Oak Tree Removal Laws in California

The state of California bans the removal of certain native trees, including oak trees. Oak trees existed in the state during ancient times, according to the city of Los Angeles, and were used by Native Americans and Spaniards living in the area. Homeowners have the right to remove trees that pose a health or safety risk, but they must petition the city before removing the tree.

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California law protects native trees, including oak trees.

Tree Ordinances

Several cities have codes and ordinances that prohibit the removal of oak trees. In Berkeley, Ordinance 6321-N.S. states that no oak tree with a minimum circumference of 18 inches can be cut down, if the tree is a single-stem variety. The multistem varieties cannot be cut down or removed if the tree is at least 4 feet tall and 26 inches around. Los Angeles County and the city of Pasadena both have similar ordinances in place to protect native oak trees.

Appeals Process

If a homeowner feels that an oak tree poses a potential risk, then that individual has the right to petition the city and request the tree's removal. For example, the city manager in Berkley has the right to determine that an oak tree's limbs or branches may endanger lives and order the tree removed. The homeowner must discuss the oak tree with the city manager of her city before removing or pruning an oak tree on her property, especially if the tree is of a larger size.

Local Ordinances

Los Angeles County has an oak tree ordinance in place that protects larger oak trees within county limits. Section 46.000 LAMC prohibits the removal of oak trees with trunks that are 8 inches in diameter, provided that the trees sit on 1 acre or more of land. A homeowner who owns property of at least 1 acre cannot legally remove oak trees. Los Angeles Ordinance 167.494 protects any oak tree growing within half a mile of Mulholland Drive.

Oak Tree Removal Permit

Depending on where the homeowner resides, the city may allow the individual to prune or remove trees, but an oak tree removal permit is required. Rocklin, California, requires a permit to remove oak trees that are at least 4-½ feet tall, with a diameter of more than 6 inches. The homeowner does not need a permit for oak trees smaller than those dimensions. The city allows property owners to pay for the cost of the tree removal by planting a new oak tree or giving money to a predetermined fund.