Prior to removal of any trees, it is recommended that you contact the Land Use review team to ensure compliance with applicable codes and to discuss permit requirements. Also, review our information on tree retention.
Tree Removal on Private Property
The following conditions will require a permit for tree removal:
- Removal of more than five (5) significant trees, or removal that causes over 1,000 square feet of clearing
- The property is part of a designated critical area or buffer.
- The property is a commercial or multifamily zoned property
- The tree is in a native growth protection area or a retained vegetation area.
- The tree is on the city’s right of way.
- The property is located in an R-1 zone in Bridle Trails.
Apply for a Tree Removal Permit
Apply for a permit online at MyBuildingPermit. When entering your Application Information, choose the following:
- Application type: Clearing and Grading
- Project type: Single Family Residential or Multifamily Residential or Nonresidential
- Activity type: Trees or Vegetation only
- Scope of work: Tree Removal or Vegetation or Vegetation Management
Trees in the City Right-of-Way
Contact the Right-of-Way Division of the Transportation Department or Permit Processing for information on removing a tree in the city right-of-way.
Concerns About Tree Safety
One of the leading reasons given for tree removals is the health or safety of the tree. To ensure you are not needlessly removing an otherwise healthy tree, consult a qualified certified arborist or certified forester. There are two websites that can help:
Tree ownership is determined by whose property the trunk stands completely on. If the tree is a boundary tree (the trunk straddles a property line), it is owned jointly. In most cases, property owners may trim branches and roots which encroach on their property if they stay within certain guidelines: trim only up to the property line; do not enter the owner’s property without permission; do not destroy or damage the tree by trimming roots or branches.
If you have a dispute with your neighbor, call the Mediation Program at 425-452-4091. They can help you explore your alternatives, coach you on how to negotiate with your neighbor, or provide free mediation to help you and your neighbor find a workable solution.
Tree Removal on Public Property
The public is not authorized to remove (or reduce) any vegetation, including trees, from any public property, including any trees or vegetation adjacent to your own property. If you are unsure whether a tree is on public or private property, refer to your property title report or contact the Right of Way division.
Contact the city if you are concerned about the health or safety of a tree. The city has foresters and arborists on staff to respond to your concerns.
To report a potentially unhealthy tree on park property, call 425-452-6855 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To report a potentially unhealthy tree in the public right of way, call 425-452-7840.
You may face civil penalties, including fines up to three times the assessed value of the trees involved, for removing, topping or otherwise pruning a tree on city property without permission. Depending on the circumstances, criminal charges may also be brought.
Restrictions on Tree Removal
Vegetation removal is prohibited or requires city approval within the areas below. In some cases, if trees are diseased or dying and are deemed hazardous by a certified arborist, they can be removed with approval from a land use planner and the proper permit. In such cases, the city will require replanting or other mitigation in place of the removed trees. Always check with a land use planner before trimming, pruning or removing trees within the areas listed below.
- Plat/PUD Restrictions - Subdivisions or Planned Unit Developments (PUD) that have restrictions against tree removal; for example, a plat or PUD document that contains Native Growth Protection Areas (NGPAs), Retained Vegetation Areas (RVAs), or a Tree Retention Plan.
- Critical Areas - Property that contains a critical area (steep slope, stream corridor, wetland, shoreline, etc.) or has a critical area within 200 feet of the property. The city of Bellevue regulates six types of critical areas in its Land Use Code. These areas are given special protection because they provide unique environmental functions that are difficult, if not impossible, to replace and because they ensure public health, safety and welfare.
- Streams and riparian areas
- Habitats for species of local importance
- Geological hazard areas
- Flood hazard areas
- Required Landscaping - Trees on a commercial or multifamily zoned property.
- Private Agreements - Property that is subject to private contracts, covenants or homeowner associations that might prohibit removal of trees. Please note that the city does not enforce such private restrictions.
Existing soil cover is the vegetative or non-vegetative material that is covering the soil before the tree removal project, and which provides a barrier against erosion.
- Vegetative soil cover includes vegetation such as grass, weeds, groundcover, brush, shrubs, and tree canopy.
- Non-vegetative soil cover includes material such as rocks, mulch (wood, bark, rock, stone, etc.), wood, asphalt or cement concrete, metal, plastic and lumber.
Estimate Soil Cover Loss
The bulk of soil cover that is lost due to tree removal is generally from the canopy area of the trees that are removed. The tree canopy is the layer of leaves, branches and stems that cover the ground when viewed from above.
The area of tree canopy can be estimated based on measurements at the ground level from directly below the tips of the outermost branches. A recent aerial photo can also be used to estimate canopy area.
Any other areas of soil cover loss during tree removal, such as removal of grass, landscaping, structures, etc., must be counted as part of the total removal of soil cover.