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Tree Maintenance Transfer Plan

tree-lined street in SF

Proposition E Street Tree and Sidewalk Maintenance Frequently Asked Questions
Prop E was a measure on the November 8, 2016 San Francisco ballot regarding responsibility for maintaining street trees and surrounding sidewalks. Voters were asked if the City should amend the City Charter to transfer responsibility from property owners to the City for maintaining trees on sidewalks adjacent to their property, as well for repairing sidewalks damaged by the trees. The City would pay for this by setting aside $19 million per year from its General Fund, adjusted annually based on City revenues.  Prop E passed with almost 80% of the voters’ support.




Most street trees in San Francisco are maintained by fronting property owners, who through their stewardship are doing their part to keep this critical aspect of the city’s infrastructure maintained. There are, however, more than 35,000 street trees that are currently being maintained by the city. In order to sustain a healthy Urban Forest, San Francisco Public Works is proposing to standardize maintenance responsibility such that, in general, fronting property owners will be responsible for the maintenance of street trees in the public right of way. Public Works does not have the resources to prune and maintain trees at a frequency recommended by the tree care industry to sustain their health. Lack of maintenance can cause tree limb failures that not only deprive the city of the benefits provided by trees (storm water filtration, decreased air pollution and greenhouse gases, energy savings, increased property values, wildlife habitat, etc.), but that also can result in property damage and risks to public safety.

San Francisco Public Works currently has maintenance responsibility for about 40,000 of the approximate 100,000 trees in the public right of way. Instead of pruning on a recommended three-to five-year cycle, Public Works is pruning trees on a ten to 12-year cycle because of budget cuts to Public Works' Urban Forestry staff. The funding in the FY 11-12 budget will allow Public Works to maintain trees fronting public property and other tree related emergency services.


When transferring maintenance responsibility of a tree or multiple trees, Public Works will provide information packets to property owners with recommendations for tree care, tree protection, and a copy of the urban forestry ordinance. Additionally, Public Works will work with nonprofit organizations and other city agencies to continue to provide information to property owners who already have responsibility for one or more street trees.


San Francisco Public Works proposes transferring maintenance responsibility for approximately 24,000 trees to fronting property owners over a seven year period. Property owners will only assume responsibility for healthy trees that have been pruned within three years, most of which will have been pruned within one year. With Public Works' assets more in line with its resources, the goal of Public Works is to maintain the trees under its responsibility on a five-year schedule, meeting tree care industry standards.


Purpose of the Plan

  1. Align Public Works' assets with available resources – Under the budget proposal, seven arborists will be maintaining and responding to all tree related calls and emergencies. This process will bring the numbers of trees Public Works is responsible for in line with the people we have to properly maintain them.

  2. Provide a more equitable allocation of tree maintenance responsibility—Two-thirds of property owners are already responsible for maintaining trees in front of their properties, while the maintenance of the remaining one-third is provided by city crews to private property owners.

  3. Protect San Francisco’s Urban Forest— San Francisco Public Works is already on a deferred maintenance schedule with no resources to improve frequency of maintenance. The health of a tree may decline and eventually fail as a result of improper maintenance.


San Francisco Public Works will follow the procedures in the Urban Forestry Ordinance to:

  1. Inspect all trees before relinquishment to ensure they are healthy and properly pruned

  2. Post notices on trees being transferred and notify

  3. Property owners by mail of the proposed change in maintenance responsibilities

  4. Provide information about how to request a public hearing

  5. Property owners can email visit or call (415) 554-7336



San Francisco Public Works
Urban Forestry
1155 Market Street, 3rd Floor (map)
San Francisco, CA 94103        
(415) 554-6700