Tree topping on Stevenson Street: update

You may recall that in August we publicized a major tree topping incident on Stevenson Street in the Mission.  Topping is an excessive form of pruning that damages and often kills trees, and it’s illegal in San Francisco.

A bird's nest lies on the sidewalk amid tree cuttings

Neighborhood residents report that the topped trees on Stevenson Street had held dozens of birds’ nests

The city fined the property owner, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, $1,754 for each of the 10 trees that were topped — for a total of $17,540.  Last week, we learned that the property owner is appealing the fine.

We agree with the City and County of San Francisco that the practice should be prohibited and penalized.  We believe that such penalties serve as an important disincentive to property owners who might otherwise top their trees.  That’s why we do our best to raise awareness about it.

Members of the public are welcome to submit letters to the San Francisco Department of Public Works to express their thoughts about, or support of, a tree topping fine.  The DPW will include such letters in the case file, and will notify the senders about further developments in the case.  Letters should be addressed to:

San Francisco Department of Public Works
Urban Forestry Permits and Policy
2323 Cesar Chavez St
San Francisco, CA 94124

And if you see an incident of tree topping, please notify us, and please report it to the city by calling 311, or by emailing

About Dan Flanagan, Executive Director

Dan once lived in a treehouse -- really.