The Plan for Fullerton Street Trees

For the last 41 years, Fullerton has been recognized as a “Tree City USA,” but the previous extensive inventory was completed in 1998. Tree inventories tally both city-owned and private trees, identify areas needing additional trees, policies concerning maintenance, replacement areas, and plant selection. Fullerton currently hosts over 35,000 trees, which accounts for over 27% of the city experiencing an existing tree canopy, which is significantly higher than many Orange County cities.

Fullerton’s 2023 Community Forest Management Plan is complete and online on the city website under Community Forest Management.

Street trees form part of a long-term investment for a healthy community. Trees offer benefits beyond the aesthetic value, though a healthy, mature street tree can lift property values up to 20%. Street trees act as sound barriers, absorb carbon and polluting gasses, reduce erosion, release oxygen, and moderate heat island zones by increasing shaded areas and reducing radiant reflective heat.

In Fullerton, the purple-blooming Jacaranda is the most easily identified tree. Still, the city is filled with Southern Magnolia, Chinese Elm, and Crape Myrtle trees along with Oaks, Canary Island Pines, and Pink Trumpet trees, creating large swaths of shady and blooming city sections. In addition to the historic trees in many parts of the city, newer varieties that can withstand drought, like Coast Live Oaks and Western Redbuds, are being incorporated along with trees that will not grow to interfere with power lines or shade the solar power collectors set up throughout the city. The trees are also selected to create deeper root structures, thereby causing less damage to roads, walls, and sidewalks in the future.

The updated tree management plan covers maintenance routines, an updated street tree inventory listing, and new street-by-street tree palettes in various appendices. While planting new street trees, the city recommends greater tree diversity, which turns away from historical monoculture street tree plantings.

Arborists agree that variety promotes better overall tree health and flexibility in long-term tree maintenance. Many replacement trees are newer varieties bred for greater disease and insect damage resistance, drought tolerance, and carbon absorption, like the Chinese Elm’ True Green.’ The street tree options have tried to keep similar tree sizes and growth habits along the same street.

The inventory revealed a greater need for additional street trees in the city’s southern area, where the lack of street trees causes heat islands contributing to lower air quality. Air quality is associated with greater incidences of asthma and other health issues, as well as higher utility costs and incidences of erosion for the area residents. On June 6, the city council approved the Community Forest Management Plan and is currently utilizing a Cal Fire Native Tree Planting Grant to plant 500 trees by March 2024 in these vacant areas.

Fullerton residents who do not have street trees may request a new tree by calling Fullerton Maintenance Services at 714)738-6897. Fullerton City code 9.06.070 requires property owners to protect their street trees, including watering newly planted trees for the first three years, removing weeds surrounding the tree, making sure nothing compacts the surrounding soil, and unless placed by the city, nothing nailed to the trunk of the tree. Property owners are prohibited from pruning or removing street trees without city approval. However, if a street tree requires trimming out of scheduled maintenance, is in distress, diseased, lifting the sidewalk, or causing sewer line issues, residents can fill out an inspection request form now available on the city website, or call 714)738-6897 to leave a voice message.

A tree inspection should occur within ten business days, and the owner should be notified. Each tree request is subject to individual evaluation, and owners will be fiscally responsible and possibly fined if they trim or remove any street tree without city approval. Property owners may request not to have a diseased or dead street tree replaced upon removal. Property owners should call Southern California Edison Customer Support at 800-655-4555 to address tree growth that intercepts electrical lines.