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FORESTRY

Forestry

The Forestry Division of the Department of Public Works is committed to providing prompt, efficient, and safe delivery of arboricultural services to citizens.

More Education and Information

The following documents are provided to help you understand more about trees, and also to engage in the City processes surrounding the care and planting of trees.

Appealing Street Removal

Citizens of Pittsburgh may appeal the pending removal of a street tree. When the City Forester tags a street tree for removal, typically an appeal packet will be left at the six adjacent properties closest to the tree.

Citizens of Pittsburgh who are not one of those adjacent property owners may find the appeal documents below:

  • Notification Sheets:
    • Appeal Application - A nine page Appeal Application Form, which includes three pages of tree planting application forms
    • Trees Subject to Appeal Notification - This notification sheet is provided to up to six adjacent property owners, with the posting date and proposed removal date written on it, and an address identifying the location of the tree. Anyone wishing to appeal the removal of the tree will need to include all three pieces of information on their appeal application.
    • Non-Appeal Notification - A second kind of notification is provided to up to six adjacent property owners when an appeal is not possible. “When, in the opinion of the Department of Public Works, a tree or portion(s) of a tree in a public area constitutes a hazard to person or property, and is verified by the City Forester, the Department or designated contractor shall remove the hazard without notice or appeal” (§ 483.05 Hazardous Trees in Public Areas).
      • The non-appeal notification sheet has a yellow highlighted area specifying the non-appeal status of tree. When such notification is provided to the adjacent property owners, an appeal packet is not left with the notification.
      • Sample Notification Poster - This poster is titled “This Gentle Giant is Retiring”. A similar poster was placed on the tree to notify adjacent property owners of the pending removal.
      • The address, proposed removal date, and posting date from this poster must be printed on page 1 of the Appeal.
  • Planting Request Forms (included with appeal application) - You must return one of these two types of planting request forms with your appeal application.
    • Tree Planting Request Form - must be filled out and returned with the appeal packet if you wish to be included on the TreeVitalize tree planting list for consideration, and you wish to receive a tree at little or no expense to you. Only page 1 of this 2-page form needs to be returned with appeal.
    • Request for Permit – Tree Planting - Return this form if you are prepared to pay for the installation of a tree without reimbursement.

Citizens Responsibility

Per the ordinance language, you must do the following:

  • File your appeal within three weeks (21 days) of the posting date on the subject tree. Such application shall include one of the two types of tree planting request forms from above.
  • Provide documentation showing why the tree is not a hazard.
    • This document references agreement with the adjacent property owner (if other than yourself), as well as agreement to produce insurance coverage concerning the subject tree.

Go to Appeal Packet

Forestry Partnerships

The City of Pittsburgh works with numerous groups in maintaining our trees.

  • The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
  • Tree Vitalize
  • Tree Pittsburgh
  • Shade Tree Commission

Pittsburgh Urban Forest

The Forestry Division has been implementing a master plan for the care of City trees since late 2012. The plan itself was crafted by the Davey Resource Group (DRG) from Kent, Ohio. The project is to establish a road map for the effective management of the urban forest in Pittsburgh.

A city like Pittsburgh with over 900 miles of streets ‘should’ have 60,000 street trees, and ‘could’ have up to 90,000 street trees. Trees are necessary to improve air quality, reduce stormwater(see stormwater tab at the top) runoff, reduce energy costs, and create pride in each neighborhood. However, Pittsburgh’s inventory showed that we only had 31,524 street trees as of August 2005. At the same time, we became aware that 10% of this number of trees required removal over the next four years.

In 2015 a new street inventory was conducted.

A state-funded program called TreeVitalize has been planting since 2005. This partnership with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Tree Pittsburgh and Allegheny County has resulted in over 20,000 trees to date being planted in various neighborhoods, and county parks.

The public is invited to enter the City’s inventory website, TreeKeeper Database, to check on the street trees in your neighborhood. The inventory is a snapshot of the urban forest the day you look at it, but remember that since trees are living organisms there are constant changes to the inventory based upon new pruning, removal, and planting data.

