City employees’ air travel to pay for fruit trees

A new fee on city workers’ airplane travel will pay for fruit trees in San Francisco.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, as part of this fiscal year’s budget, has ordered city departments to pay a 13 percent surcharge on purchased air travel. The money is to be directed into a new “local carbon fund.”

The Department of the Environment, which oversees the fund, has committed to using a portion of the money to purchase fruit trees for planting in various locations throughout The City. The plantings are part of a broader food policy developed by Newsom, which he announced last year. The average cost is $200 per tree, according to the department.

The purchase and planting of the fruit trees will begin next year, Environment Department spokesman Mark Westlund said. “The project helps meet the mayor’s food policy directive to increase local food production by using city-owned land,” according to a department report.

“The trees will be ones that grow well in San Francisco’s climate,” Westlund said, includes stone fruits such as apricots, cherries, plums, peaches and nectarines, along with various types of apples.

The City plans to plant fruit trees on both privately and publicly owned land, such as city-owned parcels, community and school gardens, and public housing sites. “In addition to placing trees in existing garden locations, new urban community orchards will be created,” the report said.

The expense does not require the approval of the Board of Supervisors. The board had approved a fund of up to $120,000 at the start of the fiscal year, which began July 1. Decisions on how to spend the money are left to the discretion of the Department of the Environment. The carbon fund is designed to pay for local projects that would reduce carbon emissions. The idea is similar to what is commonly referred to as carbon credits.

It’s unclear how much will actually end up in the fund, and it’s the total fund amount that will determine how many fruit trees are purchased.

“The budget allows up to $120,000 based on projected air travel by city employees, but the actual amount will depend on travel actually booked,” Westlund said. Budget woes and scrutiny of city travel may result in a much lower amount, he said.

The fund is also supposed to support other programs.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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