More Trees

gradinw's picture

We are one of the cities with the lowest tree coverage in the entire country.  We desperately need more trees for environmental, aesthetic and property value reasons.

gcotter's picture

Tree Planting is Not a Piece of Cake


Here's the deal.  We have the Friends of the Urban Forest who are terrific and who will help with everything from choosing a tree to getting it into the ground. Check out their web site at:   They will help you through the process and may even subsidize the cost of the tree itself!   When you have time check out their web site as it has lots of good information on everything relating to urban tree planting as well as a step by step guide on what you need to do

Then we have SF DPW.  Now I agree that all of their concerns are valid, but just reading the procedure on their web side would discourage most people from ever planting a tree.  Here is an excerpt from their web site at:


"Return the completed and signed application form including the number and name of the tree species to be planted. If the planting is related to new construction, include site plans accurately showing tree locations as well as the location of utilities, street lights, and other street furniture. Please include your building permit number.


Planting Process

 A Department of Public of Works inspector will evaluate the proposed tree locations and tree species. Tree basins will be located in compliance with Department of Public Works Order #169,946 as well as the Minimum Guidelines, which accompany the application. Call Underground Service Alert at 800-227-2600 to check for the location of your underground utilities. If underground utilities are closer than the required minimum distance, or if you have questions, call DPW at 641-2676.
It is recommended that the Permittee carry adequate liability insurance. Other department restrictions may apply.

The property owner shall check for the presence of underground utilities in the area of a proposed plantings and shall be solely responsible in avoiding interference with or damage to electric or telephone conduits, sewers and other utilities. Check for the location of your underground gas and utility services by calling Underground Service Alert (USA) at 1-800-227-2600."


And there is a lot more at their web site.  Would you be encouraged by this process?  All valid concerns from DPW, but a turn off none the less.  Yet DPW is an advocate for more street trees.  They want more trees.  They are not bad guys, but their process would scare people away from planting any new trees. Ever.

Anyone out there have more information?  Any ideas on how to mitigate some of the risks to people who want to plant trees?

gradinw's picture

More Trees


Thanks for the thorough response.  This to me says that the city should take more ownership of planting trees rather than expect people to do it and setup regulatory hurdles. 

Take a look at this:

We have HALF the tree coverage of New York City! This city is blessed with natural beauty all around it, it's time we do some urban planning and ensure that in 20 years from now it's as green as other world class cities.

gcotter's picture

Wow I had no idea


I knew we needed to add trees, but I didn't realize how poorly we compared to other cities - and half of the cities above the national average are in Texas? Geez, how embarrassing.  Thank you for the link. Most excellent.

I agree it would be nice if the city could take more ownership of adding trees - especially when you the all the red tape for citizens, but I opine that SF will always want to spent its money on social services (subsidized housing, homeless shelters and programs, etc.) and not on community improvements, such as trees, that benefit everyone.  So sad.

About all we can do is try to support groups like Friends of the Urban Forest and work with Supervisors to re-allocate monies so that tree planting gets an increased slice of the pie.  Maybe some sort of regulation could be passed that limited the potential liability for people planting trees.

Maybe SPUR or FUF or another city activist group could work with DPW to streamline the process for individuals who want to plant trees.   

gcotter's picture

Great map -thanks for the link!

eddietortue - Thank you for posting that link!  I'm familiar with the FUF web site but missed that particular link.

hsparks's picture

More trees please!

I grew up in Manhattan and Boston, and when I arrived in San Francisco in the early 1990's I was shocked  to see so few trees, especially in middle to low income neighborhoods. I moved from Russian Hill to the Inner Sunset because the fog was less depressing than tree-less streets.

