Under San Francisco's current street tree policy, having a tree in front of your building can be costly. With some exceptions, the property owner is responsible for care and maintenance of the tree on top of being liable for any damage it causes — regardless of whether the property owner planted it in the first place. According to a morning press release, Supervisor Scott Wiener, with the backing of Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), intends to introduce a ballot measure that would change this policy — passing the responsibility of tree maintenance to the city.
“Right now, more than 6,000 sidewalks in San Francisco are in need of repair because of damage caused by tree roots,” explained the Executive Director of the Friends of the Urban Forest, Dan Flanagan. “It's unacceptable that the City expects homeowners to be responsible for street trees and liable for tree-related sidewalk falls. San Francisco should maintain its street trees and sidewalks like other cities do, and that's what this measure will accomplish."
The ballot measure requires support from two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors for it to go on the November ballot, and the board has until the end of July to vote on it.
The measure is (perhaps obviously) supported by property owners in the city, who may balk at high costs associated with street-tree maintenance. “We need to fix the City's broken policy of requiring property owners to take care of street trees in front of their properties and pay for any damage they cause,” the President of Small Property Owners of San Francisco, said Noni Richen, argued. “This measure will ensure proper maintenance of these street trees without unfairly burdening certain property owners just because they have a tree in front of their property."
If approved, the cost of tree maintenance would be covered by $8 million a year from the general fund and a parcel tax that is expected to raise and additional $10.8 million annually.
According to the press release, San Francisco has around 105,000 street trees (Friends of the Urban Forest has a cool interactive map of many of them). At present, one-third of them are maintained by the city. If the measure makes it to November's ballot, and the voters pass it, the city will be responsible for all 105,000.