Approximate Time: 1-2 Months*
Tree Removal Permit Application
Regulations for Trimming & Removing Significant Trees
San Mateo County’s trees enhance its natural beauty and provide such environmental benefits as view enhancement, soil stabilization, wildlife habitat, and shading benefits. The County has designated trees of 12” in diameter or larger (measured at breast height) in any area of the unincorporated County, as well as trees of 6” in diameter or larger in the Residential Hillside (RH) District, as Significant Trees to prevent their indiscriminate removal. The County requires a permit for the removal of these trees and may require an arborist report to substantiate tree health or safety concerns. For most cases of tree removal, tree replacement will be required. For trimming of trees 6” in diameter or larger in the RH District, a tree trimming permit is required.
Also, according to their size as stipulated in the Heritage Tree regulations, some trees have been designated Heritage Trees, including some Oaks, Redwood, amongst other trees. The County requires a permit for the trimming or removal of these trees and may require an arborist report with the permit application for trees that may need to be trimmed or removed for tree health and safety reasons. In most cases of tree removal, tree replacement will be required.
A separate, over-the-counter process applies to the removal of protected trees that pose an “imminent hazard” to people or property. An arborist report is required to establish such a hazard in most cases. Dead trees may be removed without a permit; however, notification of County Planning Staff is highly recommended prior to tree removal.
To remove a grove of trees in the Coastal Zone, a Coastal Development Permit may be required. This permitting process does not pertain to tree removals in the Resource Management (RM) and Timber Preserve (TPZ) Zoning Districts.
Permit Exemption for Hazardous Trees. No permits required for certain tree species and locations. Learn More
An Erosion Control and/or Tree Protection Pre-Site Inspection Requirement has been instituted for construction or demolition on specific site types. Learn More
Arborist Search Databases
Note: Not all Arborists listed may be capable of providing consulting services (e.g., arborists may be Village or City Foresters, tree climbers for a municipality, or tree workers for a private firm who do not provide consulting services).
Steps in the Permit Planning Process
If a planning or zoning permit is required, it generally needs to be processed prior to application of a building or construction permit. The Planning Section of the Planning and Building Department processes these permits. When multiple permits are required (e.g., Coastal Development Permit and Design Review Permit), the longer permit processing time and higher level decision-making body would apply to the concurrent processing of associated permits. In reviewing and processing your permit application, the assigned planner will generally complete the following steps:1. Initial Application Review
The planner reviews your project to determine whether your application is complete. During this stage, the planner:
- Determines whether your project conforms with the County’s Significant Tree Ordinance and/or Heritage Tree regulations and whether any additional information is required.
- Solicits comments and recommendations from any required review agencies (relative to their regulations) and applicable homeowners associations or community groups.
2. Public Notification
A public notice is mailed to owners of property within a 100-ft. radius of the subject property.
3. Permit Decision
A staff-level decision is required.
4. Appeal Period
Once a decision is made, both you and the public can appeal most permit decisions to a higher authority within 10 business days of the decision date. Staff-level decisions can be appealed to the Planning Commission. Planning Commission decisions can be appealed to the County Board of Supervisors. A decision by the Board of Supervisors is not appealable.
Approximated Time provides an estimated duration for processing of the specified permit only and does not include processing of any appeals. It is not intended to represent an exact timeframe for a specific project, which may be more or less than the time provided. Required permits and processing times vary depending on project complexity and location. For projects requiring multiple permits (e.g., Design Review Permit and Coastal Development Permit), please use the highest of the estimated times for each required permit. These times do not include processing times for non-Planning permits which may be required for the project, such as permits from the Building Inspection Section, Department of Public Works, Environmental Health Division, sewer or water districts, or state or federal agency. To obtain an estimated processing timeframe for a specific project, please call or visit the Current Planning Section and speak with a Planner to identify the required permits and reviews for your project.
Approximated Fees provide an estimated rounded fee total based on the permit fee and other anticipated review costs of the adopted Planning Service Fee Schedule and does not represent an exact fee amount for a specific project, which may be higher or lower than the fee provided. Required permits and fees vary depending on project complexity and location. For projects requiring multiple permits (e.g., Design Review Permit and Coastal Development Permit), please use the highest of the estimated permit fees and add on the established fees of other required permits from the Planning Service Fee Schedule, to obtain an estimated fee total. Other department review fees, including those of the Geotechnical Section, Department of Public Works, Environmental Health Division, and the applicable fire department, may also apply. To obtain an estimated fee total for a specific project, please call or visit the Current Planning Section and speak with a Planner to identify the required permits and reviews for your project.
Fees based on the removal of one tree.