Fruit tree carbon fund bears little fruit 

By this time up to $200,000 was expected to be sitting in The City’s recently created carbon fund to pay for planting fruit trees and similar projects. But today there is just $40,000.

The City’s carbon fund was announced in 2007 by Mayor Gavin Newsom. Departments would pay into the fund 13 percent of their employees’ air travel costs. The program was also seen as a way to discourage travel during tough budget times.

There is $40,000 in the fund “which is much less than we were anticipating since the fund is based on percentage of city employee air travel (13 percent of each ticket), and due to budget there’s been a near moratorium on flying,”  said Mark Westlund, a representative for the Department of the Environment, which oversees the fund. The department plans to spend $4,000 on the Dogpatch biodiesel facility on the east side of The City, but Westlund said there is no additional spending planned “until we get more money in the fund.”

The department intended to use a portion of the money that would come in to purchase fruit trees for planting in various locations throughout The City and last year had said the purchasing and planting would begin this year. The plantings are part of a broad food policy developed by Newsom in 2008. The average cost is $200 per tree.

Newsom also had envisioned expanding the program, which was said to be an improvement to carbon offset programs that “fund projects in far away locations, and it is frequently difficult to ascertain the effectiveness of these efforts.”

“If the pilot is successful, this second phase of the Local Carbon Offset Program would invite and encourage local residents and businesses to purchase carbon offsets through The City’s program,” Newsom said in a 2007 executive directive.

Newsom’s spokesman Tony Winnicker said the program is “a great concept” but the recession has affected it, which, he said, is “in some ways a sign of the initiative’s success.”

“We have been able to fund greening projects through other means,” Winnicker said.

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