An Evanston City Council committee Monday will review a staff proposal to imposed height limits on hedges in front and side yards similar to the limits that already exist for fences.

The proposal would limit the height of hedges to six feet.

In a memo to aldermen, City Attorney Grant Farrar says overly tall hedges create a potential danger to the health safety and welfare of the public because they block the view of vehicles approaching intersections, block light from streetlights and create general safety concerns for pedestrians.

Farrar’s memo also asks the aldermen to provide guidance to staff about how the city should go about enforcing the proposed ordinance against existing overgrown hedges.

The Human Services Committee meeting that will discuss the ordinance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Civic Center.

Top: A hedge in the 1300 block of Church Street is one of many around town that could be affected by the proposed new rule.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Tree pruning

    Why would a resident plant a Hedge next to a street Light?  The City planted many trees next to street lights and didn't realize they would grow. LACK OF PRUNING these trees by the City is whats blocking the street lights. The trees block the Street Lights makes the sidewalks very dark making it necessary to walk in street for safty.

  2. Hedges

    Isn't there something rather better for Evanston bureaucrats to do than whine about hedge height? Murders, drug deals… you name it. But someone got it up their snifter that hedges need to be looked at and measured for height.

  3. The side yards would only apply to those facing a street

    The post should clarify that the 6' rule would only impact street facing yards.


    So, if you are in the middle of the block and have an 8 foot hedge between you and your side neighbors, it wouldn't apply.


    It only applies to hedges and shrubs.  Trees and other plants would be exempt.

  4. Check out the NE corner of Asbury and Barton

    Worst that I've seen in the city as I bike and drive around town.  Massive is the only word to describe the hedges there.

    For years, they have covered at least 1/2 of the Asbury sidewalk and some of the Barton sidewalk.  You must walk single file past them on the Asbury sidewalk. The hedges are well over six feet tall and block the view of traffic, bikes and pedestrians.

    I have called the city at least once about this problem but no action. Isn't there anything already on the books?  Seems odd that there isn't.


  5. Hedge Height?

    This is exactly the type of thing that I read our City Staff is recommending and then think if they have nothing better to work on than this type of ridiculousness we should save some tax dollars and cut positions.  If it weren't for some of the other nonsense that has come out of our staff I would have to think this was a joke.  Unfortunately, I am sure it is not.  As I said in an e-mail to my alderman shortly after I read this article, I just spent over $1K on Arborvitae to minimize traffic sound and also so I don't have to look at speeding traffic on the RESIDENTIAL artery street where I live.  With a proposed 6 foot limit, they are going to need to be "topped" and will not look very nice.  What about people that already have mature Arvorvitae they use for screening that are in excess of 6 feet?  I know MANY artery street residents have screening for the same reason I did – to block traffic sight and sound on artery streets.  We already lack much enforcement of our speed laws and now arterial street residents are going to be punished yet again if this taken seriously.  Our side street residents will feel safer walking by our homes on their way to their nicely quiet side-street residence with their speed bumps and stop signs while we on the thoroughfares have virtually no protections from rabid drivers except screening. 

    Once again, this is another nonsensical attempt at a control that is not needed.  Just the reasoning is specious!  "In a memo to aldermen, City Attorney Grant Farrar says overly tall hedges create a potential danger to the health safety and welfare of the public because they block the view of vehicles approaching intersections, block light from streetlights and create general safety concerns for pedestrians."  NEWSFLASH:  A 6 foot tall hedge will still be tall enough to eliminate NONE of the health and safety issues being cited.  As for pedestrians worrying about vehicles being blocked from view at intersections – either you are running and haven't slowed down to check for cars before rushing into the street or you are texting and need to live in the moment by looking both ways before you cross the street.

