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Tree Removal and Landscaping

The latest Private Tree Regulations, Brisbane Municipal Code Chapter 12.12, became effective on November 4, 2019.  The provisions of this chapter include requirements for either notification or permitting for severe trimming or removal of trees from private property.  Note that severe trimming is removal of 50% of the foliage crown or removal of 30% of the height of the tree.  Please see the following forms for more information: 

Whether removing a tree or just trimming, consider the location of surrounding structures and utilities and it’s advisable to communicate with affected neighbors in advance.  In cases where trees are close to a property line, a private access agreement between the property owners may also need to be arranged.  

To view City approved 7-day notices and tree removal permits see the link:  Log of 7-Day Notices and Tree Removal Permits  

Contact the Community Development Department for more information at (415) 508-2120 or planning@brisbaneca.org


New landscaping and replacement landscaping requires Community Development Director review and approval of landscape plans for virtually all non-residential and multifamily residential projects, per zoning district regulations.  Generally, the review is to verify that the planting plans are appropriate to the context, utilize non-invasive plants and that plants are drought tolerant.   Additionally, any landscaping projects, including even single family homes, that meet the area threshold for either new irrigated landscape area of 500 square feet or replacement irrigated landscape area of 1,000 square feet are subject to the City’s Water Conservation in Landscaping Ordinance,  Brisbane Municipal Code Chapter 15.70.  Note that non-irrigated landscape areas are not included in the calculation of these thresholds. The following forms and technical guidance are provided to enable completion of your landscaping application: 

Where landscaping is required as part of a development application (design permit or building permit), please contact the Community Development Department regarding the integration of landscape plans with the other applicable plans.  

Additional Resources 

There are many factors to consider when installing a landscape.  The following provides a summary of some of the key factors that apply to new and replacement landscaping in Brisbane: 

  1. Consider plant selections carefully before planting them on your site.  Consider the size, form and other characteristics of the plants at maturity and how they will fit into the design intent and context of the site.  Also, consider the plant requirements and whether the site will provide for the proper soil, sun versus shade, water, etc. for the plants to thrive.
  2. If you will be hiring a landscape professional, check their qualifications and license status first.  For contractors see the http://www.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/CheckLicenseII/CheckLicense.aspx   For Landscape Architects see the https://search.dca.ca.gov/?BD=6000 
  3. Certain components of a landscape may require a building permit (ie:  retaining walls, decks, outdoor plumbing, electrical, etc.).  Check with the Building Department, at (415) 508-2120, if you have questions regarding your particular situation.
  4. Grading of more than 5 cubic yards requires a grading permit through the Public of Works Department.
  5. Avoid fire prone (pyrophytic) plants.  Also, landscape to create defensible space around structures.  See https://www.firesafesanmateo.org/resources/living-with-fire for more information. 
  6. Avoid planting potentially invasive species and remove existing invasive species from your property.  There are various sources of information on invasive plants.  One of these is the California Invasive Plant Council.  Also, refer to the handouts at the bottom of this page for further information.
  7. Use drought tolerant plants and where possible employ xeriscaping.
  8. Use mulch in planted areas to provide for an attractive and healthy landscape.  The benefits of mulch include enhancing the appearance of the landscape, reducing maintenance by suppressing weeds, improving the water retention of the soil, and for organic mulches by enhancing soil microbial activity and the presence of worms in the soil.
  9. Minimize or avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which can be detrimental to the site as well as enter the stormwater and impact the Bay. 
  10. Minimize waste through composting and recycling on-site where possible.  Note that when re-landscaping, existing materials can often be used in the new ways in the landscape.  Also, when selecting plants, choose plants that fit well in their natural form and do not require significant amounts of pruning, to both minimize the waste stream and maintenance requirements.
  11. If installing new or replacing existing impervious surfaces which would total 2,500 square feet or more, certain state Water Board stormwater requirements may apply.  For permit information for those sites that would have 2,500 square feet or more of new or replacement impervious surfaces, please review the requirements. In all instances, the use of Best Management Practices need to be employed to protect stormwater and the Bay.
  12. Bay-friendly landscaping techniques which minimize negative environmental impacts may be further explored on the Bay Friendly Landscaping & Gardening Coalition website