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Tree Questions

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Tree Maintenance

Who maintains public trees?

The Urban Forestry section of the Public Works Department provides maintenance to street trees in the public right-of-way, and trees on City property.

How do I report a tree problem, like a fallen branch or fallen tree?

Call or email 311 and a call center agent will process your request. Please provide the following information:

  • Address
  • Cross Street
  • Telephone number (if you are the property owner or resident
Will the City take care of trees on private property?

No, the City only maintains trees on public property. Tree maintenance for private trees should be provided by trained tree care professionals. When choosing a tree care professional the following should be considered:

  • Membership in professional organization such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), or the Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA).
  • Certification through the ISA’s Certified Arborist or Tree Worker programs.
  • Proof of Insurance
  • Competitive pricing (always get three bids)
  • List of references
What about tree problems that occur after hours or in storms?

Call 311 and a call center agent will process your request. Urban Forestry maintains emergency response crews to clear the right-of-way and remove public tree debris from private property. However, tree emergencies involving private trees are the property owner’s responsibility.

What does the public need to know about the impact a series of storms can have on trees?
  • With strong winds and saturated soil, trees may be vulnerable due to a loss of anchorage. Any "heaving" of soil around the base of a tree should be taken seriously. Report issues with City trees to 311, or contact a qualified arborist if the tree is privately owned.
  • The City’s highest priorities are safety and clearing primary access roadways. Debris left over from a private tree will need to be cleaned up by the homeowner.
  • If an electrical wire comes in contact with a tree, assume it is energized and dangerous. Do not touch the tree or anything in contact with it and call SMUD immediately.
Can I request a tree inspection by a City arborist?

The City does not provide the service of inspecting trees on private property. Private property trees should be inspected by a certified arborist at the property owners expense. A City arborist will inspect City trees and private protected trees when there is a request for a tree pruning or removal permit.

If the tree roots are the cause of the damaged sidewalk, regardless of whether the roots are from a City or a private tree and you have received a notice to repair the sidewalk adjacent to your property, call 311 after the sidewalk has been removed and the roots exposed. A City arborist will come out to make recommendations about the cutting of roots from the tree. Please note: Have the work order/correspondence number available when calling for a root inspection. This number is located on the top right hand corner of the "Agreement to Repair Sidewalks" you received from the City.

If you take it upon yourself to repair the sidewalk without having received a notice to repair the sidewalk from the City, then you must obtain an encroachment permit first before removing the sidewalk. Call 311 to have an arborist come out after you have obtained the permit and have the sidewalk open for inspection.

Tree Pruning

How often are public trees pruned?

The current pruning cycle is approximately every 5 years, depending on location, species and size.

Can trees be pruned upon request (out of cycle)?

Trees are pruned out of cycle only if the tree is impacting private property (building clearance), the right-of-way (road and sidewalk clearance, sign clearance), or if the tree represents a safety hazard.

Can I trim a City Street Tree in front of my property?

You cannot trim a City street tree without a permit. A City arborist will evaluate the request before issuing a pruning permit to determine if the scope of work being requested conforms to current arboricultural standards and best management practices and that the person or company doing the work is qualified to perform the work that is being requested.

What if I think my City tree is too tall and needs to be topped?

Topping of trees, leaving trunks with stubby limbs, is recognized by the City, the State and the tree care industry in general as a harmful and unacceptable practice. It can cause a multitude of problems that often result in either the death of the tree or poorly attached limbs falling on people or property. There is no such thing as a tree that is too tall, but if you think that a tree needs to be reduced in height for any reason, please consult with a qualified arborist to consider options other than topping.

Who is responsible for trees that are encroaching into the public right-of-way?

The City is responsible for street trees and the property owner is responsible for private trees and shrubs. Call or email 311 if City trees are encroaching into the right-of-way.

Who is responsible if trees are blocking street lights, traffic, and parking signs?

The City is responsible for street trees and the property owner is responsible for private trees and shrubs. Call or email 311 if trees are blocking street lights, traffic, and parking sign. Property owners will be charged if the City prunes private trees that are blocking street lights, traffic, and parking signs.

Tree Removal

How can I get a City street tree removed?

City street trees are protected by City ordinance. The City generally will only remove City trees for reasons of public safety. Private parties can request to remove a City tree at their own expense for reasons other that public safety by applying for a permit to remove a City tree and providing for the replacement of the tree. A City arborist will evaluate the request to determine if the impact of the proposed removal and replacement on the City's urban forest is justified for that individual case.

Can I remove trees on my property?

It depends upon the status of the tree. If the tree has a protected status, then a permit is required to remove the tree. Private protected trees are defined by Sacramento City Code in Title 12, Chapter 12.56. Private protected trees are:

  • All native trees at 12 inch DSH*. Native trees include: Coast, Interior, Valley and Blue Oaks, CA Sycamore and Buckeye.
  • All trees at 32 inch DSH with an existing single family or duplex dwelling.
  • All trees at 24 inch DSH on undeveloped land or any other type of property such as commercial, industrial, and apartments.

* DSH = Diameter Standard Height. Learn how to measure a tree's DSH.

Review the code and call or email 311, if you are uncertain. Urban Forestry staff can assist you in correctly identifying a protected tree. Trees that are not protected can be removed by the property owner without a permit.

How do I apply for a permit to prune or remove?

Visit our Permits page, or call or email 311.

What if I see someone removing or pruning a protected tree?

Immediately call a call center agent at 311. It is a violation of Sacramento City Code 12.56.050 to remove or prune a City tree or private protected tree without a permit. Administrative penalties ranging from $250 to $25,000 may apply, civil actions and/or criminal sanctions may also be applicable.

Tree Planting

Where can I plant a tree?

The City is responsible for all public tree plantings. Residents can plant trees on private property. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District in partnership with the Sacramento Tree Foundation provides free shade trees. Call 916-924-8733 for more information.

Who decides what kind of tree gets planted in the right-of-way in front of my house?

Urban Forestry staff will select the tree species that is most appropriate for the planter space and citywide urban forestry best management practices. If the resident living closest to the planting location expresses a preference for a particular species of tree, Urban Forestry staff will take that preference into consideration.

Where can I find a list of trees that grow well in this area?

The City of Sacramento maintains a list of trees that are suitable for use as street trees. This list is located on the Urban Forestry main page. The City of Sacramento also maintains a list of trees that are suitable for use as parking lot shade trees, which can also be found on the Urban Forestry main page. The Sacramento Tree Foundation maintains a list of the trees that grow well in our area on their website. The Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute also maintains a large tree data base. Trees can be researched based on attributes or species. Detailed information about growing rates, size, planter space requirements, and undesirable tendencies are included.