Oak Tree and Heritage Tree Preservation Standards

In June 2018, the City Council adopted Ordinance 264-18 which modified the City's Municipal Code Section 9.21 to be the Oak Tree and Heritage Tree Preservation Standards, replacing the City's Oak Tree Preservation Standards.  The change allows the City Council to designate specific trees or groups of trees as heritage trees, providing them similar protections to oak trees within the City.  Updates to the City's online Municipal Code are forthcoming, however, the changes to the code by Ordinance 264-18 have not yet bed.  To alleviate any potential confusion, the text of Ordinance 264-18 is posted below on the interim, until the online version of the City's Municipal Code is updated.


Should you have any additional questions or concerns regarding this, or other sections of the code, please contact the Planning Department at (818) 706-1613


Ordinance 264-18

Oak tree and heritage tree preservation standards


9.21.010.        Purpose.


The City Council finds that oak trees and heritage trees are of significant aesthetic, ecological, and historical value for the City of Westlake Village and that the preservation and propagation of this unique, irreplaceable plant life is in the best interests of the residents of the City. The purpose of this Chapter is to protect such trees against indiscriminate removal and inappropriate maintenance so as to preserve the distinctive character of the City and allow for development in a manner consistent with the health and welfare of the community.


9.21.020.        Definitions.


For the purposes of this Chapter, the following definitions shall apply:


A.        “Damage” means any act causing injury to the root system or other parts of a tree including but not limited to cutting, nailing, burning, application of toxic substances, operation of equipment or machinery, or by paving, changing the natural grade, trenching, excavating, or building within the dripline or ten (10) feet of trunk, whichever is greater.  In the case of a heritage tree, “damage” also means depriving the tree of any care or protection specified in the City Council’s heritage tree designation resolution for the tree.


B.        “Heritage tree” means a tree designated by City Council resolution to be of special community value as an aesthetic, ecological, or historical resource.


C.        “Oak tree” means a tree of the oak genus that meets either of the following criteria:


1.         Is twelve and one-half (12.5) inches or more in circumference (four (4) inches in diameter) as measured four and one-half (4.5) feet above mean natural grade.


2.         In the case of an oak with more than one trunk, has eighteen (18) inches or more in combined circumference (six (6) inches in diameter) for any two trunks as measured four and one-half (4.5) feet above mean natural grade.


9.21.030.        Heritage Tree Designation.


A.        The City Council may designate heritage trees, and may rescind a heritage tree designation, by resolution following a public hearing noticed pursuant to Chapter 9.32 of this Article.  At least ten (10) days prior to the hearing date, the owner of the subject property shall be given written notice of the hearing by registered or certified mail, postage prepaid, return receipt requested. 


B.        The City Council may make a heritage tree designation for a non-oak tree if it finds that the tree has special community value as an aesthetic, ecological, or historic resource.  The findings supporting a heritage tree designation, and any special care or protection requirements, shall be set forth in the resolution making the designation.


C.        The Director shall prepare and maintain an inventory of heritage trees.


9.21.040.        Oak Tree Permit Requirement.


Except as otherwise provided in Section 9.21.060, no person shall alter, destroy, disfigure, remove, relocate, or otherwise inflict damage on any oak tree on any lot or parcel of land within the City, unless an oak tree permit is first obtained in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter.


9.21.050.        Heritage Tree Permit Requirement.


Except as otherwise provided in Section 9.21.060, no person shall alter, destroy, disfigure, remove, relocate, or otherwise inflict damage on any heritage tree on any lot or parcel of land within the City, unless a heritage tree permit is first obtained in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter.


9.21.060.        Exemptions.


The provisions of this Chapter shall not apply to:


A.        Cases of emergency caused by an oak tree or heritage tree being in a hazardous or dangerous condition as determined by City personnel.


B.        Emergency maintenance by a public utility necessary to protect or maintain an electric power or communication line or other property of a public utility.


C.        Trees planted, grown, and/or held for sale by a licensed nursery.


D.        Repair and maintenance of existing highways, parkways, streets, or other public facilities.


E.        Routine maintenance intended to ensure the continued health of a protected tree, including the trimming of branches.


9.21.070.        Permit Application.


A.        Consideration of any action described in Section 9.21.040 or Section 9.21.050 shall be initiated upon the filing of an application for an oak tree permit or a heritage tree permit, as applicable, by the owner of the subject property or by the owner’s authorized representative. 


B.        Applications shall be submitted on a form provided by the City and shall be accompanied by an appropriate tree report unless such report is waived by the Director. An application shall not be accepted unless it contains all of the required information and the permit fee specified by City Council resolution has been paid.


C.        No application shall be filed or accepted if final action has been taken within one year prior thereto on an application requesting the same or substantially the same permit.


9.21.080.        Hearing and Notice.


A.        When a complete oak tree permit or heritage tree permit application has been filed, the time, date, and place for a public hearing shall be set not later than forty-five (45) days after the date of acceptance. If the application is filed concurrently with a development permit of any kind, the hearing shall be conducted concurrently with the hearing on the development permit.


