Neighbors discover tree vandalism on Funston Avenue

The vandalized trees on the 500 block of Funston. Photo by Kay Voyvodich

In the past week, two incidents of tree vandalism were discovered by residents that live along the 400 and 500 blocks of Funston Avenue, just on the other side of the greenbelt along Park Presidio Boulevard.

Recently, the city planted three new trees on the 500 Funston block near Anza Street. Less than three days later, the trees were torn in half and left broken on the grass.

“Just disgusting. Makes me sick,” wrote one member of the Yahoo! Group BoulevardNeighbors, made up of residents that live along the greenbelt. Many of them volunteer their time to care for the greenbelt that sits across from their homes on Funston and 14th Avenue.

Photo by Kay Voyvodich

Just a week earlier, another resident noticed tree branches on the 400 block of Funston had been snapped and torn off. “It was disheartening to see,” wrote group member Jeffrey. “Do we have a deranged tree killer on the loose?”

Tree vandalism is nothing new to the Richmond District. In the summer of 2010, a total of 44 trees and some rose bushes were destroyed in Golden Gate Park. Among them were 17 elm trees that were sawed in half in the dark of night in the Music Concourse. They were later replaced at a cost of $30,000 thanks to a donation from Chase Freedom.

During the summer spree, the Rec & Park Department even offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the tree vandal, but nothing ever came of it. At one point, police were staking out potential targets 24 hours a day with undercover and uniformed cops patrolling more than 40 hot spots in the park.

Towards the end of the spree, there were even some bushes destroyed along the Park Presidio greenbelt near Fulton.

Tree branches were snapped off on the 400 block of Funston. Photo by Jeffrey Gray

Who is responsible for these latest acts of vandalism? No residents have witnessed the vandals at work, but some think it may be coming from the illegal campers that reside in the greenbelt.

“There are frequently campers on that block. They can only be seen from the Presidio side,” one BoulevardNeighbors group member wrote.

Illegal encampments are a frequent topic of discussion on the group’s message boards. In November, a longtime encampment was finally removed after one neighbor complained to a passing motorcycle officer.

“I told him how frustrating it was to have to call all the time and that now there were two encampments. He got some fellow officers and they cleaned out two very large encampments and stayed and waited for Public Works to show up to get stuff,” wrote the neighbor.

Members of the group frequently exchange reports of encampments. Police encourage them to call the SFPD dispatch line at 553-0123 whenever they see a new one developing.

Despite the clearing, the camper returned quickly and police had to be called again. “This particular camper is breaking branches off of small bushes and really setting up house,” wrote the group member.

Whether this latest act of vandalism is due to the homeless living close by, or some other anti-tree activist remains to be seen. Let’s just hope it subsides so we don’t have to look to donations to help replace our ruined trees.

Sarah B.


  1. that greenbelt there is always loaded full of new great depression homeless campers. in fact, right next to the torn out trees is a guy who consistently smells worse than an elephant cage at the zoo. all the trash these folks litter about is a way worse problem than busted saplings, IMO

  2. You have to get rid of the root problem instead of replanting and hoping it went away.

  3. I’m not so sure the snapped-off branches in the 400 block of Funston were the result of a tree vandal. I saw a large, tall truck speeding down this block a few days ago, and the truck definitely snapped off a couple of tree branches as it passed.

  4. How sad. The residents should consider organizing a Neighborhood Watch through SF Safe. They’re a great organization that will be happy to help work with a group of neighbors to reduce the likelihood of vandalism like this. Learn more at sfsafe.org

  5. I agree that it was probably caused by a large DPW truck driving on the nearby tire tracks.

  6. Doesn’t make sense to me that campers would do it. I’d expect them to want to stay hidden, and trees would help them do that. Maybe it’s an anti-camper vigilante?

  7. Judging by all the stowed personal belongings, trash and clothing strewn about the ground and in trees all up and down the greenways on either side of Park Presidio from Lake to Geary – not to mention the “campfires”, I would say the “campers” aren’t cognizant of whether they’re hidden or visible. They just do what they do.

  8. Doubtful a DPW truck is doing this damage as the trees in question are not close enough to either PPB, Funston Ave or the bridle path thru the center of the Funston side of the greenway. Police cars (checking for drug dealers and homeless encampments) and Rec & Park pick-ups (for maintenance) do drive down the bridle path, but it’s not a roadway for big trucks.

    Some of them have clearly been cut with a tool. At this point those trees would not be big enough to conceal anyone (and they’re barren for winter as well). Breaking thru the trunk of multiple trees,even small ones, requires a certain amount of intent.

    Street sweepers regularly “prune” trees hanging over parking on my block of Funston, so it does happen. Just not this time.

  9. San Francisco SAFE (Safety Awareness for Everyone) works throughout the city setting up neighborhood watch groups and crime prevention programs like Jean mentioned. I am the coordinator for the Richmond district and would be more than happy to help plan a neighborhood watch group in the area where the trees are being destroyed. We can get a group of residents together and form different strategies on how to find out who is vandalizing the trees. There are many benefits of starting a SAFE Neighborhood Watch Group including setting up a phone tree, block map and emergency response plan and best of all, you will get to know your neighbors. Visit our website, http://www.sfsafe.org for more information or contact me at 415-553-1968 and morgan@sfsafe.org

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