03.23 Approved Minutes

City and County of San Francisco

DEpartment of the ENvironment

 
URBAN FORESTRY COUNCIL

 

APPROVED MINUTES

 

Friday, March 23, 2007 at 10:00 a.m.

City Hall, Room 400   

One Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102

 

 

1.      CALL TO ORDER.  The Urban Forestry Council meeting was called to order at 10:07 a.m. 

 

2.      ROLL CALL.  Present:  Chair Milne, Vice-Chair Quirke, Members Blair, Cohen, Habert, Marks, Miller, Nervo, Rodgers, Sacamano, Sherk and Sustarich; Excused:  Members Boss, Costello and Griswold. 

 

3.      ACTION: Adoption of minutes of the February 27, 2007 Urban Forestry Council Regular Meeting.  Upon Motion by Member Blair and second by Member Sustarich, the February 27, 2007 Meeting Minutes were adopted without objection (Absent:  Members Boss, Costello, and Griswold). (Explanatory Document: Approved Minutes of the February 27, 2007 Regular Meeting.)

 

4.      INFORMATION and DISCUSSION: City of Novato Green Design. Mr. Glenn Young described the City of Novato's street design program that places trees in between diagonally parked cars and results in environmental, transit and social benefits (Explanatory Document:  Presentation).

SPONSOR: Member Carolyn Blair

SPEAKER: Glenn Young, Director of Public Works, Novato

  

Mr. Young presented facts about Novato and history of its downtown from 1900 to the present describing street design, demographics, transit gateways, agricultural beginnings, and the evolution of downtown businesses. Pictures of Grant Avenue from 1900 to present were shown. It was explained that the two main streets in Downtown Novato are Grant Avenue and Redwood Highway 101.  It was reported that Novato had been experiencing problems in its downtown area due to relocation of a highway east of downtown and construction of the Vintage Oak shopping center two miles south of downtown that drew visitors and businesses away from the area.  As a result, a lack of funding resulted in infrastructure problems which made the area less attractive for visitors and businesses.

 

Mr. Young presented facts about Grant Avenue, describing Old Town Novato that now contains restored historical buildings, older businesses, less traffic, and angled parking and the western area that includes larger, newer businesses, more traffic and parallel parking. Infrastructure problems that were previously associated with the downtown area were discussed, e.g. deteriorated paving; trees damaging sidewalks, storm drain damage; aging infrastructure; street lights too far apart and not providing enough light; lack of funding for repairs, inadequate utility service to downtown businesses; damage to business entrances; makeshift repairs that were not ADA compliant,

 

Mr. Young stated that the Downtown Grant Avenue streets improvement project that addressed these issues was one of the largest projects that had been completed in Novato.  A Downtown Specific Plan was adopted in 1988 and work began in 2001 with a concept design started and three publicly noticed and well attended public meetings. The City Council approved the Plan in 2001 and the Design Consultants, the Citizens Advisory Committee, Downtown Business Association, the Public, and the City of Novato worked on this effort.  Plans and specifications were prepared and the project was advertised in August 2002.

 

Goals were established in order to revitalize the downtown by making it more attractive for residents and businesses.  Goals and core elements of the Concept Plan included improvements to (1) infrastructure, (2) upsizing of utility service, (3) pedestrian atmosphere, (4) consistency with the streetscape, (5) new pavement and sidewalks, (6) adding ADA components, (7) new lighting and fixtures, (8) planting trees particularly within the parking areas to reduce the visual corridor down the street to slow people down while driving; and (9) creating other planter areas. 

 

Mr. Young reported on tree selection, major tasks prior to construction, construction issues, and major controversies, e.g. trees vs. parking.  It was stated that complaints were received from the public that they were inconvenienced by not being able to park in front of businesses, but advised that many businesses were in favor of the parking design.  A discussion was held on the parking that was removed from the downtown area as a result of the project.

