Bakersfield Landscaping Requirements

August 9, 2023 ● Lawn Care

Beautiful, bustling Bakersfield is the largest city and county seat of Kern County, making it an attractive spot for new and veteran residents looking to create the home of their dreams. When landscaping in Bakersfield, there are some important regulations to keep in mind.

Homeowners can incorporate sustainability into their landscape design to comply with local regulations. Working with a landscape contractor who understands these local regulations and limitations can help you avoid running into problems. Still, it helps to have some idea of what to expect when creating a landscaping plan that works for you.

Key Takeaways

  • As a property owner, you’re expected to comply with Bakersfield and California Code surrounding landscaping, water regulation, and waste management.
  • Landscape projects must be formally planned and approved by a planning director, who checks the plan for specific details and requirements.
  • Occupying or using property without going through these steps can result in fines and other consequences.


Every project that requires the approval of a site plan (a plan used by architects and designers to show how space will be used) must install and maintain landscaping based on Bakersfield regulations. That means that most new buildings and renovations of existing ones are subject to landscaping requirements.

According to Bakersfield Municipal Code, general requirements for any landscaping project include:

  • Revising or creating a new site plan when landscape projects are significantly changed. A professional must complete a revised plan and should include descriptions of the new landscaping, a summary of what’s been removed, and other details like shade calculations.
  • Working with a planning director to approve all landscaping plans. No building permits can be issued, and no landscaping can be installed until a new or revised landscape plan is approved by the planning director.
  • Installing all landscaping within 120 days of submitting a revised landscape plan.
  • Complying with regular landscaping maintenance and inspections to ensure water efficiency. Examples of maintenance services include fertilizing, weed control, cleaning, pruning, mowing, pest control, replenishing mulch, and more.
  • Maintaining all plants and irrigation systems based on the plan that was originally approved.

So, when it comes to landscaping in Bakersfield, there’s a lot more than simple lawn care to keep up with. Landscaping needs to be environmentally-conscious, safe, and well-kept.

Landscape Water Management

Bakersfield relies on the Model Water Efficient Landscaping Ordinance (MWELO) from the California Code of Regulations to outline most water management rules. These statewide regulations dictate how water can be used in landscaping and must be followed at all times.

In general, though, water conservations are mandatory for residential and commercial properties alike.

  • Bakersfield code requires that landscaping be designed to minimize overwatering and avoid runoff of irrigation water.
  • Homeowners must also choose a soil type that helps reduce runoff.
  • All plant material must be cared for by an electrically-automated irrigation system. Especially large project sites need to have a programmable controller that can manage multiple hydrozones.


There are many specific details that might apply to your needs, so it’s always best to work with experienced professionals when landscaping your property. However, some overarching regulations related to landscape work include the following:

  • Any trees removed during landscaping need to be replaced on a one-to-one basis. The only exception is instances where doing so would harm public health, safety, or property.
  • Trees must be in a minimum 24-inch box container size or larger. They also must be healthy and strong when planted. Tree trunks should have a minimum diameter of one inch for 15-gallon containers, two inches for 24-gallon containers, and three inches for 36-gallon containers.
  • Shrubs need to be planted in a minimum five-gallon container size or larger. In areas where shrubs are planted in masses for coverage, 40% should be five-gallon, and 60% should be one-gallon container sizes.
  • Shrubs and ground cover, which includes turf, must cover at least 75% of the landscaped area.
  • Landscaped areas along streets may be necessary in some cases.
  • Trees must be planted around every 20 feet on street frontages. A mix of 30% evergreen and 70% deciduous trees is permitted.
  • All parking lots must have trees planted (one for every six parking spaces). Space between trees should not exceed 65 feet. The point of these trees is to provide adequate shading, which must cover over 40% of the entire parking lot.
  • Trees must also be installed along property line perimeters to act as a buffer. These trees must be 100% evergreen species and can’t be spaced more than 20 feet apart.

This is just a glimpse at some of the many requirements your landscaping plan will need to meet. Some specific additional requirements may apply based on your region of Bakersfield. That’s why it helps to have a landscaping company’s insight on your side — navigating the ups and downs of legal regulations can be a headache.


Bakersfield has less explicitly outlined standards for things that are prohibited in landscaping; many involve simply doing the opposite of what regulations ask for. But some known prohibitions to pay attention include the following:

  • Tree topping is not allowed unless it’s necessary to protect public safety and property or avoid liability.
  • Occupancy of an area subject to landscaping standards is prohibited until the landscaping and irrigation plan have been approved by a planning director.
  • Failing to comply with landscaping regulations is strictly prohibited and may result in citations and civil penalties.

Landscape Water Management

All landscape irrigation systems need to comply with California and Bakersfield regulations. Specifics can depend on the plant life involved as well as the size and nature of the property, but as mentioned, the main goal is to control yard drainage and limit runoff.

Failing to keep up with watering and caring for landscaping is against these regulations. It’s expected that homeowners will perform the necessary maintenance to keep water management systems up-to-date and functional even after a landscape plan has been approved.


The primary exception to Bakersfield landscaping requirements applies to properties that are actively expanding or have established a separate agreement with Bakersfield officials. For instance, some properties might not be required to handle planting trees along their perimeter if existing landscaping already divides the area. 

You’ll need to talk to a planning director to determine whether your plan is exempt from any regulations. 

Fire Code

Bakersfield has adopted the California Fire Code with some amendments, mostly regarding minute details. Special permits are required for fire prevention and fire alarm systems installed on properties. Permits are also needed to store, use, or transport certain materials and chemicals.

According to the California Fire Code, landscape plans need to include developmental and maintenance regulations for areas near roadways. Ensuring that emergency fire services can quickly and easily reach the right part of a building is key. Landscaping plans should also provide significant fire hazard reduction benefits to the local community and include:

  • Identification of existing vegetation and new vegetation
  • Identification of ground coverings
  • Identification of irrigated areas

Waste Reduction

As outlined by Bakersfield Municipal Code, mulching must be used to reduce plant waste and help support water irrigation systems. A minimum two-inch layer of mulch needs to be applied to planting areas (except turf). Fortunately, the mulch can be made of any organic material, including things like:

  • Leaves
  • Straw
  • Compost
  • Tree bark

Other options include landscape fabric, recycled rubber, and rocks. Homeowners can use what’s available to them to comply with this rule and cut down on the waste they have on their properties.

It’s also mandatory that areas throughout the state of California have and maintain organic waste collection centers.

Overall, complying with Bakersfield landscaping requirements is necessary to achieve your desired results, no matter what they may be. You can count on a professional landscaping company to help you navigate these regulations and create a plan you love without sacrificing safety.