New City Tree Care Policy

In 2016, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition E, a local ballot measure that provides additional funding for the City of San Francisco to maintain all street trees, repair all tree-related sidewalk damage in the public right-of-way, and assume liability for harm to people or property caused by neglect of such maintenance or repairs. This is great news for property owners who wish to plant street trees adjacent to their properties, or who already have street trees. And it’s great news for Friends of the Urban Forest and everyone who joined us in advocating (for years!) for this improvement to City policy.

In a nutshell…

  • San Francisco voters approved a ballot measure that improves the City’s urban forestry program
  • The measure takes effect July 1, 2017
  • Responsibility for the care of all street trees and the repair of all tree-related sidewalk damage will shift from property owners to the City
  • Liability for damage or injury caused by improperly maintained street trees will shift from property owners to the City
  • Liability for injury caused by tree-related sidewalk damage will shift from property owners to the City

Starting on July 1, 2017, these responsibilities will legally and automatically shift from property owners to the City. The City won’t sweep up leaves and other debris dropped by trees; property owners will still be responsible for keeping the sidewalks adjacent to their properties clear. But the City will assess the health and structural stability of all street trees, and do the work necessary to keep them healthy.

If you have an outstanding (unresolved) citation from the City for violations of the municipal code related to your adjacent street tree(s) or sidewalk, you must fulfill the requirements of the citation before the City assumes responsibility for the tree(s) and/or sidewalk. But if you do not have an outstanding citation like that, you don’t need to take any action.

If you have recently received a street tree from Friends of the Urban Forest, or you wish to receive a new street tree from us, Friends of the Urban Forest will provide care for your tree several times for the first few years post-planting. After that “establishment period,” the City will maintain the tree.

The City’s tree maintenance work will “start with the worst first,” prioritizing the care of trees based on safety considerations. In 2019 the City’s tree care activities will become more routine, with trees being pruned every three to five years depending on the species and needs of the individual trees.

Property owners who wish to continue to maintain the street trees adjacent to their properties may opt out of the City’s tree care program, as long as the maintenance they’re doing meets City standards.

See this FAQ on the San Francisco Public Works website for more information.

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