All living organisms have a life span, which can vary from species to species. Trees, likewise, will vary by species on how long they live. Some of the oldest living organisms on the planet, lasting thousands of years, are trees. However, an urban environment is much tougher than a pristine and protected native habitat, so the lifespan of an urban tree is usually much shorter. Many of the trees that are planted here are also far from their native environment, so they might not be ideally suited to our local climate or soils. Sometimes trees are planted in locations for which they are not well suited. In other cases, the tree is severely damaged in storms, accidents, or decay and so can become a threat to persons or property. Therefore, it is not unusual that trees need to be removed from time to time.
Tree Removal Permits
The City of San José has provisions in the Municipal Code which allow for the removal, and in most cases, the replacement of trees. The Municipal Code, approved by the City Council, regulates when permits can be issued and these rules vary if the tree is a street tree in the public right of way or is instead a tree on private property. For street trees, administered by the Department of Transportation, a permit is required to remove trees over 6’ in height. For private property trees, administered by the Department of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement, a permit is required for trees 56” or larger in trunk circumference measured at 24” above the ground. The criteria or findings in the Municipal Code determine if the permit is granted.
Illegal Tree Removal
If trees are removed without obtaining the necessary permit are done so illegally and are subject to a citation and fines against the property owner or persons involved in the illegal removal. Trees subject to removal are first posted with a notice on the tree or property before the permit is granted. To report what appears to be an illegal removal on private property contact Code Enforcement at 277-4528 during normal business hours. To report the illegal removal of street trees contact the Department of Transportation at 794-1901 during normal business hours. After those hours, contact the San Jose Police Department at 911.
Click here for permit request form