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Tree Care

A permit to trim trees in the front yard/side yard on City right of way is not required. Proper trimming procedures to maintain the trees must be followed (ANSI A300 Pruning Standards). While tree trimming is not closely monitored, City staff will respond to complaints regarding improper tree trimming.

Tree Care

Generally, trees five years or younger should be watered once a week during the summer. To promote deep rooting and reduce sidewalk damage, a water basin around the tree should be used to hold water. Water applied within the basin will thoroughly moisten the tree's root zone without runoff.

Trees need space for root growth. Trunk rot can occur if plants or mulches are placed within one foot of the tree. Beyond one foot, annual or perennial plantings of your choice would add beauty to your home and neighborhood.

If you want to install concrete, asphalt paving or other hard surfacing in front of your residence, you will need to obtain an encroachment permit to install and maintain the surface according to City policies and requirements. This permit must be obtained from the City of Los Altos Engineering Division; Engineering can be reached at (650) 947-2780.

Caring for Oak Trees

Because Los Altos has a large number of oak trees, the Environmental Commission has provided some tips for their care:

  • Do not water near mature oaks in the summer. Young oaks will need some water year round.
  • Plant only drought-tolerant California native shrubs and ground covers within the root protection zone (RPZ), which is half as big as the area between the trunk and the drip line.
  • Do not plant within 6 feet of the trunk. Limit the amount of digging you do in this area.
  • Do not put extra soil on top of the RPZ or compact the soil in any way.
  • Leave fallen leaf litter in place to act as a mulch.
  • Provide adequate drainage around the tree. Basements and swimming pools that are down slope from oaks can act as dams, leaving oak roots too wet.
  • Put all utilities in one trench, preferably bored 3 feet underground to avoid destroying feeder roots.
  • Use decking rather than paving near oaks.
  • Consult a certified arborist if the tree looks stressed or unhealthy or if you plan to do some home improvements that might impact it.
  • To prevent Sudden Oak Death Syndrome, do not bring in plants that are possible carriers, do not bring in fire wood from contaminated areas, and wash tires, boots and tools before leaving any contaminated areas.