SAN FRANCISCO—SF Mayor Edwin M. Lee and the San Francisco Public Works announced on Wednesday, July 19 with the new Street Tree SF program, a voter-backed initiative that places the maintenance of all the street trees under City care.
“Thanks to the overwhelming support of San Francisco voters, we now have the sustainable funding necessary to take care of our street trees,” Mayor Lee said. “We now can realize the full potential of a healthy, well-maintained urban forest.”
According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, Proposition E, which was approved by 79 percent of the voters in November 2016, creates a comprehensive municipal tree maintenance program with a sustainable source of funding. In the past, property owners held most of the responsibility for San Francisco’s nearly 125,000 street trees, but that duty will now be transferred to San Francisco Public Works.
Proposition E grew out of the San Francisco Urban Forest Plan, which was overseen by the Planning Development in collaboration with the SF Public Works, the Urban Forestry Council and Friends of the Urban Forest. The plan discovered that the split maintenance responsibilities were not in the best interests of the health of San Francisco’s urban forest because care was inconsistent.
The ballot measure sets 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. The funding measure allows SF Public Works to grow its tree-care program, using both in-house staff and contractors, and to repair tree-related sidewalk damage.
“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.”
Mayor Lee was joined by District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, City officials, Friends of the Urban Forest and community members in Noe Valley as Public Works’ arborists worked on trees along 23rd Street to launch the new program.
“It is long past time that the City relieved homeowners of the responsibility to fix trees that are on our public streets,” said Supervisor Sheehy. “This announcement supports the will of the voters and will help maintain a healthy urban tree canopy that will enhance and protect our urban environment.”
Prior to Proposition E taking effect, the city conducted a tree census https://www.opentreemap.org/urbanforestmap/map/ that identified 124,795 street trees, noting their 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, structural flaws and 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.”
Property owners can opt-out of the City tree-care program if they agree to maintain their trees and sidewalks, per the city of San Francisco standards. To learn more about San Francisco’s street tree program, go to http://www.sfpublicworks.org/trees.