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The Cupertino City Council recently passed an ordinance amending the rules on tree removal in the city, Matt Wilson of the San Jose Mercury News reports.

New tree ordinance gives residents more options

The resident or applicant has the option of paying an in-lieu fee only in cases where planting replacement trees is deemed infeasible by a professional arborist, according to the Nov. 18 city staff report.


The ordinance has been updated to allow the applicant and property owner the option of planting the replacement tree or paying an in-lieu fee at 1.5 times the cost of planting the replacement tree.

The Council is expected to meet again sometime soon regarding the protected status of the Bay Laurel tree. This species of trees is vulnerable to an oak killer known as the anthracnose fungus, identifiable by the growth of brown or black tarlike spots on leaves. It thrives on moist climate, which the Bay Area’s maritime geographic position provides.

The old municipal code prohibited protected trees from being felled without a permit, which could be granted only on condition that the felled tree be replaced with one of similar size and value. This is to mitigate the effects of flood and high winds, as well as preserve Cupertino’s beauty. Trees less than a foot in diameter are fair game. The ordinance places 11 species of trees under protected status, including Valley oak, Blue oak, California buckeye, and Deodar cedar.

The same ordinance also places heritage trees, or those with enough historical significance, under protection. The towering California fan palms along Palm Avenue are examples of heritage trees. The trees belonged to a winemaker in the late 19th century, which helped put Cupertino on the map for its agrarian past.

The ordinance allows residents the choice of replacing felled trees, or paying an in-lieu fee if planting a replacement is not feasible. The findings of a certified arborist, like one from a San Jose tree removal company that also serves the Cupertino area, are needed to justify non-replacement and paying the in-lieu fee. The latest change will raise the fee from the equivalent labor cost of replacing the tree, to 1.5 times this cost.

Illegal tree removal is a misdemeanor in Cupertino, and the penalty for such an offense can be a fine of no more than $1,000, imprisonment of no longer than six months, or both. If you are unsure if you can legally cut down a tree in your property, it would be best to check with a San Jose tree service like Bay Area Tree Specialists. The professionals can also perform the felling, if warranted, for safety purposes.

(Source: Cupertino: New tree ordinance gives residents more options, San Jose Mercury News, November 24, 2014)