Tree Removal & Preservation

Tree Preservation Ordinance

Trees play a significant role in the desirability of Santa Rosa as a place to live, work, and play. Toward that end the City Council adopted a Tree Ordinance on October 2, 1990, regulating the removal of large and/or significant trees. Following are common questions and answers regarding this ordinance and tree preservation in Santa Rosa.

Heritage Trees

A heritage tree is a tree or grove of trees designated by the Planning Commission as having a special significance requiring review before removal may be permitted.

The following trees are native to Sonoma County and are considered heritage trees when their diameter or circumference is of a size specified in the ordinance:

  • Bay
  • Big Leaf Maple
  • Black Oak
  • Blue Oak
  • Buckeye
  • Canyon Oak
  • Douglas Fir
  • Interior Live Oak
  • Live Oak
  • Madrone
  • Oregon or White Oak
  • Red Alder
  • Redwood
  • Valley Oak
  • White Alder


A permit is required to remove/alter heritage trees in all zoning districts. Non-heritage trees which are four inches or greater in diameter require a permit except in the following zones:

  • R-1
  • R-1-6
  • R-1-7.5
  • R-1-9
  • PRD
  • R-1-PD (unless the specific PD policy requires compliance with the tree ordinance, for example, the Junior College PD) if the property is incapable of being further subdivided. (It may also be exempt if further subdivision is determined unlikely by the Director of Community Development.)

On Undeveloped Property
Permits are required for removal, alteration or relocation of all trees with a 4" or greater diameter in all zoning districts where development is being proposed or may occur in the future.

Additional Requirements in the Scenic Road (-SR) combining district:
Tree removal. The following requirements apply in addition to those in Municipal Code Chapter 17-24 (Trees).

1. Existing developed parcels within 50 feet of a scenic road. A Tree Removal Permit is required prior to the removal of any tree, including an exempt tree. Prior to the approval of a Tree Removal Permit, the applicant shall demonstrate that the removal of the tree will not have a negative impact on the scenic quality of the corridor, or that the tree is a hazard and/or unhealthy as determined by the Director. If the Director cannot determine whether the tree is a hazard or the health of the tree, the applicant shall hire an arborist to make the determination.

2. Tree removal for new development within 100 feet of a scenic road. Special care shall be taken to preserve the maximum number of trees possible, including exempt trees. Prior to the approval of a project the applicant shall demonstrate that each tree proposed for removal shall not have a negative impact on the scenic quality of the corridor, or that the tree is a hazard or unhealthy, as determined by a certified arborist.

Protected Tree
 A protected tree is any tree, including a Heritage tree, indicated to be preserved on an approved development plan, an approved tentative map or tentative parcel map, or other approved development.
Exempt Trees
The following trees are exempt from permit requirements in all zoning districts, whether the parcel is developed or not:

  • Acacias
  • Ailanthus
  • Fruit and nut trees (except walnuts)
  • Fruitless mulberry
  • Hawthorn
  • Ligustrums
  • Monterey cypress
  • Monterey pine
  • Poplars
  • Pyracantha
  • Silver maple

Street Trees

Both planting and removal of street trees are addressed in the ordinance. Street tree planting must comply with the City’s street tree list as specified by the City Parks Department. Street tree removal requires a permit from the City Parks Department.

Penalties for Violations of the Tree Ordinance

Both civil fines and / or criminal penalties may apply. Please view the Tree Ordinance for details.

Replacement Requirements

Replacement trees may be required under specific conditions. Please view the Tree Ordinance for details.

Apply for a Permit

Before applying for a permit, please note that civil fines and penalties may apply for removal of a tree without a permit. In addition, replacement trees may be required under specific conditions.

Submit an Application

To submit your application:

  1. Review the above information.
  2. Review and complete the Tree Permit Application.
  3. Submit using instructions in Step 3 on the Planning Application Portal.