 

Mr. Young discussed funding sources and project costs.  It was advised that the total cost of the project amounted to approximately $10 million for design, construction, and construction and design management.  The cost for the trees amounted to 10% of the project cost (approximately $617,000) that included the trees, irrigation, 2400 plants for side areas, and other related costs.  Mr. Young described the project’s positive results—establishment of new downtown businesses, frontages redone, more visitors, and a downtown Farmer’s Market.  Problems that were experienced included tree vandalism and keeping the sidewalks clean.

 

The presentation link is available above for additional information.

 

Chair Milne inquired about the sustainability of all the plantings and tree vandalism.  Mr. Young stated people had stolen the plants in a newly planted area and broke trees when they were young.  Initial plantings in the 24-inch box had to be replaced with 15-gallon trees.  It was stated that crews are looking forward to taking tree guards out, and that the next challenge would be to remove the solid grates and fill in the area with soil to make sure the trees are getting water. It was stated that some of the bigger trees such as the redwood and sycamore were saved, and that a lot of the trees have grown. Novato preserved some or a limited number of larger trees.      

 

Member Cohen asked if the bricks are set in sand or mortared in.  Mr. Young stated that they decided to go without the bricks because it would have increased the cost by approximately $500,000.  Member Cohen asked about the long term duration of the Plan-- whether the trees would have a more permanent life and move through maturity instead of being torn down because of a new design.  Mr. Young stated that they hope that the trees last for a long time and advised of the Yarwood Sycamores in town that are about 60 years old.  It was stated that the determining factor would be how big the trees get and if they start to damage the hardscape.  Mr. Young advised that the trees that were previously in the area were more likely to cause damage, but since then the City of Novato has implemented ordinances and has a recommended tree list to choose from.  Guidelines are also provided on how far the tree basins should be from improvements. 

 

Member Sherk asked if there was any interest by the city of Novato in using California native trees that would require less maintenance than the current selection.  Mr. Young stated that there were few recommendations from the public and that trees were chosen from the recommended list by the landscape architect.  It was stated that the current selection adds a nice aesthetic to the downtown area. 

 

Member Habert asked if there is a maintenance structure set up.  Mr. Young stated that the City is responsible for maintenance, and that the cost is approximately $136,000 per year. It was stated that consideration was given to creating an assessment district for the maintenance but since an assessment district for the improvements was not approved, the idea was not pursued further.  It was stated that the City viewed it as their contribution to revitalizing and improving their town and bringing in more revenue.

 

Member Blair asked when the trees were planted.  Mr. Young stated that the trees in Old Town were planted in 2003 and were completed in 2004 due to adjustments (work stoppages) for the Christmas holidays.

 

Chair Milne discussed the parking loss that Mr. Young mentioned as a result of planting trees in the street right of way.  Mr. Young stated that the architect had done a similar design in Mountain View and that they augmented by putting in a parking structure off street, which is also part of Novato’s Downtown Specific Plan to put in an additional two parking structures.

 

Chair Milne thanked Mr. Young for his presentation and stated that he hopes San Francisco can benefit from the ideas that were used in Novato.

 

5.      INFORMATION and DISCUSSION: City Greening Initiatives. Mr. Daniel Sider, the Director of City Greening for San Francisco, reported on city greening initiatives and Council members asked questions.

 

Mr. Daniel Sider reported that the Mayor’s City Greening initiatives include landscaping, tree plantings and softscape and at the same time includes the broader public realm that is critical to pursuits.  It was stated that one quarter of the City’s total land area is devoted to rights of ways, streets, and sidewalks.  With this is mind, the Mayor has issued instructions to focus on streets and sidewalks and the public realm that includes parks and plazas.  This effort includes everything from tree planting and traditional landscaping to broader efforts for streetscape design and the physical infrastructure project that accompanies the physical improvements to the City’s rights of ways.  It was stated that “greening” is landscaping and trees, but it is much more than plant material.

 

Mr. Sider discussed the Director’s Working Group, a working group of Department Directors from City agencies, which assembles for a biweekly meeting to collaborate on projects and significant problems. It was advised that projects extend into areas such as ecology, sustainability, and environmental mindfulness; for example, street trees can’t be contemplated without thinking about storm water management; new structures whether its street furniture or new buildings can’t be thought of without keeping in mind green building technologies and materials; plantings can’t be thought of without consideration for native species, without water consumption and pollution control issues in mind, etc. 

