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Chapter 20.42 Tree Cutting

- Note
(Replaced by Ordinance No. 170775, effective Jan. 10, 1997.)

20.42.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this is to regulate the cutting of trees in order to help preserve the wooded character of the City of Portland and protect the urban forest. It is not the intent of this Chapter to regulate the cutting of trees on any single-family lot, which cannot further be divided, upon which a single-family residence already exists. Further, it is not the intent of this Chapter to require a permit for tree cutting in situations where the same activity is already regulated and reviewed by other provisions of the City Code.


20.42.020 Definitions.

A. "Cutting" means felling or removal of a tree, or any procedure in which the natural result will lead to the death or substantial destruction of a tree. Such acts include but are not limited to the severe cutting back of limbs to stubs larger than three inches in diameter; and damage inflicted upon the root system of the tree. "Cutting" does not include normal pruning within the bounds of accepted arboricultural practices.

B. "DBH" means diameter-at-breast-height, a tree trunk diameter measured in inches 4.5 feet above the ground.

C. "Development" means all site improvements, including buildings, structures, parking and loading areas, landscaping, paved or graveled areas, and areas devoted to exterior display, storage, or activities.

D. "Land Use Review" means an approval procedure for a specific use or development required under Title 33 or 34.

E. "Person" means any individual or legal entity.

F. "Regulated property" means all property where tree cutting is not otherwise regulated under Title 33 or 34, where trees have not be considered through a previous land use review, and which;

1. Does not have a single-family dwelling on it; or

2. Can be further subdivided pursuant to the Portland Zoning or Land Division Codes, whether there is a structure on the property or the property is vacant; or

3. Is not located in a single-family residential zone pursuant to City of Portland Zoning Maps; or

4. Is not solely used as a single-family residence.

G. "Tree" means any woody plant having at least a 12" DBH or any tree planted as a mitigation requirement of PCC 20.42.100. "Tree" does not include any plant on the Nuisance Plant List or the Prohibited Plant List of the Portland Plant List adopted by Ordinance 164838 and amended by Ordinance 166572 and 168154.

H. "Urban Forester" means the Urban Forestry Manager or the Manager’s designee.

I. "Unregulated property" means a lot or parcel which:

1. Is located in a residential zone pursuant to the City of Portland Zoning Maps;

2. Is occupied by a single-family dwelling;

3. Is solely used as a single-family residence; and

4. Cannot be further subdivided or partitioned pursuant to the Portland Zoning or Land Division Codes.


20.42.030 Applicability.

A. These regulations are not land use regulations and are being adopted under the City’s police power to regulate to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

B. The requirements of this Chapter do not apply to tree cutting which is reviewed pursuant to any other provision of City Code with the exception of Chapter 24.70, Clearing, Grading, and Erosion Control, particularly PCC 24.70.020. On parcels subject to PCC 24.70.020, a permit is required under both that Section and under this Chapter.

C. The requirements of this Chapter do not apply to tree cutting on any parcel for which a building or development permit has been approved through land use review.


20.42.040 Tree Cutting Without Permits Prohibited.

A. No person shall cut a tree on regulated property without first obtaining a tree cutting permit from the City pursuant to this Chapter.

B. No person shall cut a tree on unregulated property without a permit if a permit is required by PCC 20.42.050.

C. In any action under this Chapter or to enforce the provisions of this Chapter, the property owner has the burden to prove that the criteria for granting a permit are satisfied or that cutting is allowed without a permit.


20.42.050 Tree Cutting on Unregulated Property.

A. Trees may be cut on unregulated property without a permit except where the tree proposed to be cut:

1. Has been expressly protected through an applicable land use regulation or required to be preserved as a condition of approval; or

2. Is located within a parcel that has received a Historic Landmark Designation pursuant to PCC Chapter 33.845; or

3. Has been designated a Heritage Tree under the provisions of Section 20.40.150 of this Code.

B. If a permit is required under Subsection A. of this Section, a person must seek such a permit through the process for reviewing or modifying land use regulations or approvals, Historic Landmark Designations or Heritage Tree designations, as applicable, and not through this Chapter.


