A Snapshot of San Francisco's Recent Greening Initiatives
An initiative called "Trees for Tomorrow" launched by former Mayor Gavin Newsom expanded the city's urban forest. Approximately 26,000 trees were planted over the last five years as part of the program. Although it was an impressive achievement, San Francisco still falls short of the greening standards of other major urban centers. The city's canopy cover (a measurement of how much of the city is shaded by trees) is only 12 percent, approximately half of New York City.
Rationale for Transitioning Tree Care Responsibility
The Department of Public Works (DPW) has had jurisdiction over all trees in the public right-of-way. (About 40,000). Until now their responsibility has included planning, planting, maintenance and removal.
Normally, a tree pruning cycle is every three to five years. Funding cuts have deferred this pruning to every ten to twelve years. Diminishing resources are a signal that this cycle will double and triple. This threatens the health of trees, as well as the safety of pedestrians and property.
Hence, a stopgap measure. Not ideal, but the city says it will save them about $300,000 this year.
How it works:
over a seven year period tree maintenance of public right-of-way trees, located on private property will be transferred to property owners incrementally.
What will happen:
DPW to provide property owners a notice that includes packets with recommendations for tree care, protection and a copy of the urban forestry ordinance.
When it will happen:
Each fiscal year starting with 2011 until 2018, an average of 3,000 trees will be transferred to its respective property owner
Each tree will be inspected and must be certified healthy before being relinquished. The city pays for any remedial tree work.
Opponents' Point of View
The opposition makes some good points:
Property owners may not be knowledgeable about tree care. The had no say in the decision to plant the trees.
Resistance by owners to this new responsibility is gathering steam.
Supervisor Scott Weiner thinks the solution drafted by DPW is unacceptable and says, "we need to find a sustainable funding source for our urban forest." He suggests asking voters to approve a small parcel tax which would cost a property owner about $60-$90 annually and in exchange the city would take back responsibility for the trees.
We will continue to follow this issue and provide updates on our blog:
Sources for this article include: Department of Public Works, San Francisco Chronicle and the Examiner.