Supervisor Wiener aims to make City responsible for street trees

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener Tuesday introduced a ballot measure that would require the city to take responsibility for all street trees and create a dedicated fund and parcel tax to pay for their maintenance.

The city currently requires property owners to maintain street trees and assume liability for sidewalk damage, even if they did not plant the tree and do not want it, and whether or not they can afford it, according to Wiener.

Wiener said:

“Trees are critical for our environment, health, and quality of life, yet for nearly 40 years, San Francisco has failed in funding the basic task of maintaining our urban forest. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and fund our urban forest once and for all.”

The measure would create a mandatory general fund set-aside of about $8 million representing what the city has spent on trees on average over the past decade. In addition, it would generate around $10.8 million annually for tree maintenance and related costs with a parcel tax structured so that condos and smaller properties pay as little as $29.50 a year while larger properties could pay up to $2,000 a year.

San Francisco currently has around 105,000 street trees in sidewalks and medians, around one-third of which are cared for by the city.

Wiener said his measure would include enough funding to expand that number by about 50 percent and contribute funds to the San Francisco Unified School District for greening on school properties.

Dan Flanagan, executive director of the Friends of the Urban Forest, today said that more than 6,000 sidewalks in San Francisco have tree root damage.

Flanagan said:

“It’s unacceptable that the city expects homeowners to be responsible for street trees and liable for tree-related sidewalk falls, San Francisco should maintain its street trees and sidewalks like other cities do, and that’s what this measure will accomplish.”

The measure was introduced with the support of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco. President Noni Richen said the measure would ensure that trees are maintained “without unfairly burdening certain property owners just because they have a tree in front of their property.”