The City of Seattle encourages the planting of trees along public streets. A property owner may plant a tree in a street planting strip if he or she first obtains a permit from the City Arborist's Office. There is no charge for the permit, but the procedure allows the City Arborist to review the type of tree and the planting location. After you receive the permit to plant, you will be responsible for properly planting and maintaining the tree. This includes watering during the drier seasons, mulching and pruning.
Besides selecting a tree for aesthetics, please consider the following before you plant:
- In most cases, the Arborist only approves the planting of trees when there is a curbed roadway and a minimum five foot wide planting strip.
- Trees must be planted to the following standards:
- 3½ feet back from the face of the curb.
- 5 feet from underground utility lines
- 10 feet from power poles (15 feet recommended)
- 7½ feet from driveways (10 feet recommended)
- 20 feet from street lights or other existing trees.
- 30 feet from street intersections.
Before You Plant, Know What is Already in the Ground
Please call 1-800-424-5555 to request the location of all underground utilities. They will mark your planting strip for the location of your water, electric and gas lines. You can confirm the location of your side sewer through DPD's website. Knowing these locations in advance may save you time and money by preventing an accident from occurring when you dig to plant your tree.
Street Tree Selection Procedure
- Refer to the "Recommended Seattle Street Tree Planting List" (see links below) for a listing of trees generally recommended for planting within the planting strip area. The list includes a variety of tree shapes and sizes. Please be aware this list concentrates on hardy and readily available tree species. There are other trees that you could be use. Please note your selection on the form, and the Arborist will review your request.
- Choose only small scale trees when planting underneath power lines.
- SDOT's policy regarding spacing, is to provide the optimum canopy cover for the streetscape. The City recommends planting all small-scale trees between 20 - 25 feet apart (measured from the center of the tree). Small/Medium scale trees should be planted 25 - 30 feet apart; Medium/Large scale trees should be planted 30 - 35 feet apart; Large-scale trees should be planted between 35 - 40+ feet apart. All spacing shall be a function of mature crown spread, and may vary widely between species or cultivars.
- There is no need to meet the Arborist on site. If you have particular concerns, you may note them on the planting request form. Be specific and the Arborist will address your concerns when he visits the location. If you have questions you may call 206-684-TREE (8733).
Prohibited Street Trees for Seattle
City Ordinance No. 90047 names the following trees as prohibited:
- Acer Macrophyllum (Bigleaf maple, Oregon maple).
- Populus trichocarpa, P. deltoides (Cottonwoods).
- Populus Nigra (Lombardy poplar).
These species have aggressive roots. The wood of some species is brittle and breaks up in wind.
In accordance with City Ordinance #90047 Title 15 Street Use Code, it will be the responsibility of the property owner to maintain the tree(s) in perpetuity.
Recommended Street Trees and Planting Schedules:
Street Tree Planting Procedures
SDOT Master Tree List
Large Tree List
Medium Tree List
Small Tree List
Trees Recommended with Reservations, or not recommended in Seattle
Permit Application to Plant a Tree | Word format | PDF format | Apply Online
You can download, print out the permit application form and send it to:
Seattle Department of Transportation
City Arborist's Office
Seattle Municipal Tower
PO Box 34996
Seattle, WA 98124-4996