Planting in the Right of Way

What We Do

Street gardenMany people in Seattle are interested in installing vegetable gardens, ornamental plants, or rain gardens in the planting strip adjacent to their properties. We encourage these efforts, as gardens in planting strips provide a natural buffer between pedestrians and vehicles, beautify the streetscape, and collect and filter storm water runoff.

Specifically, we:

  • Provide support and guidance for individuals and community groups interested in gardening in planting strips adjacent to their properties
  • Issue free permits for planting trees, creating voluntary rain gardens, or installing raised beds in planting strips
  • Provide guidance for applying for streamlined street improvement permits for voluntary bioretention
  • Facilitate individual and community-based projects devoted to greening undeveloped or unimproved right-of-way areas, like community gardens

Are you interested in a P-Patch? Visit the Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch Community Gardening page under the Related Links menu.

Program Goals

The Planting in the Right of Way program seeks to:

  • Increase use of the right of way for food production and gardening
  • Promote community stewardship of neighborhood open space
  • Reduce stormwater runoff
  • Ensure safety and mobility of the traveling public
  • Beautify our shared streetscapes

Traffic circle

Apply for a Permit to Plant in the Right of Way

Projects involving tree planting, tree pruning, or tree removal in the right of way require a free Trees and Landscaping permit.

Note that depending on the nature of your project (e.g., if you would like to add paving to your planting strip or if you’re using heavy equipment), additional Street Use permits may be required. If you have questions about what permits your project may require, please see the project information provided in the tabs below, or email us at SDOTpermits@seattle.gov.

Planting stripSimple projects, such as small-scale planting in the planting strip or other right-of-way areas, may be completed with a free beautification permit issued by Street Use Permit Services.

If you are interested in this type of project, please contact our Permit Services team at SDOTpermits@seattle.gov or call 206-684- 5253.

Projects involving raised beds require both a Trees and Landscaping Permit and a Construction Use in the Right of Way permit.

We recommend planting low-growing shrubs, perennials, or groundcover to ensure that vegetation does not obstruct traffic signs and visibility between drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Within 30 feet of intersections and 10 feet of driveways, plants should not exceed a height of 30 inches. All other plantings other than approved trees should be no more than three feet tall.

Additional guidance can be found in the following Client Assistance Memos (CAMs):

  • Gardening in Planting Strips - CAM 2305
  • Planting Strip Paving and Tree Planting Rules - CAM 2304

We encourage you to plant new street trees in your planting strip. 

Rain gardens and bioretention installations are two methods of storm water management that we encourage you to explore. Not only do these installations help mitigate storm water runoff and remove pollutants being carried in the storm water, they can also be beautiful visual additions to the neighborhood.

Rain Gardens

Rain gardens capture storm water from adjacent sidewalks. To learn more about voluntary rain garden requirements, installation, and maintenance, see Client Assistance Memo (CAM) 2308 - Voluntary Curbside Rain Gardens. Depending on the nature of the installation (if street trees are being added, removed or pruned, for example), both a Trees and Landscaping Permit and Construction Use in the Right of Way Permit may be required. Rain garden permits are free.

Bioretention

Bioretention installations capture storm water from adjacent sidewalks and streets. They are more extensive than rain gardens, and therefore require a Street Improvement Permit (SIP). For detailed information on the requirements for bioretention installations, see Client Assistance Memo (CAM) 2309 - Voluntary Curbside Bioretention, and visit our Street Improvement Permits page.