-Trees For Free - FAQs

Why are we having this program for our neighborhood?


Trees can improve the quality of our lives for decades to come.  Healthy urban trees are integral to the ecological, economic and social well-being of our communities. From cleaning our air and water to saving energy through cooling shade, from raising property values to rekindling neighborhood pride, from providing a pleasant view to providing homes and food for our wildlife, our community trees have a lot to offer. Saratoga is widely known for its vast tree canopy, and for its value and protection of trees. Unfortunately, some parts of our El Quito neighborhood are uncharacteristically void of the trees and mature landscape that many of our other Saratoga neighbors enjoy. On other streets, some of the original trees have died due to neglect or disease.  We are initiating this project to improve and enhance our local urban forest, increase property values, and improve the aesthetics and quality of our neighborhood. As outlined below, we now have a small positive balance in our Landscape and Lighting District (LLD) fund (which is strictly limited to funding only landscaping or lighting projects).With virtually no public right-of-way land within our neighborhood to landscape, this project is targeting the no-cost planting of street trees on private property (within the properties public easement areas) that will enhance the overall neighborhood and bring value to all of our residents.


Here’s a good article regarding the value of street trees in an area such as ours -
How is the program funded?
Our neighborhood is very fortunate…
When the El Quito Neighborhood was annexed to the City of Saratoga -, a property tax supported fund was created to collect and cover the cost of public right-of-way street lighting for the neighborhood (since Saratoga did not, and generally still does not provide street lighting except for traffic arteries and thoroughfares).  At the funds inception, a very small percentage of the annual property tax revenue was -allocated from each property within El Quito to pay for these expenses.  The amount of money assigned to this Landscape and Lighting District fund (LLD) is based on a fixed percentage of the property tax collected on each property.  El Quito property owners additional money on their property taxes to fund our LLD, the revenue for the fund comes from the basic flat tax percentage that you pay on your property taxes (bottom-line, with or without El Quito’s LLD your property taxes would be exactly the same). 
We are the only neighborhood in Saratoga that has a “grandfathered” LLD – all other neighborhoods in Saratoga that have a LLD, pay a supplemental amount of money on top of their property taxes to fund their public landscaping and lighting!
Here is how we are fortunate…
Since our LLD is based on a percentage of our property taxes, the fund balance grows as property values increase.  At a point a few years ago, with new homes being built to replace old homes and properties being turned over and sold at higher values, the amount of money collected from the fund started to exceed the cost of providing electricity and maintenance for our street lights.  The small positive balance in our LLD fund now allows us to fund low-cost landscaping projects for our neighborhood, such as this one.
How do I sign up for my free tree(s)?
In order to participate and get your trees planted, simple fill out the tree request form found here: http://www.ourcityforest.org/el_quito/index.php  APPLICATIONS ARE DUE NO LATER THAN FEBRUARY 11, 2011.   An Our City Forest employee will contact you regarding your tree selection, location and schedule a date for planting in March/April 2011.  It’s that easy – no strings attached!  There are a limited amount of trees are available for this specific program so we encourage you to sign up immediately.


Who is eligible for this program?

Homeowners (detached homes) within the confines of the El Quito Neighborhood are the only properties eligible for this program, at this time. Future programs may include commercial/church properties within our boundaries other than detached homes.
The El Quito Neighborhood is specifically bound by Saratoga Avenue, Quito Road, and Highway 85 (excluding the Bellgrove housing development, Abdulla Way, Emanuel Court, Sousa Lane, Sterling Oak Court, and the small Radio Shack shopping center and office buildings at the corner of Saratoga Avenue and Quito Road, which are in the city of San Jose).  See the City of Saratoga neighborhood association map for further logistical details - http://www.saratoga.ca.us/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=4282.
I am a renter; can I participate in the program?
Renters must defer to the homeowner for participation in the program. We encourage you to contact your landlord to encourage his/her participation.
Is this program approved by the City of Saratoga?
YES!  All of Saratoga’s landscape and lighting districts are managed by Saratoga’s Department of Public Works.  The contract that we are using for this project has been reviewed, approved, and signed by this department.  The funds supporting this project are public funds managed by the City of Saratoga.

