Trees

Kirkland's Tree Codes

The City adopted a new Tree Code Ordinance (O-4786) that is effective May 13th, 2022. This webpage has been updated to reflect the new regulations.

Trees that grow in backyards and parks, along streets and in forested areas are all part of an urban forest. Trees are important features in urban landscapes because they:

  • Produce oxygen and improve air quality
  • Reduce urban heat island effects
  • Control stormwater runoff and soil erosion
  • Contribute to human health and well-being
  • Provide wildlife habitat and bird migration corridors 
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To maximize the public benefits of trees, Kirkland strives to achieve a healthy, resilient urban forest with a 40% tree canopy cover. To balance these goals while accommodating urban growth, Kirkland regulates tree removal, pruning and tree retention on development sites. Tree Removal Notifications or Permits are required to remove all regulated trees (6” DBH or greater) within the City. To learn more about measuring your tree and which tree removal request type (notification vs. permit) is required to remove a tree review the Tree Removal Permitting Guide.

Click on the menu below to explore information about different City tree regulations and permit types. All tree removal forms must be submitted online at www.mybuildingpermit.com.

Tree Removal

Use this Tree Removal Guide(PDF, 895KB) to help determine which process and form applies to your situation.

Trees on Private Property

The City will not accept new development permits for sites that have recently removed healthy trees for a period of 12 months for Regulated Trees or 24 months for Landmark Trees. If you are planning to develop your property in the next 12 to 24 months, the trees must qualify as hazard or nuisance trees to be exempt from this development hold per KZC 95.25(5).

Tree Removal Notification

For developed properties, a Tree Removal Notification is required to remove healthy regulated trees. The number of trees allowed for removal depends on the property size, the number of trees previously removed in the past 12-months, and the number of total regulated trees remaining on the lot following the requested removal(s).

For more information and a step-by-step guide on submitting a notification see the Private Tree Removal Notification Instruction Guide.

A Tree Removal Notification can only be used when the following are not applicable:

  • You have exceeded the 12-month tree removal allowances for your property
  • You do not have the minimum number of trees required to remain following the requested removal(s)
  • The tree is a Landmark Tree (26” DBH or greater)
  • You are requesting to remove a Hedge
  • The property does has a mapped critical area and associated buffer (wetland, stream, Landslide Hazard Area)
  • The tree is located in a Shoreline jurisdiction
  • The property is in the Holmes Point Overlay zone (HPO)
  • There is a protected Tree Preservation Covenant or Grove Covenant
  • The property had a new residence built in the last 5 years
  • The property is zoned as multi-family, commercial, or mixed-use

Tree Removal Permit

Regulated trees (6” DBH or greater) require the submission of a Tree Removal Permit in certain locations throughout the City or if conditions apply. If the tree(s) are not able to be removed via the Tree Notification Process, then a Tree Removal Permit is required.  The tree(s) requested for removal must meet the City’s hazard or nuisance tree to qualify for removal.

For more information and a step-by-step guide on submitting a Tree Removal Permit see the following guides:

In addition to the permit, an arborist report, replanting plan, and payment of the associated permit fee are required.

Once you have submitted a permit with all the required documents, it will be reviewed by the City’s Development Review Arborist for consistency with City standards and the City will conduct a site inspection. After this review, the City will email the permit determination within 15 business day and if approved, you can proceed with the tree removal. 

Forest Stewardship Plan Permit

A Forest Stewardship Plan applies to large significantly wooded properties at least 25,000 square feet or greater where a traditional stand management approach is applicable. See Kirkland Zoning Code Chapter 94.25(10) and the Forest Stewardship Plan Permit Instruction Guide for additional information. When submitting the permit through mybuildingpermit.com, you will be required to upload a site plan, reforestation plan, and prescribed maintenance plan, and pay the associated permit fee.

Public Trees
Public Tree Pruning or Removal Permit

A permit is required prior to pruning or removing trees on public property. This includes any trees located in the City right-of-way or a public park. The City only allows the removal of public trees that meet the City’s hazard or nuisance tree criteria. 

If you’re not sure if the tree in front of your house is in the public right-of-way, call 425-587-3600 or visit Kirkland Maps and turn on the “Trees” Layer.

In certain cases, the City will conduct the pruning or removal of public trees, including the following:

  • Tree(s) present high or imminent risk to the public right-of-way (streets or sidewalks)
  • Tree(s) are causing major damages to public infrastructure that cannot be mitigated through reasonable practices
  • Clearance pruning is required for sidewalk and/or public road access

In all other cases, you must hire a private contractor to conduct the pruning or removal and seek prior approval from the City by submitting a Public Tree Pruning or Removal Permit. Minor tree pruning may be performed by the adjacent property owner without a permit. Minor pruning is defined as branches less than 2” in diameter, with less than 15% canopy removal.

To report dying, diseased and/or dangerous trees in the public right of way, call Public Works at 425-587-3900.

Emergency Tree Removal

If the tree poses an imminent risk to life or property, the tree may be removed using the Emergency Tree Removal Process without first obtaining a permit. The tree removal must be reported to the City by submitting a Private Tree Removal Notification Permit within 7 days of removal and evidence of the threat, such as an Arborist Report or photographs, must be provided. If the Planning Official determines the emergency tree removal was not warranted the party may be subject to code violation fines per KMC 1.12.100.

