Urban Forestry

The Urban Forestry section is responsible for maintaining and enhancing the City’s Urban forest, which consists of more than 60,000 trees. This section is responsible for administering proper tree care; planting new trees; removing dead and hazardous trees; conducting reforestation projects in parks, municipal grounds, open spaces, medians and streets; maintaining a street tree database with maintenance information about trees throughout the City; and administering the City’s Tree Protection Ordinance. Additionally, staff fields the public’s questions and concerns regarding the health and status of street trees, and conducts community education programs to keep citizens informed about urban forestry. A list of trees that have been determined to be hazardous because they are dead or diseased is periodically provided to City Council prior to scheduling the removal.

Pasadena Tree Ordinance

The City of Pasadena recognized the importance of trees by passing an ordinance that will protect the canopy of trees in Pasadena now, and in the future. An ordinance amending the “City Trees and Tree Protection Ordinance” passed by the City Council on May 5, 2002 was sparked by the interest of the community and government to preserve and grow the urban forest. There are Four categories of trees that are protected by the ordinance and specified locations where they are protected. This web site aims to provide practical information to help you understand and comply with the ordinance. For further information contact the Customer Service Center at (626) 744-7311.

TPO_01 Native Tree List
TPO_02 Pasadena Tree Ordinance - Municipal Code 8.52
TPO_03 Protected Tree List
TPO_04 Related Items Passed by City Council
TPO_05 Sample Tree Inventory and Protection Zones
TPO_06 Tree Protection Plan Requirements

Tree Protection Guidelines


The City’s Tree Protection Guidelines are established for projects subject to Chapter 8.52 ‘City Trees and Tree Protection’ and for projects for which compliance with the Tree Protection Guidelines is a condition of approval. Specifically, the guidelines seek to avoid negative impacts to protected trees that may occur during construction such as:

  • Mechanical injury to roots, trunks or branches
  • Compaction of soil
  • Changes to existing grade, which may expose or suffocate roots

Definitions for standardized terms and diagrams are included in the guidelines.

A. General Requirements

  1. Applicants may be required to place a security deposit in the amount of the assessed value of the tree as determined using the most recent version of the International Society of Arboriculture guide to plant appraisal. The security deposit will be returned to the applicant upon successful completion of the project and upon verification that the tree has not sustained significant damage during construction. If significant damage has been sustained, and the subject tree requires further monitoring post-construction, the City Manager or designee may hold the security deposit for an additional period of If the subject tree has fallen into irreversible decline and must be removed based on its condition, the applicant may forfeit the deposit to the City in order to cover removal and replacement costs.
  2. Violations of the City Trees and Tree Protection Ordinance may result in administrative fines in an amount up to the Tree Replacement Value of the subject tree(s).
  3. Compliance Orders issued respective to violations of the City Trees and Tree Protection Ordinance may include corrective action to replace the tree canopy loss that resulted from tree removal or catastrophic damage to a protected tree.
  4. Violations to the Tree Protection Guidelines may result in fines assessed per day and imposed per violation, and the potential generation of a stop work order on the construction
  5. When a tree protection plan is required, the plan may include written recommendations for the health and long-term welfare of the protected trees during the pre-construction, demolition, construction, and post-construction development phases. Notes on the plans would include specifics on avoiding injury, damage treatment and inspections of protected trees.
  6. If an applicant finds that the implementation of the following guidelines is impracticable due to the unique site, landscaping, or other characteristics of the project, the applicant may submit a request to deviate from the guidelines to the Department reviewing the permit application. The Department of Public Works and the Department of Planning and Community Development will review the applicant’s tree protection measures for public trees and private trees, respectively. The Director of Public Works and the Director of Planning and Community Development (or their designees) may approve requests to deviate from these guidelines.

Such requests may be submitted by the applicant on a tree protection plan; consulting arborist report; or other manner that articulates how the tree protection measures cannot be reasonably implemented.

B. Tree Protection Zone

The Tree Protection Zone (TPZ) shall be established to the extent of the tree’s dripline plus four (4) radial feet. The guidelines herein shall be applied to the TPZ to safeguard the health of protected trees. Tree roots are generally located in the top 12–24 inches of soil and can extend to a distance exceeding the trees height and/or width.

