9-13-1:    Purpose

9-13-2:    Definitions

9-13-3:    Power And Authority

9-13-4:    Exemptions

9-13-5:    Duties Of Owner

9-13-6:    Care Of Trees

9-13-7:    Tree Planting In The Right-Of-Way

9-13-8:    Tree Removal

9-13-9:    Violations Of This Chapter And Penalties

9-13-1 PURPOSE:

A.    Trees have substantial benefits to the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Renton, as well as to the environment. Additionally, the presence of trees in our community advances the economic, social and aesthetic well-being of the community. Accordingly, the purpose of this chapter is to provide for the planting, maintenance and protection of trees within the City of Renton (hereafter “the City”) on City property.

B.    The general purpose of this chapter is to exercise the City’s police power for the benefit of the public health, safety and welfare; to provide enforcement mechanisms, abatement and collection of abatement expenses by the City, and to these ends this chapter shall be liberally construed.

C.    This chapter shall be enforced for the benefit of the health, safety and welfare of the general public, not for the benefit of any particular person or class of persons.

D.    It is the intent of this chapter to place the obligation of complying with its requirements upon the owner of the land abutting public right-of-ways. No provision or term used in this chapter is intended to impose any duty upon the City or any of its officers, officials and employees which would subject them to damages in a civil action. (Ord. 5958, 12-9-19)


Definitions used in this chapter shall have the following meanings:

A.    ALLEY: a public way, paved or unpaved, which is intended to provide or which provides a roadway for vehicular and pedestrian access to abutting properties and is generally located to the rear or side of those properties, but not including such a public way in its natural and undeveloped state which cannot be used by vehicles.

B.    ADMINISTRATOR: for the purposes of this chapter, the Administrator of the Department of Community and Economic Development or his or her designee.

C.    CITY ARBORIST: the Urban Forestry and Natural Resources Manager of the City of Renton.

D.    CITY PROPERTY: all improved right-of-ways, unimproved right-of-ways, and all other parcels, lots, or acreages, including parks and open spaces, within the City of Renton owned by the City.

E.    CROWN: the leaves and branches of a tree, from the lowest branch on the trunk to the top.

F.    TOPPING: the indiscriminate removal of live branches and trunk ends without respect for branch unions or branch nodes or removing live branches from more than forty (40%) percent of the live crown. Also referred to as rounding-over, heading, and hat-racking.

G.    DRIP LINE: a line projected to the ground from the outer edge of the tree canopy delineating the outermost extent of foliage in all directions.

H.    OWNER: any person who, alone or with others, has title or interest in property with or without accompanying actual possession thereof, and including any person who as agent, or as executor, administrator, trustee or guardian of an estate, has charge, care or control of any property.

I.    PLANTING STRIP: that part of a street right-of-way between the abutting property line and the curb or traveled portion of the street, exclusive of any sidewalk.

J.    RIGHT-OF-WAY: all City property granted or reserved for, or dedicated to, public use for street purposes, together with City property granted or reserved for, or dedicated to, public use for walkways, sidewalks, and bikeways, whether improved, unimproved, or unopened, including the air rights, subsurface rights and easements related thereto.

K.    STREET TREE: any tree which is located within the improved or unimproved right-of-way in the City of Renton.

L.    TREE TOPPING: Removing live branches from more than forty (40%) percent of a trees total height and/or removing live branches without respect for branch unions or branch nodes shall be considered topping.

M.    UNIMPROVED RIGHT-OF-WAY: right-of-way(s) that are not paved, graded, or otherwise altered for the purpose of vehicle, pedestrian, or bicycle travel.

N.    VEGETATION: trees, shrubs, grass, weeds, bushes, vines, and other plant materials, including but not limited to clippings, fallen leaves, fruit or branches. (Ord. 5958, 12-9-19)


A.    The City shall have the exclusive power and authority over the planting, care, and removal of trees and vegetation within all City property owned or controlled by the City as necessary to ensure public safety or to preserve and enhance the quality and beauty of such areas.

B.    The City arborist, or his/her designee, shall oversee the planting, care, and removal of trees on City property and within public right-of-way. (Ord. 5958, 12-9-19)


The following activities are exempt from the permitting requirements of this chapter:

1.    Emergency Tree Removal: Any tree that poses an imminent threat to life or property may be removed. The City must be notified within seven (7) days of the emergency tree removal with evidence of the threat for removing the tree to be considered exempt from this Chapter. If the City arborist determines that the emergency tree removal was not warranted or if the removed tree was required by a development permit, the City arborist may require that the party obtain a permit and/or require that replacement trees and vegetation be replanted as mitigation.

2.    Utility Maintenance: Trees may be removed by the City or utility provider in situations involving interruption of services provided by a utility only if pruning cannot solve utility service problems. Utility maintenance shall conform to a City-approved Utility Vegetation Management Plan. (Ord. 5958, 12-9-19)


A.    No person shall remove, plant, replace, prune, alter, perform surgery on a tree, or disturb the land within the dripline of any tree within public right-of-ways, or cause such work to be done by others, without first obtaining a permit from the City for such work; however, no person shall be required to obtain a permit to water trees, add mulch to trees, mow lawn or maintain shrubs or ground covers in the public right-of-way abutting their property, provided such actions do not result in damage to trees.

B.    The owner of property abutting public sidewalk where tree branches overhanging said sidewalk are within eight (8) feet, measured vertically from any point on the sidewalk, shall notify the City arborist of such conditions.

C.    The owner of property abutting a public street or alley where tree branches overhanging said roadway are within sixteen (16) feet, measured vertically from any point on the roadway, shall notify the City arborist of such conditions. (Ord. 5958, 12-9-19)


A.    Utility Providers: Public utilities shall maintain any vegetation that interferes with their utilities and may prune trees; provided that the best practices, policies, techniques and methods for pruning trees established by the International Society of Arboriculture are followed.

