Tree massacre in Fisherman’s Wharf

We’ve learned about another big tree topping disaster.  As the FUF community knows by now, topping is an excessive form of pruning that damages and often kills trees, and is illegal in San Francisco.

a pair of photos show trees before and after they were topped

Taylor and Jefferson streets, before and after the New Zealand Christmas Trees were topped.

This time, the victims were nine New Zealand Christmas Trees (Metrosideros excelsa) that flanked a corner building on Taylor and Jefferson streets near Fisherman’s Wharf.  A. Sabella’s Restaurant once occupied the top floor, and though the Sabella family still owns the building, it’s now the site of the city’s only Applebees, which opened in June.  At some point this summer, all nine trees were topped.  We don’t know why, though the Applebees sign is certainly more visible now.

Last month, the City issued a fine of $15,786 to the Sabellas — that’s $1,754 per topped tree.  Such fines serve as a disincentive; surely most San Francisco property owners who are aware of them will think twice before decapitating a tree.  And that’s why I’m spreading the word, and asking you to pass it along.

You can also help protect our urban forest by reporting tree topping incidents to us and to the City (call 311, or write to

Thanks, as always, for your help.

About Dan Flanagan, Executive Director

Dan once lived in a treehouse -- really.


  1. The NZ Christmas Tree is totally the wrong tree for that location. Notice how the dense foliage in the first picture is totally obscuring the view ifrom the second story windows in the first picture. Frankly, it looks better without trees.

  2. Interesting how much had to be paid out after having professional advice and service to trim the trees. $15,786. paid as a penance and the trees are still there healthy as ever. Friends of the Urban Forest surely are in cahoots with those devious trees. I hope those trees got a cut — I mean some kind of pay out. Maybe some mood altering fertilizer? Such uppity trees.

  3. I just passed this location and the trees have flourished. I think the Sabella’s knew what they were doing. Interesting that they were the only family to save their trees in the 1980’s when the City removed all the trees from Taylor St.

    Shame on the City for fining this family for nothing.

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