASES with time and age. In fact, when assessing the costs and benefits, we always come out ahead when we plant the right trees in the right place.
We couldn’t begin to count all of the ways trees are important, but here are 22 of them to get you started.
First, determine the tree species. See “Can you help me identify a tree” question above.
Next, get information on the tree to determine the specific requirements for the tree (how to care for it). We recommend you go to https://selectree.calpoly.edu/ and the Sunset Western Garden Book to learn more about your tree. There’s a good chance that the problem with your tree is from improper tree care.
Here at TreePeople, we have a saying: “Right Tree, Right Place, Right Time of Year.” Take some time to figure out the appropriate tree for your climate and landscape – and choose plants and trees that are native to this region when you can!
If you want more information about transforming your yard into a drought-resistant landscape, we recommend contacting a certified arborist (aka tree surgeons) that will be able to identify your needs and provide you with the best solutions. Here is a database of certified arborists. You can search their website by zip code to find an arborist near you.
For Los Angeles County, residents, visit our resources site for landscape and planting ideas.
Unfortunately, we can’t help you trim your tree. We recommend contacting a certified arborist who will be able to assess the situation and instruct you on the proper care of your tree(s). Here is a database of certified arborists. You can search their website by zip code to find an arborist near you.
Identify the type of tree for removal (see “Can you help me identify a tree?” question above) and then check with your local city hall on the rules for removing protected versus non-protected trees and any restrictions that may apply. In the City of LA, it is legal to remove a non-protected tree on private property (see “What are Protected Trees? Which Trees are Protected” question to learn more). However, as TreePeople, we want to protect all trees–even when they’re on private property–and would recommend tree removal only when there is imminent failure of the tree or the tree has become hazardous to life or property (e.g. dead tree).
Unlike private trees, there are actually more rules applied to public trees. So it’s very important to identify the type of tree being considered for removal and which agency is responsible for that tree. To find out, visit your local city hall or their website for information. They will have the rules for removing and not removing trees from public properties. Typically permits are needed, but again, your local city hall and public agency will have that information. Here is an example of a tree planting ordinance and example of a tree removal ordinance for Los Angeles County and Los Angeles City respectively, for reference - which your town/city may have something similar to. If you’d like to challenge a street tree removal permit application, find out how here.
In the City of Los Angeles, it is ILLEGAL to remove protected trees without a removal permit by the Board of Public Works; see the “What are Protected Trees? Which Trees are Protected?” questions below for resources to help you identify protected versus non-protected trees.
Any act that may cause the failure or death of a protected tree requires inspection by the Urban Forestry Division in the City of Los Angeles specifically.
Outside of the City of Los Angeles, check your local city hall location or their website and see if they provide information about any protected tree laws/ordinances/statutes and any rules to tree removal.
It is ALSO ILLEGAL to remove trees that aren’t on your property without permission and/or permits from the owner of the property and/or the city.
First, find out if the tree or trees are protected under a tree protection ordinance – this varies by municipality so we recommend you check with your local city hall office or website for information.
To identify the tree species in California, visit www.urbantreekey.calpoly.edu or find a copy of “A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us” by Matt Ritter. You can find the links to city tree ordinances in the “What are protected trees? Which Trees are protected?” question below. If any protected species are on that property then contact the appropriate city agency or department to alert them of the potential removal. If you don’t know who to contact, a quick visit to your city hall or their website should lead you in the right direction.
If the tree is not protected under the ordinance, then it is up to the owner to develop their private property and they have the right to remove the tree. However, you can share with them TreePeople’s article ‘22 Benefits of Trees.’
The first thing to do is to find out why the tree (whether it’s on the street, in a park, or on any other public property) is being removed. It may be dying, hazardous to people or property, sick, or carrying pests or diseases that can harm other trees. If this is not the case, see if other alternatives besides tree removal have been considered - such as moving the tree to another location or altering the size of the planting area.
Next, determine who requested the tree removal, who is removing the tree (e.g. a city agency or private business), and when the proposed removal date is.
Then, find out whether or not the agency or business has a permit to remove the tree. You can visit your local city hall office or website to help find that information.
See if you can also identify the tree species by visiting www.urbantreekey.calpoly.edu or use the key in “A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us” by Matt Ritter. Certain tree species may be covered under a local municipality’s tree protection ordinances, which will make it much easier to advocate for it.
Local laws vary by city and county, so visit your local city hall location or website for information on tree removal/protection agencies and relevant policies (see “What are protected trees? Which trees are protected?” question below for links to city tree ordinances).
If you live outside of the city of Los Angeles, find out if your city has a tree protection ordinance (see “What are protected trees? Which trees are protected?” question below for more specifics and city ordinances). If you cannot find answers online, contact or visit your city hall office or website to be pointed in the right direction for help.