20.42.060 Application for Permits.

An application for a tree cutting permit shall be made upon forms prescribed by the City. The application shall contain:

A. A statement of the reason for cutting or removal;

B. The number, size and species of the trees to be cut;

C. The street address and legal description of the property upon which the trees to be cut are located;

D. The time and method of cutting or removal;

E. If mitigation is required pursuant to PCC 20.42.090 information concerning the proposed planting of new trees to replace the trees to be cut;

F. Any other information reasonably required by the City;

G. The applicant’s name, address and phone number;

H. The property owner’s name, address and phone number, if different from the applicant’s.


20.42.070 Fees.

The application shall be accompanied by a filing fee in the amount of $35.00.


20.42.080 Review of Applications.

A. The Urban Forester shall review applications for conformance to the provisions of this chapter and either accept as complete and in conformance, return for revisions, or deny the application.

B. If the application is accepted as being complete and in conformance, the Urban Forester shall not issue the permit until notice has been posted according to Section 20.42.110 of this Code and all appeals have been settled in favor of the applicant.

C. The issuance of the Tree Cutting Permit shall constitute conformance to the provisions of these regulations and approval for the tree removal.

D. Notwithstanding subsection A of this Section, if the tree proposed to be cut has been required to be preserved or protected as a condition of approval of a land use action pursuant to the City of Portland Zoning Code, the tree cutting application shall be processed as an amendment to that land use action and shall be reviewed and approved by the body responsible for reviewing such land use actions.


20.42.090 Criteria for Issuance of Permits.

The tree to be removed must meet one of the following criteria in order for a tree cutting application to be approved:

A. Dead, Dying and Dangerous Trees: A tree cutting permit shall be issued if the Urban Forester determines that a tree is dead, dying or dangerous, except as provided by subsection 2 of this section.

1. For the purposes of this section:

a. "Dead" means the tree is lifeless.

b. "Dying" means the tree is in an advanced state of decline because it is diseased, infested by insects or rotting and cannot be saved by reasonable treatment or pruning, or must be removed to prevent spread of the infestation or disease to other trees.

c. "Dangerous" means the condition or location of the tree presents a clear public safety hazard or a foreseeable danger of property damage to an existing structure and such hazard or danger cannot reasonably be alleviated by treatment or pruning.

2. The Urban Forester may require the retention of dead or dying trees located in wetlands, natural areas, stream corridors, parks or open space areas, in order to provide for wildlife habitat and natural processes, unless the tree presents a potential hazard to persons or property.

B. Trees that are not dead, dying or dangerous: A tree cutting permit shall be issued for a tree that is not dead, dying or dangerous if the Urban Forester determines that the following criteria are met:

1. Removal of the tree will not have a significant negative impact on the following:

a. erosion, soil stability, soil structure, flow of surface waters, water quality, health of adjacent trees and understory plants, or existing windbreaks; and

b. the character, aesthetics, property values or property uses of the neighborhood.

2. The city shall require an adequate mitigation plan be submitted according to the requirements of Section 20.42.100 as a condition of approval for the permit, including requiring the submission of a drainage plan if appropriate This mitigation plan may be considered when determining the impacts in subsections B 1 of this Section.

3. Forest Health Reasons: A tree cutting permit shall be issued for a tree that is not dead, dying or dangerous if the Urban Forester determines that the removal of select trees from a forested plot will promote the health of the overall forested plot and meets the requirements of PCC 20.42.090 B 1. Mitigation is not required for any tree permitted to be cut under this subsection.

