Polk trees survive city’s mulcher

The fight was about two trees on Polk Street, and it appears they won.

There were plans to fell the more than 20-year-old ficus macrocarpa “Nitida” trees as a part of San Francisco’s Great Street program, which is designed to improve the look of roads around The City.

Longtime Lower Polk residents Hank Cancel and Jim Han Xu — who have watched the trees grow and survive in the 1300 block of Polk Street despite high winds and occasional gashes from the top edges of tall vehicles — decided they would not let the trees go down without putting up a fight.

Cancel and Han Xu filed an appeal objecting to the tree removal and built up support by recently posting several 9-by-11 signs in the area asking residents to “Save the Polk Street trees” and to turn out at Wednesday’s Board of Appeals meeting, when the appeal would be heard.

The Department of Public Works’ reason for removal was the “evidence of trunk wounds” and how the trees would “conflict with the lighting design” of the street’s “improvement plan.”

Under the program, improvements to Lower Polk Street include putting queen palms at intersections, a small variety of Southern magnolia at midblocks and Kwanzan cherries at alleys. It also includes installation of historic overhead light fixtures.

Cancel said the reasons given by The City were not good enough.

“We’ve seen the two trees grow for many years,” he said. “They’re very healthy trees.”

Memo Celen is part owner of a City Kebab franchise, which sells Mediterranean food, and has an entrance facing one of the two trees. He said The City should instead “put another beautiful tree somewhere else that doesn’t have one.”

Chris Hogg, who was walking past the trees Monday afternoon, said The City should keep the trees since they diversify the area.

“You don’t want everything looking uniform,” he said.

Public Works spokeswoman Christine Falvey told The Examiner that the department has reconsidered and will not cut down the trees after all. She said the decision was made based on community support and the follow-up analysis of the trees’ conditions. Falvey said Public Works had decided “weeks” ago to spare them, but had failed to contact Cancel.

He was a little confused why The City had not contacted him.

“They have my number,” Cancel said.

But he called the decision “wonderful.”

“It’s good for the trees. It’s good for the neighborhood,” Cancel said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPoliticsSan Franciscotrees

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

From left, California state Sen. Milton Marks, Sen. Nicholas Petris, Assemblyman John Knox and Save San Francisco Bay Association co-founders Esther Gulick, Sylvia McLaughlin and Kay Kerr watch Gov. Ronald Reagan sign the bill establishing the Bay Conservation and Development Commission as a permanent agency in 1969. (Courtesy Save The Bay)
Sixty years of Saving San Francisco Bay

Pioneering environmental group was started by three ladies on a mission

Temporary high-occupancy vehicle lanes will be added to sections of state Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 101, including Park Presidio Boulevard, to keep traffic flowing as The City reopens. <ins>(Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes coming to some of The City’s busiest streets

Changes intended to improve transit reliability as traffic increases with reopening

Tents filled up a safe camping site in a former parking lot at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin in June 2020.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Proposal for major expansion of safe sleeping sites gets cool reception in committee

Supervisor Mandelman calls for creation of more temporary shelter sites to get homeless off streets

A surplus of	mice on the Farallon Islands have caused banded burrowing owls to stay year round instead of migrating, longtime researchers say. <ins>(Courtesy Point Blue Conservation Science)</ins>
Farallon Islands researchers recommend eradicating mice

The Farallon Islands comprise three groups of small islands located nearly 30… Continue reading

Once we can come and go more freely, will people gather the way they did before COVID? <ins>(Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner file photo)</ins>
What happens when the pandemic is over?

After experiencing initial excitement, I wonder just how much I’ll go out

Most Read