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SF releases first major street tree census

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(Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco will have to care for nearly 125,000 street trees come this summer when The City shifts control of its urban canopy from property owners to the Department of Public Works.

The exact number of trees was revealed Friday as part of The City’s first-ever comprehensive street tree census, conducted over the span of a year beginning January 2016, and shows that beginning July 1, the 124,795 street trees in San Francisco will fall under the care of Public Works.

That’s because voters in November 2016 approved Proposition E, which transfers the responsibility of street tree maintenance from private property owners to Public Works. The measure also established a $19 million annual set-aside in The City’s General Fund to pay for the street tree care and repair sidewalks damaged by roots.

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The street tree census — which includes the exact location, species and current condition of every tree — offers a glimpse of what’s in store for Public Works in caring for the trees. Trees on private property or in public parks were excluded from the census.

Of the 124,795 street trees, some 20,000 more than previous estimates, there were more than 500 species identified in the census. About 40,000 potential locations for planting trees were found.

SEE RELATED: SF finalizing plan for reclaiming care of street trees

According to city officials, data shows that the current number of trees sequesters more than 19 million pounds of carbon dioxide and filters more than 100 million gallons of stormwater each year.

“The information that was gathered is an invaluable tool we can use as we take the next big step in San Francisco to care for our urban forest,” Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru said in a statement. “The data will drive our priorities and resources.”

Once Public Works assumes control of the trees July 1, the trees in most need will be addressed first. Correcting structural flaws and appropriately clearing for overhead wires, traffic signs and signals, and buildings and traffic flow will take priority, among safety considerations. Routine pruning of trees will likely begin in 2019.

Ultimately, San Francisco hopes to grow its street tree population by 50 percent, according to city officials.

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