Is this a Saratoga-wide program / project?

No.  The El Quito neighborhood is the only neighborhood involved in this projec

Who is “Our City Forest” and what are their credentials?

Our City Forest is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  The mission of Our City Forest is to cultivate a green and healthy San José (Santa Clara County) metropolis by engaging community members in the appreciation, protection, growth and maintenance of our urban ecosystem, especially our urban forest.
Our City Forest’s goals and objectives are as follows:
• To increase citizen involvement in tree planting and tree care
• To plant and steward trees using the highest professional standards
• To increase public awareness of the value, benefits and needs of trees
• To develop a dedicated and diverse volunteer corps
• To protect and enhance urban forests in Santa Clara County
• To achieve high tree survival rates through citizen involvement
• To inspire, mobilize and train volunteers from service clubs, schools, businesses and agencies
• To build a sense of community by facilitating grassroots environmental action efforts

Does Our City Forest have insurance for this project?

YES!  As with all contractors working for the City of Saratoga, OCF is responsible for insurance levels that are mandated and approved by the City of Saratoga Public Works Department.
Can I pick the type of tree(s) that I want?
Yes, as long as it is on the list of approved trees for this program.  The list can be found at -  http://www.ourcityforest.org/el_quito/index.phpIn some - circumstances, tree selection may be limited due to overhead utility lines, specific limiting factors of the property such as traffic visibility (corner lots), etc. - All tree selections and their specific planting location(s) will be reviewed by a certified arborist from Our City Forest, at no cost to you, prior to planting. The arborist will make sure that your tree choice and your chosen location is consistent with your lot conditions and will comply with any city ordinances that may apply. We want you to plant trees, so we’ll do everything that we can to help you reach this goal! 
I don’t know which tree would be best for my situation, can someone help me?
Yes, the tree consultants at Our City Forest will assist every participant with their tree choice. After you submit your tree request, an OCF consultant will determine if all the conditions of your yard (sun exposure, easement, etc.) are compatible with your choice. If you don’t know which trees you might like, the consultant will help make recommendations that are best for your location needs.

When will the tree provide shade, and how quickly will it grow?

There are species that grow very fast, and of course there are those that grow very slowly as well.  One thing to consider when picking your tree (that is often overlooked) is tree’s life expectancy.  We all benefit from all of the large oaks, redwoods and heritage trees that we have in our city that are likely hundreds of years old.  Consider planting a tree that will benefit generations to come!  The OCF arborist staff can help you decide on your tree, or research your tree online. To learn more about your choices see our tree list at http://www.ourcityforest.org/el_quito/index.php


Can I get a free small Japanese maple tree planted in my front yard?

The planting of street trees is to support and benefit the neighborhood as a whole, therefore very small or dwarf varieties of trees are not covered by this program.  Only the approved list of trees will be considered for planting by the OCF team. If your landscaping plans do not match with the tree choices, you do not have to participate in the program.

What size of tree will be planted?

15-gallon trees will be used for this project (a typical tree height for this size of container can range from a 5’ to 8’ tree – depending on the species).  Studies have shown that 15-gallon trees are the best size for transplanting for this type of a project.  Larges trees are significantly more expensive, and can often be root-bound – a condition that can significantly impact the health and viability of a tree. 

How many trees can I get?

The program is currently limited to a maximum of 2 trees per residential lot.  The program is currently funded to cover the first 172 trees that are requested in the neighborhood (sign up FAST!).  Once this amount has been reached, this year’s specific program will be capped.  We hope to offer similar tree planting programs as demand and funding allow.


Who will plant my trees?

The El Quito Neighborhood Association and the City of Saratoga have teamed up with Our City Forest (OCF) to manage our neighborhood tree-planting program (a non-profit organization that has facilitated the planting of over 50,000 15 gallon shade trees at schools, parks, and streets in the South Bay).
Not only are we getting extremely experienced assistance on our project, we are supporting a wonderful non-profit organization that hires and trains about 40 AmeriCorps employees (mostly college-age recent graduates).  Great project, great trees, great service, and supporting a local non-profit that does a great job of serving our community!


