Chapter 19.46


19.46.010    Purpose.

19.46.020    Applicability.

19.46.030    General height limitations.

19.46.040    Height limitations for retaining walls.

19.46.050    Measurement of fence or wall height.

19.46.060    Special wall and fencing requirements.

19.46.070    Special wall and fencing guidelines.

19.46.080    Restrictions on fence materials.

19.46.090    Authority to waive or modify requirements.

19.46.010 Purpose.

This chapter establishes requirements for fences, hedges, and walls to ensure that these features do not block views and sunlight, provide adequate buffering between different land uses, provide screening of outdoor uses and equipment, and are designed and appropriately maintained to provide aesthetic enhancement of the city. (Ord. 2003-02 § 3, 2003).

19.46.020 Applicability.

The provisions of this chapter apply to all fences, hedges, and walls unless otherwise stated. (Ord. 2003-02 § 3, 2003).

19.46.030 General height limitations.

A. Maximum Heights. Fences, hedges, and walls (except retaining walls) may be constructed to the heights shown in Table 4-3. See also SMC 19.46.040, Height limitations for retaining walls.

B. Modifications to Fence Height Standards. The planning commission may modify the fence height standards referenced in subsection (A) of this section, subject to the approval of a use permit (SMC 19.54.040) and in compliance with the provisions of this section.

C. Findings and Decision. The applicant shall demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the planning commission, that the following findings are met in addition to those required for all conditional use permits (SMC 19.54.040(E)):

1. That the fence will be compatible with the design, appearance, and physical characteristics of the site and other existing structures in the surrounding neighborhood;

2. That the height, orientation, and location of the fence is in proper relation to the physical characteristics of the site and surrounding properties;

3. That the fence will be a planned architectural feature and would not dominate the site or overwhelm surrounding properties, structures, or passersby; and

4. That the fence will be of sound construction and located so as not to cause a safety hazard.

Table 4-3

Maximum Height of Fences, Hedges and Walls


Maximum Height


Rear and interior setbacks

7 feet1

Front and street-side setbacks2

3.5 feet

At intersections of streets, alleys, and driveways within traffic safety sight areas

30 inches if solid; otherwise the maximum height normally allowed, if the fence material is 75% open (e.g., lattice).


1.    An additional one foot of height is allowed (to a maximum of eight feet tall), but all fencing material above seven feet in height shall be open grill or latticework, or a similar open design allowing light and air to pass through at least 40 percent of the fencing material.

2.    Unless additional height is granted through a conditional use permit (SMC 19.54.040)

(Ord. 2003-02 § 3, 2003).

19.46.040 Height limitations for retaining walls.

A. Maximum Height – Six Feet. Retaining walls shall not exceed a height of six feet measured from the finished grade at the base of the wall. The city planner may approve additional height up to one foot in consideration of varying topographical features.

B. Fence or Wall Topping.

1. Wall for a Cut in Grade. Where a retaining wall protects a cut below the finished grade and is located on a front, side, or rear property line, the retaining wall may be topped by a fence or wall of the same height that would otherwise be allowed if no retaining wall existed.

2. Wall for a Fill of Grade. Where a retaining wall contains a fill, the height of the retaining wall shall be considered as contributing to (counting towards) the allowable height of a fence or wall.

3. Safety Protection. Regardless of the height of the retaining wall, an open-work, non-view-obscuring fence may be erected at the top of the retaining wall for safety protection to a maximum height of 42 inches.

C. Located within Setback.

1. Setback. Where a wall or fence is located in a required setback area adjacent to a retaining wall containing a fill, in compliance with SMC 19.40.110, Setback regulations and exceptions, the wall or fence shall be set back from the retaining wall a distance of one foot for each one foot in height.

2. Landscaping. The area between the wall or fence and the retaining wall shall be landscaped and continuously maintained in good condition. (Ord. 2003-02 § 3, 2003).

19.46.050 Measurement of fence or wall height.

A. Determination of Height. Where there is a difference in the ground level between two adjoining parcels of less than two feet, the height of a fence or wall constructed along the property line shall be determined by using the finished grade at the base of the fence or wall on the highest parcel.

B. Determination by Building Official. When there is a difference in the ground level between two adjoining parcels of two feet or more, the height of a fence or wall shall be determined by the building official.

C. Averaging.

1. Variations. To allow for variation in topography, the height of a fence or wall may vary up to six inches.

2. Average Finished Grade. The variation shall be dependent on the average finished grade which shall be determined by adding to the lowest grade adjacent to the fence or wall, one-half of the difference in elevation of the grade on each side of the fence.

3. Maximum Height. The average height of a fence or wall shall not exceed the maximum height allowed. (Ord. 2003-02 § 3, 2003).

19.46.060 Special wall and fencing requirements.

A. Swimming Pools, Spas, and Similar Features. Swimming pools, spas, and other similar features shall be fenced in compliance with requirements of the city’s adopted Uniform Building Code.

B. Outdoor Equipment, Storage, and Work Areas. Screening of outdoor uses and equipment and activities shall be provided in compliance with SMC 19.40.100, Screening and buffering, and SMC 19.50.060, Outdoor dining, display, and sales standards.

C. Temporary Fencing. Temporary fencing used during site preparation and construction shall be subject to the approval of the city planner. (Ord. 2003-02 § 3, 2003).

19.46.070 Special wall and fencing guidelines.

A. Fence and Wall Design. In new development for which architectural review is required (see SMC 19.54.080), the design review and historic preservation commission shall make reference to the following guidelines:

1. Uniformity Required. Fence or wall designs should be consistent throughout a multifamily or nonresidential development, or single-family subdivision, although multiple designs may be employed in large projects.

2. Mix of Materials Required. The design should include a mix of materials and finishes that are compatible with the overall design of the project.

3. Articulation Required. Perimeter fences and walls adjoining public rights-of-way should be articulated. (Ord. 06-2013 § 3, 2013; amended during June 2011 supplement; Ord. 2003-02 § 3, 2003).

19.46.080 Restrictions on fence materials.

A. Security Fences. Barbed wire, electrified, or razor wire fences, and other similar types of security fences are prohibited in all residential zoning districts and on commercial properties adjoining a residential zoning district. The use of such fence materials on commercial properties that do not adjoin a residential zoning district shall be subject to use permit review, in compliance with SMC 19.54.040.

B. Chain-Link. Except for temporary fencing associated with construction, the use of chain-link fencing shall not be allowed on a residentially zoned or developed property within a required setback adjoining public rights-of-way. (Ord. 2003-02 § 3, 2003).

19.46.090 Authority to waive or modify requirements.

The planning commission may waive or modify the requirements of SMC 19.46.080, Restrictions on fence materials, in compliance with the provisions of SMC 19.54.040, Use permits, for nonresidential projects where evidence is presented that a higher degree of security is required and that the security may only be achieved through the use of barbed wire or similar security-type fencing materials. (Ord. 2003-02 § 3, 2003).