Too often we see trees around the city that have been “topped” by bad tree trimmers, meaning they have been cut back so severely they look like hat racks instead of trees. Not only does this reduce the environmental benefits provided by those trees, but it also causes the trees to die (resulting in large removal and replacement costs) or to sprout wildly (resulting in weak, hazardous branches that require frequent and costly reconstructive pruning for many years to follow).
Topping is also illegal in San Francisco, and is punishable by a fine of at least $1,489 (Article 16, Sec. 811 of the Public Works Code). Street trees are a public asset, and belong to all San Franciscans.
If you see a tree that is being topped, or has already been topped, please report it to the city (call 311, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org). Provide the address of the tree, the name of the company or individual responsible for the topping (if you know), and a digital photo (if possible) of the tree. Please also contact Michele Palmer, our education coordinator, by phone at 415-268-0780 or by email with our contact form.
NOTE: Some trees around City Hall, on California Street and on the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park are pruned back to the same node or branch each year. This form of pruning is called pollarding. When pollarding is properly done, it’s not fatal to the trees, and it’s legal.