Supervisor Scott Wiener seeks better care for urban forest in The City

S.F. Examiner File PhotoTree trouble: Supervisor Scott Wiener opposes plans to transfer care of street trees to residents.

San Francisco’s lack of care for its urban forest was underscored during a hearing Thursday that was called by Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is attempting to figure out how to reform The City’s tree care system.

San Francisco oversees 110,000 street trees and 130,000 park trees. Including both public and privately owned areas, there are 670,000 trees in The City.

But lack of funding has historically plagued the urban forest, resulting in sick trees, trees that topple and a thinner canopy compared to other cities.

The Department of Public Works also is in the process of transferring all 110,000 street trees to property owners’ care — two-thirds are currently that way. The process is drawing complaints from property owners and city officials.

“By any measure, this is not the right way to take care of our street trees and results in wildly inconsistent maintenance,” said Wiener, who has supported The City taking back care of all the street trees.

The City is examining options to generate funding to adequately fund the urban forest. An AECOM study conducted by The City said the three best options are a special assessment district, a parcel tax or a general obligation bond. Just maintaining the trees and dealing with sidewalk repair would cost from $40 to $130 per property owner. Adding planting costs would increase the range to $90 to $142, according to the study.

To maintain the existing urban forest, and gradually increase it by planting 2,900 trees a year, would cost a total of $22.6 million to $31.3 million annually, the study said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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