The Urban Forestry Division (UFD) has control and authority over the pruning of street tree pruning in the City of Los Angeles. Although the Los Angeles Municipal Code does not require the City to be responsible for street tree pruning but the City has historically and continues to take the responsibility for the pruning.
UFD was created to ensure the public right-of-way (ROW) is safe and passable at all times relative to trees and other greenscape. This includes street trees as well as private property vegetation that may impact the ROW. Practically speaking, the pruning performed on street trees is to ensure this occurs by raising street trees to applicable height clearances for a particular street type (LAMC Sec. 56.08) and pruning for safety on trees that may possess structural problems that could lead to potential failure.
Street tree pruning is not performed to minimize fruit, seed, or leaf drop, increase sun to a landscape or property, or for other discretionary purposes. This is an important distinction between street tree pruning and the type of pruning you may prefer to perform on your own private trees.
Per the City of Los Angeles' Street Tree Policies, all street tree pruning is in compliance with International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Tree Pruning Guidelines and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A300 standards. These guidelines prohibit "topping" or "heading."
UFD prunes street trees utilizing City forces and, when budgeting allows, contractors. The number of street trees pruned annually varies and commensurately the pruning cycle, time period between prunings, does as well. Within the last 25 years, the cycle has been as low as five and as many as fifty plus years. The current cycle is over 50 years.
Property owners may prune street trees at their own expense if they would like to prune more often than the cycle allows. Please contact the Bureau of Street Services Service Request Section at (800) 996-2489 for a no-fee pruning permit.
UFD hopes this webpage supplies you with all of the information needed to understand why and how the Division prunes street trees and how you may obtain a pruning permit if you so choose. If you need further information please contact the Division at (213) 847-3077.