Step Away from the Chain Saw

Steep New Fines for Improper Pruning

Maximum fines for excessive tree pruning in the City of Santa Barbara will increase from $100 per offense to $3,000, and from $100 to $5,000 for improper tree removal. Based on the new rules, adopted by the City Council on Tuesday, December 8, minimum fines will still start at $100. Proper maintenance of trees in public spaces like parking lots-or in private set-back spaces viewable by the public-has long been a volatile issue. Regulatory lines of authority have been fractured and confusing to city employees and property owners alike. In general, actual enforcement has been toothless. In the past year, there were more than 50 complaints of excessive pruning, most of which were substantiated. In a handful of cases, damage was severe enough that the affected trees had to be removed and new ones planted. In that time, only one fine was issued. That was subsequently appealed and the fine rescinded. Under the new rules, “excessive” pruning will be defined as anything in excess of one-quarter of the tree crown. Currently, it’s one third.

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