Seeking public input on a proposal to enhance tree preservation requirements

News Article
A photo of tall conifer trees in Columbia Park.
You are invited to review and comment on a revised proposal to update and improve tree preservation requirements in Portland.

Staff from the Bureau of Development Services, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, and Portland Parks & Recreation unveiled a proposal aimed at removing exemptions from requirements to preserve and plant trees in certain development situations. The staff proposal also recommends a broader application of a fee intended to provide an incentive to preserve more trees when development occurs on private and city-owned property.

This proposal is a result of several months of work to address concerns raised about the removal of large-diameter trees during development situations. Portland’s Tree Code, which first took effect in January 2015, was amended in 2016 to address concerns about the removal of very large trees when development occurs, but many expressed views to the Portland City Council that further changes were needed.

Last January, following recommendations from the Urban Forestry Commission and the Planning and Sustainability Commission, the Portland City Council directed city staff to develop a proposal that addresses exemptions for tree preservation in certain types of industrial, commercial, and employment zones. The City Council also asked for a proposal to reduce from 36 inches in diameter to 20 inches the threshold at which a sizable per-inch fee applies to further incentivize the preservation of larger trees when development occurs.

Since January city staff engaged with various stakeholders who commented on the city’s tree code over the past five years and conducted online surveys and public forums to enlist the views and comments of the public. Analyses of the economic impacts of changing the tree preservation requirements for certain industrial, commercial, and employment zones and of the impacts on the City’s tree canopy were also conducted. The results of public engagement and these analyses are described in greater detail in the staff report and informed its recommendations, which are to:

  • Remove the exemption from tree preservation and tree density requirements in IG1 (General Industrial 1), EX (Central Employment), and CX (Central Commercial) zones on private and City-owned or managed property
  • Keep the existing exemption from tree preservation and tree density requirements in IH (Heavy Industrial) zones on private and City-owned or managed property
  • Reduce the threshold for required preservation of trees on private property from 36 inches to 20 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh) wherever tree preservation is required  
  • Reduce the threshold for the application of an inch-per-inch fee in lieu of preservation for trees on private property from 36 inches dbh to 20 inches dbh

Public comment opportunities

The draft staff report will be reviewed and discussed by the Urban Forestry Commission and Planning and Sustainability Commission. The two commissions will meet in a joint hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at which public testimony will be received.

If you cannot attend the joint hearing but wish to submit testimony in writing, you can visit the City’s MapApp, learn more about how the proposed changes to the tree code may affect individual properties, and submit written testimony through this online tool. Written testimony should be submitted by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Later in September, each commission will issue a recommendation to the Portland City Council on this proposal. The City Council is scheduled to consider and receive testimony on a final tree code proposal at its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 29, beginning at 2 p.m.

More information about efforts to update Portland’s tree code and this staff proposal can be found on the City’s website.