The next steps are to look for resources in your neighborhood such as business councils, neighborhood councils, or chamber of commerce who might help protect the tree from being removed. Additionally, you may be able to attend public hearings for tree removal, and look for legal assistance if needed.
Some cities and counties have laws protecting certain species or types of trees. To find out which trees are protected in your area, visit your city hall office or website for information. See if your city’s tree protection ordinances are listed in the chart below.
The City of Los Angeles has a protected tree ordinance. The ordinance states: “This definition shall not include any tree grown or held for sale by a licensed nursery, or trees planted or grown as a part of a tree planting program.”
Therefore, the following tree species which meet the rules of the definition above are protected if they are 4” or more in diameter at 4.5’ up the trunk:
(a) All native Oak trees including Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) and Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), or any other tree of the oak genus indigenous to California but excluding the Scrub Oak (Quercus dumosa);
(b) Southern California Black Walnut (Juglans californica var. californica);
(c) Western Sycamore (Platanus racemosa);
(d) California Bay (Umbellularia californica).
Los Angeles County also has an Oak Tree Ordinance, protecting oaks over 8 inches in diameter, which applies to all unincorporated areas of the county.
Protected trees cannot be removed or cut down without an inspection from an arborist and a permit from the Board of Public Works. It is also illegal to damage a protected tree, including its roots.
For more information about the Protected Tree Ordinance in the City of Los Angeles, please visit here or contact Urban Forestry Division at (213) 847-3077.
Tree protection ordinances vary by city in terms of which trees are protected, what the protections are, and which departments are responsible for review and enforcement.
Some cities in Los Angeles County with tree protection ordinances include:
Just because trees are protected doesn’t mean everyone follows the rules! It is not uncommon for property owners or developers to remove trees without a permit, either because they’re unaware of the law or trying to circumvent it.
The first thing to do is to determine the tree species and if it is protected under a local tree protection ordinance or not (see previous question for a sample list of tree protection ordinances in Los Angeles County). To identify the tree species in California, visit www.urbantreekey.calpoly.edu or find a copy of “A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us” by Matt Ritter. If you discover that the tree is protected, find out if those removing it have a permit. If they don’t have a permit, report it to the appropriate agency in your city (contact your local city hall to determine which agency to report to). If it does not fall under the protected tree ordinance of your local municipality (see the previous question, “What are ‘protected trees?’ Which trees are protected?”), then the property owner can legally remove the tree.
If you’re in a situation where you are comfortable talking to the property owner or person removing the tree, you can ask why they’re removing it. If the tree is protected, ask them whether or not they are aware of the local tree protection ordinance, and whether or not they have attained a permit. If it’s not protected, you can share with them 22 Benefits of Trees. You can also suggest to the property owner that they try to relocate, resell, or donate that tree if it is not protected by the local tree protection ordinance. Some tree moving companies may pay property owners for mature trees they can resell; do an internet search to find a company near you.
If you aren’t comfortable talking to the property owner or person removing the tree, contact a city agency (via your city hall) to see if a permit was issued and report the potential violation of the protected tree ordinance.
In the City of Los Angeles:
If you see a protected tree is being or may be cut down without a permit, you can call 3-1-1 (within the city) or (800) 996-2489 and ask the call center specialist to walk you through submitting a tree violation report or inspection request.
You can also file a report online. Just go to my311.lacity.org, select “Create Service Request,” select “Trees/Vegetation,” then choose the type of tree report.
And finally, you can contact the Urban Forestry Division by asking for a transfer from 3-1-1 or calling (213) 847-3077.
If you live outside of the City of Los Angeles, contact or visit your city hall office or website for assistance.
Typically, trees could create an issue for sidewalks when the wrong tree was planted in the wrong place (i.e. trees with large trunks and/or roots that are planted too close to the sidewalk).
Alternative designs and materials can be used to save trees while fixing sidewalks; other cities like Seattle use alternative designs to handle tree root-sidewalk conflicts (e.g., ramping, meandering).
Laws and permits regarding sidewalks vary by city. If you do not live within the city of Los Angeles, visit to your local city hall or website, find the agency/office that is in charge of sidewalks, and ask what can be done for the sidewalk and tree in question.
If the tree is on your own property, you have more leeway to protect your tree. Ask the city if there are ways for you to save the tree. There may be an option to deed some of your property to the city, so the sidewalk can be redirected to give your tree more space to grow.
Again, the way sidewalk issues are handled varies by city. Contact your local city hall, find the appropriate office for sidewalk construction, and ask about what can be done.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS
I can’t find an answer to my question.
If you’ve read through both the General FAQ and the Tree-Specific FAQ and still don’t know what to do about the tree in your situation, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.