Most Los Gatans know that you cannot just remove any tree you like in town – some older and larger trees are protected, and some are deemed so important as to be known as heritage trees.
Did you know that the protections extend to pruning certain trees, and not just removing them?
Not all trees are protected, and not all pruning is prohibited.
- At what point is it required to get permits to prune or remove a tree in Los Gatos?
- How old and how large do they have to be to need a permit for pruning (let alone removing) them?
I was surprised at the answers, so thought I’d share some of the highlights of them here. If you’d like to just jump to the town’s document, here it is: Town of Los Gatos Parks and Public Works Tree Removal and Pruning Permit
The town’s info all uses the diameter of the tree’s trunk at 4.5′ above grade, but I think it’s easier to measure the circumference. Jim, my better half and a guy who thinks math problems are recreation, reminded me that you can learn the circumference of a circle simply by multiplying the diameter by pi, or 3.12 (appx!).
The town has three categories, protected, large protected, and heritage.
What is a protected tree in Los Gatos?
Protected trees are classified as such by meeting any of a variety of criteria: diameter of trunk at 4.5′ above natural grade, type of tree, or some combination of the two of them together with the type of location in town.
In addition to the criteria, there are a few exceptions, such as fruit or nut trees up to 18″ in diameter, or a short list of others up to 24″ in diameter, including most palm trees.
A protected tree may be as small as 4″ diameter (appx 9″ circumference) on vacant or non-residential property.
For residential lots which are developed (a home exists on the property), all trees which have a 12″ or greater diameter (less exceptions). For the developed hillside areas (see the map for the designated Town of Los Gatos residential hillside areas), it’s just an 8″ diameter (about 24-25″).
There are additional criteria, and specific trees named in the town’s document, including some oaks, buckeye, and madrone. And, as you’d expect, if there’s a development review or related requirement from the town, there are other requirements, too.
Protected trees need permits to be removed OR to be pruned by more than 25% over 3 years
What is a large protected tree?
A large protected tree has a diameter of 48 inches or more, or could also be an Oak, California Buckeye, or Pacific Madrone with a diameter of 24 inches or more.
What is a heritage tree?
A heritage tree is “specifically designated by action of the Town Council which possesses exceptional aesthetic, biological, cultural, or historic value to the community”(quote from the link above).
Permits are needed to remove or cut any branch or root greater than 4 inches in diameter of any Large Protected Tree or Heritage Tree
These are just the highlights – if you are thinking of doing major pruning or removal of a tree in Los Gatos, please read this document thoroughly, and if in down, check with the town:
Town of Los Gatos Parks and Public Works Tree Removal and Pruning Permit
Trees, Branches, and Property Lines in Silicon Valley (older post on my Valley of Heart’s Delight blog)