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Heritage Tree Ordinance

Chapter 9.56*
Preservation of Heritage Trees and Heritage Shrubs

*Editor's Note: Prior ordinances codified herein include portions of Ords. 76-43 and 89-06.

Sections:
9.56.010 Definitions.
9.56.020 Director powers and duties.
9.56.030 Commission Powers and Duties
9.56.040 Heritage tree and heritage shrub designation.
9.56.050 Protection of heritage trees and heritage shrubs.
9.56.060 Permits Required for Work Significantly Affecting Heritage Trees and/or Heritage Shrubs
9.56.070 Right of Appeal
9.56.080 Emergencies
9.56.090 State Tree Care License Required
9.56.100 Mitigation requirements for approved and unapproved removals of heritage trees or heritage shrubs.
9.56.110 Penalty provision.

 

9.56.010 Definitions
For the purpose of this chapter, the following words shall have the meaning ascribed to them in this section:

(a) "City" shall mean the city of Santa Cruz, acting by and through its authorized representatives.
(b) "Commission" shall mean the city of Santa Cruz parks and recreation commission.
(c) "Council" shall mean the city council of the city of Santa Cruz.
(d) "Damage" shall mean any action undertaken which alters the existing state of any heritage tree or heritage shrub in any way. This shall include, but is not limited to, the cutting, topping, girdling, or poisoning of any heritage tree or heritage shrub, any trenching or excavating near any heritage tree or shrub, or any action which may cause death, destruction or injury to any heritage tree or heritage shrub, or which places any heritage tree or heritage shrub in a hazardous condition or in an irreversible state of decline.
(e) "Department" shall mean the city of Santa Cruz parks and recreation department.
(f) "Director" shall mean the director of parks and recreation of the city of Santa Cruz, or his/her designee.
(g) "Heritage shrub" shall mean any perennial woody plant or group of woody plants growing on public or private property, of relatively low height, distinguished from a tree by height and by having several stems, and meeting criteria set forth in Section 9.56.040 of this chapter.
(h) "Heritage tree" shall mean any perennial plant or grove of perennial plants growing on public or private property, having a self-supporting woody main stem or trunk usually characterized by the ability to grow to considerable height and size and the development of woody branches at some distance above the ground, and meeting criteria set forth in Section 9.56.040 of this chapter. "Heritage tree" shall not include trees planted for agricultural crops such as fruit or nut trees.
(i) "Owner" shall mean the owner of real property as shown on the most recent county assessor's roll.
(j) "Person" shall mean any individual, firm, business, partnership, association, public utility, corporation, legal entity, and/or agent, employee or representative thereof.
(k) "Private property" shall mean all property within the boundaries of the city of Santa Cruz, as shown on the most recent county assessor's roll to be owned by persons, firms or corporations other than the city of Santa Cruz or another public agency.
(l) "Prune" shall mean the cutting, trimming, detaching, separating or removing of any part of a heritage tree or heritage shrub.
(m) "Public property" shall include all property owned by any governmental agency, except those legally exempt from this chapter, within the boundaries of the city of Santa Cruz including those noncontiguous areas incorporated by the city of Santa Cruz.
(n) "Removal" shall mean the physical removal of any heritage tree or heritage shrub, or causing the death or destruction of any heritage tree or heritage shrub, through damaging, poisoning or other direct or indirect action.
(o) "Significant work" shall mean the pruning, root pruning, trimming, cutting off, removal or any action altering the physical structure or condition of any heritage tree or heritage shrub.
(p) "State tree care license" shall mean either a specialty license for performing tree maintenance on trees over fifteen feet tall, or a landscape contractor's license, both issued by the state of California.
(q) "Urban forest" shall mean a tree or group of trees, or shrub or group of shrubs, including but not limited to street trees, growing on public or private property within the city limits of the city of Santa Cruz.
(r) "Utility" shall mean a public utility or private utility and includes any pipeline corporation, gas corporation, electrical corporation, telephone, telegraph or other communications corporation, water corporation, sewer system or heat corporation the services of which are performed for, or the commodity delivered to, the general public or any portion thereof.
(Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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9.56.020 Director Powers and Duties
The director of parks and recreation shall be responsible for administering and enforcing this chapter. The director shall have the following powers and duties:

