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Vegetation Management Standards Exemption Program

San Rafael Fire Department Vegetation Management Standards Exemption Program

The City of San Rafael has established vegetation management standards for all properties in San Rafael in order to create defensible space around structures that will minimize the spread of wildfires. If you are a property owner seeking an exemption to these standards, you must complete the Request for Review (RFR) by the Fire Chief or authorized designee. 

How the Process Works  

Fill out the Request For Review (RFR) form and explain in detail why the property is seeking an exemption. After the request is received, a site visit by the San Rafael Fire Department may be required to confirm the risk reduction plan outlined herein. If an exemption is granted, the City must be granted access to the property on an annual or as needed basis to perform evaluations.  

What Criteria Factors into an Exemption  

During the review, Fire Department staff will assess the risk to your property, surrounding neighbors’ properties and structures, and potential threats to the community. If an exemption is granted, the property must be maintained according to guidelines defined as part of the exemption. If, at any time, City staff determine the risk is not adequately reduced or mitigated, you may be fined per San Rafael Municipal Code (SRMC) 4.12.050 and 4.12.060 and the exemption revoked. The exemption may also be revoked at the discretion of the Fire Chief. Exemptions will not be issued for financial reasons. Rather, City staff will work to develop an action plan that adequately reduces risk in a financially feasible manner, with the possible inclusion of various financial and direct assistance programs. In applying for an exemption, you must acknowledge and agree that you are willing to assume any increased risk of damage to persons or property arising from the lack of vegetation management and hold the City of San Rafael harmless from any liability for such damages. 

What Might be Approved

When reviewing exemption requests, single specimens that are healthy, well maintained, do not serve as ladder fuels, and are outside of the five foot immediate zone may be approved. Our staff are happy to talk to you about specific cases and help you develop a plan to retain a specific plant in a way that reduces wildfire risk. Some exemptions have have been approved include:

  • Single specimen Juniper bushes that are trimmed in ways similar to a traditional Bonsai tree, with lower limbs removed and well spaced from the home, access routes, and other plants. 
  • Small bunches or thin rows of bamboo with all the dead material removed and hardscaping in place.
  • Mature Hollywood Juniper trees, with dead limbs removed and adequate spacing from the home and other vegetation.
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