November ballot measure will end City program that transfers street tree responsibility and liability to private property owners, and pay for maintenance responsibility and liability for all street trees and sidewalk damaged caused by trees through budget set-aside
San Francisco — (July 26, 2016) Today Supervisors John Avalos and Scott Wiener announced an agreement to put forward a consensus street tree measure for the November election 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.
“I’m proud to have partnered with Supervisor Avalos to craft a smart and sustainable solution to ensure the long-term viability of our urban forest,” said Supervisor Wiener, who has been working on this issue with Friends of the Urban Forest for almost six years. “Trees are critical for our environment, health, and quality of life, but for decades San Francisco has failed in funding the basic task of maintaining our urban forest. This measure will allow us to create a vibrant and growing tree canopy for all residents. San Francisco should be the greenest city in America. Our residents deserve better and it’s time to fund our urban forest once and for all.”
“I am excited to have worked with Friends of the Urban Forest and Supervisor Wiener to unite all of our colleagues on supporting the health and growth of our urban forest,” said Supervisor Avalos. “As a result of passage of this measure, the City will create more green jobs, and San Francisco will be a much more lush and environmentally friendly place.”
Supervisors Avalos and Wiener made final amendments at the Board of Supervisors to the ballot measure today and the measure will be voted onto the ballot at a special Board meeting on Friday July 29th.
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. Supervisor Wiener and Avalos’s 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 plus a 50 percent expansion of the number of street trees (to approximately 155,000). The ballot measure also contributes to the San Francisco Unified School District to support greening on public school properties.