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Urban Forestry Code

Tacoma Municipal Code - Chapter 9.20 Urban Forestry


Updates to Tacoma Municipal Code regarding public trees

On December 12, 2023, Tacoma City Council reaffirmed Tacoma’s commitment to protecting and enhancing Tacoma’s urban forest by updating Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC) regarding street trees. Ordinance 28926 consolidates three TMC Chapters regulating tree removal, pruning, and planting in the right-of-way into one Title, “TMC 9.20 Urban Forestry”.  Additional updates regarding “public trees” - trees located within the right-of-way (ROW) or on public property - will go into effect on June 1st, 2024, and include consistency with industry standards and implementation of adopted City policies. 

The updates to TMC 9.20 Urban Forestry generally include:

  • Updated permit requirements for pruning, removal and planting of street trees
  • The establishment of a heritage tree program
  • Updated policies and procedures for discretionary review of requests to prune trees on public real property
  • Updated provisions for enforcement for violations; and,
  • An updated appeals process to ensure consistency with other areas of TMC.

The scope of the TMC update was directed by a legacy of adopted policy by City Council, including the:


These policies promote best management practices to be applied in the siting, design, planting, maintenance and removal of trees and vegetation in the public ROW; retention of as many mature trees as practicable and appropriate during the development of City-owned land and public ROW; and the adoption of a heritage tree ordinance.


Public Tree Regulations in Tacoma

Since 1927, Tacoma Municipal Code has required a permit to prune or remove trees in the right-of-way (ROW). In the 1960s, a permit requirement for ROW tree planting was established as well. The updated permitting standards for tree pruning, removal, and planting will go into effect on June 1, 2024.


Some high-level changes applicants might expect to see for street trees include:

  • Tree pruning must meet standards to not negatively impact the health of the tree
  • Tree removal must meet one of the approved categories
  • Tree planting must meet City standards to reduce potential future conflicts with infrastructure

In addition to these permitting changes, the City has also adopted a Heritage Tree Program to publicly recognize Tacoma’s largest and most significant trees.


To apply for a permit to prune, plant, or remove a tree in the public right-of-way, visit the City's permit website and apply for an RTRE (Right-of-way Tree) permit.


How can residents learn more about the updated Urban Forestry TMC?

Over the next few months, staff will be creating outreach materials, tip sheets, updating our permit system, and other supporting materials to communicate the changes to the community before the new permitting requirements go into effect on June 1, 2024.  To learn more, refer to Ordinance No 28926, or read the Tacoma Municipal Code Chapter 9.20 Urban Forestry.


Staff have also created a high-level document which compares the current TMC 9.18, 9.19, 9.20, against the new TMC 9.20 changes which go into effect on June 1, 2024.