B.        In the event an oak tree permit or heritage tree permit application is submitted in connection with an application for a conditional use permit, variance, zone change, subdivision map, or other development permit, the oak tree permit or heritage tree permit application shall be considered concurrently therewith and all legal notice for such development permit shall contain a notice of the pendency of the oak tree permit or heritage tree permit application. In all other cases where the oak tree permit or heritage tree permit application is filed by itself, notice of the hearing shall be posted at least ten (10) days prior to the date of the hearing, setting forth the date, time, and place of the hearing as well as a general explanation of the purpose of the application and the matters to be considered during the hearing.


9.21.090.        Findings and Decision.


A.        Upon review of the application and consideration of the written and oral evidence received at the public hearing, the City Council shall render its decision. The application shall be approved if the applicant demonstrates and the City Council affirmatively finds any of the following for each oak tree or heritage tree involved:


1.         The proposed removal, relocation, or extensive pruning of the tree is necessary as continued existence of the tree at its present location frustrates the planned improvement or proposed use of the subject property to such an extent that either:


a.         Alternative development plans cannot achieve the same permitted density or the cost of such alternative would be prohibitive.


b.         Location of the tree precludes the reasonable and efficient use of the subject property for a use otherwise authorized.


2.         The tree interferes with utility services or a street or highway either within or outside of the subject property and no reasonable alternative to such interference exists other than the proposed removal, relocation, or extensive pruning of the tree.


3.         The tree has a seriously debilitating disease or is danger of falling, and such condition cannot be remedied through reasonable preservation practices.


4.         The tree will not be harmed or damaged by the proposed construction within the dripline or ten (10) feet of the trunk, and any construction on the property can be accomplished without endangering the health of any other oak trees and heritage trees on the subject property.


B.        Removal or relocation of an oak tree or heritage tree shall not be permitted if it will result in soil erosion through the diversion or increased flow of surface waters that cannot be satisfactorily mitigated.


C.        The approval of any application under this Section may be subject to such reasonable conditions as will promote the purpose of this Section, including but not limited to:


1.         Replacement of a removed tree, if feasible, with trees of a suitable type, size, number, and at an appropriate location. In general, replacement trees shall be at least a twenty-four (24) inch box, or larger, and shall be placed at a ratio of four (4) new trees for each tree removed, unless otherwise specified.  In considering whether replacement trees should be required, the City Council shall consider in addition to any other relevant factor:  the vegetative character of the surrounding area; the number of oak trees or heritage trees to be removed; the number of oak trees and heritage trees to remain on the property; and the viability of replacement trees.


2.         Preparation and implementation of a plan for protection of trees on the subject property during and after proposed development including:  installation of fencing; limitations on the type of equipment to be used near trees; corrective measures to remedy defects in trees; adequate supervision by a tree expert; and the posting of a bond to the satisfaction of the City to guarantee the survival of trees to be replaced or relocated for a period of three (3) years from the date that such trees are replaced or relocated.


3.         Recordation of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs), or a deed restriction providing information concerning the proper care, watering, and maintenance of oak trees or heritage trees on the subject property.  The CC&Rs or deed restriction shall be in a form approved by the City Attorney.


9.21.100.        Notice of Action.


A.        The City shall serve notice of action upon:


1.         The applicant as required by law for the service of summons or by registered or certified mail, postage prepaid, return receipt requested; and


2.         All protestants testifying at the public hearing who have provided a mailing address, by first class mail, postage prepaid.


B.        Where the City Council has concurrently considered a conditional use permit, variance, zone change, subdivision map, or other development permit, notice shall be included in the notice of action required for such concurrent actions.


9.21.110.        Revocation.


A.        Proceedings for the revocation of an oak tree permit or heritage tree permit may be initiated by the City Council. Upon initiation of a revocation, the City Council shall conduct a hearing with notice given in the same manner as set forth in Section 9.21.080 except that notice to the owner shall be by certified mail or personal service.


B.        After the hearing, the City Council shall revoke the permit if any of the following findings are made:


1.         Approval was obtained by fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.


2.         The owner is not or has not been in compliance with the mitigation measures or conditions contained in the approval, or with the provisions and requirements of this Section.


C.        The decision of the City Council shall be final.


9.21.120.        Modification of Conditions.


After an oak tree permit or heritage tree permit has been approved, modification of the conditions imposed, including additions and deletions, may be considered by the City Council upon filing of a written application by the owner, or by the owner’s authorized representative. Any such application for a modification shall be subject to the notice and hearing procedures set forth in Section 9.21.080. The decision in connection with a modification request shall take place as with the initial approval. A modification of the permit may be granted upon a finding that the approved permit or a change of circumstances has created a substantial hardship for the owner and that any such modification will be in conformance with the requirements of this Chapter.


9.21.130.        Expiration.


An approved oak tree permit or heritage tree permit that is not used within the time specified in the approval or, if no time is specified, within one year after the granting of such approval, shall become automatically null and void and of no effect, except that where an application requesting an extension is filed prior to such expiration date, the Director for good cause shown may extend such time for a period of not to exceed one year. The Director may attach to any such extension reasonable conditions necessitated by the delay in acting upon the permit. An action to attach conditions to an extension may be appealed in accordance with Chapter 9.32.


9.21.140.        Enforcement.


In interpreting the provisions of Section 1.2.005 as they apply to this Chapter, each individual tree cut, destroyed, removed, relocated, or damaged in violation of these provisions shall be deemed a separate offense.