 

Upcoming Projects were reported on:

 

The Academy of Sciences is building a new structure in Golden Gate Park which will be the largest LEED Platinum facility open to the public in the country (opening in 2008). The Academy will have 1.7 million native plants along with 200,000 square feet of green cover.  The Mayor’s Office is encouraging increasing green building through a Green Building Task Force that includes ten experts from government, finance, architecture, development, and construction.

 

The Mayor’s initiative to plant 5,000 trees each year is in its third year and has exceeded the benchmark thanks to the Department of Public Works’ good work. An objective is to engage interagency collaboration to pull together to create basins and to plant and maintain trees so they become trees of the desired scope and scale.

 

Better Streets Plan—a public event is kicking off on April 5th at 5:15 p.m., at City Hall’s North Light Court.  The Better Streets Plan is a once in a generation opportunity bringing together staff from multiple agencies to plan for our streets and public realm looking to balance the needs of all users with a particular focus on the pedestrian environment. The Plan will reflect the understanding that the pedestrian environment is more than just transportation--streets serve as social spaces, recreational spaces, and serve ecological and environmental purposes as well. 

 

Urban Forest mapping of projects--Through a partnership initiated by Friends of the Urban Forest, Department of Public Works and Autodesk, online mapping tools have been developed to map our urban forest and includes a user friendly map of every street tree in San Francisco, link www.sftreemap.org.  This project creates and maintains a consistent tree database and manages the urban forest assets.  It also provides a tool for the community to be able to map their own trees or to add photos and stories about trees that are on the map.  At this time, you can click on a tree and be able to access information about diameter at breast height, species, health, and size of basin.  As the project evolves, more information will be included.

 

Chair Milne recommended adding a gold star for landmark tree designations.  It was asked how the Council can interact with Mr. Sider’s program to promote the landmark tree program.  Mr. Sider stated that the profile of the landmark tree process and benefits needs to be raised substantially and suggested setting up a meeting to discuss this issue further. 

 

Member Marks stated his support for the mapping project, but asked how it was possible to do this project without there being an inventory of street trees.  Mr. Sider stated that information to date has been assembled from the Bureau of Urban Forestry and from Friends of the Urban Forest.  It was indicated that the framework for the project has been set, is in its beginning stages, and will be verified and added to from here.  Member Marks urged the City to consider an inventory so there could be a baseline to move forward from and an accurate picture.  It was also recommended that the City’s goal of planting 5000 trees a year be not just the number of trees planted, but a net increase of 5000 trees a year.

 

Member Sherk spoke in support of the mapping project as it relates to the idea of a systemic design and the interrelationship of the different departments.  It was stated that it is important to underscore the choice of tree plantings for each place and to use native plantings because they are easier to maintain, are more acclimated to the environment, and creates an opportunity for education.  Member Sherk stated that she would like to see the City develop an educational program for children and adults to really understand their local place.  It was also recommended that a bigger palate of street trees be considered.   

 

Member Blair recommended that a reference be made to the City wanting to preserve existing trees and that sftreemap shows the location of available empty basins.  Member Blair also discussed merchants’ interest in increasing their business by increasing the amenities of the shopping experience as well as the quality of their product by removing parking spaces in order to expand the sidewalks as discussed in the previous presentation. Member Blair discussed the Department of the Environment’s upcoming landmark tree website and requested Mr. Sider’s support in implementing the website as it is a tracking device for landmark tree nominations.

 

Member Cohen discussed PG&E’s upgrades in her neighborhood and how everything is being torn down, but not replaced, and requested that the Greening Office get the development to stop until consideration can be given to doing it right.  Mr. Sider discussed the necessity for upgrades and the effort of the Director’s Working Group to coordinate other improvements into street projects so there are new trees, retained trees that are monitored through the construction project, and streets are repaved. 

