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Pruning (Street or Heritage) Tree Permits - Frequently Asked Questions

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When Is a Pruning Permit Required?

If you wish to report a Street Tree that needs pruning, visit Tree Code Violations.


What is a "Street Tree"?

Street trees are any trees that are in the City right-of-way. While this is typically in the planting strip between the sidewalk and the curb, street trees may exist in unimproved rights-of-way with no curbs and/or sidewalks.

What is a "Heritage Tree"?

Heritage Trees are trees that have been formally recognized by City Council for their unique size, age, historical or horticultural significance. Once accepted by Council, Heritage Trees are designated with a small plaque and listed in the Heritage Tree database.


Qualifying for a Permit

All pruning work must meet PP&R's Urban Forestry Street Tree Pruning Standards. Pruning done without a permit or pruning that does not meet the standards may be treated as a code violation and be subject to civil and criminal penalties and tree replacement.

It is recommended that you hire a certified arborist to do the tree pruning. 


Two Types of Pruning Applications:

1. Self-Issued (No Inspection Required) Online Street Tree Pruning Permit

Street Tree Pruning Permits may be self-issuedonline at https://devhub.portlandoregon.gov if the tree to be pruned meets the following conditions:

  • Pruning is for:
    • Branches less than 6" in diameter at attachment to the stem. 
    • Young tree pruning is the pruning of young trees to develop good structure, including a strong and well established central leader, strong branch attachments, and adequate spacing and distribution of scaffold branches. Young tree pruning occurs on an ongoing basis the first ten years after tree planting.
    • Crown cleaning is the removal of water sprouts and dead, dying, diseased, crowded, weakly attached, and low vigor branches from a tree's crown.
    • Crown raising for clearance of the street and sidewalk removes the lower branches of a tree in order to provide clearance for vehicles, pedestrians, and buildings. The City of Portland requires maintaining clearance standards 7.5' above the sidewalk, 11' above residential streets, and 14' above main arterial streets.
  • The Street Treeis not a Heritage Tree.

Self-issued online permits are only valid for trees that meet the above conditions.

All other pruning work: Requires an Urban Forestry Pruning Permit with tree inspection

2. Pruning Permit with Inspection (Not Self-Issued)

If any of the following apply, a pruning permit may NOT be self-issued and an application must be submitted to Urban Forestry in order to obtain a permit.

  • Pruning is for crown restoration, weight reduction, clearing infrastructure such as buildings or utility lines, or crown reduction.
  • Pruning is for branches greater than 6" in diameter.
  • The Street Tree is a Heritage Tree.

Timeline

These Pruning Permits vary in the processing timeline. Incomplete applications will delay the process.

Pruning permits are valid for 30 days.


Application and Instructions

Only an owner of the property abutting the planting strip, or the owner's designee, may apply for a Street Tree Pruning Permit. 

  1. You can find Pruning Permits on the Apply for a Permit page, or select the type of Pruning Permit you are seeking below:
    • Street Tree Pruning Permit
      •  Link to Development Hub (DevHub) and there you will select from the two options: 
        • Self-issued (no inspection) for limited pruning 
        • Street Tree Pruning permit WITH Inspection 
    • Private Tree Pruning Permit FAQS 
      • Only required in a few instances
      • Private or not, Heritage Trees require a permit
    • Heritage Tree Permit 
      • Always requires an inspection
      • This is the same as a street tree pruning permit, just indicate it is a heritage tree in the application
  2. Follow the instructions
    • You will want to have gathered the needed information such as: 
      • The address of the site
      • The location of the trees on the site (i.e. if it is a corner lot, name the street where the trees are for inspection)
      • The number of trees you request an inspection for
      • Your name, phone number, and relationship to the property (i.e. if you are a contractor or the property owner, etc.)
  3. Submit the application ( online, my mail, or in person) 
  4. After the application has been received:
    • If an inspection is required; An Urban Forestry Tree Inspector will visit the site to inspect the tree and assess the pruning needs. 
  5. After the site visit:
    • The Tree Inspector will send the applicant the pruning permit. The pruning permit will describe the recommended pruning activities. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you recommend an arborist to prune my tree?

A helpful list of local tree care providers that have met certain criteria.

Hiring an arborist to do tree work can be intimidating. Trees are a slow-growing resource and tree work can be expensive. To protect yourself and your trees, make sure to hire a professional arborist.

How Do I Prune Properly?

Helpful resources and instructions for proper pruning.

In order to limit the spread of Dutch elm disease (DED) and comply with Oregon's state quarantine of elm wood, the following rules apply to the pruning of elm trees (Ulmus spp.):

  • Elm trees shall not be pruned from April 15 through October 15 annually.
  • Pruning tools shall be treated with a disinfectant before and after pruning individual elm trees.
  • All wood waste shall be chipped or taken to an approved commercial disposal site within 24 hours of cutting.

A street tree hangs too low over the street or sidewalk. How do I report it?

Report low limbs to Bureau of Development Service's (BDS) Code Enforcement (503) 823-2633. A BDS Inspector will inspect the tree and contact the adjacent property owner to prune the tree. Street trees must maintain the following clearances:

  •  7.5 feet above sidewalks
  • 11 feet above local streets
  • 14 feet above arterial or collector streets

My neighbor's tree overhangs onto my property. Can I prune it?

You may prune branches that overhang onto your property. If the tree is a Street Tree or Heritage Tree, however, a permit is required for pruning.

  • You can request a code compliance inspection if a neighbor's Street Tree needs to be pruned. For more information about pruning neighbor's private property trees, see Oregon's neighbor law.
  • Pruning should be conducted properly and may not damage or kill the tree.

Can I top my tree?

Topping trees, or removing the canopy without regard to tree health or structural integrity, is not proper pruning and is not permitted within the City of Portland. Topping a tree is regarded as removal of the tree and may result in a tree code violation. (For the definition of Topping, see Title 11.80.020.20.e.

For details on proper pruning, see the

and the City of Portland

Can I extend my pruning permit beyond 30 days?

It is recommended that you apply for a pruning permit within 30 days of the scheduled tree work. For self-issued online pruning permits, you must obtain the permit within 30 days of pruning the tree. For all other pruning permits, you may contact your Tree Inspector and request an extension before the permit expires. 


Questions? Call Urban Forestry at 503-823-TREE (8733) or email trees@portlandoregon.gov


Read the Tree Code, Title 11