May 20, 2019 /
Jona Elwell

Let’s Talk About D.C.’s TOPS (Transportation Online Permitting System)

While we continue to restore, enhance and protect the nation’s capital through our work planting trees at homes, businesses, schools, DPR centers, and community spaces, there is a whole lot of land that our partner in crime the Urban Forestry Division (UFD)  of District Department Of Transportation handles. Specifically, the handle the planting, maintenance, and removal of trees in the right of way, the (often green and grassy) area between the street and sidewalk.

We know (and hopefully you do too!) that UFD has a boatload of awesome, informative maps about city trees – like their scheduled tree planting map, scheduled tree removal map, street tree species map, and a watering map that details street tree’s help.

But there is another, lesser-known but equally useful, online tool called TOPS – the DC Transportation Online Permitting System – which comes in handy for those (homeowners, business owners, or contractors) looking to either:

  • plant, prune, or remove a tree within the public right of way, let’s introduce you to the Public Space Tree Permit through TOPS. Once submitted, the appropriate Ward arborist takes up your case and determines course of action. Impatiently waiting for a new street tree? This is your chance to take action!
  • remove a tree in excess of 44” in circumference on any property in the District, then you will need a Special Tree Removal Permit through TOPS. Private property trees between 44” and 99.9” in circumference are considered Special Trees. Trees that are greater than 100” in circumference are considered Heritage Trees. The removal of Special Trees requires the aforementioned Special Tree Removal Permit. Heritage trees in healthy condition cannot be removed.

The fun thing? Any fines and fees generated by Special Tree removals go directly toward planting additional trees in the District. UFD has, of course, mapped these unique removals and plantings!

Another fun thing? If you’ve successfully applied for a Special Tree Removal Permit you can replace it through our Special Tree Replacement Program. Let us help you replace the missing shade and beauty in your yard.

While no online system is perfect, it’s pretty cool to have this mass of city-wide permitting data available to us. Thanks to TOPS you can not only submit and track permit applications, but you can also look up and see all permits issued in an interactive map. Yay maps and data!