Tree Requirements for Development Projects
To maintain a healthy urban forest and quality of life in Vancouver, the City of Vancouver administers Street Tree and Tree Conservation Ordinances. These codes include tree requirements during development. For more information, view the Street Tree Code, Chapter 12.004 and Tree Conservation Code, chapter 20.770.
Tree Preservation and Planting Requirements for Development
All trees on private property may not be removed unless permitted through Title 20.770 or through an approved permit.
All trees and native vegetation located in a critical area or shoreline district are to be protected and preserved as outlined in Critical Areas Ordinance Chapter 20.740.
Existing street trees and Heritage Trees (VMC 20.770.120) are to be protected and preserved. An approved permit from the Urban Forestry is required to remove, destroy, cut, break, or injure any street tree.
Title 20.770 requires a minimum tree density of 30 tree units per acre to be planted on private property. This tree density is to be achieved through preservation of existing quality trees and replanting new trees. New trees shall be spaced appropriately to provide for the eventual mature size of the trees per VMC 20.770.080.D. Required new trees are to be actual trees to meet the purpose and goals of 20.770, not large shrubs, hedge plants, fruit trees, weeping trees, or dwarf trees. Here is a list of Approved Trees that count towards tree units.
Contact Urban Forestry before planting trees that are not on the list, there is a reason that the tree or cultivar is not an approved tree for tree units. Projects could still plant these plants just not take credit for these plants as tree units. Per VMC 20.770.080.D trees shall optimize tree diversity; include native species and at least 60% conifers; utilize insect and disease resistant trees.
Title 20.925.060 requires street trees to be planted in new development projects fronting or on a public street or private street.
Title 20.925 requires buffer trees to be planted at a minimum 1 tree every 30 feet along all property lines.
Street trees may be required in an existing planting strip that is a least 2.5 feet in width, in tree wells, or in some cases, behind the sidewalk. Vancouver Public Works Transportation Division regulates sidewalk and tree well requirements. Locate new utility lines away from existing and required trees.
Deciduous trees required for projects are to be at least 2” caliper in size and conifers are to be at least 6’ tall or based on Table 20.770.080-2.
Tree location guidelines
All trees must be shown on the site or landscape plans at the time a permit is applied for during site plan review or plat approval. All required landscaping and trees must be planted prior to occupancy being granted. Here is a link to the inspection sheet city staff will be utilizing to verify required trees are planted in appropriate locations prior to issuing occupancy.
Maximize the benefits of trees within the right of way by utilizing large, long-lived, site appropriate trees. View the City of Vancouver’s approved street tree list for a list of trees approved for different size planter strips.
Trees with height of more than 25’ at maturity shall not be planted under power lines. Lower tree branches on street trees should be shortened or removed to provide physical and visual clearance.
Trees shall not be planted closer than:
- 25 feet from the curb line of an intersection
- 5 feet from alley margins and driveways
- 5 feet from fire hydrants, underground utilities, water meters, and utility boxes or poles
- 10 feet from directional traffic signs
- 2 feet from property lines
- 20 feet from stop or yield signs
- 20 feet from street lights, if a columnar tree variety is selected the distance can be reduced but species selection is determined by the Planning Official or Urban Forester
- 25 feet from adjacent trees depending on species
- 3 feet behind curb or sidewalk if no planter strip exists (attached sidewalks or just curb)
- Recommend 10 feet from building foundations depending on setback