Stormwater

To view full version click here

About the Stormwater Review Process

The purpose of the Stormwater Plan Review is to manage runoff and encourage natural infiltration and ensure all proposed development complies with federal, state, and local regulations.

What is the Purpose of a Stormwater Overlay?

  • Managing stormwater runoff from land alteration and disturbance activities in accordance with watershed management plans.
  • Assuring that development activities do not result in increased stormwater flows.
  • Utilizing and preserving the desirable existing drainage system by preserving flood capacity of streams.
  • Stream quality maintainence and improvement in accordance with watershed managment.
  • Encouraging natural infiltration of rainfall to preserve groundwater recharge.

When is a Stormwater Plan required?

Stormwater Plan Reviews are triggered by one or more of the following:

  • 10,000 square ft. of land disturbance (any grading, excavation or fill activities that occur on a site) or 5,000 square ft. increase in impervious surface.
  • Publicly Funded Development * - Any development funded in whole or in part by public monies of at least $1,000,000, and that are in the form of any grant, loan that is forgiven or discounted below the market rate over the life of the loan, bond financing, infrastructure improvements related to a project, below-market sale or lease of property, or other form of financial assistance with an aggregate value over the life of all planned phases of development
  • Publicly Funded Redevelopment * - Any land-disturbing activity that results in the creation, addition, or replacement of five hundred (500) square feet or more of impervious surface area at a Publicly Funded Development.

How long will the process take?

The length of the review process depends on the complexity of the project.

What is required for a Stormwater Plan review?

The following drawings are the minimum required for Stormwater Plan Review:

  • Cover Sheet
  • Introduction/Executive Summary
  • Existing Conditions
  • Stormwater Analysis
  • Easements, Right-of-Way, Deed Restrictions
  • Other Permits/Approvals
  • Maintenance Program
  • Conclusion
  • Appendices

How do I start the Process?

Please e-mail Josh Lippert, Senior Environmental Planner, any electronic submissions at joshua.lippert@pittsburghpa.gov:

  • Conceptual Stormwater Plan (optional)
    • During Zoning application submission
  • Final Stormwater Plan & Completed Checklist
    • Concurrent with site plan review or Pre-Development Plan (PDP) review and approval
  • Modifications/Re-submissions
    • Any changes to a submitted Final SWM Plan require a re-submission and approval.

How do I end the Process?

After you have resolved any issues, the Environmental Planner will prepare a consistency letter for the applicant. They will also prepare the project file for the Zoning & Development Review Division.

Zoning and Building Codes

For more Information

For questions specific to the City of Pittsburgh, please email the Senior Environmental Planner. Please note that this page summarizes broad issues around stormwater management. Please consult the complete Zoning Code and Building Code as necessary for complete information on requirements.

Important Documents:

Floodplain

What is the Floodplain Overlay?

The City of Pittsburgh participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal program though the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Through the NFIP, the City agrees to manage development in the floodway and floodplain, which is any land area susceptible to being inundated by floodwaters.

Both the City and residents benefit from this participation. The primary benefit for residents is the ability to purchase flood insurance, which most homeowner and renter insurance policies do not cover. To maintain these benefits, the City must adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations that meet state and federal standards.

Where are the Floodplain Regualations?

The NFIP requires municipalities participating in the program to adopt floodplain regulations that meet state and federal standards. In Pittsburgh, these regulations are located in the Zoning Code, in Section 906.02 "Flood Plain Overlay District" of the Municipal Code.

How do I determine is my property is in the Floodplain or Floodway?

Both FEMA and the City of Pittsburgh have maps online and houses may be searched by address.

FEMA’s map is available here.

  • For a faster search, unclick the box marked “1% Annual Chance Depth of Flooding”.
  • Please note that areas marked as “A, AE, or AE Floodway” are also subject to the regulations of the Flood Plain Overlay update.

