Sidewalks in Your Neighborhood
The City’s sidewalks are part of its transportation system and therefore it is important they are maintained in a safe usable condition. Sidewalks represent a major investment by the citizens of Tacoma. Damaged sidewalks can pose a hazard to pedestrians so repairs to the sidewalk help reduce the likelihood of someone getting injured.
Frequently Asked Sidewalk Questions
What is an unfit or unsafe sidewalk?
In general sidewalks with sections that are sunken, lifted up, or have areas with large cracks are considered unfit or unsafe according to City policy. Sidewalks that have a poor appearance, but are otherwise physically sound, are not considered unsafe. Typically, sidewalk damage is caused by tree roots, the settling of the ground underneath the sidewalk, vehicles parked illegally on the sidewalk and age.
Who maintains sidewalks in the right-of-way?
Some City property owners are surprised to learn that they own the property where the sidewalk is located and that the City has an easement that allows the public to use that portion of the property for passage. In addition, Washington State law, as well as the Tacoma Municipal Code, places the responsibility for sidewalk repairs on the private property owner. If you have any questions about this aspect of sidewalk regulations, please take a look at Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 35.69 and Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC) 9.17 and TMC 10.18 and 10.20.
Why did I get a notification letter and what happens if I ignore it?
The condition of the sidewalk was brought to the City’s attention by a notification/complaint from a citizen. The City inspected the sidewalk in response to the notification/complaint and found the sidewalk to be unfit or unsafe. The City requests voluntary compliance to replace the identified unfit and unsafe sidewalk sections as soon as possible. When property owners decline to voluntarily make the repairs, the Tacoma Municipal Code and Washington State law provides mechanisms for the City to carry out the repairs and then assess its full cost against the property owner. If the cost is not reimbursed to the City, the City is entitled to place a lien on the property for the full amount of the repairs. The City always prefers to work cooperatively with property owners to accomplish the necessary work voluntarily.
I don't think my sidewalk looks bad. Why should I replace it?
Even slight defects in sidewalks can cause pedestrian injuries. Sidewalk maintenance is important for appearance and value, but more importantly, it helps prevent injury to a pedestrian and saves you from an expensive lawsuit.
What is the process to replace the sidewalk?
A permit is needed to reconstruct sidewalks in the right-of-way. This is a requirement of the Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC) Chapter 10.22.050. The permit must be obtained by a Contractor that is Washington State licensed and bonded as required under the TMC Chapter 10.22.070. You can verify the license and bond information by accessing the Washington State Labor and Industries website.
The City also requires the Contractor to have a Bond on file with the City’s permit counter. We recommend that you confirm with the contractor that they have a Bond on file with the City.
The permit cost is based on the amount of sidewalk to be replaced. To get an estimated permit cost please contact the Permit Center at (253) 591-5030.
I just moved in. Why didn't the previous owner take care of the sidewalk problem?
Even though the sidewalk was initially identified as unfit or unsafe prior to you owning the home, you as the abutting property owner are still responsible for the sidewalk. It is unfortunate that the previous owners did not step up to the plate and replace the sidewalk at that time.
The tree in the planting strip damaged the sidewalk. Why do I have to fix it?
If trees are abutting your property, the current property owner has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care so that trunks, branches, or roots of trees do not create an unreasonably dangerous condition for the public. This is the case even for those trees which were planted by a previous property owner.
New Sidewalk Construction Questions
How do I have sidewalks constructed in my neighborhood?
Sidewalks on residential streets are constructed by one of the following:
1. Local Improvement District – A Local Improvement District (LID) provides a way for property owners to get together to pay for street and alley paving, sanitary sewers, street lighting underground wiring, and in some situations sidewalks.
2. Property owners that construct a new home or remodel a home with an improvement value greater than 51 percent.
3. Hire a licensed and bonded contractor and pay the full cost for the sidewalk construction. Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC 10.22) requires a permit for construction work in the right of way and the work must be performed by a licensed and bonded contractor.
Even though it is usually the abutting property owner that hires the contractor and pays to have the sidewalk constructed, a consortium of residents in the area can do the same.
A permit is needed to construct sidewalks in the right-of-way. This is a requirement of the Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC) Chapter 10.22.050. The permit must be obtained by a Contractor that is Washington State licensed and bonded as required under the TMC Chapter 10.22.070. You can verify the license and bond information by accessing the Washington State Labor and Industries website. The permit cost is based on the amount of sidewalk to be replaced. To get an estimate of the cost of the permit you can contact the Permit Center at (253) 591-5030.