Important Information About Trees
in the City of Burlingame
Burlingame is proud of its designation as a “TREE CITY USA.” One of the reasons for this continuing honor is an active Street Tree program. Please familiarize yourself with the rules that govern Burlingame’s Street Trees, their care and their maintenance.
City Street Trees
Many trees growing in Burlingame are City-owned trees and are maintained by the City. Street Trees are trees that grow in the public right-of-way. In most areas, this right-of-way is located between sidewalk and street. Where no planting strips exists, City right-of-way generally extends five feet behind the sidewalk. The width of public right-of-way varies widely from the street to street and homeowners should check deeds to determine how much right-of-way is located in front of their home.
Residents may not cut or trim on City trees in the City right-of-way. Work on City trees is handled by City tree crews, City-hired contractors or PG&E. Trees located on El Camino Real, a state Highway, are owned and maintained by the State Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The City of Burlingame has no control over State highways and does not maintain the highway nor the trees that line the roadway. Many of the trees along California Drive, adjacent to the railroad tracks, are owned and maintained by the City of San Francisco or CalTrain. Some trees along the tracks are owned and maintained by Burlingame.
“It is unlawful for any person to cut down, trim, prune, plant, remove or injure or destroy any tree, shrub or plant in or upon any street or public place in the City without a permit therefore from the [Parks & Recreation] Director.” Violators of this section are subject to fine and fines can be substantial.
The terms street or public place above refer to the City owned right-of-way. Trees planted in the planter strip between the sidewalk and street are owned by the City and are City Street Trees. Trees planted in a yard that has no planter strip are probably in the City right-of-way if they are within five feet of the sidewalk. (Check your deed or other documents. The exact distance of the right-of-way behind your curb may vary from place to place.)
Do not trim, prune, cut or damage a City tree. It could be expensive. What can you do to deal with a problem City tree? Call the Parks Division at 558-7330 and report the problem. In emergency situations, City crews will respond 24 hours a day. In non-emergency situations, a City staff member will inspect the tree as soon as possible, usually within 3 days. You will be told what the City will do to the City tree.
Do not remove a City tree. The resulting fine and fees will be expensive. If you are unhappy with your landscaping, if you wish to remodel, or if you have any special interest in having your City Street Tree considered for removal, call the Parks Division at 558-7330 and ask for an appointment to meet with the City Arborist. The City Arborist will review your situation and discuss your options with you.
Do not prune any root over 2” in diameter on a City Street Tree. Severe root pruning can be detrimental to the health of the tree. Call 558-7330 to set up an appointment with the City Arborist.
Do not plant any tree in the City’s right-of-way. Every single family parcel is entitled to one street tree, provided by the City at no charge. If you wish to have another City Street Tree planted, call 558-7330. An appointment will be made for you with the City Arborist to discuss tree options and locations. If it is agreed that another street tree is appropriate at your location, you will be required to purchase the tree and the City tree crew will plant it and maintain it at no cost to you in the future.
Do water your Street Tree. The City does not have the staff or equipment to water 11,000+ street trees and so residents or their gardeners are asked to water City trees on a regular basis during the dry season of the year. Please use care not to over-water or “drown” the tree.
Do call the Parks Division if you observe a City Street Tree with a problem. The Parks Division telephone number is 558-7330.
The City’s Beautification Commission is charged with making recommendation to City Staff and the City Council regarding street tree rules and City tree policies. The Commission may also serve as an appeals board if you have a dispute or disagreement about your City tree. Call 558-7330 for more information.