Tree Pruning

Private Property (homeowner) Tree Pruning

Generally, you do not need a permit to prune or trim the trees on your property unless the following restrictions apply:

  • The tree is located in a critical area or associated buffer (wetland, stream, landslide hazard area)
  • The tree is located in the Holmes Point Overlay (HPO)
  • The tree is located in the Shoreline jurisdiction
  • The tree is protected through a recorded Grove Covenant, Tree Preservation Covenant, or Native Growth Protection Easement (NGPE)

If you wish to prune a tree where any of the above apply, you must first contact the City to obtain permission. You can do so by submitting a Request for Service and titling the request as “Critical Area Tree Pruning Request” or by calling 425-587-3600.  You may be required to submit a pruning work plan prepared by your Certified Arborist for review.

Topping is prohibited in Kirkland because it results in weak branches, decay, and can eventually kill the tree if there is not enough live foliage to support the tree. Excessive pruning can have the same effect, so in Kirkland, pruning over 25-percent of a tree's live canopy is considered the same as tree removal and may be subject to code enforcement. 

Public (street or Parks) Tree Pruning

The care and maintenance of trees in the right of way is a shared responsibility between private property owners and the City's maintenance crews. The City wants to ensure the safety and proper pruning of public trees to ensure a sustainable urban forest. For that reason, a property owner who wishes to prune a public tree adjacent to their property needs to submit a Public Tree Pruning or Removal Permit through MyBuildingPermit.com (MBP).  View the Public Tree Pruning and Removal Instruction Guide.

If you’re not sure if the tree in front of your house is in the public right-of-way, call 425-587-3600 or visit Kirkland Maps and turn on the “Trees” Layer.

In certain cases, the City will conduct the pruning or removal of public trees, including the following:

  • Tree(s) present high or imminent risk to the public right-of-way (streets or sidewalks)
  • Tree(s) are causing major damages to public infrastructure that cannot be mitigated through reasonable practices
  • Clearance pruning is required for sidewalk and/or public road access

In all other cases, you must hire a private contractor to conduct the pruning or removal and seek prior approval from the City by submitting a Public Tree Pruning or Removal Permit. The City will not conduct any pruning of branches/tree parts that overhang private property. Minor tree pruning may be performed by the adjacent property owner without a permit. Minor pruning is defined as branches less than 2” in diameter, with less than 15% canopy removal.

To report dying, diseased and/or dangerous trees in the public right of way, call Public Works at 425-587-3900.

Trees and Development

Tree Retention Plans

A Tree Retention Plan is required for any proposed development requiring approval through a building permit; land surface modification permit; demolition permit; and/or Design Review, Process I, IIA, or IIB, described in Chapters 142, 145, 150 and 152 KZC, respectively.

Exemptions may apply for building additions to and remodels of existing improvements in which the total square footage of the proposed improvements is less than 50 percent of the total square footage of the existing footprint on the subject property and where no development activity is proposed within the critical root zone of regulated trees. 

Holmes Point Overlay - The Holmes Point Overlay (HPO) area within the Finn Hill Neighborhood has unique development-related tree protection codes. Refer to Kirkland Zoning Code Chapter 70 and the resources below:

Map(PDF, 547KB) of the area and HPO permit items(PDF, 107KB) requirements.  
Integrated Development Plans: Accelerated Short Plat and Subdivision Review Process Information(PDF, 260KB) 
Tree Protection Fencing Detail(PDF, 270KB)

Arborist Reports

An arborist report may be required a Tree Retention Plan or Tree Removal Permit application. 

Review the requirements for arborist reports submitted to the City of Kirkland

 

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Managing an Urban Forest

Healthy, sustainable urban forests don't just happen - they require decisions that may take 20 years to have an effect, can involve public or privately-owned trees, and often need coordination of multiple City divisions. To meet these challenges, Kirkland has: 

  • Qualified as a Tree City USA for 18 consecutive years
  • Earned Growth Awards by exceeding Tree City USA standards 
  • Been recognized as a Sterling City for leadership and innovation in community forestry
  • Adopted an Urban Forestry Strategic Management Plan
  • Adopted a 20-Year Forest Restoration Plan for park open space management
  • Developed a Citywide Urban Forestry Six Year Work Plan (2014-2019) 
  • Tracked tree canopy cover over time

Read more about the City's efforts towards a healthy, resilient urban forest and check out how canopy cover has changed in Kirkland:

Urban Forestry Management Plan

Recognizing the value and benefits of the urban forest, the City developed a coordinated approach to urban forest management over a long term horizon. Adopted in June 2013, Kirkland's Urban Forest Strategic Management Plan(PDF, 3MB) provides a framework of performance measures for sustainable urban forest management. 

Specific action items to implement the Strategic Management Plan are outlined in citywide Six Urban Forestry Year Work Plans. The current Work Plan (2021-2026) was adopted by the City Council with Resolution R-5472(PDF, 1MB) .

Kirkland's Tree Canopy Cover

Canopy cover is the 2-D outline of tree leaves and branches as seen from above. To track progress towards our 40% canopy goal, Kirkland measures its canopy cover on 8-10 year cycles. By looking at tree canopy cover in specific areas and comparing it to prior studies, any changes can reveal the effectiveness of urban forest management. Our most recent canopy assessment revealed:

  • A decrease in tree canopy from 40% in 2010 to 38% in 2017 equates to a loss of over 270 acres of canopy cover.
  • The highest percentage of canopy loss occurred in the Single Family residential land use area.
  • Although current canopy cover is within 75-100% of our goal, an “optimal” range of performance, Kirkland still needs to consider management strategies that enhance canopy cover, such as planting strategies and tree code updates.   

View past assessments: