San Francisco’s in trouble when mild rain fells trees

City faces “Treemageddon” unless tree policies improve

November 13, 2014 — Though San Francisco received only about a quarter of an inch of rain last night, it was enough to topple Ficus trees and branches in several locations throughout the city, including one on Potrero Avenue that seriously injured a pedestrian.

Downed tree

This downed ficus tree on Potrero Avenue near 23rd Street injured a pedestrian.

“If last night’s mild rain was enough to topple multiple trees, we can expect more such incidents in the months to come,” said Dan Flanagan, executive director of Friends of the Urban Forest. “While most other cities maintain their urban forests, the city and county of San Francisco has repeatedly cut its budget for street tree maintenance, endangering all who live in, work in, and visit the city. When street trees are properly maintained, they provide us all with tremendous benefits, but when they’re neglected, they become hazardous. Nobody wants San Francisco to suffer some kind of ‘Treemageddon.’ We invite concerned citizens to join us in calling on City Hall to adopt the recommendations in the new Urban Forest Plan submitted by the Planning Department, the Department of Public Works, San Francisco Environment, the San Francisco Urban Forestry Council, and Friends of the Urban Forest.”

Among the recommendations of the Urban Forest Plan is the creation of a dedicated funding stream for street tree maintenance. Though the San Francisco Department of Public Works should prune street trees every three to five years, the agency has only received enough funding to prune them every 12 years, on average.

Friends of the Urban Forest, a non-profit urban forestry organization founded in 1981, has long been critical of the city’s neglect of its urban forest. San Francisco lags behind other cities in the percentage of land area covered by trees, ranking a lowly 17th among the 20 most populous U.S. cities. Worse still, San Francisco’s urban forest is shrinking, as tree mortality and removal outpaces tree planting.

Friends of the Urban Forest has been collecting signatures for a petition to deliver to City Hall.

About Friends of the Urban Forest

Since 1981, Friends of the Urban Forest has planted more than 49,000 trees to reduce the city’s tree shortage. By greening the streets of San Francisco, FUF supports the health and livability of the urban environment.