Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

Tree City, eh?

Tree City, eh?

To the Community:

I had always thought that Swarthmore was a town that loved trees — until recently, that is, when my husband and I received notice of a code violation.

We have three young okame cherry trees in front of our house, on the strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. We purchased them in 2015, and had them planted professionally at great expense, with special permission from the borough. The recent violation notice that we received was not clear about which tree was causing the problem. So I trimmed the one tree which clearly overhung the edge of the sidewalk, and I sent an email to the borough asking them to contact me if more branches needed to be trimmed.

Several weeks later I received a second notice of violation, again with no specifics about which tree needed to be trimmed. I emailed the township again requesting more information and leaving my phone number. Fortunately, the code enforcement officer contacted me by phone and explained the relevant section of the Property Maintenance Regulations: “Trees, whether on private property or within street lines, must be kept trimmed so that no branch or twig is less than eight feet above the level of the sidewalk or roadway.” Specifically, he clarified, no branch or twig should be less than eight feet above the EDGE of the sidewalk. Does the community realize this? 

I hope that our young okame cherry tree survives the butchering that was necessary to bring the tree up to code. I sprayed a pruning seal over the major areas that I cut. I also trimmed another tree which had several twigs overlapping the edge of the sidewalk. So if you walk past our home on Dartmouth Avenue and notice young trees that have been drastically cut back, you will understand why. 

Klare Scarborough


A Note from The Swarthmorean

We found the exact ordinance referenced in this letter, for your reference. All Swarthmore borough ordinances can be found here.


Trees, bushes and hedges shall not be permitted to interfere with the free passage of pedestrians along public sidewalks or of vehicles along roadways. Trees, whether on private property or within street lines, shall be kept trimmed by the owner of abutting property so that no branch or twig is less than eight feet above the level of the sidewalk or roadway. Hedges and shrubbery shall be kept trimmed so that no part thereof is closer than six inches to the air corridor above a public sidewalk. Council, however, may permit trees and shrubs in the sidewalk strip where no walkway exists, but all such trees and shrubs shall be removed to conform with this section as soon as Council orders the laying of a paved sidewalk as provided in Chapter 1024.

In accordance with the recommendation of the County Planning Commission, clear sight triangles along the centerlines of intersecting streets shall be maintained for traffic safety. The sides of such triangles shall be at least seventy-five feet, measured along the street centerlines from their point of junction at the intersection. Where hedges, bushes or trees now obscure such view, they shall be pruned to restore clear sight in the air space of such triangles commencing two and one-half feet above the roadway pavement level, and terminating at least eight feet above the ground at the locations of such trees or bushes.

(Ord. 715. Passed 3-8-'71.)

Appreciating the small things

Appreciating the small things

Lunch and learning

Lunch and learning