San Francisco's Recreation and Parks Department is now under scrutiny after a woman walking with her two children on Friday in North Beach's Washington Square Park was struck and seriously injured by a fallen tree branch that weighed roughly 100 pounds. As CBS 5 reports, the branch fell from a pine tree about 50 feet up the tree, and the question is whether this should just be considered a freak accident, or if Rec and Parks deserves any blame for not maintaining the trees in this park.

The incident comes on the heels of a debate going back several years relating to another city department, the Department of Public Works, which began a process of "transferring ownership" of street trees to property owners five years ago — something that Supervisor Scott Wiener and others have called absurd, but an issue for which new funding to give back responsibility to DPW has still not been secured — it's actually something we'll be voting on on the November ballot. And as CBS 5 was reporting on that issue just last month, DPW cited an interval of five to seven years as the proper average time between pruning for street trees.

But the tree involved in Friday's incident would be under Rec and Parks oversight, and they say this tree was last "assessed" six years ago. In a statement, Rec and Parks spokesperson Elton Pon tells the Chronicle, "The tree at Washington Square Park was considered healthy. Any tree, young, old, healthy or otherwise, has the potential to fail, given a certain set of circumstances."

The tree that failed was a Canary Island pine, one of a group lining the children's playground in the park. Reportedly, since the six-year-old assessment, this group of trees was actually pruned in 2013, per the Chronicle, "after the Friends of Washington Square donated the service to the [Rec and Parks] department."

Freak accidents don't play well, politics-wise, however, and Supervisor Aaron Peskin in whose district the accident occurred has raised alarm bells, saying to the paper, "It raises the larger question, is Rec and Park properly assessing their trees?"

Six years sounds like a proper amount of time in which the tree may have been about due for a checkup, if DPW's figure stands, and a pruning three years ago sounds reasonable — and due to lack of funding in recent decades, DPW said they had shifted, in terms of street trees, to going 10 to 12 years between prunings, which is potentially why just a little bit of rain in 2014 caused a spate of fallen tree branches that renewed this whole debate.

The ballot measure, co-authored by Wiener and John Avalos and passed by the Board of Supervisors in late July, will use a $19 million set-aside from the city's general fund to cover maintenance and liability of street trees, and add 155,000 new trees to the city's population. Rec and Parks also has its own $4.8 million budget for urban forestry.

Meanwhile, the woman who was struck, who has not been identified except to say she lives in Visitacion Valley, remains in critical condition after sustaining a head injury.

Previously: 100-Pound Tree Branch Falls And Critically Injures Woman In Washington Square Park
Property Owners No Longer Responsible For Street Trees Under Proposed Measure