Trees in Lake Oswego

Trees in Lake OswegoIf Lake Oswego is anything, it is a place where quality of life is an essential part of decision-making and planning. People tend to move here to take advantage of the excellent school system, and to become involved in a tightly knit community of individuals who really want to safeguard a set of values that ensures the livability of the community.

If I had to take a stab at listing some values common to people living in Lake Oswego, I’d include: Safety for children and families, Excellence in education, Involvement of citizenry, Support for small businesses, and Beauty.

Yes, that’s right–Beauty.

This shows up in many ways, including the hanging flower baskets you see along main arterials, the sign codes that keep the view open and uncluttered, the cleanliness that is typical of the city in general, the chirping birds signaling that it’s safe to cross the street (yes, this also serves safety and aids the sight-impaired as well), and the trees… they seem to be everywhere! Yes, trees take precedence in many building and planning decisions as far as the City of Lake Oswego is concerned. Some consider this an annoyance, and some appreciate what the city is trying to accomplish.

According to the city’s website:

A tree removal permit is required for any tree that is five inches or more in diameter at four and a half feet from the ground, which measurement is known as Diameter at Breast Height (DBH). If you intend to remove a tree, one of six permits is required.

A Type I Permit is an over-the-counter permit for cutting up to two trees of 10 inches or less per calendar year as long as those trees do not fall into several categories including: A tree located within an area that has been placed on the Historic Landmark Designation List, a Heritage Tree, a tree located within the Willamette River Greenway overlay district, a tree located within 25 feet of Oswego Lake Special Setback, a tree located on property owned by the City of Lake Oswego or dedicated to the public, including parks, open space and public rights-of-way, or a tree located within a Resource Conservation (RC) or Resource Protection (RP) sensitive lands overlay district. A completed Tree Removal Application and a site plan are required with Type I permits. A Type II Permit applies to trees that do not qualify under the parameters set for Type I Permits, i.e. dead trees, hazard trees, Emergency Permits or Verification Permits. (Please call the city at 503-635-0270 for more information on permits.)

“Topping” trees is also illegal in Lake Oswego. The city warns that “it will make a tree more susceptible to crown and root rot, and weaken its strength and health.” Citizens are advised to remove ivy from trees as it is known to be a parasite that will kill a tree, and they are warned against stockpiling dirt, chemicals or construction debris at the base of any tree.

On a real estate note, if you are thinking of having any sewer line work done in Lake Oswego, please have your contractor check with the city first. Lake Oswego will send out an envoy to make sure that no tree roots will be disturbed in the process.

Granted, if you are living in Lake Oswego, and have a tree on your property that you believe should reside somewhere else (or not at all!), going through the city’s processes in order to gain approval for your plans can be an annoyance, and will definitely put a crimp in any timelines you had envisioned before realizing that this might be an issue. However, most will grudgingly agree that one of the things that makes living in Lake Oswego what it is, is the ever-presence of trees.

While the city talks about environmental deficits that would ensue if we did not have these rules in place including erosion, hotter temperatures in the summer, and less wildlife, I believe that the root of all this hubbub around trees is the common shared value of Beauty that those who live in this gentle place just outside the urban environment of Portland love so much. Mt. Hood is a stupendous view… but I will continue to enjoy it while leaning a little to the right off my deck… just to the other side of another beautiful view… that of luscious, green Lake Oswego trees.

The leaning is good exercise anyway!