To protect public health and safety, it is important to keep streets, sidewalks, walkways, and other public right of way areas free of obstructions. A tree or large shrub at an intersection can block the ability of a driver to see other cars, bicyclists, or pedestrians crossing the street. Furthermore, maintaining streets and sidewalks in safe and useful condition encourages others to walk or bike, helping to reduce traffic on our roads.
Whether you are a new or longstanding Mill Valley resident, property owner, or business owner, you should be familiar with your responsibility to keep sidewalks and streets clear of debris, vegetation, and other obstructions. Your fellow citizens depend upon your commitment to neighborhood safety.
Keeping Vegetation Trimmed
Landscaping can beautify a neighborhood, but it can also become a safety concern. Regularly sweeping up vegetation debris may prevent someone from slipping or having to walk into the street. In some cases, vegetation may have grown to a point that pedestrians and bicyclists must duck, walk single file, or walk into the street in order to get by. Also, as vegetation matures, what may have been a low hedge or small trees can become a screen that blocks the clear view of traffic.
It is critical to traffic safety that a driver’s line of sight remain free and clear of obstructions. While the maintenance of the public right-of-way is often the City’s responsibility, homeowners have an obligation to take care of any vegetation or obstructions that present a potential traffic safety hazard.
Keeping sidewalks clear of obstructions is important in creating a walkable, pedestrian-friendly environment. Property owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks adjacent to their property, ensuring that vegetation, debris, litter, and garbage bins do not block access for pedestrians.
Besides overgrown vegetation, cars parked on sidewalks, in particular, pose a safety hazard for pedestrians. Cars on sidewalks may mean that people in a wheelchair, people pushing strollers, or a group of preschoolers are forced into the street, creating a dangerous situation.
Landscape on Private vs. Public Property
Any tree or vegetation planted on private property is the property owner’s responsibility, including if it is encroaching into the public right-of-way. Property owners are responsible for trimming overgrown trees and shrubs that are blocking sight lines or blocking a path or walkway. The Public Works Department abates sidewalk obstructions by sending an Abatement Notice to the owner, requiring trimming within a reasonable time. If the shrubbery is not removed, the Department may have it removed at the expense of the owner, including administrative costs.
For fallen trees or other vegetation blocking the public right-of-way or roadway, you should contact the Mill Valley Public Works Department, or after hours contact the Mill Valley Police Department. If it is outside of the City limits, but is on County property, contact the County of Marin Pubic Works Department. If you are concerned about landscaping that prevents you from using walkways or having clear visibility at intersections, contact the appropriate City department or the property owner, depending on the location of the problem.
Before pruning or removing a tree, you must assess whether a permit is required. There are two types of tree-cutting permits required by the City of Mill Valley—one for trees on City property and one for trees on private property. The Parks & Recreation Department oversees the application process for tree cutting on City property, while the Department of Planning and Building oversees permits for tree removal on private property. For more information on tree regulations and the permit process, contact the appropriate City department.
Maintaining landscaping is not only important for traffic safety, but also for fire safety. Within the City of Mill Valley, property owners have a year-round responsibility and obligation to maintain the vegetation on their property in a condition that will not contribute to the spread of a fire. For more information on fire resistant landscaping, contact the City of Mill Valley Fire Department.