Types of ordinances
In 1990, we conducted a study of city and county tree ordinances in
California (Bernhardt and Swiecki 1991). We
reviewed 159 enacted city tree ordinances and 9 enacted county ordinances
in addition to a small number of proposed ordinances. This sample represented
about 50% of the city tree ordinances and 80% of the county tree ordinances
in effect in California at that time.
For the purposes of our review, we grouped tree ordinances into three
Street tree ordinances primarily cover the planting and removal
of trees within public rights-of-way. They often contain provisions governing
maintenance or removal of private trees which pose a hazard to the traveling
public. Also included in this category are ordinances with tree planting
requirements, such as those requiring tree planting in parking lots.
Tree protection ordinances are primarily directed at providing protection
for native trees or trees with historical significance. They usually require
that a permit be obtained before protected trees can be removed, encroached
upon, or in some cases, pruned.
View ordinances are designed to help resolve conflicts between property
owners that result when trees block views or sunlight.
Among California cities, street tree ordinances were more common than tree
protection ordinances, although many city ordinances include elements of
both. County tree ordinances were most commonly tree protection ordinances,
and most of these regulated tree removal on private property. View ordinances
were relatively uncommon. We received view ordinances from only four cities
and one county. Most of these were "self-enforcing", that is, they set
forth a procedure through which private parties could resolve conflicts
without direct intervention by the city or county.
Although other types of ordinances, such as grading ordinances, may
be related to trees and other vegetation, our discussion will be limited
to these three categories, which encompass the overwhelming majority of
all tree-related local ordinances.