Urban Forestry Permits: Questions and Answers

 

Question: What types of permits does SDOT Urban Forestry issue?

 Answer: We issue tree planting, pruning, and removal permits.

 Question: Why are permits required for right-of-way tree work? 

 Answer: SDOT Urban Forestry is charged with stewardship of urban forest within the right-of-way; permits enable us to work with adjacent property owners to properly manage trees growing in public places.  Permits also help us to maintain safe rights-of-way, as tree work can involve large equipment operating over streets and sidewalks. We make sure that qualified companies are doing this work to protect people and property in the right-of-way.  Improper tree work, such as topping (which is not permitted), can result in decayed, unsafe trees.  Planting permits ensure that appropriate species are planted for the site.  When large trees are planted under overhead wires or in narrow spaces, they may damage infrastructure and increase future maintenance costs.    

 Question: Do I have to pay for an urban forestry permit?

 Answer:  To encourage proper tree care and tree planting, SDOT Urban Forestry waives almost all fees for tree pruning and removal permits.  When charged, the fee for tree removal or pruning permit is $146.  A permit is not required to prune branches under 3” in diameter, although it is required for any tree removal.  Permit fees are always waived for planting, minor pruning, and removal without major equipment.  When we receive a permit application, we inspect the tree or planting site to ensure that appropriate species are proposed for the planting site, proposed pruning is appropriate, and only trees in poor or hazardous condition are removed. 

Fees are only required to use equipment in the right-of-way, such as a bucket truck, chipper, or crane, or to close a lane or street.  Even these fees are waived if the tree company has an annual truck permit.  Here is a list of tree companies with annual truck permits:  http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/treecompanypermits.htm.  The annual permit allows them to operate their equipment in the city right-of-way, close a non-arterial street for up to 8 hours, or to close a lane of an arterial for up to 2 hours, using approved traffic control methods.    For major traffic diversions or work requiring longer closures, a traffic control plan is required, with fees varying based on the volume of the street, distance of street closure, and length of time for the work. 

Question: What happens if someone works on a right-of-way tree without a permit?

Answer: If an SDOT-maintained tree is improperly pruned or removed, the person who did the work can be charged up to three times the appraised value of the tree, or the value of the damage.  If a privately-maintained tree is pruned improperly or removed without a permit, a double permit fee may be charged.  If a tree is planted without a permit, and is appropriate for the site, we can issue a permit after the fact, with no fee.  If the tree is a species that is likely to damage infrastructure, block visibility, or is otherwise inappropriate for the planting site, we will require that the tree is removed from the right of way, transplanted to private property or moved to an appropriate site.