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(a) When Tree or Plant Removal Permit Required. A Tree or Plant Removal Permit shall be required for the removal of a regulated tree or plant as identified in this Chapter.
(1) Removals in Conjunction with Land Use Application or Development Permit - Director Approval. The Director may approve the removal of regulated trees or plants when requested in conjunction with a land use application, a Building Permit, and all other development permits (e.g., Grading Permits, Mobile Home Setdown Permits, etc.). An approved land use application and/or development permit shall be considered to include a Tree or Plant Removal Permit, if the land use application or development permit specifically reviews and approves the removals. The review of a land use application or development permit shall consider and require compliance with this Chapter.
(2) Removals Not in Conjunction with Land Use Application or Development Permit - Director Approval. The Director may approve a Tree or Plant Removal Permit for the removal of regulated trees or plants requested not in conjunction with a land use application or development permit.
(3) Removals to Mitigate Fire Hazards - Fire Chief Approval. The Fire Chief may approve a Tree or Plant Removal Permit for the removal of regulated trees or plants when requested for the purposes of mitigating fire hazards and independent of a land use application or development permit.
(b) Expert Certification. The applicable review authority may require certification from an appropriate arborist, registered professional forester or a Desert Native Plant Expert that the proposed tree removal, replacement, or revegetation activities are appropriate, supportive of a healthy environment, and in compliance with this Chapter. The certification shall include the information in compliance with Department procedures.
(c) Preconstruction Inspections. A preconstruction inspection before approval of development permits shall be required in areas with regulated trees or plants to determine the presence of regulated trees and plants. The preconstruction inspection may be combined with any other required inspection.
(d) Duration of Tree or Plant Removal Permits.
(1) Removals in Conjunction with Land Use Application or Development Permit. The duration of a Tree or Plant Removal Permit, when issued in conjunction with a land use application and/or a development permit, shall have the same duration of the associated application or permit, unless otherwise specified.
(2) Removals Not in Conjunction with Land Use Application or Development Permit. The applicable review authority shall specify the expiration date for all other Tree or Plant Removal Permits.
(e) Conditions of Approval. A Tree or Plant Removal Permit may be subject to the following conditions imposed by the applicable review authority:
(1) Types of Conditions. The conditions may specify criteria, methods, and persons authorized to conduct the proposed activities in addition to the requirements in this Chapter.
(2) Transplanting or Stockpiling. Where indicated in this Chapter, regulated trees and plants may be required to be transplanted and/or stockpiled for future transplanting.
(3) Performance Bonds. The review authority may require the posting and maintenance of a monetary security deposit where necessary to ensure the completion of the required mitigation measures in compliance with § 86.06.050 (Performance Guarantees).
(4) Conversion of Oak Woodlands. If a project will result in a conversion of oak woodlands that will have a significant effect on the environment and is not exempt under § 88.01.030(m) (Exempt Activities - Oak Woodlands), one or more of the conditions in this Subdivision may be imposed in compliance with Public Resources Code § 21083.4. For the purposes of this Subdivision, “oak” shall mean a native tree species that is in the genus Quercus, which is not designated as Group A or Group B commercial species under regulations adopted by the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection in compliance with Public Resources Code § 4526, and which is five inches or more in diameter as measured at a point four and one-half feet (breast height) above natural grade level. The applicable review authority may require certification from a Tree Expert that the proposed mitigation measures are appropriate, supportive of a healthy oak woodland environment, and in compliance with this Subdivision. The certification shall include the information in compliance with Department procedures. The conditions that may be imposed include one or more of the following:
(A) Preservation. Preserve existing oak woodlands by recording conservation easements in favor of the County or an approved organization or agency.
(B) Replacement or Restoration. Replace or restore former oak woodlands. The review authority may require the planting and maintenance of replacement trees, including replacing dead or diseased trees. The replacement ratio and tree sizes shall be based on the recommendation of an Oak Reforestation Plan prepared by a registered professional forester. The requirement to maintain trees in compliance with this Subdivision shall terminate seven years after the trees are planted.
(C) In-lieu mitigation fee. Contribute in-lieu mitigation fee to the Oak Woodlands Conservation Fund, established under Fish and Game Code § 1363 for the purpose of purchasing oak woodlands conservation easements. A project applicant who contributes funds in compliance with this Subdivision shall not receive or use a grant from the Oak Woodlands Conservation Fund as part of the mitigation for the project. The in-lieu fee for replacement trees shall be calculated based upon their equivalent value as established by the International Society of Arboriculture’s (ISA) current edition of Guide to Establishing Values for Trees and Shrubs, etc.).