4. Emergency Permits:

a. The Urban Forester shall issue an emergency tree cutting permit without formal application or payment of a fee if the condition of a tree presents an immediate danger of collapse and if such potential collapse represents a clear and present hazard to persons or property. For purposes of this subsection, "immediate danger of collapse" means that the tree will topple or otherwise fail and cause damage before a tree cutting permit could be obtained through the non-emergency process. "Immediate danger of collapse" does not include hazardous conditions that can be alleviated by pruning or treatment.

b. If an emergency situation arises at a time when the Urban Forester is unavailable, and a significant likelihood exists that the tree will topple or otherwise fail before such officials become available, the tree owner may proceed with removal of the tree to the extent necessary to avoid the immediate hazard. Within seven days after such removal, the tree owner shall apply for a retroactive emergency tree cutting permit. If the evidence and information presented by the tree owner does not justify the emergency tree cutting standards set forth in PCC 20.42.090B the application shall be denied and the tree owner shall be subject to the penalties and to the mitigation requirements of this Chapter.

c. In the event that the City Engineer or the Urban Forester determines that an emergency exists and that the safety of the traveling public or the integrity of a public street and associated improvements may be at imminent risk from any tree on private property, the City Engineer and the Urban Forester may order or effect the removal of the tree without a permit. An emergency for the purpose of this Subsection is an unplanned or non-routine event which, by its nature, requires prompt or immediate action to reduce the risk of injury to persons using public streets, damage to public transportation facilities or loss or use of public transportation facilities. The decision that an emergency exists is not reviewable.


20.42.100 Mitigation Requirement.

A. Mitigation is required as a condition of a permit issued under PCC Section 20.42.090 B, or if a tree is cut in violation of this Chapter. The mitigation plan shall be submitted at the time of application and shall provide for the following:

1. Tree replacement shall be determined according to the DBH of the tree to be removed. The total DBH of the replanted trees shall equal the DBH of the tree to be removed. The DBH of the replacement trees must be the largest reasonable available by local nurseries.

2. The location of the replacement trees shall meet one or more of the following at the discretion of the Urban Forester:

a. In the public right-of-way adjoining the property where the tree to be removed is located, in accordance with PCC 20.40.070. The Urban Forester shall consult with the City Engineer to avoid conflict with current and future utilities.

b. On the property where the tree to be removed is located. Site characteristics shall be taken into consideration.

c. If no suitable place exists on the property where the tree to be removed is located or in the adjoining right-of-way, the applicant may plant trees on another property in the neighborhood with the permission of the property owner.

d. If no suitable place exists on the property where the tree to be removed is located, the applicant may, in lieu of planting, pay a mitigation fee into the City’s tree fund in accordance with fees set by the Urban Forester.

B. When the Urban Forester determines that the above mitigation requirements create an unreasonable burden to a property owner, the Urban Forester may adjust the mitigation requirements. Mitigation shall not be reduced if it is determined that an intentional violation exists.

C. If any replacement tree dies within three years of the planting, the property owner shall replace the tree. No replacement tree shall be cut without a permit under this Chapter.

D. Any person who fails to enter into a mitigation plan as required by this subsection or who fails to comply with any condition of that agreement, or with any condition of any permit issued under PCC 20.42.090 B, shall be subject to the penalties provided for violation of the Chapter.


20.42.110 Notice of Tree Cutting Permit.

A. An applicant for a tree cutting permit shall post notice on the property in a location clearly visible from the street nearest the tree. The notice shall state that a tree cutting permit is pending for trees on the property marked by a yellow plastic tagging tape, shall include the date of posting, and shall state that the tree cutting permits can be appealed within 14 days of the date of posting by filing a written notice of intent to appeal with the Urban Forester. The applicant shall mark each tree proposed to be cut by tying or attaching yellow plastic tagging tape around the trunk of the tree at 4.5 feet above ground level. The applicant shall file an affidavit of posting and marking once the property has been posted and the trees have been marked pursuant to this section. The tree cutting permit shall not be issued for fourteen days from the date of filing of the affidavit of marking to allow for appeal. The applicant shall maintain the posting and marking for the full fourteen days.