(a) Grant or deny permit applications pursuant to Section 9.56.060, except in the coastal zone, where the zoning administrator shall determine the disposition of applications pursuant to Title 24, the Zoning Ordinance;
(b) Provide technical information to assist owners in maintaining heritage trees and heritage shrubs on private property;
(c) Abate public nuisances pursuant to Chapter 13.30 of the city of Santa Cruz Municipal Code;
(d) Review all development and construction plans for the purpose of determining their negative impact on the urban forest;
(e) Order the alteration or removal of hazardous trees and shrubs when they are found to pose a threat to other trees or shrubs or to the community in general, pursuant to the criteria and standards adopted by city council resolution;
(f) Make recommendations to the parks and recreation commission pertaining to the management of the city's urban forest;
(g) Determine mitigation requirements for approved and unapproved alterations, damage or removals of heritage trees or heritage shrubs pursuant to the mitigation requirements established by city council resolution.
(Ord. 95-30 § 1, 1995: Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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9.56.030 Commission Powers and Duties
The Parks and Recreation Commission shall have the following powers and duties:

(a) Make recommendations to the city council concerning policies, programs and decisions relating to the city's urban forest;
(b) Grant or deny permit applications on appeal pursuant to Section 9.56.070 of this chapter.
(Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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9.56.040 Heritage Tree and Heritage Shrub Designation
Any tree, grove of trees, shrub or group of shrubs, growing on public or private property within the city limits of the city of Santa Cruz which meet(s) the following criteria shall have the "heritage" designation:

(a) Any tree which has a trunk with a circumference of forty-four inches (approximately fourteen inches in diameter or more), measured at fifty-four inches above existing grade;
(b) Any tree, grove of trees, shrub or group of shrubs which have historical significance, including but not limited to those which were/are:


(1) Planted as a commemorative;
(2) Planted during a particularly significant historical era; or
(3) Marking the spot of an historical event.


(c) Any tree, grove of trees, shrub or group of shrubs which have horticultural significance, including but not limited to those which are:


(1) Unusually beautiful or distinctive;
(2) Old (determined by comparing the age of the tree or shrub in question with other trees or shrubs of its species within the city);
(3) Distinctive specimen in size or structure for its species (determined by comparing the tree or shrub to average trees and shrubs of its species within the city);
(4) A rare or unusual species for the Santa Cruz area (to be determined by the number of similar trees of the same species within the city);
(5) Providing a valuable habitat; or
(6) Identified by the city council as having significant arboricultural value to the citizens of the city.


(Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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9.56.050 Protection of Heritage Trees and Heritage Shrubs
No person shall allow to exist any condition, including but not limited to any one of the following conditions, which may be harmful to any heritage tree or heritage shrub:

