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Tree Ordinance helps protect greenery

Updated November 20, 2020

Since Cerritos was first established, City crews have planted more than 30,000 trees in City parks and along sidewalks and street medians. This "community forest" gives our City character, provides shade and beauty and enhances property values.

A Tree Ordinance sets in writing Cerritos' goals and standards for tree care.

Proper tree care

Proper tree maintenance is imperative in Cerritos, especially as the City is a Tree City USA. City crews use special trimming techniques, established by the International Society of Arboriculture. Property owners should care for the street trees in front of their homes and businesses by watering them regularly. Trimming, treating and fertilizing, however, should be left to Public Works crews, who are trained in special techniques that enhance the trees' strength and stability.

Cutting a tree the wrong way, (chopping branches severely to reduce the tree’s size), is called “topping.” Topping gives trees ugly stumps and raw cuts that invite insects and disease. Topping also reduces a tree’s ability to remove pollution from the air, and starves trees by robbing them of their food-making ability, which will cause most of them to quickly grow ugly, brushy regrowth that requires frequent trimming. “False limbs,” (branches with weak connections that can easily break) may also grow out of topped trees.

Topping City trees is unlawful and may harm property values. City crews never top parkway trees. Likewise, home owners are advised to hire a professional to care for the trees in their front and back yards.

Home and business owners should take responsibility by regularly watering the parkway trees in front of their properties. With very young trees, deep watering is best because it encourages roots to grow downward, away from curbs, sidewalks and driveways.

New City trees are planted with enough fertilizer to last four to five years. For this reason, home owners should avoid over-fertilizing their parkways, as excess nutrients can burn tree roots.

Home owners should also leave a 6 to 8-inch ring of soil at the base of their trees so that the trees won’t have to compete with the lawn for water. This soil buffer also helps keep the nylon strings from weed-eating machines safely away from young trees.

Instead, residents and business owners can report street-tree problems by calling the Public Works Department at (562) 916-1220 or filling out a tree trimming request form. A City tree specialist will examine the tree and recommend solutions. The City may trim it, treat it for disease, or install root barriers to protect sidewalks and curbs.

Tree removal requests

City crews fertilize parkway trees when needed and spray them every season for fungus and insects. City trees are trimmed on a regular schedule, so residents do not need to request this service. However, if you feel that the tree in front of your property requires additional trimming, is unhealthy looking, poses a hazard, or has roots pushing up on the sidewalk or curb, please report it by calling the Public Works Department at (562) 916-1220 or fill out the tree trimming request form.

Street trees are removed only when they are diseased, dying or dead, or when they are posing a threat to public health or safety. Residents can request removal of a street tree under these circumstances. Excessive leaf debris is not grounds for removal.

If the resident's tree-removal request is denied, he or she can appeal to the City's Property Preservation Commission within 10 days for further consideration. If the Commission agrees that a troublesome tree should be removed, the tree will be taken out and replaced at the City's expense. A maximum of 50 trees may be removed each year.


So that City maintenance crews have clear access to street trees, water meters, utility lines, curbs and gutters, residents should follow a few rules when maintaining their parkways—the public property between the curb and the sidewalk. While residents are encouraged to plant grass, plants and flowers in their parkways, plants should grow no higher than 24 inches to protect visibility for motorists.

Also, concrete, brick, pavers or any other type of "hardscape" is not allowed on parkways, as it impedes City work crews and may become cracked or warped by tree roots. Permanent structures, such as basketball backboards are also not allowed.

For more information on what is allowed on parkways, or more details on the City's Tree Ordinance, call the Public Works Department at (562) 916-1220.

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