Heavy winds and rain that reportedly brought down more than 350 trees in San Francisco arrived months too early for some homeowners, who will likely have to foot the bill for tree removals. Although the city is set to transfer tree maintenance duties and financial responsibilities back to the Department of Public Works after the passage of Proposition E, which secured 80 percent of the vote in November, that won't go into effect until July, CBS 5 observes.
For now, the old rules still apply: “If it’s a privately maintained tree, if it’s under their jurisdiction now, they have the responsibility," DPW spokesperson Rachel Gordon told the news channel. "They will be the ones who will be taking care of it."
And there's lot to take care of: "The ground has gotten saturated," Gordon explains, "That means the roots don’t have as much to hold onto as they did before. And you bring in the gusty winds and that really spells trouble for trees that might be vulnerable.”
Prop E, a move to reverse the city's decision of 2011 to foist arbor upkeep and replacement duties on property owners, was universally popular among local politicians — it doesn't raise taxes, but it does mandate a nearly $20 million set-aside. That, the Chronicle warned in recommending voters reject the measure, could prove problematic, and the city "could trap itself if greater needs emerge or revenue shrinks in a bad year." In fact, tree maintenance duties were given over to homeowners in the wake of budget cuts a couple of years back.
The first priority of DPW is to clear sidewalks and streets and ensure they're safe for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. “If a large limb or a tree comes down, we prioritize them where are they potentially endangering people or property,” Gordon said. She assures homeowners they won't receive fees for minor work that doesn't involve an arborist, but for other instances the city will be keeping tabs of expenses and, when appropriate, billing property owners. “We will start getting our bookkeepers on that one," Gordon tells CBS 5, "It’s a lot of overtime. People have been working long shifts, again we’ve been bringing in extra crews."