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Hilltop Diversitree

Logo for DiversitreeIt’s amazing the difference that one person can make and you will be able to witness it firsthand in the Hilltop neighborhood. Thanks to an anonymous donor, the South 11th Street core of Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood is getting a major economic and environmental boost – the gift of more than 200 trees.

An Inspiring Investment

The 12 to 15 block Hilltop Diversitree street tree planting project has been made possible by a donation of $100,000 from an anonymous donor to the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation and an additional $30,000 for three years of project maintenance from the Donald R. and Mary E. Williams Horticulture Fund of the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation. Given that trees increase property values and shoppers in well landscaped areas spend more, it’s a gift that will keep on giving.

Funding assistance is also provided by USDA Forest Service and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Programs. The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Image of trees before and during plantingThe image to the right shows the same section of South 10th Street at South L Street before and after the planting.  The left side of the image shows the section before planting and the right side of the image shows the section during planting.

The donations are arriving amidst a recent upswing in development activity bringing a series of new mixed-use developments to the neighborhood. The trees will further support Hilltop’s pedestrian friendly and vibrant destination vision. The focus of the project runs north to south from South 9th to Earnest S. Brazill streets and east to west from South J Street to South Sheridan Avenue.

The project is a unique collaboration between private sector, economic development and environmental interests. The City’s Community and Economic Development and Environmental Services departments are helping the generous and impressive gifts go even further by managing the project and splitting an additional $80,000 for an estimated total project cost and benefit of $175,000 to $200,000. It is a relatively small cost for what will surely create a big impact.

Hilltop Diversitree Planting Plan

A Regional Demonstration

The City will plant in right-of-way areas by constructing three medians on South 11th Street between South J Street and South Sheridan Avenue, removing asphalt in planting strips and replacing a few dead, damaged or undesirable trees. A key component of the project is to achieve tree diversity and Right Tree, Right Place demonstrations for the greater community and region by:

  • Selecting over 20 small and cultivated tree species and cultivated varieties appropriate for planting under existing power lines using Safeway’s north, south and west planting strips along South 11th Street, South Sheridan Ave Earnest S. Brazill Street.
  • Creating a "tree boulevard" feel while using diverse species with similar forms and sizes such as the three shade species with vibrant yellow to purple-red fall colors selected by the Hilltop Neighborhood Business District in 2009 - Triumph elm (Ulmus 'Morton Glossy'), Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) and willow oak (Quercus phellos).
  • Planting additional species, including evergreens for year-round visual interest, to further achieve differing life spans and enable staggered replacement, thereby avoiding a large end-of-life die-off in the future.
  • Choosing suitably hardy trees for urban areas with deep roots where sidewalks need to be maintained in good condition.

View a larger image of the Hilltop Diversitree Public Planting Plan.

Furthering Environmental Stewardship

Hilltop Diversitree moves Tacoma toward a goal of 30 percent tree canopy to maximize the environmental benefits that trees provide, such as absorbing storm water, improving air quality, sequestering carbon and shading homes and streets. The City encourages diverse tree plantings because it lessens the chance of large disease or insect-caused die-offs robbing the community of these environmental benefits. You can Diversitree your own property by making use of City of Tacoma tree-planting resources, such as site selection advice and EnviroHouse classes.

Resident and Business Details

Traffic and Parking Impacts

The project construction, which will include some minor traffic impacts during the median construction is anticipated to impact parking on a temporary basis only.  Median construction is delayed to coordinate with a wastewater project in the area in order to minimize impacts on residents and businesses

Pavement Removal

Paved planting strips, including unused and/or unpermitted driveways (per Tacoma Municipal Code 10.14), within the project area will be removed and replaced with topsoil, trees and topped with two inch of wood chip mulch. New curbing will be provided, if necessary. No sod or other landscaping will be provided with this project. Existing irrigation, unless properly permitted, will also be removed from planting strips. If you are interested in additional landscaping or permitting irrigation, please see the Private Use of Rights-of-Way section below.

Hazardous Sidewalks

Some hazardous sidewalks within the project area will be replaced as a part of the pavement removal phase of the contract.

Private Use of the Rights-of-Way

It is anticipated that tree plantings will be contained to the planter strips or the medians and no additional property rights will be requested at this time. While the City will be providing the trees in connection with this project, should you be interested in additional landscaping, Tacoma Municipal Code 9.08 now waive fees associated with our Street Occupancy Permitting (SOP) for landscape purposes only. This fee waiver however does not apply to any irrigation. Contact Real Property Services for more information about the application for the Street Occupancy Permit, in the event you are interested in pursuing additional landscape improvements. For further clarification please contact Ronda Cornforth, Sr. Real Estate Specialist, at (253) 591-5052.

Other Street Furniture/Amenities

Planter pots and refuse cans will be relocated elsewhere in the business district or moved temporarily during the project construction, then replaced.

Tree Plantings and Maintenance

Funds for this project include maintenance for the first three years. Maintenance includes watering, stake removal (if used), and structural pruning.

After the first three years, trees not located in medians are owned by and shall be the responsibility of the abutting property owner to maintain in perpetuity with proper permitting. Trees located in the medians shall be maintained by the City in perpetuity.

Every effort is being taken in this project to ensure that the right trees are planted in the right place and properly cared for during the first three years after planting (the establishment period) and that the continued maintenance for the abutting property owners is minimally burdensome. Area residents and businesses that will get trees (not all will) are being individually contacted by the City. 

Project Timeline

Project Stats

Hover over each item for additional information.

2011 Hilltop Urban Forest Resource Inventory
Mature Trees Pruned

Trees Removed
Total Trees to be Planted
2014 Hilltop Tree Total
Diversity Rating
Projected Tree Canopy Cover* (PTCC) added to the overall business district

PTCC* added to the right-of-way of Hilltop NBD

PTCC* added to the overall City

13,094 square feet
Estimated amount of pavement to be removed
Medians to be Built
*Projected size of mature trees, assuming all trees planted in this project live to maturity.


Patience and cooperation during this project is greatly appreciated. This project will be a significant improvement to the neighborhood, and we look forward to working with residents and businesses to complete this project as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation logo

WA DNR logo

USFS logo UFSF logo


Questions about urban forestry?


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