(D) Other Mitigation Measures. Perform other mitigation measures as may be required by the review authority (e.g., inch-for-inch off-site replacement planting; transfer of development rights, enrollment of project with offset provider for carbon credits in greenhouse gas emission registry, carbon reduction, and carbon trading system; etc.).
(f) Findings for Tree or Plant Removal Permits. The applicable review authority may authorize the removal of a regulated tree or plant only if the following findings are made:
(1) Findings for Removals in the Valley Region, Mountain Region, and Desert Region. The removal of the regulated tree or plant is justified for one of the following reasons:
(A) The location of the regulated tree or plant and/or its dripline interferes with an allowed structure, sewage disposal area, paved area, or other approved improvement or ground disturbing activity and there is no other alternative feasible location for the improvement.
(B) The location of the regulated tree or plant and/or its dripline interferes with the planned improvement of a street or development of an approved access to the subject or adjoining private property and there is no other alternative feasible location for the improvement.
(C) The location of the regulated tree or plant is hazardous to pedestrian or vehicular travel or safety.
(D) The regulated tree or plant or its presence interferes with or is causing extensive damage to utility services or facilities, roadways, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, pavement, sewer line(s), drainage or flood control improvements, foundations, existing structures, or municipal improvements.
(E) The condition or location of the regulated tree or plant is adjacent to and in such close proximity to an existing or proposed structure that the regulated tree or plant has or will sustain significant damage.
(2) Additional Findings for Removals in the Mountain Region. In the Mountain Region only, the applicable review authority shall also make all of the following findings:
(A) Where improvements are proposed, the design of the improvements ensures that at least the following minimum percentage of the subject parcel will be maintained or established in a natural undeveloped vegetated or revegetated condition sufficient to ensure vegetative coverage for a forest environment, as determined by the applicable Review Authority.
(I) Twenty percent of commercial, industrial, and administrative/ professional uses.
(II) Thirty-five percent of multi-family residential uses.
(B) At least one half of natural areas for all uses, except single-family residential uses, will be located in the front setback area or located so that significant portions are visible from the public right-of-way on which the improvements are to be located.
(C) A perch tree within a federally identified American Bald Eagle habitat will not be removed unless an adequate substitution is provided.
(D) A Registered Professional Forester has certified in writing that the condition or location of a regulated tree is contributing to overstocked tree stand conditions and that its removal will improve the overall health, safety, and vigor of the stand of trees containing the subject tree.
(3) In the Desert Region only, the applicable Review Authority shall also make the following findings:
(A) Joshua trees that are proposed to be removed will be transplanted or stockpiled for future transplanting wherever possible.
(B) In the instance of stockpiling, the permittee has complied with Department policy to ensure that Joshua trees are transplanted appropriately. Transplanting shall comply with the provisions of the Desert Native Plants Act (Food and Agricultural Code §§ 80001 et seq.), as required by § 88.01.060(d) (Compliance with Desert Native Plants Act).
(C) No other reasonable alternative exists for the development of the land when the removal of specimen size Joshua Trees is requested. Specimen size trees are defined as meeting one or more of the following criteria:
(I) A circumference measurement equal to or greater than 50 inches measured at four and one-half feet above natural grade level.
(II) Total tree height of 15 feet or greater.
(III) Trees possessing a bark-like trunk.
(IV) A cluster of ten or more individual trees, of any size, growing in close proximity to each other.
(g) Plot Plan Requirements. Before the issuance of a Tree or Plant Removal Permit, a plot plan shall be approved by the applicable Review Authority for each site indicating exactly which trees or plants are authorized to be removed. The required information shall be added to any other required plot plan.
(h) Construction Standards. During construction and before final inspection under a development permit, the following construction standards shall apply, unless otherwise approved in writing by an arborist, registered professional forester, or a Desert Native Plant Expert:
(1) Enclosures. The trunks of regulated trees and regulated plants shall not be enclosed within rooflines or decking.
(2) Attachments. Utilities, construction signs, or other hardware shall not be attached so as to penetrate or abrase any live regulated tree or plant.
(3) Grade Alterations. No grade alterations shall bury any portion of a regulated tree or plant or significantly undercut the root system within the dripline.
(1) Other Applicable Code Provisions. The provisions of Chapter 86.09 (Enforcement) shall apply to this Chapter.
(2) Enforcement Authorities. The authorities responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of this Chapter shall be the same as the review authorities responsible for permit approvals as specified in this Section. In addition, the provisions of this Chapter may be enforced by the California Department of Forestry, where applicable.