(a) Existence of any tree or shrub, heritage or otherwise, within the city limits that is irretrievably infested or infected with insects, scale or disease detrimental to the health of any heritage tree or heritage shrub;
(b) Filling up the ground area around any heritage tree or heritage shrub so as to shut off air, light or water from its roots;
(c) Piling building materials, parking equipment and/or pouring any substance which may be detrimental to the health of any heritage tree or heritage shrub;
(d) Posting any sign, poster, notice or similar device on any heritage tree or heritage shrub;
(e) Driving metal stakes into the heritage tree, heritage shrub, or their root area for any purpose other than supporting the heritage tree or heritage shrub;
(f) Causing a fire to burn near any heritage tree or heritage shrub.
(Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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9.56.060 Permits Required for Work Significantly Affecting Heritage Trees and/or Heritage Shrubs
(a) No person shall prune, trim, cut off, or perform any work, on a single occasion or cumulatively, over a three-year period, affecting twenty-five percent or more of the crown of any heritage tree or heritage shrub without first obtaining a permit pursuant to this section. No person shall root prune, relocate or remove any heritage tree or heritage shrub without first obtaining a permit pursuant to this section.
(b) All persons, utilities and any department or agency located in the city of Santa Cruz shall submit a permit application, together with the appropriate fee as set forth by city council resolution, to the department prior to performing any work requiring a permit as set forth in subsection (a) of this section. The permit application shall include the number, species, size, and location of each subject heritage tree or heritage shrub, and shall clearly describe the scope of work being proposed and the reason for the requested action. Any supplemental reports which may be submitted by the applicant and staff are advisory only and shall not be deemed conclusive or binding on the director's findings.
(c) An authorized representative of the department shall inspect the tree or shrub which is the subject of the application. Pursuant to that inspection, the authorized representative shall file with the director written findings.
(d) If, upon said inspection, it is determined that the tree or shrub which is the subject of the permit application meets none of the criteria set forth in Section 9.56.040, no further action on the part of the director or the permit applicant is necessary.
(e) If the tree or shrub which is the subject of the permit application meets any of the criteria set forth in Section 9.56.040 based upon a review of the permit application and the inspection report, then the director shall make findings of fact upon which he/she shall grant the permit, conditionally grant the permit specifying mitigation requirements, deny the permit or allow a portion of the proposed work outlined in the permit application to be done.
(f) Where three or more heritage trees or three or more heritage shrubs are the subject of any proposed work to be performed, the director shall require that the applicant sign an agreement for preparation and submission of a consulting arborist report. As part of said agreement, the applicant shall be required to deposit with the department an amount of money equal to the estimated cost of preparing the report, as contained in said agreement.
(g) The decision of the director shall be final unless appealed to the commission by the permit applicant or any other aggrieved person pursuant to Section 9.56.070.
(h) The director shall issue any permit granted pursuant to this section, which permit shall be conspicuously posted near the subject(s) of the permit.
(i) Unless appealed, the permit shall take effect ten calendar days after it is issued, except where the tenth day occurs on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, in which case the effective date shall be extended to the next following business day.
(j) All work performed on any designated heritage tree or heritage shrub pursuant to a permit as provided in this section shall be completed within forty-five days from the effective date of the permit, or within such longer period as the director may specify.
(k) There shall be no fees or costs charged for permits which are limited in scope to the maintenance and repair work specified by Sections 13.30.060(b) and 15.20.210(c) of this code.
(Ord. 94-60 § 1, 1995: Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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9.56.070 Right of Appeal

(a) Decision or Action of Director. Any person, public agency or utility aggrieved or affected by any decision or action taken pursuant to the authority of this chapter by the director may appeal that decision or action to the commission according to the following rules and regulations:


(1) A written notice of appeal, together with the appropriate fee as set forth by city council resolution, must be received by the secretary of the commission not later than ten calendar days following the date of the decision or action from which such appeal is being taken. If the final day for filing an appeal occurs on a weekend day or holiday, the final filing date shall be extended to the next following business day.
(2) The appellant shall state the basis for the appeal and shall specifically cite which provision of this chapter is relied upon to support the appellant's contention that the director of parks and recreation acted in error. Any reports which may be submitted by the applicant, appellant or staff are advisory only and shall not be deemed conclusive or binding on the commission's findings. The appeal must be signed by the appellant or appellant's representative, and must set forth the mailing address to which the secretary of the commission may direct notice of a hearing.
(3) Upon receipt of the appeal the secretary of the commission shall schedule the matter for a public hearing at the next regularly scheduled business meeting, but not sooner than ten business days after receipt. The commission shall complete its action within thirty days from the date the matter is first scheduled for public hearing, unless appellant and appellee mutually agree to extend said thirty-day period.
(4) Notice of the public hearing shall be sent by first class mail to the permit applicant and appellant at least five calendar days prior to the meeting.
(5) Notice of the public hearing shall be conspicuously posted by the director near the heritage tree(s) or heritage shrub(s) in question, at least ten calendar days prior to the meeting.
(6) All notices shall include:


(A) The time, place and date of the public hearing;
(B) A brief description of the matter to be considered including a concise description of the heritage tree or heritage shrub in question, its location and scope of work being proposed;
(C) A brief description of the general procedure for submission of comments
(D) The date of the filing of the permit application and the name of the applicant.


(7) The commission shall make findings of fact on which it bases its action. The commission may conditionally grant the permit specifying mitigation's, deny the permit or allow a portion of the proposed work outlined in the permit application to be done.
(8) The commission shall direct the director to issue any permit granted by the commission pursuant to this section, which permit shall be conspicuously posted near the subject(s) of the permit, and maintained at the reference desk of the central branch of the Santa Cruz City/County Library.
(9) The decision of the commission shall be final unless appealed to the city council by the permit applicant or any other aggrieved person.
(10) Unless appealed, the permit shall take effect ten calendar days after it is issued, except if the tenth day occurs on a weekend day or holiday, in which case the effective date shall be extended to the next following business day.
(11) All work performed on any designated heritage shrub pursuant to a permit as provided in this section shall be completed within forty-five days from the effective date of the permit, or within such longer period as the commission may specify.