    Where will the ridiculousness stop with this effort?  Today hedges, tomorrow trees.  You and I both know some idiot will start complaining about that next.  Do trees situated near the sidewalk of front yards present screening?   How large can a tree trunk be before it becomes screening for a potential mugger to leap from behind unto an unsuspecting pedestrian?  How tall can a tree be on someone's private property?  Are muggers able to jump out of tree branches that extend out over city sidewalks onto unsuspecting pedestrians?  Do we need to consider cutting branches off from bottom up on, for example, all large pine trees because they could be screening for a criminal and, could also block a sight line for vehicles?  Which vehicles could have a problem with sight lines?  Should we consider various points of view – SUVs, cars, tractor trailer trucks?  What other trees have lower hanging branches we should consider to be blocking views and potentially unsafe?

    C'mon City Staff, let's stop trying to create laws to benefit one complainer who probably has a pocket full of cash for his/her alderman.  The only issue with hedges is when they intrude out over sidewalks and need to be trimmed back.  I believe our city code already addresses the issue of keeping sidewalks clear. 

    The beauty of evanston is that people have wonderful front and side yards and a lot of greenery.  Let's not try to become some manicured retirement community with no personality please.

    1. Completely Agree!

      This is the type of ordinance that is silly, unproductive, and DOES NOT benefit the citizens of Evanston.  Aldermen, specifically Jane Grover because you are my alderman, reject this silly proposal  

    2. Three feet

      NEWSFLASH:  A 6 foot tall hedge will still be tall enough to eliminate NONE of the health and safety issues being cited

      How about a three foot limit instead?

  6. This what we’d expect from our government !

    This reminds me of Woody Allen's movie where as a latin american dictator he demands everyone speak Swedish and wear underware on the outside so it can be checked.'

    Evanston is well on its way to becoming a banana republic.  Time to get rid of or lock-up the yahoos for the taxpayers protection.  What business reading this 'regulation' would say "Oh yea I want to move ot Evanston and be bombarded with new regulations'  !!

  7. Restrictions have a purpose

    I agree with your point that this is not necessarily the best use of time during tight budgets, and that a "hedge patrol" is probably not necessary. That being said, I do not agree that hedge and planting restrictions are necessarily ridiculous. There is a health, safety, and welfare concern anytime you use any screening that have the potential to block sight lines. I think it is reasonable to assume that the hyperbole in your third paragraph is just that: exaggeration. Sightlines a concern? Yes. Muggers hiding in tree branches? No. Hopefully the average person (or average city staff member/alderman) understand that, and will carefully and thouroughly vet this proposal and its impacts before moving forward. 

  8. More Poor work by staff

    The ordinance said you can not have a bush in your front or side yard over six feet – also what is a bush versus a tree? The way I read this is not just a hedge up at the lot line. 

    Here again staff is doing unnecessary work.  Almost all yards in Evanston would not comply with this ordinance.

    Property owners are already not allow to have branches or bush pass the lot lines over the side walks.  Some owners do have bush over the lot lines, but that is a different issue. 

    Is the city looking to take all homeowners in town to their puppet court to make more money?  As one council member put it at the capital meeting we need to raise fees and fines on residents to pay for the capital improvements ( we never planned )

  9. Hedges/Trees

    The biggest problem I've see are the overgrown Parkway trees around the Street Lights. 

  10. Bans

    I am constantly amazed by the elected officials and staff in a liberal community regularly proposing new bans. I am also surprised that anyone thinks these bans will accomplish anything meaningful.

    1. There are no bans in this proposal

      Seriously, did you actually read the article?  Nobody is talking about banning anything.

  11. Shrubs and bushes that hinder sidewalks

    I am much more concerned about the places where residents refuse to cut back so that the sidewalks are usable.

  12. More dangerous than you think

    My neighbor's side yard fence and tall bushes have turned my driveway into a blind alley.  Pedestrians and bike riders cannot see me and I cannot see them as I inch my car onto the street. 

    I have had one collision with a cyclist and have learned to anticipate them….but they don't know that they also need to anticipate me.

  13. Hedges

    I don't mind the height, but in many neighborhoods, the hedges impose onto the sidewalk so much that 1/2 the public sidewalk, or more, is impassable.  That is the issue needs to be addressed by the City.

    I would contact my alderman (Mark Tendam) about this, but I have tried to contact him repeatedly (regarding another matter) without any response.  It appears that he isn't interested in being an alderman anymore, so I will be posting my issues here.

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