Homeowners in my neighborhood recently planted more trees in my neighborhood and it's made a huge difference in the quality of life on my side of the street.  The other side of the street is in sharp contrast because so many of the buildings are occupied by tenants and landlords don't want to ay to plant or maintain trees. I've noticed that most of the pedestrians now walk on our side of the street, which has trees, rather than the other side which has none. Trees not only help to clean the air, but add to property values and enliven neighborhoods. They imbue neighborhoods with a sense of care, and seem to discourage vandalism (we had a rash of graffiti before the trees were planted, which stopped after the trees were planted). I hope the city will consider planting more trees i conjunction with Friends Of The Urban Forest, and will educate landlords and those who don't like trees about the value in planting and caring for trees in our city.

John Popescu's picture

More Trees - Be Carefull !

Years ago, roughly the 1800's, Adolph Sutro planted a lot of the trees in what we know today as Mt. Davidson, Mt. Sutro, parts of Twin Peaks, and the hills surrounding the UCSF campus.   The late John McLaren had similar adventures in what we know today as Golden Gate Park.  

The problem with this urban forestation is a LOT of those trees are nearing the end of their life cycle and present a hazard to life and property.  The attitude of Park and Recreation and DPW is the typical cries of poverty staple to Government agencies, an attitude of doing zero preventitive maintenance, and settling lawsuits.  

Don't get me wrong:  It's great to have urban parks and forests however if no consideration is made for proactive and meaningful maintenance a public park can become a public nusiance. 

From what I'm reading on this thread it seems like DPW wants to put the onus of maintenance and liability on the homeowner.  No way !  

gcotter's picture

Urban Gardens and SPUR

I will be attending the Saturday get together and I'm bringing a dozen or so copies of this month's Urbanist published by SPUR.  There are seven pages devoted to Urban Gardens which does include some trees although it is mostly other types of plantings.  SPUR is also having a DIY workshop tomorrow, Friday, at 3:00pm called "How to Green Your Street."  For more information about this workshop see the web site:

You can also see a display of photos and exhibits at the SPUR Urban center at 654 Mission Street (near 3rd St), it is open Tuesday - Friday 11:00 - 5:00 (open until 8:00 on Tuesday).

Much of the contents from This month's Urbanist is titled "Do-It-Yourself City" and it is online at the SPUR web site.  Take a look at  "DIY Urbanism" at:  This has the same articles and photos as in the Urbanist but in color.  Worth taking a look at.

If any of you aren't familiar with SPUR, it stands for "San francisco Planning and Urban Research"   "Through research, education and advocacy, SPUR promotes good planning and good government in the San Francisco Bay Area."  It has been around since 1910 but changed name and focus a couple times before becoming SPUR in 1959.  Lots of history.  Click on "About" on the upper left of the screen for more details.

sunny's picture

to John Popescu

Yes, trees often get sick and die after a century, but it's funny that in cities like New York and Boston have more trees than SF, that are over a century old,  and don't seem to have this problem.

You'd rather have fewer trees than push DPW and the Parks and Rec dept to do more preventative tree care? It seems like the city is more than happy to cut trees down and it's really depressing.

John Popescu's picture

Sunny comparing Boston to San

Sunny comparing Boston to San Francisco is an apples to oranges comparison for the sum total climate, geographic, and cultural differences.  

My experiences living West of Twin Peaks is Park and Rec, (The Wreck Parks Department)  Department of Urban Forestry, Department of Public Works, is great to manufacture  every excuse concievable for NOT proactively maintaining the parks.  Trees have fallen causing property damage and even death in one case in Stern Grove a few years back. About ten years ago a woman was killed when a tree branch went through her car windshield on or around Lake Merced Blvd near the Harding Park Golf Course.  

The city seems to take the attitude an acceptable alternative to maintenence is to settle damages and I find this unacceptable.  




ExcelsiorMom's picture

More trees!! -- tax?

I would love to see more trees planted in the City.  The only issue is how are we to pay for it?  I'd gladly pay a nominal tax to support the planting and maintenance of more street trees. Only, I don't think it should fall on property taxes.  Renters outnumber homeowners in SF and I believe it should be a shared expense.  Not only falling on property owners.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137