  1. Refer to Standard Plan S-642 ‘Tree Protection Standard’ for full details.
  2. Protective (6-foot high minimum) chain-link fencing with an access gate of minimal width should be installed around the TPZ to the extent practicable subject to approval by staff prior to the commencement of any grading, construction, or demolition. Fencing must also include 8 ½” x 11” (minimum) signage that includes the following information: Tree Protection Zone; name and contact information of project owner or authorized representative; and “Please contact the Pasadena City Service Center to report any concerns (626) 744-7311.”
  3. The TPZ shall be irrigated sufficiently with clean water to keep the tree in good health and vigor before, during, and after construction. This may mean deeply soaking the ground periodically.
  4. No construction staging or disposal of construction materials or byproducts including but not limited to paint, plaster, or chemical solutions is allowed in the TPZ.
  5. The TPZ should not be subjected to flooding incidental to the construction
  6. All work conducted in the ground within the TPZ of any protected tree should be accomplished with hand tools, unless an air spade is utilized. Trenches in the TPZ should be tunneled, or completed with an air spade to avoid damage to roots within the Information regarding air spades is available from staff.
  7. Where structural footings are required and major roots (over 3” in diameter) will be impacted, the engineer of record should submit acceptable footing design alternatives and or location alternatives to staff before proceeding with further plan
  8. Where more than 50% of the TPZ is impacted or roots greater than 3 inches in diameter are to be removed within the TPZ, the engineer of record should submit acceptable design alternatives to staff for
  9. Any required trenching should be routed in such a manner as to minimize root damage. Radial trenching (radial to the tree trunk) is preferred as it is less harmful than tangential Construction activity should be diverted from the TPZ. Cutting of roots should be avoided (i.e. place pipes and cables below uncut roots). Wherever possible and in accordance with applicable code requirements, the same trench should be used for multiple utilities.
  10. “Natural” or pre-construction grade should be maintained in the TPZ. At no time during or after construction should soil be in contact with the trunk of the tree above the basal
  11. In areas where the grade around the protected tree will be lowered, some root cutting may be unavoidable. Cuts should be clean and made at right angles to the roots. When practical, cut roots back to a branching lateral
  12. When removing existing pavement in the TPZ, avoid the use of heavy equipment, which will compact and damage the root
  13. If staff requires mulch in the TPZ, the mulch materials and location should be shown on the plan. Larger projects will require construction staging plans to indicate where materials will be stored and how the equipment will move in and around the property to minimize damage to the TPZ. Root damage and soil compaction may be mitigated in some cases by using trench covers or mulch in the

C. Pruning

* Pruning guidelines are for private trees only. Contact the Department of Public Works for public tree service requests 626-744-7311.

  1. Pruning of all trees should be in accordance with industry standards (International Society of Arboriculture or ANZI 1).
  2. Pruning of oaks should be limited to the removal of dead wood and the correction of potentially hazardous conditions, as evaluated by a qualified arborist. Excessive pruning is harmful to Removal or reduction of major structural limbs should be done only as required for actual building clearance or safety. If limbs must be removed, cuts should be made perpendicular to the branch, to limit the size of the cut face. The branch bark collar should be preserved (i. e. no “flush cuts”), and cuts should be made in such a way as to prevent the tearing of bark from the tree.
  3. Pruning of trees other than oaks should be limited to the removal or reduction of major structural limbs and should be done only as required for actual building clearance or safety. If limbs must be removed, cuts should be made perpendicular to the branch, to limit the size of the cut face. The branch bark collar should be preserved (i. e. no “flush cuts”), and cuts should be made in such a way as to prevent the tearing of bark from the
  4. Landmark Trees must be pruned by or under the direction of a qualified

D. Inspections

  1. Inspection of Protective Fencing: City staff may require inspection of fencing to verify placement and approval of materials prior to the commencement of
  2. Pre-construction meeting. City staff may require an on-site pre-construction meeting with the contractor and or applicant to discuss tree protection with the site supervisor, grading equipment contractors, and demolition
  3. Inspection of rough grading. City staff my require inspection to ensure protected trees will not be injured by compaction, cut or fill, drainage and trenching
  4. Special Activity in the Tree Protection Zone: City staff may require the direct on-site supervision of work in the tree protection
  5. Periodic Inspections: City staff may require inspections verifying adherence to tree protection measures during the on-going construction process. The cost for inspections by City staff or a contract Certified Arborist may be invoiced to the property owner.

