Ballot Proposition Would Shift Street Tree Maintenance Back to City


Bernalwood has previously shared stories about Bernal neighbors who have struggled to pay big bills levied by the City to cover the cost of street tree maintenance. Now, after some unpleasant wrangling on the Board of Supervisors, a proposition sponsored by D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener to get the City to once again assume responsibility for street tree maintenance is on track to appear on the November ballot.

Joshua Sabatini from The Examiner reports:

The agreement was announced Tuesday amid a turnout of about 300 people organized by the Friends of the Urban Forest, a nonprofit group that supports growing San Francisco’s tree canopy. San Francisco has approximately 105,000 street trees on sidewalks and medians.

For years, The City has controversially shifted the care of trees to property owners, after failing to fund tree care in its annual budget. But voters this November will have a chance to approve a charter amendment to require The City to take back oversight of all street trees, the liability that comes with them and any sidewalk damage the trees might cause.

The measure was introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener, but a compromise was reached to shore up support from other supervisors, including Supervisor John Avalos, who had previously introduced a competing proposal.

“This is a grassroots movement that has been brewing for a long time of people in this city that understand that trees matter,” Wiener said. He called The City’s decision of “dumping responsibility” of street trees on property owners a “terrible and unfair system.”

The Examiner adds that a final vote to put the tree measure on the November ballot should happen in the Board of Supervisors today.

PHOTO: Expensive tree on public land, assigned to Neighbor Laura in 2015, by Neighbor Laura

5 thoughts on “Ballot Proposition Would Shift Street Tree Maintenance Back to City

  1. VOTE NO for this parcel tax measure! Another way to get around the provisions of Proposition 13, this dubious measure puts a parcel tax on each property owner’s property tax bill. The costs don’t revert back to the City – with this proposed measure, the care of the trees is now the City’s responsibility but the costs go to the property owners. The care and costs were always covered by the City. This is yet another attempt to get more money for City coffers from property tax revenues and by circumventing Proposition 13.

    “Parcel Taxes. With the approval of two–thirds of voters, local governments may impose a tax on all parcels in their jurisdiction (or a subset of parcels in their jurisdiction). Local governments typically set parcel taxes at fixed amounts per parcel (or fixed amounts per room or per square foot of the parcel). Unlike assessments, parcel tax revenue may be used to fund a variety of local government services, even if the service does not benefit the property directly. For example, school districts may use parcel tax revenue to pay teacher salaries or administrative costs. The use of parcel tax revenue, however, is restricted to the public programs, services, or projects that voters approved when enacting the parcel tax.”

    The appropriate solution Weiner should have done was to simply eliminate the original law the transferred responsibility to the property owners in the first place. The City took the money for trees and put it into another program is typical of the Supervisor’s budget wrangling. Rob Peter to fund Paul and then go to the property owners for more money to fund other programs. Things would have gone back to the way they were without the need for another parcel tax on property owners…

    • This is incorrect. There is no parcel tax involved in the current proposal. From the Examiner article linked above:

      As part of Tuesday’s compromise, Wiener dropped the parcel tax he proposed to fund the tree care. Instead, the plan is to rely on a portion of the revenue from Supervisor Jane Kim’s proposed tax on the sale of properties in excess of $5 million.

      The tax, which is also before voters in November, would fund making City College of San Francisco free, and now a portion of those revenues would go toward street care. The measure would require a set-aside baseline funding of $19 million a year for tree care and liability costs.

      • Right that is incorrect. I had a rep from Campos’ office email me stating it would not be an additional parcel tax.

  2. Thank you and I stand corrected. I did not know about the “compromise” and am now glad to support a measure that is more in line with good budgeting. Thanks! No parcel taxes, good legislation.

  3. It would be better legislation if it restored tree care funding from the general budget, instead of being the first of (probably) many diversions of money rightfully set aside for a single purpose: returning City College to tuition-free status for SF residents.

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