Trees are an important part of our landscape. They help improve water and air quality, prevent erosion, increase property values, and provide carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and natural beauty. However, balancing these benefits with a property owner’s right to develop and manage their property is an ongoing challenge.
We frequently hear from concerned residents when a neighbor cuts down trees or when trees are removed as part of a new development. The loss of large trees can be a dramatic change. However, the ability to remove trees that pose a risk to life and property or create nuisance issues such as cracked driveways is also a common concern of property owners. The City’s tree regulations aim to balance private property rights with the community’s desire to preserve trees and their inherent functions and values.
Among the goals of our tree regulations is to ensure there is no net loss of Shoreline's tree canopy coverage. One way of doing this is by regulating the rate of cutting and requiring replacement trees to be planted.
Trees in Critical Areas
If a tree of any size is in or near an area such as a stream, wetland, or steep slope, then the tree may be in a critical area or its associated buffer. These trees are protected and regulated under the City’s Critical Areas Ordinance. City review is required to determine whether these trees may be removed or pruned.
Trees of Significant Size
Outside of critical areas or buffers, the City’s tree regulations only apply to significant-sized trees on private property, unless the area cleared exceeds 3,000 square feet. Significant trees are defined as eight inches in diameter or larger for evergreen conifers, and 12 inches in diameter for other trees.
Some significant trees may be removed without a permit during a 3-year period based on property size. Property owners may remove up to three significant trees on lots up to 7,200 square feet and one additional significant tree for every 7,200 square feet of lot area. This exemption does not apply to trees 30" or more in diameter (94.2" in circumference). Removal of any significant tree requires notification of City staff.
A permit is required to remove more than the number of trees outlined above. A permit is also required for removal of trees greater than 30 inches in diameter (94.2” in circumference). Please contact Planning and Community Development prior to any tree removal or pruning activity to verify code requirements.
Trees in the Right-of-Way
Trees located in the City rights-of-way are classified as street trees and are subject to different regulations than trees on private property.
In commercial zones, tree removal is exempt unless within a critical area or buffer, or if the existing trees were included as required landscaping within the previous three years.
Pruning less than 25% of a tree’s canopy is allowed without a permit. Excessive pruning, including topping, stripping, coppicing, or creating imbalances are not allowed unless necessary to protect life and property. When a tree is located in a critical area, the pruning must be completed by a qualified arborist.
A tree that is an active threat to life or property (falling or about to fall) is allowed to be removed immediately without permit. However, documentation of the hazardous condition prior to removal, such as photos or an arborist’s evaluation, is required. Property owners should follow-up with the City after-the-fact for review to determine whether a permit and possibly replacement trees are required.
The Tree Board was established by the City Council in 2012 as part of the requirement to become a Tree City USA. The members of the PRCS Board also serve as the Tree Board. This Board serves as an advisory board to the City Council on issues related to public tree maintenance and urban forestry.
Urban Forest Strategic Plan
The Urban Forest Strategic Plan outlines where Shoreline wants to go regarding its urban forest and ideas of how to get there. The plan is also intended to help promote a more unified effort to manage the entire urban forest between the City and residents, business owners, utilities, and other tree stewards in the community.