Sidewalk Landscaping

sign-up-buttonImprove 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).

26th and Shotwell before and after

26th and Shotwell Before and After

FUF coordinates community-based sidewalk garden projects throughout San Francisco. Our sidewalk garden installations are much like our tree plantings, involving volunteers and neighbors, but they cover a smaller area — usually one block — and they occur over three days, ending with the planting and potluck lunch on a Saturday.

Precita sidewalk garden

Sidewalk Garden on Precita Ave.

When FUF manages a sidewalk garden project, we do all this:

  • Secure funding to subsidize much of the garden costs for an entire block
  • Review the sidewalk to determine the best garden locations based on city requirements and underground utilities
  • Complete the sidewalk landscape permit drawings and act as a liaison to Public Works, meeting with an inspector to review each garden and ensuring that each property has an approved sidewalk landscape permit
  • Design each garden, including materials and plant selection
  • Coordinate the removal of concrete, the installation of pavers, and the delivery of materials including soil amendment, mulch, plants and trees
  • Supervise the garden installation workdays and ensure that all gardens are completed based on their permit drawings.

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.

Typical FUF garden

Typical FUF sidewalk garden elements

  1. The city requires a 6′ pedestrian path of travel that is a straight line from one corner of the block to the other.
  2. Where there is room, we can install sidewalk gardens on both sides of the sidewalk, along the curb and along the building.
  3. Gardens that are longer than 18′ (one car length) are required to have a 4′ walk-through from the curb to the sidewalk. Typically we remove the concrete here and install permeable pavers.
  4. Courtesy strip along the curb for passengers exiting parked cars. Typically we remove the concrete here and install permeable pavers.
  5. Raised edging on the sides of the garden perpendicular to the curb. This provides a vertical element that signals to pedestrians who are using a seeing-eye can the edge of the garden. Recently we’ve been using stone, installed vertically, to provide the raised edging.

Organize sidewalk gardens on your block

FUF volunteers

FUF volunteers planting on Lisbon Street, 2012

FUF installs community-based sidewalk garden projects, transforming an entire block, not single properties. We rely on Block Captains and outreach volunteers to get the word out and encourage other property owners to participate in the project. A Block Captain 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, assisting with scheduling the community meeting, and other things. FUF can provide canvassing materials to distribute and can suggest methods for successfully organizing. 

Once a block has a Block Captain and a minimum of 10 properties interested in participating 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 Block Captain with canvassing the block.

FUF sidewalk garden costs

FUF’s community-based sidewalk garden projects are subsidized by grants, which helps make participation affordable for property owners. The grants cover much of the cost of concrete removal, garden materials, plants, and staff time.  Without this kind of subsidy, an average San Francisco sidewalk garden can cost about $1,500, depending on the materials used.

FUF sidewalk garden costs per property after subsidies are applied:

  1. The Public Works sidewalk landscape permit: $211- 284 (price depends on the number of properties participating)
  2. FUF sidewalk garden installation fee: $350 per property
  3. FUF street tree (if desired): FREE!

Installing a sidewalk garden on your own

Public Works has made it easy 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. The Public Works Bureau of Urban Forestry (BUF) is the agency that processes the Sidewalk Landscape Permits; an inspector will review your permit application and inspect the location before and after the sidewalk garden is installed.

For questions regarding sidewalk landscape guidelines and requirements, you can contact BUF at 415-554-6700.

Take the next step!

If you’d like a sidewalk garden, please fill out a Sidewalk Landscape Interest Form.

Questions? Contact Esmeralda by phone at 415-525-8381 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.