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Right-of-Way - Tree Planting

Planting in the Right-of-Way


The "Planting Strip"

The right-of-way (ROW) is the area outside of private property boundaries, and the areas designated for planting within the ROW are often referred to as the "planting strip" for street trees. Even if you do not have a clear "planting strip" between the curb and sidewalk, you may still have ROW space available for planting. In areas where there are no sidewalks or curbs, considerations should include existing trees, ROW width, parking areas, and foreseeable street improvements (if known). Before planting a tree on City ROW, a planting permit is required.


A few tips about tree planting in the right-of-way:

  • Planting permits are free, and are available through the City's Permit Website.
  • Refer to the City's Planting and Growing postcards to learn tips and tricks to keep your trees healthy through appropriate tree placement, tree species selection, planting, and care
  • Preapproved Street Trees Lists are a great way to start planning for planting.  Be sure to consider how much space you have available to match the size of the mature tree species you choose.

Approved Small Tree List

Approved Medium Tree List

Approved Large Tree List

  • If you would like to plant a tree that is not on this preapproved list, be sure to do some research on the growth and resource needs. When obtaining your ROW tree planting permit, you will need to provide the growth information including the mature size (height and width) as well as the species.
  • Avoid planting trees that are on the Not Recommended and Prohibited Tree List. (Fruit and nut trees are no longer prohibited in the right-of-way).

Clearance Standards

Detailed information on regulations and requirements for the right-of-way can be found in the Right-of-Way Design Manual, or Tacoma Municipal Code Title 9 Public Ways.  As trees grow, they will need pruning to provide a vertical clearance of at least eight feet over the sidewalks and 14 feet over streets and alleys.Tree Planting Clearance Standards

Please note that street signage must be clearly visible. Street signage includes regulatory, warning, transit, and other City installed signs.

When planting vegetation in the ROW, be careful not to obstruct signs or sight distance at corners, in order to clearly view pedestrians and traffic. This can usually be accomplished by ensuring trees are planted the proper distance (25 feet) from the street corner and meet vertical clearance requirements (removal of lower branches). 


Tree Placement Standards for Tacoma Right-of-Way

Minimum Tree Placement Setback Checklist

(in feet) 

 Center Line of Tree to Center Line of:
 Street Corner


 Stop and Yield Signs


 Utility Poles


 Other Traffic Control Signs


 Center Line of Tree to Edge of:


 Face of Curb




 Edge of Tree to Edge of:
 Utility Worker Access Lids


 Gas Shutoff Valves


 Fire Hydrant and Hydrant Branches


 Water Meter, Water Services and Water Mains


 Storm Inlets, Catch Basins and Manholes


 Storm/Sanitary Service Connections and Mains


Call Before You Dig


Always Call Before You Dig, 811 in Washington

In order to protect the health and wellbeing of yourself, your property and the community, always locate and identify any underground utilities that may impact the location of your trees before you dig.


Size of Tree When Planted

It is recommended that residential street trees be a minimum of one to one-and-a-half inches caliper (equivalent to about a 15 to 25 gallon container).  This is to help protect those trees from damage while the trees get established.

Non-residential sites, or sites prone to vandalism (such as near schools or bars), should be a minimum of two to two-and-a-half inches caliper at the time of planting.


Other Planting in the Rights-of-Way: Raised Beds

The City of Tacoma does allow raised beds to be constructed in the rights-of-way. More information regarding raised beds and activities in the rights-of-way can be found here.

Raised beds need to meet the following standards:Raised Beds Standards

  • Maximum height for the built raised bed is two feet
  • All raised beds shall be setback from the curb and sidewalk a minimum of two feet
  • All raised beds shall provide pedestrian access to the sidewalk with a minimum of three feet width between sections

Raised Beds Standard Requirements


Permit Counter

(253) 591-5030


Apply for a Planting Permit

For Additional Questions,

Call 311 within Tacoma or (253) 591-5000 from anywhere else.