Autumn is here, and we’re all in this together. It’s time to rake your leaves & cut back overgrown vegetation on your sidewalks & planting strips!

Fall colors along Elliott Bay. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.


Did you know? The area between your curb and property line, including sidewalks, planting strip area, and vegetation, is your responsibility to maintain.    

The areas in red in the graphic here are the property owner’s/resident’s responsibility to maintain and keep clear for everyone’s safety and accessibility. This includes vegetation that intrudes on the the full sidewalk width, or under 8 ft of height. This also includes tree branches that extend into the street/alley up to 14 ft high.

An in-person look at a yard, sidewalk, planting strip and trees that would need to be checked to see if clearing is needed. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.

In Seattle, it’s the legal responsibility of businesses, contractors, and residents to care for sidewalks and other elements of the right-of-way next to private properties and job sites in a timely manner. 

This means that if you have a sidewalk, planting strip area, or pedestrian path next to your property/yard, we need your help to remove fallen leaves and vegetation growing over the sidewalk so it remains accessible and safe for everyone.  

This time of year, clearing leaves prevents the sidewalk from being slippery when it’s wet or frozen. It keeps the sidewalk safe and accessible. It’s certainly the neighborly thing to do, plus it’s the law.  

A sidewalk before and after a successful fall clearing! Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr. 

The Seattle Municipal Code requires that adjacent property owners keep their sidewalks in good repair and safe for public travel.  

Remember, keeping your sidewalk clear is just the right thing to do. This is essential so that everyone can travel, especially people who are have accessibility needs or have a harder time getting around.   

Don’t forget about blocked gutters and related flooding! 

Blocked drainage structures can have a big impact for both people traveling along sidewalks using mobility devices and/or with vision disabilities. If the drain is blocked, the area that pedestrians use, particularly at the bottom of curb ramps, can become flooded. This makes the curb ramp difficult or impossible for manual wheelchairs to use, not to mention quite messy. People using a long white cane may have to step into a puddle without having a good sense for how deep the water is.  

If you see a blocked gutter, please help clear the leaves and debris to keep the 80,000 storm drains throughout our city flowing smoothly and to help prevent flooding. Please report flooding issues to Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) at 206.386.1800. 

Here’s how to tell if you need to do some vegetation maintenance, or ask someone to help you. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, read on! 

  • Is vegetation (grass, moss, and more) overgrown on your sidewalk? 
  • Do you have weeds or moss growing on or over your sidewalk?
  • Is your vegetation blocking street signs or causing sight obstruction at the intersection? 
  • Is the tree clearance less than eight feet over the sidewalk or less than 14 feet over the road pavement? (That is: Does the lowest tree branch easily clear people’s heads as they go by? What about vehicles on the street?) 
  • Are your shrubs and trees protruding over the sidewalk?   

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, here’s what you can do to make sure people in your neighborhood are safe when they walk, roll, bike, or drive by. If you aren’t able to, please consider asking someone to help you: 

  • Cut back vegetation adjacent to your property to a minimum of 8 feet above the sidewalk and 14 feet above the street. (Read more about tree pruning.)
  • Trim back landscape which overhangs any portion of the sidewalk. 
  • Remove fallen leaves from the sidewalk. 
  • Remove moss and debris from the sidewalk. 

We encourage you to talk to your neighbors about what you can all do together keep neighborhoods safe for people walking and rolling. If you’re physically able to help neighbors who can’t clear their sidewalks or nearby curb ramps, prune trees, or manage their vegetation in public areas – consider checking on them, and offering to help. 

And – even though it seems like winter is far away – it’s important to get ready for snowy, icy conditions now. 

During a snow storm, we need to focus on keeping the city’s most critical streets accessible and cannot plow every single side street or sidewalk. We’ll need everyone to do their part and clear the sidewalks in front of your home or business. In winters past, many were caught off guard and stores sold out of supplies like shovels and salt. Now is also a good time to start talking your neighbors, making community plans, and finding out who might need help during the next storm.

Slushy sidewalks turn icy and dangerous very quickly when not shoveled. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.

Learn more about sidewalk safety, tree pruning, maintenance, and more: