SAN FRANCISCO LAUNCHES NEW VOTER-BACKED TREE MAINTENANCE PROGRAM
The City Takes Over Care of All Street Trees and Will Fix Tree-Related Sidewalk Damage
San Francisco, CA – Mayor Edwin M. Lee and San Francisco Public Works today celebrated the rollout of Street Tree SF, voter-backed initiative that places the care of all the street trees under City care.
Proposition E on the November 2016 ballot won with 79 percent of the vote and took effect July 1, 2017. It puts the maintenance responsibility for San Francisco’s nearly 125,000 street trees with Public Works. Historically, fronting property owners had most of the responsibility for street trees, with nearly two thirds of them in private hands.
The ballot measure set aside $19 million a year from the City’s general fund to pay for the upkeep of all street trees, as well as to fix tree-related sidewalk damage – without raising taxes.
“Thanks to the overwhelming support of San Francisco voters, we have the sustainable funding we need to take care of our magnificent street trees,” Mayor Lee said. “We now can realize the full potential of a healthy, well-maintained urban forest.”
Mayor Lee was joined by District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, City officials, Friends of the Urban Forest and community members in Noe Valley today as Public Works arborists worked on trees along 23rd Street to launch the new program.
Proposition E grew out of the San Francisco Urban Forest Plan, the development of which was overseen by the Planning Development in collaboration with Public Works, the Urban Forestry Council and Friends of the Urban Forest. The plan found that the split maintenance responsibilities were not in the best interests of the health of San Francisco’s urban forest because care was inconsistent. It called for creating a comprehensive municipal tree-maintenance program with a sustainable source of funding.
“The annual set-aside under Street Tree SF provides Public Works – for the first time – the ability to put San Francisco’s street trees on a regular pruning cycle, based on their species and condition,” said Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “This is a real game-changer that will allow our urban forest to thrive.”
The funding measure allows Public Works to grow its tree-care program, using both in-house staff and contractors, and to repair tree-related sidewalk damage.
Crews will focus on the “worst first,” meaning that trees that are in poor condition will be pruned or removed first; routine maintenance is expected to begin in 2020. In the meantime, Public Works will address any urgent street tree needs.
Property owners also have the ability to opt-out of the City tree-care program if they agree to maintain their trees and sidewalks according to City standards.
Prior to Proposition E taking effect, the City conducted a tree census that identified 124,795 street trees, noting their location, species and location. Public Works is using the information to craft its new tree maintenance plan.
The pruning of street trees will be prioritized based on safety considerations, to correct structural flaws and to gain necessary clearances for overhead wires, traffic signs and signals, adjacent buildings and traffic flow.
“Now that the City's street tree maintenance program is adequately funded, and property owners are relieved of the financial burden of maintaining street trees and repairing tree-related sidewalk damage, San Francisco’s urban forest has a much brighter future,” said Dan Flanagan, executive director of Friends of the Urban Forest, the nonprofit organization that provided instrumental support in getting Proposition E passed. “In partnership with the City, we'll work hard to ensure that the vital benefits of this green infrastructure continue to spread equitably throughout all our neighborhoods.”
To learn more about San Francisco’s street tree program, go to www.sfpublicworks.org/trees.