The Public Works Department aims to educate residents of their responsibility to maintain private trees and vegetation in the right of way, such as sidewalks, streets, and alleys. By doing so, residents will increase the functionality and safety of the right of way for everyone to enjoy. It is estimated that the percentage of functional sidewalks in Austin could be doubled if residents addressed these barriers.

 

What does the “right of way” mean?
The “right of way” generally refers to streets, sidewalks, alleys, utilities, and other strips of land designated for public uses. The right of way typically extends ten feet back from the edge of a street, but this can vary widely across the city.

 

What is the property owner’s responsibility?
Property owners are responsible for clearing obstructions in the right of way. These include overgrown private trees, plants, shrubs, grass, or any other vegetation that extend from their front door to the curb.

 

Aside from vegetation, what other obstructions can block the right of way?

Any object or structure that prevents vehicles and residents from passing safely on any street, alley, sidewalk, or trail is an obstruction. Keep in mind that wheelchairs must be able to navigate as easily as walkers. Objects and structures that often block the right of way, include but are not limited to: electric scooters, basketball goals, parked vehicles, and mailboxes.

 

What is the difference between a public tree and a private tree?
The Public Works Department maintains trees in the right of way, also known as “public trees.” A public tree has at least two-thirds of its trunk diameter in the right of way. Property owners are responsible for maintaining private trees and all other vegetation on their property to the edge of the street or alley.

 

How do I care for and prune a tree?
Proper pruning helps maintain good tree health and structure while influencing the health of our community. Best practices vary by species, but here are some general tips:

  • Never prune within ten feet of power lines! For advice on pruning near power lines, visit Austin Energy Tree Pruning.
  • It’s best to prune oak trees in the summer and winter. However, the City may ask you to prune oaks at any time to accommodate public safety concerns. For more information see our Pruning Guidelines for Oak Wilt Prevention.
  • Always paint fresh pruning cuts and stumps of oak trees with wound dressing or latex paint immediately after pruning.
  • Visit the website Trees Are Goodfor more information about pruning, tree health, and to find an ISA Certified Arborist.

 

What is oak wilt?
Oak wilt is fungal infection that typically kills trees in the red oak family and kills or permanently damages live oaks. For more information about oak wilt, visit the Texas Oak Wilt page.

 

How can I report overgrown vegetation or right of way obstructions?
To report overgrown vegetation or obstructions in the right of way, call Austin 3-1-1 (3-1-1 or 512-974-2000), visit the Austin 3-1-1 website, or submit a service request through the Austin 3-1-1 mobile app.