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Citywide Tree Project branches out

Portlanders love their trees. Trees help define Portland’s history and our image as a “green city.”  They also provide valuable environmental, social and economic benefits that advance community sustainability.

The City of Portland contributes to the urban forest by managing public parks and natural areas, planting trees, educating citizens, regulating tree removal and requiring certain development types to preserve, replace and protect trees. Portlanders have complained that City of Portland tree regulations are overly complex, confusing and insufficient to sustain the urban forest. The development community and City staff also find the rules difficult to work with.

Responding to public comments, City Council directed the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (in partnership with the Bureaus of Parks and Recreation, Development Services, and Environmental Services) to evaluate and update the city’s tree-related policies and regulations.

In 2007, the Citywide Tree Policy Review and Regulatory Improvement Project was created to explore key issues around tree regulations and develop solutions to tree-related problems. Based on a collaborative process with a group of neighborhood representatives, arborists, developers, and environmental organizations, project staff developed and presented a package of proposed solutions to the Urban Forestry Commission, Planning Commission and others in early 2009.

Staff is now incorporating the proposed solutions into a new draft for consideration by the public and the Planning Commission, including:

  • New comprehensive tree code;
  • User-friendly tree manual;
  • Single point of contact for the public;
  • 24-hour “tree hotline”;
  • Improved tree-cutting permit system;
  • Flexible development standards to encourage retention of large trees and groves;
  • Tree density standards that vary by lot size and land use;
  • Updated land use review standards and approval criteria;
  • Updated fees in-lieu of planting, tree fund provisions and violation penalties;
  • Refined role of Urban Forestry Commission and City Forester; and
  • Recommendations for the Portland Plan project to address urban forest issues.

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