Pittsburgh's map is located here.

  • To use the Pittsburgh map, click on “layers” at the top of the map and turn on “Current - 1% Chance Annual Flood”.
  • It may be helpful to turn other layers off, the color is a light pink.
  • All of the properties located in the "Current - 1% Chance Annual Flood" are subject to the Pittsburgh Flood Plain Overlay.

Frequently Used Terms

  • A Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is created by the NFIP and generally shows a community’s base flood elevations, flood zones, and floodplain boundaries.
  • The Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) is the land in the floodway and floodplain at high risk of flooding. These areas are indicated on FIRMs as “A, AE, or AE Floodway” and are subject to the regulations of the Pittsburgh Flood Plain Overlay.
  • A floodplain is the land which is subject to flooding from an adjacent watercourse or any area subject to unusual or rapid accumulation of surface waters from any source.
  • A floodway consists of the actual waterway as well as any adjacent lands that must be reserved in order to alleviate the 1% annual flood without increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot.
  • Base flood elevation is the projected height of the water in the 1% chance annual flood.

My property is in the Floodplain or Floodway. What does that mean to me?

FEMA has determined that properties mapped as Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) have a 1 percent annual chance of flooding. These areas are marked as “A, AE, or AE Floodway” FEMA maps.

  • Please note that FEMA also maps the 2 percent annual chance of flooding, but this is not regulated by Pittsburgh Flood Plain Overlay.

For property owners in the existing and newly mapped SFHA areas, insurers may require flood insurance and different building and development standards will apply. No building or site changes will be required to existing development sites with valid certificates of occupancy, so long as no changes or alterations are made.

New Construction: What different building and development standards apply in the Floodplain?

All new construction in the floodplain will be required to be in full compliance with the current regulations. Generally, all new commercial construction will be required to be flood proofed or elevated 18” above the base flood elevation. Generally, all residential construction will be required to be elevated 18" above the base flood elevation.

Existing Development:  What different building and development standards apply in the Floodplain?

Improvements are permitted to existing structures. For work that costs less than 50 percent of the value of the structure, no additional requirements are triggered.

Work that costs more than 50 percent of the value of the structure is termed a substantial improvement and the structure must come into compliance with the ordinance.

Why do I need to Complete the Floodplain Application?

As part of the NFIP Program and to maintain benefits for residents, Pittsburgh is required to document the review process for all  land development in the floodplain and floodway. This includes items like paving and outdoor storage that  previously may not have needed a permit from the Zoning Division or the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections.

Completing the application is necessary for the City to meet this NFIP requirement.

What is Flood Insurance and do I need it?

Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood insurance is not a governmental requirement or regulation, but it may be required by your mortgage lender. If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or high-risk area and have a Federally backed mortgage, your insurer will require a policy. Renters may also purchase insurance.

My Property is not in the mapped Floodplain. Can I buy Flood Insurance?

Yes, anyone may purchase flood insurance, both renters and owners.

How do I obtain Flood Insurance?

To obtain flood insurance, please talk to your local insurance agent or visit  www.floodsmart.gov, which is the official website of the National Flood Insurance Program.

What if I feel my property is not in the Floodplain, even though it is mapped within one?

The City of Pittsburgh does not have the ability to remove properties from the FEMA floodplain maps. If you believe your property was incorrectly included in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), you may submit an application to FEMA for a formal determination of the property's location and/or elevation relative to the SFHA. 

To find this form, visit  www.fema.gov and search for “homeowners” or visit here for the letter guidelines.

For more Information

Please note that this page summarizes broad issues around the floodplain and floodway. Please consult the Zoning Code and Building Code, as necessary, for complete information on requirements.

  • For general information on floodplain management, please visit www.floodsmart.gov.
  • For specific questions, please contact Josh Lippert at joshua.lippert@pittsburghpa.gov or 412-255-2516.

Application Documents:

Other Important Documents: