Report: The City’s urban forest fading

The lack of city spending on tree planting and maintenance poses a threat to San Francisco’s green look, according to a report.

The Urban Forest Plan, presented to a Board of Supervisors committee Wednesday, warns that The City’s 668,000 trees are dying at a quicker rate than The City is planting new ones. “The shrinking of San Francisco’s urban forest must be halted and the trend reversed. Now is the critical time to reinvest in the urban forest,” the report said.

The report comes as Mayor Gavin Newsom has pledged to plant 5,000 new trees next year.

Alexis Harte, coordinator of The City’s Urban Forestry Council, the group that drafted the report, said additional funding is key to keeping the current trees healthy.

Money for caring for public trees “has been inadequate,” the report said. The cost of planting a tree, including its maintenance costs, is about $2,000 apiece, according to Harte.

“For the last 10, 20 years, budget cuts to the Recreation and Park Department have been devastating,” Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said.

When seen from above, 12 percent of The City is covered in greenery, whereas 28 percent of New York City and 34 percent of Seattle is covered in greenery.

Citing health benefits as well as infrastructure benefits, the report recommends increasing The City’s “green canopy” to 15 percent, which would increase the tree stock from 668,000 to 835,000. More than 200,000 trees are found in open spaces like the Presidio and Golden Park. About 368,000 are found on private property.

The report advises establishing a $20 million annual spending stream to ensure the current tree stock remains healthy and new trees are planted. It also suggests raising the money through a variety of methods, including a parking meter charge on Sundays and assessing a $560 fee to anyone who renovates their home or building. This renovation fee could generate as much as $2 million, the report said.

The report highlighted that The City’s streets have about 106,000 trees along them, and there is room for 127,000. The Department of Public Works intends to plant nearly 2,800 trees along city streets during the budget year beginning July 1.

By the numbers » The City’s trees

Total number: 668,000

Number of trees on private property: 330,000

Number of street trees: 106,000

The City’s land area covered in trees: 12 percent

Recreation and Park Department manages: 100,000 trees over 3,000 acres, including Golden Gate Park and Stern Grove

Department of Public Works manages: 33,000 trees along streets, plazas and other city properties

DPW’s tree-planting budget for FY 2006-07: $2.2 million

jsabatini@examiner.comBay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

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