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What Do I Need a Tree Permit for in Portland?

We are blessed to be able to enjoy myriad species and varieties of trees throughout the Portland area. They are great, whether in size, prestige, or history, but occasionally—for any number of reasons—we have to remove them. Before you act, it’s important to review what sort of regulations are in place regarding tree removal. A Portland tree permit is required for certain, specific property locations or qualifications, tree types, age, or preservation orders. If you’re wondering what you need a tree permit for in Portland, keep reading for a detailed overview. Mr. Tree is happy to work with you to confirm whether or not you’ll need a permit for tree removal.

How to Tell If the Tree in Question Is a “Street Tree” or on Private Property

According to the City of Portland website, a street tree is any tree growing on the City’s “right-of-way,” between a sidewalk and curb, whether the area is “improved” or “unimproved”—which means there’s no sidewalk and/or curb. A good rule of thumb for determining whether the tree is a street tree or not is to measure the distance from the tree to the road, whether paved or not. If the tree is located within 12 feet of the roadway, it’s a street tree. Additionally, any tree that straddles your property line and that of public property is considered a street tree.

For those cumbersome trees in alleyways or “unimproved” streets, there’s an extra step to determine whether or not it is a street tree:

  1. Go to PortlandMaps.com.
  2. Enter your address or locate the property in question on the map.
  3. Select the airplane icon at the top of the page in order to turn on the aerial view.
  4. Establish whether the tree is inside or outside of the yellow line representing the property lot. If it’s completely inside (or mostly inside) the line, then you can consider it to be a private property tree.

With that determined, please note that all street trees require a permit before you can remove them.

How Do I Know Which Trees on Private Property Require a Portland Tree Permit?

There are a series of questions to answer when determining if you’ll need a tree permit for trees located on private property. First, you’ll need to check if the property has an “active development permit” and whether it will be developed or redeveloped soon. If the answer is yes, you’re required to get a permit from the Bureau of Development Services (BDS).

Is My Tree a Heritage Tree?

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According to the Portland Parks and Recreation website, “Heritage trees are trees that have been formally recognized by City Council for their unique size, age, historical or horticultural significance.” There’s a database that will allow you to find out whether your tree is protected. If the answer is yes, you’ll need to contact the Urban Forestry (UF) Department in order to obtain a permit. Mr. Tree has been serving the Portland community since 2000, and our knowledgeable experts are able to help you if you have any doubts as to whether it’s okay to cut down or remove trees from your property.

Is There a Land Use Review that Governs Preserving the Tree?

The easiest way for you to see if the tree in question is subject to such a review is to go to the BDS website and research which trees are protected by a land-use review. From there, you can get in contact with the Bureau of Development Services for any permit needs.

Is the Tree Within Any of the Following Overlay Zones and/or Planning Districts?

This may seem like an overwhelmingly difficult question to answer, but there are resources available to double- (or even triple-) check whether the tree is in one of these zones or districts, available on this City of Portland page. It’s due to both public and environmental benefits that these plans are in place. Such protections can be structured to preserve such environmental, cultural, or natural resource–rich zones, such as native vegetation, wetlands, floodplains, wetlands, steep slopes, particularly scenic vistas, or even historical elements. Portland wants to acknowledge these sensitive areas by requiring compliance and restricting certain activities, such as tree removal.

As for the Overlay Zones, they include the following areas: c, g, h, i, n, p, q, r, s, and v.

The districts that you’ll have to research and verify include the following:

  • Cascade Station/Portland International Center Plan District
  • Columbia South Shore Plan District
  • Johnson Creek Basin Plan District
  • Portland International Airport Plan District
  • Rocky Butte Plan District
  • South Auditorium Plan District

If the tree is located in one of these areas, it’s likely that you’ll need a Portland tree permit from either the Bureau of Development Services or Urban Forestry.

Does the Tree Measure 12 Inches (or Larger) in Diameter at Breast Height (DBH)?

This is an easy one to establish, and if the answer is yes, then you’ll need an Urban Forestry permit, which can be obtained from their office. You’ll need to measure the tree’s diameter at 4.5 feet above the ground, or “breast height.” For any questions or for a step-by-step guide to measuring the tree in question, please visit the City of Portland website here.

Is the Tree Located in a Parking Lot?

Finally, if the tree in question is located in a parking lot, then, yes, you’ll need to get a permit from the Bureau of Development Services.

Making Sure you Follow Procedure

Securing a Portland tree permit doesn’t have to be an overly complicated issue, but it is important that you follow protocol and request permits before acting. For any other questions or doubts you may have, please feel free to contact our experts and ask about our tree removal services. You can read more about our team and the services we offer.

Mr. Tree Service Portland

We have served the Portland metro area and all surrounding communities since 2000, with over 30 years of experience in residential and commercial tree care. We offer the highest quality work for you with a wide range of services. Call us today for your free estimate! We are an OHSA Approved, Drug Free Workplace. We are licensed bonded and insured for your protection and your neighbors