(b) Decision or Action of Commission. Any person, public agency or utility aggrieved or affected by any decision or action taken pursuant to the authority of this chapter by the commission may appeal that decision or action to the city council. All such appeals shall be made pursuant to Chapter 1.16 of the Santa Cruz Municipal Code.


(1) Members of the city council shall be exempt from the appeal fee specified in Chapter 1.16 when acting in their official capacity.
(2) The city council shall determine all questions raised on appeal pursuant to Chapter 1.16, and the decision of the city council shall be final.
(3) Permit applications denied by the city council on appeal shall not be considered for reapplication for a period of one year from the date of the city council's decision, unless:


(A) There is a significant decline in the health of the subject heritage tree or heritage shrub as certified by a licensed arborist; and
(B) Said decline in health has not been caused by the applicant or any person associated with the applicant.


(Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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9.56.080 Emergencies

In the event of an emergency whereby immediate action is required because of disease or because of danger to life or property, a heritage tree or heritage shrub may be pruned, altered or removed by order of the director, or by order of a responsible member of the police, fire or public works department. If not the director, the person ordering the pruning, alteration or removal shall file a comprehensive report immediately thereafter with the director. The director shall prepare the report if he or she orders the pruning, alteration or removal. The director shall forward copies of the report to the commission and council for their information.
(Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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9.56.090 State Tree Care License Required

(a) Except as set forth in subsection (b) of this section, no person shall perform any pruning, maintenance, care or removal of any heritage tree or heritage shrub for hire within the city limits of the city of Santa Cruz without a valid state tree care license issued by the state of California.
(b) Any person who is the owner of property in the city of Santa Cruz where a heritage tree or shrub needing pruning, maintenance, care or removal is located shall be exempted from the requirements of this section requiring a state tree care license if said owner of property intends to personally perform, and subsequently does personally perform, himself or herself said needed pruning, maintenance, care or removal of said heritage tree or shrub. Said owner shall comply with all other provisions of this chapter.
(Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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9.56.100 Mitigation Requirements for Approved and Unapproved Removals of Heritage Trees or Heritage Shrubs

(a) Any person who has obtained an approved conditional tree removal permit shall be required to mitigate said removal pursuant to the approved heritage tree and heritage shrub removal mitigation requirement chart adopted by city council resolution. Prior to commencing any work on a heritage tree(s) or heritage shrub(s) pursuant to an approved conditional tree removal permit, the applicant shall deposit with the city in cash or bond all funds required pursuant to the approved heritage tree and heritage shrub removal mitigation requirement chart.
(b) Any person who alters, damages, destroys or removes any heritage tree or heritage shrub on public or private property without an approved permit issued pursuant to this chapter shall be liable to the city for the cost of replacement of said heritage tree or shrub pursuant to the unapproved heritage tree and heritage shrub alteration, damage or removal mitigation requirement chart adopted by city council resolution. In addition, all violations are subject to the penalties prescribed by Section 9.56.110 of this chapter.
(Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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9.56.110 Penalty Provision

Any person who personally, or through an agent, employee or representative, violates any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a separate offense for each and every act constituting a violation of this chapter. The city attorney shall have the discretion to prosecute any violation of this chapter as either a misdemeanor or an infraction punishable by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars for a first offense and in doubling increments for each successive offense. Each person is guilty of a separate offense for each and every day during any portion of which such violation is committed, continued or permitted by such person and shall be punished accordingly. In addition, the damage, destruction or removal of any heritage tree or heritage shrub without a permit issued pursuant to this chapter shall render the owner and/or person performing the work liable for the damages set forth in Section 9.56.100(b) of this chapter. The remedies and penalties provided for herein shall be in addition to any other remedies and penalties provided by law, including the remedies and penalties provided for in Chapter 1.08 of the Municipal Code.
(Ord. 94-01 § 2, 1994).
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Last updated: 11/10/2009 8:28:52 AM