Board of Supervisors Places Street Tree Measure on Ballot for November Election
Measure put forth by Supervisors Wiener and Avalos requires city to take back responsibility for street trees, sidewalk damages caused by trees, and liability. Measure also provides dedicated funding to care for the trees, fix sidewalks, and expand number of trees.
San Francisco — Today the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously placed a measure on the ballot authored by Supervisors Scott Wiener and John Avalos that will end the City’s street tree transfer program and guarantee funding to pay for street tree maintenance and liability. The ballot measure requires the City to assume responsibility for all street trees — including tree maintenance, sidewalk damage, and liability — and provides a long-term dedicated funding source to do so.
For six years, Supervisor Wiener has worked on this measure with Friends of the Urban Forest.
“Today, we took a major step toward a greener, more environmentally sustainable, healthier, and more beautiful city,” said Supervisor Wiener. “Trees matter, and for far too long San Francisco has essentially ignored these critical pieces of our urban fabric, through this unfair and counter-productive policy of dumping trees on property owners rather than investing public resources. Trees are key in addressing climate change, and study after study has shown that trees in a community make people healthier and help children learn. We all should be focused on taking care of our trees, and expanding our urban forest for future generations.”
The City’s current street tree policy requires fronting property owners to maintain and be liable for adjacent street trees and sidewalk damage, whether or not the owners planted the tree, whether or not they want the tree, and whether or not they have the financial resources to care for the tree. This unfair responsibility can cost property owners hundreds or thousands of dollars on a regular basis.
The proposed ballot measure halts the transfer of responsibility of street trees to property owners and requires the City to take back every street tree and assume maintenance responsibility (for both trees and sidewalk damage), as well as assume liability. Maintenance and liability will be funded by a $19 million dollar general fund set-aside that will be a mandatory obligation in the City budget that cannot be reduced by the Mayor or the Board of Supervisors.
San Francisco has approximately 105,000 street trees planted in sidewalks and medians over the decades by the City, neighbors, and non-profit partners. About one third of those trees are currently maintained by the City. The ballot measure requires San Francisco Public Works to assume maintenance responsibility for all street trees and provides sufficient resources to properly maintain both the existing tree population (including tree-related sidewalk damage and liability) plus a 50 percent expansion of the number of street trees, to approximately 155,000)l. The ballot measure also contributes to the San Francisco Unified School District to support greening on public school properties.
As the culmination of six years of work, Supervisor Wiener convened a year-long Street Tree Working Group to develop and formulate a ballot measure for November. Represented at these meetings were urban forest advocates, small and large property owner organizations, neighborhood representatives, and environmental groups.