Group: S.F.’s tree-maintenance effort isn’t taking

The lack of city spending on tree planting and maintenance continues to pose a threat to San Francisco’s green look, more than a year after a report found that The City’s 668,000 trees are dying at a faster rate than they are being replanted, Urban Forestry Council members said.

Tree planting has been a priority for Mayor Gavin Newsom. Last March, on Arbor Day, Newsom announced that since coming into office, The City has planted 16,304 trees, meeting his goal of planting 5,000 trees every year.

However, UrbanForestry Council member Terry Milne said The City’s tree canopy is pretty much in the same state as it was a year ago. Milne said tree planting initiatives from the Mayor’s Office are good, but “what about the other thousands of trees that are already here that need regular maintenance?”

The council’s April 2006 report advised spending $20 million annually on trees to ensure the current tree stock remains healthy and new trees are planted.

Recently, the Urban Forestry Council’s Funding Committee discussed ways to generate more money for tree planting and maintenance of trees, but came up with no proposals.

Ideas to generate the $20 million a year include a tax initiative or special assessment districts, but Milne said the council is an unlikely candidate to push for a revenue initiative until there is political support at City Hall. “It has to come out of somebody that is bigger than us,” he said.

Care of the trees falls under a number of city departments, including the Department of Public Works, which is responsible for about one-third of The City’s street trees.

Within the last year, the department increased its care of trees by adding four more water trucks for a total of 10. Each truck waters 290 trees a year on a weekly basis. The department also has a long-term goal of being able to prune trees every three years, rather than every seven years as it does now.

Citing health benefits as well as infrastructure benefits, the 2006 report also advised increasing The City’s existing tree canopy, which covers about 12 percent of The City, to 15 percent, to bring the total number of trees to 835,000. New York City’s trees cover about 28 percent of the city and Seattle’s cover 34 percent of the city.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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