Fences, walls, hedges, screen plantings and similar regulated objects provide privacy and promote security. Tall fences are appropriate in some locations and for some purposes, but inappropriate where they interfere with public safety and neighborliness. Excessive heights between properties inhibit the enjoyment of light and air and, in residential zones, can create the same confining effect as a building directly against the property line.
All fences and hedges are subject to the following standards:
A. Materials. No one may construct fences or walls of or containing material(s) that can do bodily harm, such as barbed wire, broken glass, or any other hazardous or dangerous materials. For barbed wire and electric fence exceptions, see TMC 8.10.150.
B. Placement. Fences and walls may be erected directly up to common property lines. An exception to this rule may be required when the placement would prevent the use of adjacent property or right-of-way, or prevent the safe use of a driveway or alley. In such cases, the city may require the fence or wall to be set back a minimum distance from the driveway, right-of-way, alley or property line.
Hedges and screen plantings may be planted in locations where their growth does not encroach on public rights-of-way. Encroachment on private property is commonly a private civil matter; the city will not become involved in such disputes unless it deems there is a significant safety concern.
C. Height Limitations. Figure 3-1 illustrates the regulations. See also definitions of “yard” in Chapter 18.15 TMC.
1. Front yard: three feet.
2. Side yard: six feet.
3. Rear yard: six feet.
4. Corner lot: three feet for a distance of 40 feet along the street-side yard when that street is a collector or arterial; otherwise 30 feet. This is to provide a clear sight triangle of 30 feet by 30 feet or 30 feet by 40 feet at intersections.
D. Measuring Height.
1. Generally, height is measured from the adjacent ground upward.
2. When fences are built on top of retaining walls, or one lot is markedly higher than an adjacent lot, height shall be measured from the highest adjacent grade, except that a fence or wall may not be higher than eight feet above the lowest adjacent grade.
3. Below-Grade Lots. On lots that are not generally level with the adjacent street, height may be measured from the top of the adjacent curb, or, where curbs are absent, from the crown of the adjacent street. Exercise of this exception shall be at the discretion of the city.
4. Lots on Collector Streets. Because of heavier traffic volumes and greater speeds, the same exception allowed in the preceding subsection may apply to lots on collector streets. Exercise of this exception shall be at the discretion of the city.
1. A hedge or a screen planting is defined as vegetation that has the purpose or effect of obscuring or blocking casual viewing through it and is six feet or more in diameter or width. Nonpyramidal trees are not considered to be such vegetation.
Individual bushes, trees, hedges, and similar vegetation, or groupings of such, that have the effect of substantially inhibiting visibility above the height limitation for the yard in which they are located are permitted if the total blockage of the frontage is 50 percent or less and there are six-foot gaps for every 12 feet of grouping (see Figure 3-2). This allowance does not extend to the sight triangle area in subsection (C)(4) of this section.
2. Entryway or gate arbors are permitted in front yards provided they are no more than eight feet tall, six feet wide, six feet deep, and are no less than 15 feet from a property corner or driveway, including those on adjacent lots.
3. The city planner may grant a special allowance for fences, walls, hedges, or screen plantings that exceed the height limits or location requirements of this chapter for the circumstances listed below. The process used for granting a special allowance will be administrative and include consultation with the police department and/or public works department, and notification of adjoining neighbors, whose interests will be considered.
a. Lots with unusual shapes or in unique situations, where it is shown that public safety is not decreased.
b. Fences or walls surrounding tennis courts, swimming pools, schools, or other special facilities, not including residences, where it is shown that the normal use or level of protection requires a greater height for safety or other reasons.
4. Security fences may be constructed up to 10 feet high in commercial and industrial areas, provided they are a see-through, chain-link type and set back a distance equal to their height in front yards and street-facing side yards, plus any necessary accommodations for sight distance on corners.
F. General Safety Provisions.
1. Recognizing that the best intentions and most careful crafting of regulations do not account for all variables, the city can either disallow or require the elimination or mitigation of fences, walls, hedges, screen plantings, and similar that it finds deleterious to public health or safety, or at odds with the purpose of this chapter.
2. Property owners aggrieved by a decision made under this section may appeal the decision to the planning commission, which may reverse, uphold or modify staff’s decision based on its evaluation of the evidence presented. [Ord. 966 § 2 (Exh. B), 2021; Ord. 918 § 2 (Exh. A), 2016; Ord. 817 § 8-3J.460, 2006.]