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What is Right-of-Way?

Abutting Property Owners Are Responsible for Maintaining Their Portion of the Right-of-Way in Tacoma

According to our TMC 8.30.020, public right-of-way includes the area of land, the right to possession of which is secured by the City for right-of-way purposes and includes the traveled portion of the public streets and alleys, as well as the border area, which includes, but is not limited to, any sidewalks, planting strips, traffic circles, or medians.

The public right-of-way is typically an easement over the land of the abutting property owner.

Even if there is no sidewalk there may still be a right-of-way behind your curb. The right-of-way measurement varies from street to street. Once a tree is permitted and planted in the right-of-way, it is then protected for the future by city ordinance. See below for tips about how to find and measure (approximately) your right-of-way.

The City of Tacoma requires abutting property owners to maintain adjoining rights-of-way. This includes streets and alleys extending from the owner's property lines out to the curbs or edges of pavement (includes sidewalks and planting strips) if improved, or if unimproved (unpaved), out to the centerlines. There are several places in the Tacoma Municipal Code where these obligations are stated: Chapters 9.17, 9.18, 8.30, 8.31, and 12.09.


Click for an enlarged image of the govMe exampleLocate the Boundary of Your Right-of-Way and Private Property with this govME Map Guide

  • Click on Find in the upper right hand corner, select "Address" from the drop down menu and type in your address number in the first field and the first word of your street name. Click Search.
  • From the menu on the left, click on "Aerial Photos" at the top of the menu, click on the plus sign next to "Aerial Photos" to expand the list and click the "2012 Aerial Photo" to see the most recent image of your property.
  • The blue lines are private property lines and the black line in the middle of the road/alley is the middle of the right-of-way (shown as dotted in this image, but they are solid on the website). Everything between the black line and your private property line (blue) is your approximate portion of the right-of-way.  In the example below, a red line has been drawn between the private property line and the center of the right-of-way. NOTE: In many cases, the public right-of-way extends beyond the back of the sidewalk or curb, as it does in the example location shown to the right. 
  • To view an estimated distance between, for example, your sidewalk and curb, right-click and select "View-View Distance" then click on the first point where you want to measure from (your sidewalk) then move the cursor to the second point (the curb) and the approximate distance should appear in a yellow box as your cursor hovers.