Private Protected Tree FAQ

Private Protected Trees

Where do I get the protected tree removal permit application?
Click here for the Private Protected Tree removal online form. There is a $107 application fee. Additionally, two pictures and a schematic of the tree's location need to accompany the application. The City Arborist then inspects the tree and determines if removal is appropriate. If the tree is still healthy and structurally sound, the application is generally denied. Upon denial, the applicant is also informed that they may appeal the decision to the Beautification Commission.
What is the definition of a private protected tree?
A private protected tree is a tree with a trunk circumference of 48" or more measured 54" above ground.
Why doesn't the City Arborist do a full arborist report when inspecting a private tree for removal?
City employees are not allowed to perform work on private property. The City Arborist only performs a visual inspection and reviews submitted documentation to determine if a permit is approved or denied.
What qualifications does the City Arborist have?
The City Arborist must possess a Certified Arborist license issued by the International Society of Arboriculture and complete continuing education hours to remain certified. The Arborist should also possess an ISA Qualified Tree Risk Assessor certificate.
Why would the City Arborist require additional information?
Additional information is regularly required to aid the City Arborist in making a decision. An independent arborist report is often requested since the City arborist cannot perform work on private trees. This report is used to identify structural and/or health issues that are not always noticeable during the visual inspection.

A structural engineer’s report is required to aid the City Arborist in identifying structural issues with existing buildings in proximity to the tree in question. Although the Arborist can identify cracks in a foundation, the arborist is not trained in engineering and this report can give a better understanding of the forces and damage a tree is doing or may do to a structure.

The permit may be pending/denied until additional information from these reports is submitted to the City for review. These reports are used to support the City Arborist’s findings.

What qualifications do the independent arborist and/or structural engineer need in order for the report to be accepted by the City?
Both the independent arborist and structural engineer must be licensed in their field, and in good standing.
What information needs to be in the report from the independent arborist and/or structural engineer?

Typically an independent arborist report would include the health and structure of a tree, specifically identifying any diseases or structural issues with the tree that could make the tree hazardous. The report should include:

  • Observations of the tree and surrounding area.
  • Identification of any analysis or testing that was done.
  • Discussion of the observation and testing used to make judgements and support conclusions.
  • Conclusions based on the discussion and facts gathered from the evaluation.
  • Recommendation actions that need to be taken based on the conclusion.
  • Supporting information or any material (pictures, maps, literature, etc.) to support the conclusion(s).

The structural engineer’s report should identify:

  • What specific tree if any is causing damage.
  • Each particular defect with the structure related to the tree.
  • Pictures, documents, and literature.
  • Suggested actions that can be taken to mitigate the damage.

Having an independent arborist report and structural engineer’s report does not guarantee the permit will be approved. Often independent arborist reports are done by companies looking for work and structural engineer’s reports can be vague. The City Arborist’s job is to review these reports and determine if the reports are sound and if the recommendations are appropriate.

What are the property owner's options if a permit is denied?
The property owner can provide additional documentation to support removal or appeal the City Arborist’s decision to the Beautification Commission. See below or click here for the process.

Any person may appeal the decision of the director to the commission by filing an appeal in writing with the director no later than 5:00 p.m. of the tenth calendar day after the decision. The director shall set the matter for review by the commission at its next regular meeting and provide notice by mail of the commission hearing to the appellant and applicant at least five (5) days prior thereto.

The determination of the commission shall become final and conclusive in ten (10) days if no appeal is filed. Destruction, removal or other work on a protected tree shall not commence until after the ten (10)-day period has passed, or, if any appeal is filed, until the decision of the city council. During the period between the action of the commission and the end of the ten (10)-day appeal period, any person may appeal such action to the city council. Such appeal shall be in writing and shall be filed with the city clerk. During the same period the city council, on its own motion, may suspend the order of the commission for the purpose of reviewing the action of the commission. A permit shall be valid for six (6) months after the date it is issued. Under exceptional circumstances, the director may issue one six (6)-month extension. (Ord. 1470 § 1, (1992); Ord. 1598 § 1, (1998))

What happens if a neighbor appeals the Arborist's decision to remove a tree?
The application goes before the Beautification Commission for determination. Click here for the process.
How does the appeal process work?

To appeal the Arborist’s decision on a private tree removal, a letter or email stating the reasons for the appeal need to be sent to the Parks Division Office at 850 Burlingame Avenue or emailed to the Parks Administrative Assistant within 10 days of the Arborist’s decision. The appeal will be placed on a Beautification Commission agenda. The appeal and supporting documentation needs to be received by City staff at least 7 business days prior to the meeting. The Beautification Commission meets on the first Thursday of every month at 6:30pm at the Burlingame Recreation Center, 850 Burlingame Ave.
Notices are sent to all surrounding property owners that the tree in question will have a public hearing before the Commission. The Commission then holds the hearing and makes a ruling.
If you are not in agreement with the Beautification Commission’s decision, it can be appealed to the City Council. A letter or email stating the reasons for the appeal must be received by the City Clerk within 10 days of the Beautification Commission’s decision. A Noticing fee of $120.00 and an Appeal fee of $527.00 need to be included with the appeal request (current fees can be found in the City’s Master Fee Schedule) and checks should be made payable to the City of Burlingame. The appeal will be placed on the City Council agenda for determination.

What are the guidelines for removing a Private Protected Tree in Burlingame?
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