Does OCF just plant my tree and leave?

 NO!  As part of the contract that we have signed with Our City Forest, the tree will be planted, staked, and mulched.  Over the course of the next three years, the tree will be periodically inspected, re-staked as needed, and pruned at the end of the three-year program.  We want your tree to not only survive, but thri

Do I need a permit to plant the tree?

No.  There is no permit required to plant trees under this program, as the OCF has been contracted by the City to conduct the work. Please note if you are removing any trees from your property, or adding trees outside of this program, some City of Saratoga restrictions may apply and you must investigate these requirements on your own.


Do I have to plant the tree, or is it planted for me?

Our contract with Our City Forest includes complete planting, staking and mulching of the tree.  You choose the tree you want (from the approved list of trees) – Our City Forest will take care of everything (including underground utility clearance review and overhead power tree selection considerations).  You simply agree to water and care for the tree – it’s a new addition to your family

I want a tree but wish to plant it myself, can I do that?

The program is designed to select and plant a tree for the optimum success, both at the time of planting and for its early years of growth.  Therefore, to ensure the proper planting, location and staking for the tree, all trees must be planted with the assistance of the OCF team and cannot be delivered for later planting by the homeowner. Nevertheless, the homeowner’s participation in the day of planting is encouraged and welcom

Where can I have my trees planted?

Our program is a community-sponsored program to benefit the overall neighborhood.  As such, only street tree locations (on homeowner’s property) will be considered for this project.  The trees can only be planted on the front yard portions of the homeowner’s property.  Depending on the individual property’s easements specifics (which will be gathered from City records) this is usually somewhere in the vicinity of a zone from the street curb, to approximately 5 to 15 feet back into the homeowner’s property.  Public easements can vary between streets, properties, or housing developments.  The City and OCF will make sure that the trees are planted in the correct location for your property (with your approval, or course!). 

I have power lines going over the front of my yard, what can I do?

Our City Forest is very familiar with these situations, as they are common.  Specific trees are approved for these situations that will not interfere with power lines, due to their limited growth in height (even at maturity).


What is done to protect power lines, water lines and my sprinklers during the planting process?

Working with the local utility companies and the city, Our City Forest will do all the work to identify the location of power lines and utilities prior to the tree being planted. It is requested that the homeowner provide any information concerning private irrigation, drip, or sprinkler systems in the planting area.


I have a dead tree in my yard; will it be removed so I can plant a new one?

Homeowners are responsible for the cost and removal of any existing trees you may want to remove on you property. This program does not provide any removal services. Remember that street trees, heritage trees, dead trees and those with a trunk size greater than 10”  diameter must be approved  by the City before removal .  Contact the City of Saratoga arborist or the City of Saratoga web site for further information.  Although removal of dead trees is not included in this project, -once the dead tree is removed, this program can help you with a replacement tree.

Who “owns” the tree once it is planted?

Once the tree has been planted, it becomes the property of the homeowner.  The tree however, must stay in its planted location and may not be moved.


I have a corner lot and could use more than two trees, can I get more?

At this time, this program offers only 2 trees per property.  If you are interested in additional trees, and have further “shade tree locations” available on your lot – let your OCF contact know and they can arrange for additional trees to be ordered/planted but the cost must be covered by the homeowner. Participation in this program does not exclude the homeowner from requesting additional trees that might be offered in future programs in subsequent years. 

I want some new trees in my back yard; can I get trees for my back yard with this program?

This program is only for street trees in the front yard, on the public easement portion of the property.  If trees are desired for the back yard, contact OCF directly for a separate quote for trees.  While OCF may be able to help you with additional trees on your property, these trees ARE NOT covered in any way by this project.  Any additional trees would be a private arrangement between the homeowner and OCF.

What if I have problems with the tree 10 years or so from now, who takes care of this?