B.    Tree Topping: Tree topping healthy trees shall be prohibited provided that trees severely damaged by storms or other causes, or certain trees under utility wires, or other obstructions where other pruning practices are impractical, may be topped for public safety. Tree topping without a permit expressly approving topping shall be considered an attempt of tree removal and shall be subject to the penalties described herein for unlawful tree removal.

C.    Injury to Trees Prohibited: No person shall commit any of the following acts upon a tree located within property owned or controlled by the City of Renton:

1.    Injure, destroy, damage, mutilate, deface or commit any act which will prevent the growth or cause the death of any tree.

2.    Secure, attach, fasten, nail or run through any rope, cable, wire, sign or fixture to, around or through any tree.

3.    Deposit, place or permit the deposit of any toxic or hazardous substance on or about any tree.

4.    Excavate or disturb the ground within the drip line of any tree without a permit.

5.    Perform any work within the drip line of any tree without taking measures as directed by the City to protect the tree from injury and damage.

6.    Remove any guard, stake or other protective device or close or obstruct any open space about the base of a tree designed to permit access of air, water or fertilizer.

7.    Perform any other act contrary to this chapter.

D.    Construction Near Street Trees: Damage to street trees, including their root systems is prohibited. Construction activity within critical root zone of street trees shall be conducted using only hand equipment whenever such work will affect the tree, unless authorized in writing by the City arborist.

1.    Roots: Roots greater than two inches (2”) in diameter shall not be severed without prior approval of the City arborist; other roots must be cleanly cut so that the bark and wood of the root are smooth and not jagged, splintered or fractured. Use of machinery that grabs and pulls roots is prohibited.

2.    Mulch: A wood chip mulch six (6) inches thick shall be placed by hand around tree root systems prior to beginning work within the drip line in accordance with the standards promulgated by the City arborist.

3.    Protection Within Drip Line: Tree roots, branches and trunks shall be protected from damage using the appropriate techniques promulgated by the City arborist.

4.    Trenching, Excavations and Directional Boring: Trenching, excavation and directional boring methods and standards shall be determined by the City arborist. (Ord. 5958, 12-9-19)


Proposed tree planting in the right-of-way without associated private land development shall be subject to RMC 4-4-070, Landscaping, and require an approved permit for planting by the City arborist. Whenever the City proposes the planting of a tree, two (2) weeks’ advance written notice will be provided to the owner of record of the parcel of land or property abutting the land on which such tree shall be planted. The absence of a timely notice shall not constitute a reason to delay the planting. (Ord. 5958, 12-9-19)


Applicants requesting to remove trees must submit a completed permit application on a form provided by the City. Street trees may be removed if the City arborist determines a tree is causing physical damage to property or has been damaged by past maintenance practices, for which generally accepted arboriculture practices cannot correct the problem, and the removal can be performed without adversely affecting the health of adjacent trees.

A.    If tree removal is approved by the City, the following conditions shall apply:

1.    Trees within the public right-of-way that are permitted to be cut down shall be removed with the root and stump grubbed or ground out to a depth of at least nine (9) inches below surface grade.

2.    Surface roots beyond the main stump are to be removed to a depth of five (5) inches below grade.

3.    All wood and debris shall be removed from the site and no wood or debris shall be permitted to remain on the street or sidewalk at the end of the work day.

4.    Holes shall be properly barricaded or immediately filled to match the existing grade.

5.    The site shall be barricaded to protect the public any time work is in progress.

6.    A permit shall not be issued without proof of liability insurance at or above the City’s minimum insurance coverage requirements.

B.    When the City arborist determines that the removal of a tree is necessary or justified in connection with a permit, the tree(s) shall be replaced if possible. The cost of the removal and replacement of the tree shall be the responsibility of the permittee. Replacement of trees shall be in accordance with the following guidelines:

1.    Tree selection and planting shall be in conformance with the provisions of section 4-4-070, Landscaping, in addition to this Chapter.

2.    The number of replacement trees shall be at the ratio of one (1) replacement tree for every one (1) tree removed.

3.    In lieu of planting replacement trees, and at the sole discretion of the City arborist, the permittee may contribute to the City’s tree fund a dollar amount equal to the value of the replacement trees, including installation costs.

4.    The permittee shall be required to maintain all replacement trees in a healthy condition for a period of two (2) years after planting. The permittee shall be obligated to replant any replacement tree that dies, becomes diseased or is removed during this two (2)-year time period.

5.    The permittee has executed a hold harmless agreement in a form satisfactory to the City attorney, indemnifying the City from claims as a result of the permittee’s removal of said tree.

6.    The provisions of this Chapter do not preclude the City from removing, maintaining, or replanting any vegetation, including trees, in public right-of-ways. (Ord. 5958, 12-9-19)


A.    Damages to Trees: Damage to street trees shall be repaired by the City and the costs of repairs invoiced to the abutting property owner, or the person(s) whom caused the damage if known by the City. Damages shall be assessed by the City arborist using the most recent edition of the Guide for Plant Appraisal Trunk Formula Method. Where damage is severe, the City arborist may require the removal of the tree instead of repair. The abutting property owner or person(s) whom caused the damage shall pay all costs of removal, including all site renovation costs, the damages assessed according to the Guide for Plant Appraisal and tree replacement costs.

B.    Unless otherwise specified, violations of this Chapter are misdemeanors subject to RMC 1-3-1. (Ord. 5958, 12-9-19)


    Prior legislation: Ords. 1482, 6-1-54; 4856, 8-21-00 and 5159, 10-17-05.