E. Definitions

  1. Basal flair or root crown means the tree trunk where it emerges from the root system and flairs out to create the base of the
  2. Canopy means the area of a tree that consists primarily of branches and
  3. Dripline means the outermost area of the tree canopy (leafy area of tree).
  4. Certified Arborist means an individual who has demonstrated knowledge and competency through obtainment of the current International Society of Arboriculture arborist certification, or who is a member of the American Society of Consulting Arborists.
  5. Tree Protection Zone (TPZ) means the area within a circle with a radius equal to the greatest distance from the trunk to any overhanging foliage in the tree canopy plus four (4) radial feet.
  6. Tree Replacement Value/Cost: the value or cost of the injured or removed tree determined utilizing the most recent edition of the Guide for Plant Appraisal, published by the International Society of Arboriculture ("ISA").

Tree Protection Ordinance Summary

In recognition of the significant aesthetic, environmental, and economic benefits to the community provided by trees, and to increase the tree canopy in Pasadena, the City Council adopted measures to protect public trees, landmark trees, native trees and specimen trees in certain areas of the city.

Public, Landmark, Specimen and Native Trees

  1. Public trees are those trees located on property under ownership or control of the city.
  2. A landmark tree is a tree designated under chapter 2.75 (Cultural Heritage) because it is one of the largest or oldest species located in the city; it has a historic significance due to an association with a historic building, site, street, person, or event; or it is a defining landmark or significant outstanding feature of a neighborhood.
  3. A specimen tree is a tree of a species and size established on a list adopted by the city council and is thereby presumed to possess distinctive form, size or age, and to be an outstanding specimen of a desirable species. There are 63 species listed on the specimen tree list.
  4. A native tree is a tree with a trunk size of more than 8 inches in diameter and is one of thirteen listed species.

Public Trees

All public trees are afforded protection in the ordinance and it is a violation to prune, remove, injure, or plant a public tree. No attachments (wire, rope, sign, or nail) to public trees, tree supports, shrubs or plants in public places are permitted. The Public Works Department will review out-of-cycle pruning and planting request submitted by a property owner. Requests for the removal of public trees will be reviewed and approved by the City Manager or designee based on the following criteria:

The condition of the tree in regards to health, age, viability, and performance.

Public tree consistency with the Master Street Tree Plan,

Project consistency with the General Plan policies and objectives,

The project will enhance the urban design strategy set forth in the General Plan, Specific Plan, or applicable long-term planning documents,
After thoroughly exhausting feasible design alternatives, the only recourse is to remove the tree so that the prevailing setback along the block face can be enhanced.

For one or two public trees, the City Manager will notify the abutting property owners and applicant ten days prior to the removal. For three or more public trees the City Manager will also notify the City Council, Design Commission, and any known neighborhood association.

Native and Specimen Tree Protection Areas

In single family residential and RM-12 (Multi-family two units on a lot) zoning districts, native and specimen trees are protected in the established front yards and corner side yards, and required side yards and rear yards.

Established yard means the area between the property line and principal structure on a lot. Required yards for each zoning district are defined in the zoning code. If any portion of the tree is located in the yard, then the entire tree is protected.

Landmark Tree Protection Areas

Landmark trees are protected in all areas of all zones, on private as well as public property.

Landmark Tree Designation Process

Any person or agency may nominate a tree for landmark designation. The Cultural Heritage Commission will review all such nominations and make a recommendation to the City Council. Upon City Council approval, and if no objection has been received in writing from the property owner, the tree will be designated as a landmark. A covenant will be recorded with the office of the county recorder.

