For the first time since 2007, San Mateo recently updated policies pertaining to the city’s tree canopy by establishing a “Protected Trees” ordinance to replace its Heritage Trees and Street Trees ordinances.
The new Protected Trees Ordinance aims to make it “easier for the public to understand what trees are protected and what types of trees can be planted as replacements for trees removed with a valid permit,” the city said.
Adopted by City Council on May 3 and effective July 1, new rules in the revised ordinance classifies a heritage tree as any oak (Quercus spp.) with a trunk diameter of 10 inches or greater, or any other species with a trunk diameter of 15 inches or greater. The trunk diameter will now be recorded at the industry standard height of 54-inches above grade.
The new ordinance provides more flexible replant options, as heritage trees may be replaced with a 15-gallon tree of “preferred” species, which will be selected based on their mature size. A companion document to the ordinance, called the Administrative Guidelines, will include visual aids, a replacement species list, and matrix of required replant ratios and monetary equivalencies to assist the public in interpreting and complying with the ordinance.
San Mateo’s Heritage Tree ordinance was adopted in 1958 and has been revised several times. Over the past six years, Parks staff have reported the aging ordinance was difficult to interpret and confusing to the public, created tree preservation loopholes, and was difficult to administer and enforce.
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Photo courtesy of San Mateo