Biology / Landscaping

The City Biologist reviews proposed Landscape Documentation Packages for compliance with the Malibu Municipal Code and Local Coastal Program, in addition to reviewing all other proposed projects for possible impacts to protected trees and Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas. The City Biologist is also the chair of the Environmental Review Board.

Forms and handouts

landscaping FAQs

When do I need to submit a landscape plan or request a permit to remove a tree? 

  • Trimming or removing a tree? Know your tree species before you cut! Malibu has five native, protected trees that require a permit before being trimmed or removed: Oak, Sycamore, Alder, Walnut, and Toyon. Before removing any trees, residents must get approval from the City Biologist. Native trees with a trunk size more than six inches measured at a height of 4.5 feet above the ground MAY be removed with an Over-the-Counter permit if they meet one of the following:
  • The tree was planted for ornamental purposes as part of an approved Coastal Development Permit (CDP) and was not required by the LCP or Coastal Act for mitigation or reservation. To check if a CDP was issued for your house, go to MalibuCity.org/PermitSearch to search existing records for your property.
  • The tree is threatening health or safety due to risk of falling, where the instability cannot be remedied as determined by a licensed arborist’s report and confirmed by the City Biologist after a site inspection of the tree.
  • The tree is destroyed or damaged by natural disaster. A damaged tree shall be exempt only if the general health of the tree is so poor that efforts to its long-term health and survival are unlikely to be successful as determined by an arborist’s report and confirmed by the City Biologist after a site inspection of the tree.
  • Planting new landscaping? You will need to acquire a Landscape Approval from the Planning Department in the follow circumstances:
  • Anytime you intend to plant vegetation that has the potential to grow over six feet in height or form a solid hedge.
  • If you intend to plant more than 1,500 square feet of turf on your property. 
  • If you are proposing landscaping which must conform to the Fire Resistant Landscape Ordinance.

Note that new irrigation systems require a Plumbing Permit from the Building Safety Department.

If you are applying for a Coastal Development Permit (CDP), a Biological Study and Biological Assessment may also be required.

What do I need to show on my landscape plans?

Review the landscape plan submittal guide for information on specific details, plan notes, and other items which should be included with your landscape plan submittal. 

What is a Fuel Modification Plan and when do I need to submit one?

The Los Angeles County Fire Department, Fuel Modification Unit is responsible for the approval of a landscape and irrigation plans for structures located in the Fire Hazard Severity Zones (including the entire City of Malibu). The process of approval consists of reviewing aspects such as structure location and type of construction, topography, slope, amount and arrangement of vegetation and overall site settings. The objective through this approval process is to create defensible space necessary for effective fire protection of homes in the Fire Hazard Severity Zones. 

A Fuel Modification Plan is a landscaping plan that shows all proposed and existing-to-remain vegetation on the property. Any new structure greater than 120 square feet will need a fuel modification plan approved by the forester. A Fuel Modification Plan includes a site plan with the footprint of the structure, Zone A, Zone B, and Zone C. Zone A extends from the structure out to 20 feet. Zone B extends from the edge of Zone A out to 100 feet. Zone C extends from the edge of Zone B up to 200 feet from the structure (based on site conditions). Fuel Modification zones only apply within the property lines. Even if you are not proposing any new landscaping, a qualifying project will need a fuel modification plan that shows all existing vegetation that will remain. If you are not proposing additional planting, clearly state on the plan “No Proposed Planting.”

If a fuel modification plan is required, you will need to provide a Forestry Division-approved plan to the City prior to project approval in either the Planning or Building Plan Check stages.

For more information, visit the Los Angeles County Fire Department Forestry- Fuel Modification website.