B. The Urban Forester will send a copy of the affidavit of posting and marking to the office of the affected Neighborhood Coalition.


20.42.120 Appeal.

A. Any person may appeal a decision to approve a tree cutting permit by filing a written notice of intent to appeal, along with the applicable appeal fee established by the City Council, within fourteen days of the filing of the affidavit of posting pursuant to PCC 20.42.070. Failure to file within the fourteen-day appeal period shall preclude appeal. If no appeal of a decision to approve a tree cutting permit is filed within the fourteen-day appeal period, the decision is final and the applicant may cut trees in accordance with the approval, subject to any conditions thereof.

B. An applicant for a tree cutting permit may appeal denial of the permit by filing a written notice of intent to appeal, along with a filing fee in the amount of $100.00, within fourteen days of the date of denial.

C. The appeal shall be heard by the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC), who shall hold a public hearing on the appeal. The City shall send written notice of the hearing to the applicant, the appellant if different from the applicant, and to the recognized Neighborhood Coalition for the area in which the subject property is located, at least ten days in advance of the hearing. Appeal hearings may be scheduled as part of the UFC’s regular meeting agenda, or at any special meeting called by the UFC for that purpose. Appeals may be heard either by the full Commission or by a subcommittee delegated by the full Commission. Appeals shall be heard not later than the first regular monthly meeting of the UFC after the expiration of the ten days required for notice to the Neighborhood Coalition, and in no event later than sixty days after the filing of the notice of intent to appeal, except that the applicant may request a hearing at a later time.


20.42.130 Evidence of Violation.

A. If a tree is removed without a tree cutting permit, a violation shall be determined by measuring the stump. A stump that is 38" or more in circumference shall be considered prima facie evidence of a violation of this chapter.

B. Removal of the stump of a tree cut without a tree cutting permit prior to the determination provided in subsection 1 of this section is a violation of this chapter.

C. Proof of violation of this chapter shall be deemed prima facie evidence that such violation is that of the owner of the property upon which the violation was committed. Prosecution of or failure to prosecute the owner shall not be deemed to relieve any other responsible person.

D. As soon as a violation is determined, the Urban Forester shall notify the property owner in writing regarding the mitigation requirements of Section 20.42.100 of this code. Within thirty (30) days of the date of mailing of this notice, the property owner shall submit a tree cutting application in accordance with Section 20.42.060 and enter into a mitigation plan approved by the Urban Forester. The application fee will be $70.00.


20.42.140 Criminal Penalties.

Any person violating any provision of this Chapter shall, upon conviction, be fined a sum not exceeding $1,000.00 or shall be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 6 months, or shall be punished by both such fine and imprisonment.


20.42.150 Civil Penalties.

Any person who cuts any tree in violation of this chapter, or who breaches any condition of a permit granted under this chapter, or who violates any other provision of this chapter shall be subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for any such violation. The unlawful cutting of each individual tree shall be a separate violation hereunder. Failure to comply with a condition of approval or of a mitigation plan shall be a separate violation each day the failure to comply continues.


20.42.160 Nuisances.

Cutting a tree in violation of this chapter is hereby declared to be a public nuisance, and may be abated by appropriate proceedings.


20.42.170 Institution of Legal Proceedings.

Upon request of the Urban Forester, or direction from Council, the City Attorney, acting in the name of the City, may institute and maintain an action in any court of competent jurisdiction to compel compliance with or to restrain by injunction the violation of any provision of this Chapter.


20.42.180 Remedies Cumulative.
The rights, remedies and penalties provided in this chapter are cumulative, are not mutually exclusive, and are in addition to any other rights, remedies and penalties available to the City under any other provision of law.

20.42.190 Severability.

If any provision of this Chapter, or its application to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this Chapter, or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances, shall not be affected.