 

Member Cohen asked whether the community can log into the new mapping website and add information.  Mr. Sider confirmed that the tool is a community mechanism where people can add information about trees.  The information is then checked by the City and Friends of the Urban Forest staff.  Member Cohen suggested issuing certificates or another type of star for trees that are not of landmark quality but are “great” trees.  It was asked if City aerial maps are an aspect of sftreemap.  Mr. Sider explained that the tree map pulls different sources of information from the Bureau of Urban Forestry, Friends of the Urban Forest, and that Autodesk contracts out with Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to provide satellite imagery.  Mr. Sider indicated that he would look into the frequency of how often the information is updated.

 

Vice-Chair Quirke stated that the Friends of the Urban Forest’s (FUF) idea which they have some funding for is to employ youth crews to go on the street to do an inventory of FUF trees and to assess their health.

 

Member Rodgers thanked Mr. Sider and the Mayor for their efforts in helping to encourage the City agencies to work together to combine the planning with the implementation agencies to get the most work done. It was suggested that because of limited resources and in order to place more data on the website, that an interactive model that verifies information, e.g. Wikipedia, be added to allow anyone to add a tree.  Vice-Chair Quirke stated that the Autodesk software has the capability to do this function.

 

6.      DISCUSSION and ACTION: San Francisco General Plan. Council Members discussed and voted on a Resolution in support of the Planning Department’s efforts to incorporate the Urban Forest Plan into the San Francisco General Plan. (Explanatory document: Approved Resolution)

SPONSOR: Chair Terry Milne and Grace Ma, Urban Forestry Specialist

SPEAKER: Grace Ma

 

Member Rodgers explained that many Council Members had expressed that the Urban Forest Plan required more refinement, information, and work to be brought up to City standards before it could be incorporated into the General Plan.  As a result and with encouragement from the Council, the Planning Department requested $200,000 from their budget to develop the Urban Forest Plan.  The Board of Supervisors approved the budget request, and the Planning Department is moving forward on the effort. 

 

Member Rodgers advised that the Planning Department staff member assigned to this effort is a member of the Better Streets team and has substantial experience in landscape design and planning.  It was stated that the Planning Department feels that the Plan could best be developed with a team of outside consultants.  It was explained that the Civil Service Commission is interested in preserving Civil Service positions in City employment and prefers for City agencies to do work in-house when possible.  In this case, the Planning Department is arguing that they do not have the required expertise, e.g. arborists, urban ecologists, in-house.   Member Rodgers asked the Council to pass the Resolution in support of the Planning Department’s efforts to hire a team of outside consultants.

 

Member Rodgers explained that after the Civil Service Commission issues an approval, the project would be defined and an RFP issued.  The Council would be consulted on defining the type of consultants, what the project would consist of, and timeframe.  The project would take approximately one year, and efforts would be made to engage the community through forums such as the Urban Forestry Council, other existing City forums, public outreach and communication, and workshops. The Plan would then be approved by the Council and the Planning Commission before being incorporated into the General Plan and forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for their approval.

 

Member Sherk referred to the Sierra Club letter (Explanatory Document:  Sierra Club Letter) and asked if there was a way to incorporate any of their ecological suggestions into this effort.  Member Rodgers stated that she spoke to a member of the Sierra Club, Ms. Ruth Gravanis, who stated that the Sierra Club was concerned with the professionalism of the Urban Forest Plan and had requested that the Resolution language be amended to ensure that the original Plan not be the one referred to for adoption by the City.  Member Rodgers stated that the Planning Department’s objective is to develop a new process that would develop a new plan from further work and advised that the Resolution could be amended in the first Resolved clause to refer to the yet to be developed Urban Forest Plan.

 

Member Sacamano stated that he agrees with the need to hire outside consultants to ensure that the required expertise is available and asked when this issue would be calendared before the Civil Service Commission.  Member Rodgers stated that Mr. Andres Power, the Planning Department member assigned to this effort is securing a date with the Civil Service Commission.  Member Sacamano asked if the Resolution was aimed towards the Civil Service Commission and whether the Council could advise the Civil Service Commission.  Member Rodgers confirmed that the Urban Forestry Council is vested in developing an Urban Forest Plan and is the body who can advise on how it should be done.  It was advised that the City Attorney’s Office had also reviewed the Resolution.

