DPW cost-saving tree plan faces resistance 

San Francisco may be known for being a “green” city, but it’s having trouble maintaining its street trees. The Public Works Departments wants private property owners to help out, by transferring the care of 24,000 street trees over to private property owners. Two-thirds of the street trees are already cared for by private property owners.

But during Monday’s Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee hearing on the proposal, Supervisor John Avalos suggested The City look to find more funding to either eliminate the proposal or come up with a “hybrid” model. “I have been concerned about it. It makes some sense that we can figure out to prevent that from happening,” Avalos said, of the tree care transferring.

“The comments came overwhelmingly, I would say completely, from people who are concerned about our urban forest and our canopy and feel the direction The City is going in right now with a relinquishment of the responsibility for street tree maintenance is something that is alarming,” Avalos said.

He suggested The City examine using money from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which relies on fees and not The City’s general fund, to help with street tree maintenance.

Department of Public Works Director Ed Reiskin said he’d look into that idea, but said the SFPUC is also facing tough budget constraints.

“What we are proposing here which we think is unfortunate but necessary given the state of our resources,” Reiskin said. “Probably the best scenario to make sure that all the trees are uniformly and well cared for to have DPW funded to provide that service would be what’s really best for the urban forest. Absent that funding source it’s not something we can do.”

The proposal is included in Mayor Ed Lee’s budget submission and would save DPW about $600,000 next year. It will continue to be discussed as part of the budget as the board reviews it over the next several weeks.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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