Citywide Tree Project adopted by City Council
Proposal to ensure tree preservation and planting means Portlanders will benefit from robust tree canopy
Portland, ORE. — Today, the Portland City Council unanimously adopted milestone legislation to protect and enhance Portland’s urban forest. Three years in the making, the Citywide Tree Project streamlines and strengthens the City’s requirements around trees.
“The Tree Project has been a journey,” proclaimed Mayor Sam Adams. “Thanks to our community’s tenacity, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s leadership and critical assistance from other city bureaus, dozens of disparate viewpoints have been woven into a cohesive framework for the future of our trees.”
Commissioner Nick Fish called the Tree Project “an historic opportunity for Portland to ensure the future of our urban tree canopy. We are all partners in protecting and managing this vital natural resource. Trees provide significant economic and environmental benefits to our community.”
Led by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, multiple City bureaus and community stakeholders tackled tough policy questions and tradeoffs to produce the proposal presented to Portland’s Planning Commission and Urban Forestry Commission last year, and then later to the City Council.
“The process was unique,” observed Bonny McKnight, Citywide Land Use Group Chair and member of the project Stakeholder Discussion Group. “The Citywide Tree Policy development took place through an effective and – by normal standards – rapid collaboration of many City bureaus to find rules that could be combined, eliminated, clarified and ultimately simplified into a single, understandable [code] (Title 11 - Trees)."
The result is a cohesive regulatory framework, designed to support City goals for tree canopy and healthy watersheds, smart urban development and neighborhood livability. Portland's new tree rules will encourage preservation of large healthy trees and ensure that trees are routinely planted as new development takes place. The project also standardizes and streamlines the City's tree removal and pruning permit requirements, making them more consistent, fair and user-friendly.
"Trees are an essential part of having a vibrant city. They help clean our air and water, as well as keep us cool in the summer," stated Bureau of Environmental Services Director Dean Marriott. "The new tree code provides a great step forward as the community tries to grow more trees and protect the ones we have."
Commissioner Amanda Fritz noted that, "This is landmark legislation. Trees are the landmarks in our neighborhoods, and the regulations we are adopting provide landmark protections. So Portlanders will continue to enjoy the many benefits of big beautiful trees for generations to come."
As active participants in the project, the development community sought balance in the new tree rules. "The Home Builders Association appreciates the collaborative effort with the other stakeholders and the City of Portland to develop a tree policy that created a workable, fair and consistent system for housing development," said Dave Nielson, executive director of Home Builders Association of Metro Portland. "The final result was one that places equal importance on infill homes and a healthy tree canopy."
City Council also directed a set of actions to improve customer service and public access to tree-related information and programs. These include a new single point of contact for the public, a 24-hour tree hotline, an updated tree permit tracking system, and development of a Community Tree Manual.
Commissioner Dan Saltzman noted that, "Completing this phase of the work is an important step, but success will ultimately be measured in terms of more trees across Portland, and community confidence in our ability to implement and enforce the rules."
Said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland, "This is a huge step forward for our environment and our community. The Tree Project directs the City to protect, educate and enforce as needed to sustain and expand our urban canopy. Portland's trees are an incredible asset, and the costs associated with this approach represent smart, strategic and proactive investments in the City's green infrastructure."
The Tree Project components will be phased in over three years so staff can prepare to implement the new codes, while providing information to developers, arborists and Portland residents.