Wednesday April 27: Urban Forestry Service Levels and Retroactive Permitting for Storm Damaged Trees

News Article
Updated service levels - April 11 storm event has caused delays in customer response times

Urban Forestry Services Levels 

Urban Forestry is currently experiencing significant delays in responding to inquiries due to the April 11 snow event and the resulting 700 tree emergencies across the city. Our current estimated response times are 

  • 3 weeks for emails, voicemail messages, and for tree permits without a site inspection 

  • 6 to 8 weeks for tree permit applications requiring an inspection 

Important information

  • If you have emailed a report of a tree emergency blocking or threatening a public street or sidewalk, please also call 503-823-TREE(8733) for emergency dispatch 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Email reports may result in delayed response. 

  • If you are contacting us about a debris pile left by our team it may take eight weeks for Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry to return for pick-up.  Please consider safely using the City’s weekly compost bin service or contact a Tree Care Provider or lawn care professional to assist with your debris pile. 

  • If you have called or emailed Urban Forestry, we kindly request you wait three weeks until inquiring again to prevent creating duplicate emails and limiting the bureau’s already stretched capacity. 

Permitting for Storm Damaged Trees

The April 11 storm event has resulted in a significant number of tree and limb failures across the City. As Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry continues to clear tree debris from blocked streets and sidewalks, property owners are also busy dealing with the storm’s aftermath and follow-up tree work. 

Retroactive permitting 

A retroactive tree permit process may be used when a regulated tree is in an actively failing condition because the condition or location of a tree presents such a clear and present danger to structures or the public that there is insufficient time to obtain a tree permit.  In these cases, the hazardous portion(s) of the tree may be removed without first obtaining a required tree permit but must be followed by the submission of a retroactive tree permit application together with evidence of the danger to structure or public. 

  • Due to the large extent of storm-affected trees and because many residents were recovering from power outages, retroactive tree permit applications will be accepted until May 20, 2022. This is a temporary extension beyond the normal 7-day retroactive permit application window for emergency removal or pruning of a dangerous tree or limb. 

  • To the best of your ability, please provide evidence of the clear and present danger requiring pruning or removal of the hazardous portion(s) prior to obtaining a permit through: 

    • Photographs 
    • Arborist’s written statement 
    • Insurance claim indicating tree related damage 
    • Leaving physical evidence on site for the inspection 

Why do I need a permit for a tree damaged by a storm event? 

Tree permits are the way in which the City confirms trees that are removed are also replaced to ensure the continuation of the essential services provided by Portland’s urban canopy.  When a tree falls and is removed due to a storm the impact to the overall tree canopy is no different whether a tree removal occurs as a planned or unplanned event. Replacing trees for those that are lost maintains and sustains the urban forest infrastructure. 

Portland’s Tree Code addresses storm-related tree failures/removals by allowing emergency removal under 11.40.020.D. This provision allows for permits to be issued retroactively once the tree work has already taken place and accompanied by appropriate documentation. 

Retroactive permitting requirements apply to regulated trees that failed or experienced limb failures during the storm. Please refer to the tree regulations and permits, and retroactive permits websites for situations which require immediate attention. Permits can be applied for on-line through the DevHub.  Permit fee financial assistance may be available for applicants who qualify.  Please refer to the list of local tree care provider companies who have participated in our training program.   

Questions? Please email or call 503-823-TREE(8733). Please note the tree hotline is not answered live. We are responding to calls as quickly as we can, however due to the work volume created by the storm, our response times are delayed to an estimated three weeks.