 

Member Marks asked if the Urban Forest Plan would be a stand alone element or incorporated in various elements of the Plan.  Member Rodgers stated that there are a number of ways to get policy language to be official City policy.  One is that it could be a stand alone element, such as the Transportation Element, Housing Element, etc.  It was advised that there are ancillary policy documents that are incorporated by reference into the General Plan but are not a physical component of the General Plan, such as the Bicycle Plan which is incorporated by reference.   

 

Member Marks indicated that the Ordinance establishing the Council sets forth reporting responsibilities that every year the Council has to report to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor on how well public agencies and other urban forest managers are implementing the Urban Forest Plan.  It was stated that if the Plan were to not be a separate stand alone element within the General Plan, it would be difficult for the Council to meet its reporting responsibilities.  Member Marks asked how the Urban Forestry Council could meet its reporting responsibilities if the Urban Forest Plan were to become the Planning Department’s Plan.  Member Rodgers stated that she does not believe that it would encumber the Council’s ability to do reporting and monitoring.  It was stated that putting the Urban Forest Plan into the General Plan would give our policies more authority as the General Plan is the City’s official policy document.

 

Member Sustarich referred to the Sierra Club letter section where they suggest that the existing native ecosystems be managed consistent with the Natural Areas Management Plan and the Open Space Element of the General Plan and asked to add that management be consistent with the SFPUC Environmental Stewardship Policy and the Vegetation Management Plan.

 

Member Cohen stated that the Resolution language does not have to be amended as line 24 states that the Urban Forestry Council’s intention is to expand the scope and utility of this Plan so therefore incorporates what the Sierra Club has requested.  Member Rodgers advised that the intent is to not duplicate other agencies existing work, but to create an umbrella document that unites the work and looks at the function of trees throughout the City.

 

Member Blair stated that the Urban Forestry Council should focus on trees as required by the Ordinance and not have its efforts diluted by other special interest groups.

 

Urban Forestry Specialist Ma stated that the Annual Report is an update on what the City agencies and the Council has done in relation to urban forestry and how those activities support the Urban Forest Plan. Ms. Ma felt that reporting requirements could still be met regardless of where the Plan was housed.

 

Upon Motion by Member Cohen and second by Member Sacamano, the Resolution in support of the Planning Department’s efforts to incorporate the Urban Forest Plan into the San Francisco General Plan was unanimously adopted without objection.  (Absent:  Members, Boss, Costello and Griswold).          

 

7.      DISCUSSION:  Landmark Tree Incentives Report.  Council members discussed a report from the Office of the Legislative Analyst on incentives to encourage nomination and designation of landmark trees.  (Explanatory Document:  Legislative Analyst Report

SPONSOR/SPEAKER: Member Bonnie Ora Sherk 

 

Member Sherk stated that it is important for the Council to consider landmark tree incentives as a result of information presented at Council landmark tree hearings and the situation where a potential landmark tree was torn down by the property owner. It was stated that the Legislative Analyst’s Report contains very good ideas such as help with maintenance and offering tax incentives. It was advised that the report indicates that two cities, Visalia and Santa Cruz, support the cost of maintenance of landmark trees.  Member Sherk recommended that the Council suggest that the Board of Supervisors reconsider the idea of incentives.

 

Member Rodgers indicated that she had provided explanatory documents on three different types of financial incentives for landmark buildings on a previously scheduled agenda item on incentives for landmark buildings.  It was stated that the procedures for landmarking buildings and issuing incentives is under and rarely used, but there is a powerful opportunity called the Mills Act which allows for a reduction in local taxes if you choose to landmark a building. The amount of taxes that are reduced are then supposed to go back into the building for maintenance upgrades and rehabilitation. 

