San Francisco voters will be asked this November whether to transfer the responsibility of all street trees back to The City.

Proposition E, authored by Supervisor Scott Wiener, would reverse an unpopular move made in 2012 that put the responsibility of The City’s 105,000 street trees into the hands of property owners.

“It’s a terrible system, terribly unfair to property owners,” said Wiener, who noted that San Francisco has for the past 40 years slowly stepped away from taking responsibility for a tree canopy that now ranks among the nation’s smallest for an urban area.

The system as it stands has meant neglect and death for many of The City’s street trees.

Prop. E would amend the charter and require San Francisco to properly care for its urban forest. The City’s Department of Public Works will be responsible for the upkeep and care of the more than 100,000 street streets.

“City Hall won’t do it, they just won’t,” Wiener said, noting that past efforts have failed because trees don’t compete well with other budget priorities.

The measure will be funded with an annual $19 million set-aside that will grow with The City’s general fund. The fund will be set and adjusted annually depending on discretionary funds in city coffers. A portion — $500,000 — will go toward maintaining trees on San Francisco Unified School District property.

If property owners wish to continue caring for the trees abutting their property, continued care can be arranged with The City.

The fund will not pay for planting new trees, said Wiener, since there are already ample private funds to pay for tree planting.

The measure would go into effect July 1, 2017.

The measure has no recorded opponents, and requires more than 50 percent voter approval to pass.

Jonah Owen Lamb
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Jonah Owen Lamb

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