Further Protection

In the Central District (CD zoning district), the design authority may require modification of the building setback requirements (without a variance) to protect a landmark, native, specimen or public tree.

Tree Protection Guidelines

The tree protection guidelines set the standards and specifications for the protection of trees and are adopted by resolution of the City Council. The guidelines offer protection measures for projects involving construction and require submittal of a tree protection plan for review and approval. Specifically, the guidelines seek to avoid mechanical injury to tree roots, trunks, or branches; the compaction of soil; and changes to existing grade, which may expose or suffocate tree roots. The plan must show trees on-site, on the adjacent public property, and any protected tree on adjacent private property that might be impacted by the proposed project. Key elements to the guidelines are for the requirement of fencing to protect the trees, and inspections before, during, and after construction.

Landmark, Native and Specimen Tree Removal

Requests for the removal of a landmark, native and specimen tree will be denied unless one of the following findings is made:

  1. There is a public benefit, or a public health, safety, or welfare benefit, to the injury or removal that outweighs the protection of the specific tree (public benefit means a public purpose, service, or use which affects residents as a community and not merely as particular individuals); or
  2. The present condition of the tree is such that it is not reasonably likely to survive; or
  3. There is an objective feature of the tree that makes the tree not suitable for protection; or
    1. There would be a substantial hardship to a private property owner in the enjoyment and use of real property if the injury or removal is not permitted; or
    2. To not permit the injury or removal would constitute a taking of the underlying real property; or
    3. The project includes a landscape design plan that will result in a tree canopy coverage of greater significance than the tree canopy coverage being removed, within a reasonable time after completion of the project.

In addition, a request for the removal of a landmark tree will be denied unless the procedures specified for the removal of landmarks and the granting of a certificate of appropriateness is first followed. Relocation of a specimen or native tree will be treated as a removal.

Tree removal requests with a discretionary action will be reviewed by the applicable decision-maker. Decisions on tree removal are subject to standard appeal and call-for-review procedures. Specimen and native tree removal requests, not associated with any discretionary action, will be reviewed by the City Manager or designated staff, with a decision rendered 15 days after the application has been deemed complete. In this case, the appeal process is the same as for a planning director decision.


No permit is required to prune non-protected trees, specimen trees or native trees on private property. Pruning of a designated landmark tree requires a permit and the pruning work must be done according to the most recent standards of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).

Exemptions to Permits

No permit is required to remove a protected tree if it is deemed hazardous by the city manager, or any police officer or fire fighter. No permit is required for city employees or city contractors to prune trees for compliance with statewide regulations governing electrical lines. No permit is required for city employees or city contractors to remove or prune a native, public, or specimen tree for the public health, safety or welfare as deemed by the City Manager. No permit is required for the removal of a tree on a project site for which a variance, conditional use permit, or design review approval has been obtained from the city prior to June 10, 2002 or for which a valid building permit has been obtained prior to June 10, 2002.


Violators of the ordinance and/or approved tree protection plan may be charged with a misdemeanor or infraction. A misdemeanor can result in up to six months imprisonment and a maximum $1,000 fine. An infraction can result in a $250.00 fine. In addition, there may be civil penalties, late payment penalties, administration fees, and tree replacement costs charged to the violator.

Master Street Tree Plan

The City’s Master Street Tree Plan was first published by the Pasadena Park Department in 1940 as the Official Street Tree List, and serves as the guiding document that designates the official tree species to be planted on a block-by-block basis throughout the City. The goal of the MSTP is to promote a uniform urban design on a neighborhood scale, while also promoting species diversity city-wide. With the development and expansion of the City, and with changes in arboricultural practices, the MSTP has been revised and amended accordingly.

Please note that this Master Street Tree Plan web application is for information purposes only. The designated tree species for any purposes of planting trees in the public right-of-way must be approved by staff from the Department of Public Works.

The designated tree species can be found by clicking on the respective street segment, or by using the application’s address finder tool. A link is provided in the pop-up window to Cal Poly’s Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute to search and learn more about the characteristics of different tree species.

Cal Poly’s Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute