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Electric Fences FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions on Electric Fences

Frequently Asked Questions 
on Electric Fences

Updated 8/16/2023, 10:46 AM



Are electric fences allowed in Tacoma?

Yes. Electric fences are allowed in all our industrial districts.  In addition, with recent approval by the City Council, electric fences are allowed around outdoor storage areas in certain commercial, mixed use, and downtown districts as long as they meet certain standards. Substitute Ordinance 28902 – brought forward by Mayor Victoria Woodards, Council Member Joe Bushnell, and Council Member Catherine Ushka and passed by Council on August 15 – balances providing our local businesses with an added level of security with the broader needs of our surrounding community. It is effective August 27.

Why is it called a “substitute” ordinance?

In Tacoma, we have a Planning Commission, which is a community group established by the City Charter to advise the City Council on a broad range of planning issues to ensure that all plans, goals, policies, and development regulations are promoting orderly and coordinated growth and development within Tacoma. While the Planning Commission had recommended against adopting an updated electric fence ordinance in Tacoma, they did draft a version for Council consideration. Ordinance 28902 placed limitations on voltage, safety signage, set back requirements, and other decorative and safety concerns. Substitute Ordinance 28902 builds upon the Planning Commission’s work and added/revised development standards to better balance the need for security and the community experience.


What districts are electric fences allowed in, and what standards have to be met?


Substitute Ordinance 28902 allows for electric fences in Commercial Districts, Community Commercial Mixed-Use Districts, Urban Center Mixed Use Districts, Commercial Industrial Mixed-Use Districts, Downtown Mixed Use and Warehouse Residential District, subject to the following standards:

  • Electric fences are only allowed between the building and the front property line when this space is used for storage, and only if that use existed prior to the passage of the ordinance.
  • Electric fences are limited to a height of 8 feet.  
  • Voltage and charging technology are regulated, and the fence system must be tested and labeled to the International Electrotechnical Commission standards.
  • Fences must have warning signs every 50 feet or less, with signs containing images as well as words. Warnings shall be posted in English, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
  • Owners of electric fences must also have general liability insurance for the fence.
  • Electric fences must be surrounded by a decorative, non-electric, perimeter fence with the following characteristics:

    - The perimeter fence shall be set back a minimum of 1 foot from the electric fence.
    - The perimeter fence must be a minimum of 6 feet and maximum of 7 feet.
    - When the perimeter fence is between a public street and the property, the fence must be designed to allow pedestrians and drivers to see onto the property, with a smaller aperture designed to limit the passthrough of hands. 
    - The perimeter fence shall not be chain link. 
    - The perimeter fence can be placed on the property line, but electric fences adjacent to designated Core Pedestrian Streets or designated Pedestrian Streets shall be required to have a planting strip at least 5 feet wide between the public right-of-way and the perimeter fence to soften the view of the fence and contribute to the pedestrian environment.

Did the City of Tacoma consider input from businesses and residents in the development of Substitute Ordinance 28902?


Yes. Community input has always, and will continue to, inform our program and policy priorities. As we continue working to enhance security across our commercial and mixed-use districts, it is important to consider the needs of our broader community. Input from businesses and residents alike informed the development of Substitute Ordinance 28902.

What is the City of Tacoma, including the Tacoma Police Department, doing to address violent crime in general?

We will continue to focus our resources in a strategic manner on violent crime reduction, while working to reduce our number of police officer vacancies. Although we have much work ahead of us, we continue to see crime trending down overall.  As we all know, however, community safety is not exclusively a police issue. It takes all of us working together, and we are developing a Community Safety Strategy in Tacoma that is guided by the voices and perspectives of all community members. We have been taking a deep dive into understanding and capturing all the ways that the community has already engaged with us to tell us what community safety means. We are looking forward to engaging more with the community directly, through outreach and engagement efforts in early 2024, to continue to deepen resident opportunities to define community safety and prioritize actions they want to see.

Is Tacoma a good place to live and work? 


Tacoma is a great place to live and work, with a diverse economic ecosystem which we will continue to support and grow. In fact, the “Today Show” recently named Tacoma one of the country’s top five places to live. And, in its recent upgrade of the City of Tacoma’s rating from double A (AA) to double A Plus (AA+), Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings expressed confidence in our local economy which, it has stated, remains strong as Tacoma’s income and wealth indicators continue to grow. Our dedicated Community and Economic Development team will continue working to provide businesses with the support and resources they need to thrive.