Supervisors delay vote on ballot measure to return maintenance of street trees to city

Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

We got an email from the Friends of the Urban Forest today with an update on a ballot measure they have been trying to get onto the upcoming November 2016 ballot.

The new measure would require the City to maintain all street trees, fix all tree-related sidewalk damage, and release property owners from any tree-related liability — and is funded by a budget set-aside and a small, progressive parcel tax.

According to the Chronicle, “The city began transferring the ownership and upkeep of its trees to homeowners in 2011 after the recession cut into the city’s budget. That incensed residents, who often don’t have the cash for costly pruning and associated sidewalk repairs.”

I’m sure many readers recall a sign being wrapped around a tree or two in front of their house, declaring their immediately responsibility for their upkeep. Some of these street trees are enormous, and require significant annual spend for upkeep.

On Tuesday of this week, the Board of Supervisors met to decide which measures to place on the November ballot. But as these meetings often go, it devolved into political infighting and a decision on the street tree measure was postponed until next week.

FUF says that only four supervisors are committed to putting the measure on the ballot – Sup. Malia Cohen, Sup. Mark Farrell, Sup. Katy Tang, and Sup. Scott Wiener. So they are encouraging residents to email their supervisors to voice their support for the measure. Again, this is just to get the measure on the ballot so San Franciscans can vote for whether or not it should pass.

Below is the contact information for our District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar, who has yet to support the measure getting on the ballot.

Plus contact information for the other Supervisors in case you live outside our district. Please call or email them this week asking them to support the Friends of the Urban Forest ballot measure. If you wish, say a few words about why you want the city to maintain street trees and repair broken sidewalks.

Sarah B,

District 1 (the Richmond)
Eric Mar: 415-554-7410 / Eric.L.Mar@sfgov.org

District 3 (Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, North Beach)
Aaron Peskin: 415-554-7450 / Aaron.Peskin@sfgov.org

District 5 (Haight Ashbury, Panhandle, Western Addition)
London Breed: 415-554-7630 / Breedstaff@sfgov.org

District 6 (South of Market, Tenderloin, Treasure Island)
Jane Kim: 415-554-7970 / Jane.Kim@sfgov.org

District 7 (Park Merced, West Twin Peaks)
Norman Yee: 415-554-6516 / Norman.Yee@sfgov.org

District 9 (Mission, Bernal Heights)
David Campos: 415-554-5144 / David.Campos@sfgov.org

District 11 (Excelsior, Oceanview, Merced Heights, Ingelside)
John Avalos: 415-554-6975 / John.Avalos@sfgov.org


  1. Do you hear that sound? It’s me playing the world’s tiniest violin for the millionaire homeowners of SF. Next they’ll want the city to pay for their lawn service and window washing. Part of being a property owner is doing the upkeep on your land. If you can’t handle that responsibility then sell your house and rent an apartment.

  2. The city transferred responsibility for public sidewalk trees as well as sidewaks fronting residential property to property owners immediately after Prop 13 took effect in the 1970s. My family has had to maintain the tree in front since the City revoked the promises of both FUF’s prececessor who planted the tree during their Save A Tree campaign in 1974 and their agreement with this predecessor. Depth of local history is sadly lacking at both the government and local media levels.

  3. 4thgenrichmond. You are so correct.

    I have a friend with several street trees in from of his property. One is dead. The City is telling him he has to hire a certified arborist to remove the dead tree. What in hades is wrong with these intellectual Neanderthals who work on our hard earned money. Why should a home owner have to hire a certified anything to pull out a dead tree? It IS dead!
    This is a prime example of both the BoS and the city employees in this town that need to be fired in mass. Stupid.

  4. @JD
    You have to because dead trees are a major hazard. The roots on the tree will start to rot, and heavy rain/wind can then cause it to fall over. Aside from the risk of simple property damage, it can crush people, cause traffic accidents or take down electrical wires and cause fire.

    We see many trees come down in the neighborhood every year, thankfully it typically just causes traffic. But this isn’t some distant possibility. Requiring you use someone qualified to do it is also reasonable.

  5. i dont want the city managing my tree. I can do it well, and everything the city touches turns to shit.

  6. JD, In their fine art of micromanagement, the City no longer has any certified arborists on the payroll but the Supes probably have introduced legislation on the “correct” disposal of dead trees (to include mulching on site), which along with many rules such as getting building permits for construction are largely ignored.

  7. I am really dismayed at the lack of gardening and greening happening in the city.
    Rec & Parks has shut off water everywhere which not only adversely affects the greenspaces, but also the rodents (gophers/voles, etc.) and the local raptors who depend on them. I get it, water shortage/drought, but there has to be a happy medium.
    R&P has also neglected doing any gardening work near our home for at least 2 years. Some low growing trees across the street have now become a magnet for homeless sleeping, defecating and stashing their stuff.
    IMO, the taxes we pay are not going towards the services that enhance our quality of life, rather, we are subsidizing a whole lot of pet projects and a large transient population.

    I would like to see:
    1) ALL city gardens watered at least once a month.
    2) Actual gardening in places besides the new parklets and medians.
    3) Actual tree management. The trees are important to all of us, not just the homeowner. P&R is already in place with infrastructure and knowledgeable arborists. IMO, they should ultimately be responsible for the trees.

  8. TheDude, P&R has no certified arborists. It does have groundskeepers and gardeners. DPW has no certified arborists or gardeners. Most of their groundskeepers receive a two week training on mowing medians when initially hired.

  9. Just because many people who live in San Francisco cannot turn a screwdriver should not mean that those of us who can need to “use someone qualified” to take out a dead tree. If you went and found a “certified arborist” I can tell you that he/she would send out some workers, who may have been in the country 2 weeks, to do the actual work and then charge my friend a bundle for the “special service”. Many of us have chain saws and know how to use them. It is silly and stupid to tell a home owner he has to pay some specialist to remove a dead tree if that home owner can do it himself.

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