Improve your block and meet your neighbors by installing a sidewalk garden with Friends of the Urban Forest! Sidewalk gardens beautify and improve neighborhoods, increase property values and reduce storm-water runoff, and when planted around street trees they increase the lifespan of the trees (see more benefits here).
FUF coordinates community-based sidewalk garden projects throughout San Francisco. Our sidewalk garden installations are much like our tree plantings; volunteers and neighbors come out on a Saturday for a neighborhood planting. The sidewalk garden projects cover a smaller area, usually one block, and the installation occurs over 3 days, ending on a Saturday with the planting followed by refreshments provided by neighbors.
When FUF manages a sidewalk garden project, we do all this:
- Review the sidewalk to determine the best garden location based on city requirements and underground utilities
- Complete the Sidewalk Landscaping Permit drawings and act as a liaison to San Francisco Public Works, meeting with an inspector to review each garden and ensures that each property has an approved Sidewalk Landscaping Permit
- Design each garden, including materials and plant selection
- Coordinate removal of concrete, installation of pavers and the delivery of materials, including soil amendment, mulch, plants and trees
- Supervise the garden installation workdays and ensures that all gardens are completed based on their permit drawings.
- Organize occasional sidewalk garden volunteer maintenance workdays on established gardens
Typical FUF Sidewalk Gardens
A typical FUF garden includes California native and drought tolerant plants, permeable pavers, stone edging and bark mulch, as shown in the photo below.
- The city requires a 6′ pedestrian path of travel that is a straight line from one corner of the block to the other.
- Where there is room, we can install sidewalk gardens on both sides of the sidewalk, along the curb and along the building.
- Gardens that are longer than 18′ (one car length) are required to have a 4′ walk-through from the curb to the sidewalk.
- Courtesy strip along the curb for passengers exiting parked cars. Typically we remove the concrete here and install permeable pavers.
- Raised edging on the sides of the garden perpendicular to the curb. This provides a vertical element that helps blind pedestrians identify the edge of the garden when using a cane. Recently we’ve been using stone, installed vertically, to provide the raised edging.
FUF installs community-based sidewalk garden projects, transforming an entire block, not single properties. We rely on Neighborhood Organizers and outreach volunteers to get the word out and encourage other property owners to participate in project. A neighborhood organizer assists FUF with organizing a sidewalk garden project by being the link to the community and the “boots on the street”. Organizing tasks include distributing information and forms to properties on the block, collecting forms and assisting with scheduling the community meeting and other aspects of the sidewalk garden installation. FUF can provide canvassing materials to distribute and can suggest methods for successfully organizing. Once a block has a neighborhood organizer and a minimum of 15 properties interested in participating (or a majority of properties where there is less that 15 properties on a single block) and FUF has secured funding to subsidize the cost of the installation, FUF will schedule the installation date, hold a community meeting to begin the planning and assist the Neighborhood Organizer with canvassing the block.
FUF Sidewalk Garden Costs
FUF organizes community based sidewalk garden projects that are subsidized by grants, making if affordable for property owners. Funding covers much of the cost of concrete removal, garden materials, plants and staff time. Without a subsidy an average San Francisco sidewalk garden can cost about $1,500, depending on the materials that are used. FUF Sidewalk Garden costs per property:
- The San Francisco Public Works Sidewalk Landscaping Permit: $205-276 (price depends on the number of properties participating)
- FUF Sidewalk Garden installation copayments, $400. Cost varies, based on grant subsidy, large properties and/or commercial properties.
- FUF street tree (if desired): free; see details here.
FUF Sidewalk Garden Projects in Areas Marked for DPW Sidewalk Repair
Properties that have been marked with white dots by San Francisco Public Works for sidewalk repair are eligible for sidewalk repair and greening through the city’s Sidewalk Improvement and Repair Program (SIRP). Please consult with your Public Works Inspector and the paperwork sent by Public Works. FUF is not able to replace sidewalk that has been marked for repair by Public Works, however we try to coordinate a sidewalk garden installation with sidewalk repair when possible. Please see our referrals page, for concrete contractors.
Installing a Sidewalk Garden on your Own
San Francisco Public Works is making it easier for property owners to install sidewalk gardens on their own. You can get more information on their website, including videos, permit drawing and garden requirements, plant suggestions and cost estimates. Public Works’ Bureau of Urban Forestry (BUF) is the office that processes the Sidewalk Landscaping Permits; an inspector will review your permit application and inspect the location before and after the sidewalk garden is installed. For questions regarding sidewalk landscaping guidelines and requirements, you can contact BUF at 415-641-2676.
In 2018, we’re installing sidewalk gardens on Lily Street as part of a broader beautification project with funding from the Community Challenge Grant Living Alley program. See details here.
In 2017 we installed sidewalk gardens in the Bayview, Castro, Cole Valley, Excelsior, Hayes Valley, Inner Sunset, Noe Valley, Outer Sunset, Richmond, Sunnyside, and Sunset neighborhoods.
Thanks to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), we had funding to subsidize a sidewalk landscaping project in the Visitacion Valley neighborhood in 2016.
In 2014 FUF partnered with the SFPUC to continue The Sidewalk Garden Project, an urban watershed stewardship program in the Channel and Islais Creek watersheds. You can get more information here. FUF is always seeking additional funding to limit the cost to property owners that who live in other areas of San Francisco. Check back regularly for information about new funding and sidewalk garden opportunities. Questions? Contact Jasmine by phone at 415-268-0772 or by email with our contact form. Interested in volunteering to plant sidewalk gardens? See our Volunteer page to find out how you can help.