City to cut down dozens of Mission District ficus trees, citing safety concerns

Due to community input, Public Works plans to inspect which trees can be salvaged with additional pruning.

City officials plan to cut down 77 aging Ficus trees along the Mission District’s 24th Street in the coming months, citing safety concerns.

The trees have been identified as having an “increased risk of failure” due to old age and will be posted for removal next week by the San Francisco Department of Public Works, according to spokesperson Rachel Gordon. Residents will have 30 days to appeal the removal.

“We want to try to prevent the trees from injuring people or damaging property,” Gordon said on Friday.

A public meeting is scheduled Monday evening at the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District headquarters at 24th and Capp streets, and a prior hearing was held at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital at which the trees’ removal was discussed. According to Gordon, Public works has also been conducting door-to-door outreach.

“We have not wanted to surprise the neighbors about this,” Gordon said, adding that plans to prune the trees have been “in the works for five years or so.”

Prior to Monday’s meeting, community members will be able to walk along the 24th Street corridor with Public Works officials and learn about the process of removing the trees, and what renders them a target for removal.

Erick Arguello, president of the Calle 24, said there are “mixed feelings amongst the organization and the community” in regard to the trees’ removal.

“There’s been a lot of conversation about whether [Public Works] can do one block at a time,” Arguello said, adding that removing all trees at once “feels drastic.”

Argeullo added that Calle 24 has previously worked with the community to create a plan for tree removal that would only target dead trees and replace them immediately. He said the corridor has had issues with falling tree limbs, particularly during high winds and rain.

Due to community input, Public Works plans to more closely inspect 20 of the 77 trees pegged for removal, which may be salvageable with additional pruning.

All trees removed from the street will be replaced with either Red Maple or Ginkgo trees, said Gordon.

Voters approved a ballot measure in 2016 shifting the burden for tree maintenance away from property owners and on to The City. Around 2,700 ficus trees have been planted in San Francisco, and some of them have proven problematic.

According to Gordon, Lower 24th Street has experienced 41 major tree failures between Mission and Potrero streets, with the latest documented on Feb. 27 between Byrant and Florida streets. The tree experienced “root failure” and fell in its entirety across 24th Sreet at 2 a.m., onto three parked cars, said Gordon.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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