 

Member Rodgers reported that there is a project located on Haight Street that is about to go through the Board of Supervisors Office and will be only the second time that the City will be using the Mills Act to reduce taxes   The project is sponsored by Supervisor Peskin and amounts to a $20,000 reduction in property taxes.  It was indicated that the Historic Preservation staff is looking at using the Mills Act more for encouraging landmarking of buildings.  Member Rodgers recommended that the Council explore using the same type of incentives for landmark trees.

 

Member Cohen questioned the wording in the Legislative Analyst Report as it indicates that a landmark tree creates a financial or other type of burden and restricts the freedom of a property owner.  It was recommended that property owners be given other than financial incentives to landmark trees.

 

Member Habert recommended working toward incorporating incentives into outreach in order to neutralize potential opposition of property owners or other people to landmarking trees.

 

Vice-Chair Quirke proposed that this issue be brought back to the Planning Committee for further consideration.

 

Member Miller stated that it is important that there be incentives, but that they should not always be financial.  It was stated that maintaining the quality of life in San Francisco is a part of owning property in San Francisco.

 

Chair Milne stated that he was intending to talk to Supervisor Peskin’s Office to suggest issuing certificates for landmark trees. 

 

8.      DISCUSSION and ACTION: Nominations for Chair and Vice Chair of the Urban Forestry Council. Council members will nominate candidates for the Chair and Vice Chair positions in preparation for an election to be held at the April 24, 2007 regular meeting.

 

Upon Motion by Member Habert and second by Member Blair, Chair Milne and Vice-Chair Quirke were nominated for another term in their positions as Chair and Vice-Chair without objection.

 

9.      INFORMATION and DISCUSSION: Staff Report, Grace Ma. Urban Forestry Specialist Ma indicated that there was nothing further to report since the March meeting.

 

10.  COMMITTEE REPORTS:

  • Funding Committee

 

Chair Milne reported that the March 6 Funding Committee meeting was cancelled.  The next meeting will be on May 1, 2007 at 12:00 PM at 11 Grove Street.

 

Member Sacamano left the meeting at this time.

 

·        Planning & Policy Committee

                        Chair, Paul Sacamano

 

Urban Forestry Specialist Ma reported that at the March 15 meeting, a discussion was held on prioritizing Urban Forest Plan action steps and implementation steps were determined.

 

The next meeting will be on April 19, 2007 at 4:00 PM at 11 Grove Street.

 

·    Landmark Tree Committee

Chair, Mike Boss

 

Chair Milne reported that the Committee discussed and deferred action on the nomination and evaluation forms to their next meeting.  Chair Milne inquired about upcoming Board of Supervisors Committee meetings on landmark tree designations.  Urban Forestry Specialist Ma stated that she is not aware of any scheduled Committee meetings for landmark tree designations. Trees that are scheduled to be heard possibly in April include the holly, the California buckeye, and the tree on Rosemont Place.

 

The next Planning Committee meeting will be on April 10, 2007 at 4:00 PM at City Hall, Room 421.

 

11.  CHAIR’S ANNOUNCEMENTS: Terry Milne, Chair, Urban Forestry Council.  Chair Milne stated that the Arbor Day kickoff on Army Street on Wednesday morning was well attended by six members of the Urban Forestry Council.

 

12.  INFORMATION and DISCUSSION: New Business.  Member Blair asked Ms. Ma when Urban Forestry Council members are supposed to send in their applications for reappointment to the Urban Forestry Council.  Ms. Ma advised that all eight of the Board appointee’s terms expire on April 5, 2007, and a Board of Supervisors Rules Committee meeting will be scheduled sometime in April.  It was stated that Council members can continue to serve until they are reappointed or succeeded by a new member.

 

13.  PUBLIC COMMENT:  Members of the public may address the Council on matters that are within the Council’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda. There was no public comment at this time.

 

14.  ADJOURNMENT.  The Urban Forestry Council meeting adjourned at 12:12 p.m.

 

The next Urban Forestry Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 5:30 p.m. in Room 416, City Hall.

 

Respectfully submitted by,

 

Monica Fish, Council Secretary

Urban Forestry Council

 

Approved:  April 24, 2007

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