This year, San Francisco’s Department of Public Works has been pursuing a euphemistically-named Tree Maintenance Transfer Plan that makes San Francisco homeowners responsible for tens of thousands of streetside trees that were, until recently, maintained by the city.
DPW says the crux of the plan is to “standardize maintenance responsibility such that, in general, fronting property owners will be responsible for the maintenance of street trees in the public right of way.” In plainspeak, DPW is basically outsourcing its tree problem to taxpayers, under force of law.
That’s how Neighbor Laura Gold of Lundys Lane, a schoolteacher at Buena Vista Horace Mann, ended up getting hit with a massive tree-maintenance bill recently. Neighbor Laura tells Bernalwood:
We are fighting the city’s unfair assignment of tree care to the neighbors on Lundy’s Landing.
We all want a green city with an appropriate canopy. That is one of the many reasons we promptly pay our city taxes and support new ones when they are designed to beautify or improve our city. However, this shifting of responsibilities to citizens puts an unfair burden on already strained wallets. It also makes public spaces unsafe as homeowners scrape to come up with piecemeal solutions for city streets, easements and open spaces. Our budget is already strained by having to pay for the costs of replacing the sidewalk in front of our house and by caring for the street tree near our front door. We, in no way, can afford to take on the city’s responsibility nor its liability for a large shared public area that falls between our house and several of our neighbors.
I am a public school teacher in the Mission. I work 10-12 hour days. I make less than $3800 a month; my husband and I have put thousands of dollars of our own money and countless hours of our free time into providing materials (books, school supplies, snacks) for my classroom, since despite the fact that I work with kids whose families lack the basics to survive in this city, San Francisco has decided that it doesn’t want to take responsibility for them.
Now, it seems like city government has also abdicated its responsibility to the homeowners. A year ago, it was reported that due to high tax revenues, San Francisco was running a budget surplus of $22 million dollars — where is the money in this city going? It’s not helping the kids, and it’s not providing basic services to homeowners that other cities take for granted. Is it to further subsidize Google buses at the expense of the neighborhoods? I don’t teach math, but I know when things don’t add up.
Here is what my husband and I have done so far:
1) We have emailed and called Director Mohammed Nuru of DPW and requested a meeting and had no reply or return of our calls. Instead we have received yet another computer generated letter saying the trees are our problem. (see email below and feel free to quote as needed),
2) We have also contacted Supervisor Campos’s office, and while we have had responses, we have no evidence that anything is in the works, and the clock is ticking. (we were informed in a letter dated 10/30 we had 30 days to deal with the issue), and finally we have contacted people at the SF Chronicle, and are hoping they, too, can raise awareness about the issue.
Apparently both Supervisors Avalos and Weiner are taking up the cause, The issue may end up on the ballot next year.
At what point does city government stop existing to benefit the citizens, and instead exist to provide a steady source of income for a few powerful people? What does that make the rest of us who thought we were participating in the San Francisco community, not working for San Francisco, Inc.?
This is the letter I sent to Director Nuru:
To: “Mohammed Nuru”
Cc: “David Campos”
Sent: Sunday, November 8, 2015 2:14:40 PM
Subject: Trees on Lundy’s Landing Public Space
Dear Director Nuru –
I am writing to request an immediate meeting with you at Lundy’s Landing (DPW property at Lundy’s Lane and Esmeralda) with regard to our ongoing request for the city to maintain its trees on its land, and the patently false posting of signs designating that the owners have “requested to remove” the trees in 30 days from city land.
As I have indicated in my 311 request, we are asking the City of San Francisco to honor their responsibilities. As I indicated in my 311 response:
1) This is not our property. It is the City of San Francisco’s property. It is listed as a street and therefore the City of San Francisco’s obligation.
2) We did not plant these trees, put in stairs, etc. It belongs to the city.
3) We pay taxes for the care of public space. This is public space and therefore not our responsibility as homeowners.
4) Finally, and perhaps most insultingly, the city is asking us to request and pay for a permit to do work on THEIR land. We do not plan to request this permit.
I am also a city employee. A public school teacher that can barely afford to live here and pay taxes. I cannot afford to take on the city’s multi thousand dollar obligation.
I look forward to hearing from your office in the next 48 hours in order to arrange a meeting.
Laura Belfiglio Gold
Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8
Teacher, 7th grade, National Board Certified Teacher
PHOTO: The tree assigned to Neighbor Laura, by Neighbor Laura