As stated above, after planting of the tree, the homeowner becomes the owner of the tree and is responsible for its maintenance and care.  Our City Forest will periodically inspect the tree for the first three years, and will remedy staking or health issues with the tree for the first three years.  Long-term care and maintenance is the responsibility of the homeowner, however.

What if the tree lifts my sidewalk / curb in the future, who pays for the damage?

An inspection will be made of the planting area (before planting) to ensure that the tree(s) that are selected are a good species for your particular planting area, including considerations about root structure and growth.  Upon planting however, the tree becomes the property of the homeowner.  Any damage caused over the course of the trees life becomes the responsibility of the homeowner.  These trees will not be owned or maintained by the City of Saratoga.


What if my tree blows over in a storm, or is vandalized?

The tree will be properly staked at the time of planting.  In the unlikely event that the tree becomes tilted due to storm winds during the first three years, contact OCF to have the tree re-staked and straightened.
Neglected or vandalized trees are unfortunately NOT covered by our contract with OCF.

What if the tree dies within the first 3 years?

Our contract with Our City Forest ensures that if the tree dies within the first three years (and was properly cared for, watered, and was not vandalized), the tree will be replanted and replaced free of charge.


How much do I water and fertilize the tree?

Post planting instructions will be given to each homeowner receiving trees.  Planting instructions will also be given at demonstration plantings and at public meetings about the program.


I’d like to put a tree in where I have an old unused driveway.  Can I get the concrete removed AND have a new tree planted?

The removal of the concrete may need a permit by the City, and is NOT covered by this project.  If you are able to free up your desired planting areas through the right channels, this program may be able to help you plant a new tree in your now-cleared spot.  We can help you get a tree, but concrete / etc. removal is up to you!

Are there any hidden costs in this program?

No.  As stated above the funding of this program is covered by the El Quito Landscape and Lighting District Fund. Cost for a 15-gallon tree, utility markings, excavation (digging the hole by hand or machinery), planting, and 3 years of follow-up inspections are included at no cost to you. Your only investment is your commitment to keeping your tree healthy and thriving!


Can I get a refund of my portion of my property tax that is allocated to the LLD?

No, your property tax funds are required payments to the county and administered by the County of Santa Clara and the City of Saratoga. No portion of this tax can be refunded to an individual or reallocated.

What if I currently have a tree that I don’t like in my yard, and I want to replace it?
This program will very likely not help you in this situation.  Saratoga has very strict tree removal policies.  Contact the City of Saratoga web site or City Arborist for specific details about tree removal.
Who will be responsible for trimming the tree?
Ultimately, once planted – the tree is owned by the homeowner, and the responsibility of maintaining the tree is the homeowner.  HOWEVER, as part of our contract with OCF, trees planted through this program will be periodically inspected (for the first 3 years) to ensure that the tree is healthy, and properly staked.  At the end of the three years, the tree stake(s) will be removed, and the tree will be pruned (if necessary) for proper shape and form.  
What if I don’t want to participate in the program, or I don’t have any room for additional street trees?
You don’t have to do anything; it is entirely up to you whether or not you decide to participate in this program.  If you do not want any trees - just sit back and watch your neighbors improve the aesthetics of your block!  But we would love to have you still involved in the project.  Be an advocate for your block, attend the meetings, and be involved!  Let your neighbors know what a great project this is!


Where can I get more information?

You can get more information by visiting the El Quito Neighborhood Association website at www.elquitona.com or calling Our City Forest at (408) 99-TREES.

What organizations are involved in this program?
The Trees for Free program is a collaborative effort among a variety of groups,  They include;
  • The El Quito Neighborhood Association;
  • Our City Forest, a non-profit group that has planted over 50,000 trees in school, parks and cities throughout Santa Clara County;
  • The Heritage Tree Society of Saratoga, another non-profit group dedicated to protecting and preserving trees in Saratoga;
  • The City of Saratoga who has a goal of planting 2015 trees in the city by 2015; and
  • Kate Bear, the City of Saratoga's arborist.