Inter-Departmental Correspondence

Department of Public Works



August 30, 2005


September 13, 2005







Honorable Board of Supervisors


Neil R. Cullen, Director of Public Works


Ordinance Repealing Chapter 3.92, Street Trees, of the San Mateo County Ordinance Code



Adopt an ordinance repealing Chapter 3.92 of the San Mateo County Ordinance Code.

Vision Alignment

Commitment: Responsive, effective and collaborative government.

Goal 20: Government decisions are based on careful consideration of future impact, rather than temporary relief or gain.


Your Board repealing Chapter 3.92 will eliminate the ordinance code sections relating to the cutting of trees on public highways and in public places, that were enacted in 1900 and which are not consistent with other statues, practices and polices that have been enacted since that time.



Previous Board Action

Adopted Ordinance No. 162, the predecessor to Chapter 3.92 of the current Ordinance Code, on April 2, 1900, which requires the written permission of the Board member before a tree located in the Board member’s district and adjacent to a public highway or in a public place, can be trimmed or removed.


Adopted Ordinance No. 2427 in 1977 regulating the removal and trimming of heritage trees on public and private property.


Adopted Ordinance No. 2428 in 1977, regulating the removal of significant trees on public and private property, and amended the Ordinance in 1990 to include requiring a permit for the trimming of significant trees in certain residential zoning districts.



We are not aware of the reason the predecessor ordinance to Chapter 3.92 was enacted in 1900. However, the State of California Streets and Highways Code was enacted in 1935 and included provisions for the identification of roads maintained by a county, the maintenance of county roads and the removal of encroachments that are traffic hazards, and the removal of obstructions that fall on county roads including trees or tree branches.


Your Board also adopted ordinances as explained previously which requires a review and permit from the Planning Division of the Environmental Services Agency before trimming or removing significant or heritage trees in the unincorporated area.



We are recommending that Chapter 3.92 be repealed in order to eliminate any conflicts with the State statues and County ordinances that were enacted after 1900. County Counsel and the staff of Public Works are currently reviewing procedures and policies with regards to our trimming and removing trees within road easements and rights-of-way of County maintained roads, and County Counsel and staff of the Planning Division of the Environmental Services Agency are also reviewing the heritage and significant tree ordinances as they were enacted over 25 years ago.


We anticipate returning to your Board with a policy on the County's responsibility for the trimming and removing of trees in public easements, and with revisions in the Ordinance Code sections to more clearly address the need for replacement trees and their maintenance.


An ordinance has been approved as to form by County Counsel.


Fiscal Impact

There is no direct cost associated with your Board repealing Chapter 3.92 of the Ordinance Code. The cost of the staff time involved in evaluating, developing and revising the other ordinance code sections will be born by the respective departments and will be financed from their respective budgets. There is no additional cost to the General Fund.