The City of Whittier is known for its urban forest. Trees beautify the City and enhance the quality of life for all residents.
Following is a brief review of the City’s policy for the planting, maintenance and removal of all trees on City property and right-of-ways.
These specifications are based on National standards for tree care set by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the National Arborist Association and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Tree City USA
The National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized the City of Whittier as a Tree City, USA since 1988.
Tree City USA is sponsored in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service and recognizes communities that have proven their commitment to an effective, ongoing forestry program. To become a Tree City USA, a community must meet the following four standards: (1) a tree board or department, (2) a tree care ordinance, (3) a forestry program, and (4) an Arbor Day observance.
Parkway Tree Ordinance
The Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services oversees the planting and maintenance of all parkway trees. Per Municipal Code 12.40, residents and/or property owners are required to apply for a permit to plant, trim, or remove any tree within the parkway. You may apply for a permit from the Parks Division or call 562-567-9400 for more information.
Parkway Tree Manual
The purpose of the “Parkway Tree Manual” is to provide guidelines for the preservation and protection of the City’s urban forest as established in the Ordinance, WMC 12.40.
Typically it is the strip of property between the curb and property line, with or without a sidewalk, in which the City has the right-of-way for street tree planting, utilities, etc. The parkway width varies by street/location. Call Public Works at 562-567-9500 for the actual parkway width for a specific address. Municipal Code 8.24.007, Duty of Property Owner, states a property owner’s obligation is to maintain the right-of-way (parkway) in a tidy and weed free condition. The City maintains the City planted trees.
Parkway Tree Index
The Parkway Tree Index-Masterplan is a guide for tree planting in the parkways throughout the City, taking into consideration site tolerance, soil types, locally indigenous species, mature height/width, overhead utility lines and a number of other criteria.
12.40.030 – Planting
Trees planted in the parkway become public property and the responsibility of the City. Therefore, any resident who wishes to plant a tree in the parkway is required to apply for a permit. The DIRECTOR has the authority to instruct the property owner to remove all unauthorized trees planted in the parkway.
12.40.040 – Trimming or Removing
No person shall cut, trim, prune, plant, remove, injure or interfere with any tree in the parkway without obtaining a permit from the Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, which is issued at his/her discretion.
Property owners may contact the Park Division office to request to have their parkway tree trimmed. The Tree Maintenance Supervisor will inspect the tree and determine if it is within the criteria to warrant a trim. He will contact the property owner to advise them of his findings.
Tree removal permits are only granted if the tree is dead, deemed a hazard (as outlined in the guidelines of the Parkway Tree Manual) or all mitigation measures have been exhausted. The City is responsible for posting and performing all removals
12.40.090 Making Attachments
It is illegal to nail, wire, rope or use any other device whatsoever to attach signs, lights, swings, etc. to a parkway tree.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I cut back the surface roots in my lawn?
The Tree Maintenance Supervisor will inspect the area and advise how far back the roots may be trimmed without compromising the integrity of the tree.
Can the tree be removed because the sidewalk is lifting?
No. However, there are mitigation measures the city may utilize to repair the damage. The Public Works Supervisor will inspect the sidewalk and determine mitigation processes.
The Tree is messy; can it be trimmed and/or removed?
The City does not trim for sap, bloom dropping or any other debris. If the tree is healthy, it cannot be removed. The Tree Maintenance Supervisor can inspect the tree and determine if a general trim is necessary or if poor health warrants removal.
My tree is too tall, can it be topped?
Topping trees is very damaging.Therefore, topping is not allowed on any City tree.
My plumber says tree roots are in my plumbing. Can the tree be removed?
The City does not remove trees for sewer issues. If tree roots are suspect, prior to performing any repair work, the homeowner must expose the site, call for an inspection by the Tree Maintenance Supervisor who will verify there is a City tree and roots from that tree are present. If repair work is to be performed, all excavation and plumbing permits are required from Public Works and Building and Safety Departments. You may request a claim form from the City Clerk-Treasurer Department for possible reimbursement of repair costs.
Sewer Lateral Defined
The sewer lateral (house connection) is “that part of the horizontal piping beginning twelve (12) inches from the exterior wall of the building and extending to its connection with the public sewer”. Per City code, it is the responsibility of homeowners and businesses to maintain and repair the sewer lateral.
Generally, tree related sewer lateral issues involve old and deteriorating vitrified clay pipe that has exceeded its lifetime usefulness. It is typical to discover cracks in the pipe wall, disintegrating mortar joints and separations in these old pipes resulting in ready entry points for root systems seeking water and nutrients. Although shrub/tree roots may cause flow stoppage, they usually are not responsible for the initial sewer pipe breakage and any of the subsequent resulting repairs/replacements of deteriorated pipes.
If repair work is to be performed, all construction, excavation and plumbing permits are required to ensure proper installation of the replacement pipe.
When experiencing sewer issues, an inspection from a qualified plumber should assess the condition of the pipe and the City inspection by the Tree Maintenance Supervisor will verify a City tree is/is not part of the issue. If inspection confirms the damage to your sewer lateral was initially caused by a City tree, you may file a claim with the City.
All procedures for filing a claim must be followed. In submitting a claim, take into account that the City does not pay for the replacement of undamaged pipe sections, or system upgrades including clean-outs or backflow valves.
Phone Numbers for Inspections / Permits
- Tree Maintenance Supervisor: 562-567-9400
- Public Works: 562-567-9500
- Building and Safety: 562-567-9320
- City Clerk: 562-567-9850
Emergency or after 5:00 p.m., and Holidays:
- Whittier Police Department: 562-567-9240