(3) Extension of Time. If property is subject to snow, flooding, or other conditions that render compliance with the provisions of this Chapter within the specified time periods impractical because of inaccessibility, an enforcement officer may extend the period of time for compliance.
(4) Powers of Enforcement Officers.
(A) A peace officer or any authorized enforcement officer may in the enforcement of this Section:
(I) Make arrests without warrant for a violation of this Chapter that the officer may witness.
(II) Confiscate regulated native trees or plants, or parts of them, that are unlawfully harvested, possessed, sold, or otherwise obtained in violation of this Chapter.
(B) In addition, a designated enforcement officer shall be authorized and directed to enter in or upon any premises or other place, train, vehicle, or other means of transportation within or entering the State, which is suspected of containing or having present regulated plants in violation of this Chapter in order to examine permits and wood receipts and observe tags and seals and to otherwise enforce the provisions of this Chapter.
(5) When Enforcement Officer Vested with Power of Peace Officer. When power or authority is given by this Chapter to a person, it may be exercised by any deputy, inspector, or agent duly authorized by that person. A person in whom the enforcement of a provision of this Chapter is vested shall have the power of a peace officer as to that enforcement, which shall include State or Federal agencies with which cooperative agreements have been made by the County to enforce the provisions of this Chapter.
(6) Written Permission of Landowner Required for Removal. No person shall remove or damage all or part of any regulated tree or plant on the property of another person without first obtaining notarized written permission from the landowner and required permits, wood receipts, or tags and seals. In addition, it shall be unlawful for a person to falsify a document offered as evidence of permission to enter upon the property of another to harvest all or parts of a regulated tree or plant, whether alive or dead.
(7) Permit Available for Display and Inspection. No person, except as provided in this Chapter, shall harvest, offer for sale, destroy, dig up or mutilate, or have in his or her possession a regulated plant or tree, or the living or dead parts of them, unless the plant or tree was harvested under a valid permit and, where applicable, a valid wood receipt on his or her person. A person shall exhibit the permit, wood receipt, tags and/or seals upon request for inspection by an authorized County enforcement officer or any peace officer. No wood receipt or tag and seal shall be valid unless it is issued with a valid permit and the permit bears the wood receipt number or tag number on its face. Required tags and seals shall be attached securely to a regulated desert native plant.
(8) Land Disturbance. No person, except as provided in this Chapter, shall commence with a disturbance of land (e.g., grading or land clearing) without first obtaining approval to assure that said disturbance will not result in the removal of any regulated native trees or plants. Said approval may be in the form of a development permit or a Tree or Plant Removal Permit issued by the appropriate authority.
(j) Penalties. Penalties shall be those specified in Chapter 86.09 (Enforcement) and shall include the following and any other penalties specified by individual Sections of this Chapter.
(1) Fine for Illegal Removal.
(A) In addition to other penalties and fees imposed by this Development Code or other law, a person, firm, or corporation convicted of a violation of the provisions of this Chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor upon conviction.
(B) When one or more plants or trees are removed in violation of the provisions of this Chapter, the removal of each separate plant or tree shall be a new and separate offense.
(C) The penalty for the offense shall be a fine of not less than $500.00 nor more than $1,000.00, or six months in jail, or both.
(D) Payment of a penalty shall not relieve a person, firm, or corporation from the responsibility of correcting the condition resulting from the violation.
(2) Replacement Program for Illegal Removal.
(A) In addition to other penalties imposed by this Development Code or other law, a person, firm, or corporation convicted of violating the provisions of this Chapter regarding improper removal of regulated native trees or plants shall be required to retain, as appropriate, a Tree Expert or Desert Native Plant Expert to develop and implement a replacement program.
(B) The expert shall determine the appropriate number, size, species, location, and planting conditions for replacement plants or trees in sufficient quantities to revegetate the illegally disturbed area.
(C) If it is inappropriate to revegetate the illegally disturbed area, another appropriate location (e.g., public parks) may be substituted at the direction of the court.
(D) The violator shall post a bond in an amount sufficient to remove and reinstall plant/tree materials that were planted as a part of a replacement program and failed within two years.
(3) Revocation of Permits.
(A) Upon conviction of a violation of this Chapter, all Tree or Plant Removal Permits issued to the convicted person, firm, or corporation shall be revoked.
(B) No new or additional Tree or Plant Removal Permits shall be issued to the permittee for a period of one year from the date of conviction.
(C) Additionally, in the Desert Region the permittee shall be required to surrender unused wood receipts or tags and seals to the Director.
(Ord. 4011, passed - -2007; Am. Ord. 4043, passed - -2008)