San Jose Landscaping Requirements

September 20, 2023 ● Lawn Care

In the heart of Silicon Valley, the city of San Jose shines as a technological hub. Yet, amid the urban landscape of the Bay Area, a commitment to the natural world also flourishes. 

Understanding San Jose’s landscaping requirements is essential as the city tackles the challenge of harmonizing urban development with ecological balance. While it might be tempting to transform your lawn and plants according to your desires, the city may have certain requirements you need to follow. 

This article unveils the intricacies of these regulations and delves into what beautiful landscaping you can accomplish while still following the rules. Keep reading and learn more about what you can and can’t do when landscaping your property in San Jose. 

Key Takeaways

  • San Jose has many landscaping requirements and code enforcement can be quite strict.
  • Property owners must consider water management, fire code, and waste reduction regulations. 
  • There are many ways to create beautiful landscaping that aligns with these regulations.
  • Proper landscaping can make your property feel more comforting and attractive.


More than 930,000 people live in San Jose, and many have to make tough decisions regarding their landscaping.

San Jose sits in an arid region of California. As with many dry and drought-vulnerable locations, there are limits on water management.  Landscape water management is one of many things you must consider before transforming your property, and there are many steps you can take to ensure low water use.

  • A key component of any landscape project is that you cannot water artificial grass or plants, as this wastes water. Potable water is a limited resource in San Jose, as in many other dry regions, and wasting it can lead to a disaster during drought. 
  • Many residents prefer to grow native plants that can withstand long periods of drought and heat. This minimizes the need for excessive water use. Advanced irrigation systems that save water are also important and widely used. A professional landscape contractor can help homeowners collect stormwater and take other steps to make their homes more drought-tolerant.

Beyond water use, general landscaping also has many requirements. For example, the following actions all require permits:

  • Trimming, planting, or cutting down certain trees 
  • Trees on private property are owned and managed by whoever owns them, but permits are still required. 
  • Trees on median islands are instead owned and managed by the city. 

New constructions featuring landscapes require several permits or documents to be submitted to the city, such as a Landscape Documentation Package. This landscape plan requires you to specify:

  • How much land you have
  • How you supply the land with water
  • How many parcels you have
  •  Landscape design plan 
  • Irrigation plan
  • Plans to change or manage the soil. 

We recommend discussing any major plans on your property with landscape architects in the area who can ensure that you don’t accidentally overlook any rules.

Remember that there are also regulations for hardscaping. For example, homeowners must obtain a permit before building a cover over their patio, and the city must ensure that it follows specific measurement requirements. You also typically need a permit to build retaining walls and to build storm drainage.


In a region where water resources are precious, San Jose limits excessive lawn irrigation. The goal is to minimize water wastage while keeping plants healthy and encouraging alternatives that conserve water. These water management rules have gotten stricter in recent years and may continue to get more rigorous. Here are a few prohibitions to be aware of:

  • You cannot excessively water your landscape.
  • You should not water artificial landscape features, like turf. 
  • You should minimize unnecessary water wastage and runoff.

For general landscaping, you should always contact the city to check what permits you need to make changes. 

  • Proper soil management techniques, including mulching and composting, are essential for retaining moisture and promoting healthier plant growth. 
  • Soil management techniques are also tightly controlled by San Jose’s landscaping rules and regulations. 
  • It may be necessary to specify what kind of soil or mulch you’re using or to perform soil tests.


In fire-prone areas, there may be exceptions to certain landscaping prohibitions. 

  • Maintaining well-watered vegetation is essential for fire prevention, even if it temporarily overrides other regulations. 
  • The city may also have different exceptions for different parts of the city, such as historical areas. This is why you should always contact the city before making landscaping decisions. 

Professional landscapers in this area can also guide you in the right direction. 

Fire Code

Fires are always an issue in an arid region like San Jose, especially during summer. Landscaping must adhere to the local fire code to minimize fire risk. 

  • Limit certain plants or unmanaged vegetation that may be considered fire hazards. As mentioned earlier, watering your plants (without overstepping water conservation rules) can minimize potential fires by keeping the soil moist. 
  • Keep fire-fighting equipment nearby, such as a fire hydrant, sprinklers, etc. This will not only help you keep your own landscaping safe, but it is also important for protecting the surrounding land and residential areas. 

Preventing fires is always easier than trying to stop them once they start.

Waste Reduction

Certain initiatives to reduce waste, like composting, may require controlled irrigation to be effective. Exceptions could be made to help waste reduction efforts succeed. 

  • Exceptions may involve the reduction of soil runoff as well as soil analysis and management. 
  • Reducing waste helps improve the ecosystem in San Jose, preventing it from being destroyed by the sprawling cityscape. 
  • It also allows San Jose to retain its natural beauty. 

As with the previous aspects, it is always important to contact the city to see what you need to do to reduce waste while also adhering to the San Jose municipal code. 

Talk to a Professional Landscaper

In the dynamic city of San Jose, landscaping requirements act as guardians of a sustainable future. As the city thrives and evolves, integrating green spaces enriches the city while nurturing the environment. 

San Jose’s many landscaping regulations can strike many as an annoyance, but they really serve as important boundaries that allow the city and nature to coexist. 

Without these rules and regulations, it might not be possible (or it would at least be very difficult) to maintain so much greenery. From serene parks to private front yards, the city’s commitment to landscaping is an excellent example to other cities. 

A professional landscaper can also help you use San Jose’s landscaping requirements to your benefit so your land can look as attractive as possible. If you want to start landscaping immediately, check out our services and see how we can help.