08.28 Approved Minutes

  

City and County of San Francisco

DEpartment of the ENvironment

URBAN FORESTRY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING

APPROVED MINUTES

 

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 5:30 p.m.

City Hall, Room 416   

One Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place

San Francisco, CA 94102 

 


1.      Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Urban Forestry Council meeting was called to order at 5:39 p.m. Present: Chair Milne; Members Blair, Boss, Cohen, Griswold, Miller, Quirke (6:10 p.m.), Rodgers, Sherk, and Short. Excused: Members Habert, Marks, Nervo and Sustarich.   

 

2.      Adoption of Minutes of the July 27, 2007 Urban Forestry Council Regular Meeting.  Upon Motion by Council Member Cohen and second by Council Member Blair, the July 27, 2007 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (Absent: Members Habert, Marks, Nervo, Quirke, and Sustarich) (Explanatory Document: Approved Minutes of the July 27, 2007 Regular Meeting). (Discussion and Action) 

 

3.      Rodent and Vegetation Control. Ms. Helen Zverina, Department of Public Health will explain the Department of Public Health policy for managing vegetation when rodent control is needed. Council members may ask questions and discuss management options (Informational Presentation and Discussion). (Explanatory Document:  DPH Presentation)

Sponsor: Member Mike Boss

Presenter: Ms. Helen Zverina, Department of Public Health

 

Council Member Mike Boss stated that the reason this item is before the Council has to do with observations that were made on a situation close to his house where trees and vegetation had been cut down because of orders received by the Health Department to clear the lots due to a neighbor’s complaint about rats.  Member Boss explained that crews were diligently working cutting down all of these trees and the area was left nice and tidy to bare ground. This lot is owned by a developer who didn’t want problems, saw the order to clear vegetation and interpreted it in this particular matter.  Member Boss stated that he had seen the Department of Public Health’s order and it did not say to cut everything to the ground or remove all vegetation; but there were no other instructions other than to clear overgrowth.  It was explained that the neighbor’s property is now getting flooded for the first time in 40 years because there is no vegetation to absorb the runoff water. Three or four months after, there is a canopy of aggressive pioneer weeds causing a nuisance. 

 

Member Boss discussed another situation on a proposal that was presented to the Urban Forestry Council to landmark a tree on 729 - 27th Avenue where there was a dispute among neighbors about whether a holly tree was going to be cut down.  In listening to the hearing, the neighbors complained to the owners of the tree that they were not taking care of their property.  The Health Department came out and issued the property owner an order to clear the vegetation, and so they clear-cut their yard as a result of this order. The neighbors then complained that she was a butcher cutting down all the trees, and that is why they wanted to landmark the holly to prevent her from cutting it down.  Member Boss explained that the Urban Forestry Council values the urban forest as a special resource and discussed all of the benefits of the urban forest as explained in the Urban Forest Plan.  It was stated that these are two situations that the Health Department did a good job but it resulted in forfeiting an urban forestry goal for the city.  Member Boss asked for a presentation on the Health Department’s practices and offered to work with the department so their goals do not end up forfeiting other city goals.

  

Ms. Helen Zverina, Senior Environmental Health Inspector reported that the Department of Public Health (SFDPH) is enforcing the Health Code that a property is to be maintained free of public nuisances that affect neighbors and the neighborhood, not just a personal living space.  The Health Code defines one of the nuisances as vegetation overgrowth, which provides a habitat for vectors of disease; e.g., rodents, mosquitoes, raccoons, and skunks. Ms. Zverina discussed when a yard or open space is considered to be in compliance with the Health Code; e.g., regular visits to assess conditions and do maintenance, regular litter and refuse removal; no standing water source for mosquitoes to breed; items should be stored so they do not provide food, water, or harborage for rodents or mosquitoes; and fruit and other produce are promptly harvested (see explanatory document above).  It was stated that when the property is not maintained with these guidelines, it would soon become a “public health nuisance” affecting neighbors and resulting in a “notice of violation” (NOV) for vegetation overgrowth issued by SFDPH.  It was explained that notices are not usually issued about trees except in a situation when a tree is overhanging a roof and there are rats around.  They will ask that trees be trimmed away from the building.  An order has never been given to remove a tree and people are cautioned not to harm a tree, just to prune it back.  It is not a policy to tell people that they can’t clear the lot if that is what they choose to do, but they do not advise it on steep hillsides. It was explained that the NOV notices are complaint driven. 

 

Ms. Zverina explained the difference between an “eyesore” versus a “public health nuisance” where a neglected property may be an eyesore but not a nuisance as defined by the SFDPH code.  If a complaint is received, the property owner or tenants receive a letter from SFDPH informing them that a complaint was received and that corrections should be made.  However, compliance is voluntary and there is no follow-up or enforcement.  It was explained that if grass is only knee high, it is not a health violation. Other jurisdictions have set their standard at 12 inches.  San Francisco considers knee high about two feet.  If the grass is two feet high, then a notice is sent out and then followed up with enforcement that can even go as far as the City Attorney’s Office, even in the case of a weedy lot.  After a hearing, the Department of Public Works (DPW) may be asked to clear the lot and they usually go to the ground.  Ms. Zverina recommended that DPW be part of the discussion on this topic.

 

Ms. Zverina stated that control of a rodent infestation is likely to require additional outdoor control measures on more than one parcel of property, including City-owned land; e.g., measures that include heavy pruning of vines, ground cover, brambles and shrubbery; trimming tree branches that give access to structures; clearing fences of vegetation; installing shields that prevent rats from climbing trees; clearing the ground around foundations, etc. It was explained that part of their job is to educate people on their responsibilities to maintain their property so it does not cause a nuisance for the neighbors and the entire neighborhood. 

It was stated that there are responsible property owners that do a great job and people who like to do gardening. The problem is usually caused when the property owner is not on sight. 
 

Chair Milne asked if the Department visits a site first before issuing an order or a letter.  Ms. Zverina confirmed that was the case. Chair Milne suggested that for properties that have trees, to underline the fact in the order that trees should not be harmed or taken out.  Ms. Zverina stated that was a good suggestion.

 

Member Rodgers stated that she is interested in seeing an example of an actual order that is being sent to property owners and suggested a discussion with relevant agencies and the public. Ms. Zverina stated that the notice only requests that overgrown vegetation be removed and there is very little in the way of specifics.  SFDPH often gets calls with the question to clarify the order and requests are made for them to come out to show what to trim down, which they are happy to do.  Ms. Zverina explained that SFDPH is looking to develop a handout to go along with the notices that will clarify some of these points.

 

Member Boss stated that the letters that go out with the simple instructions to clear overgrown vegetation is a root of the problem.  A request was made that the handouts contain more specific wording in order to protect trees and the rest of the vegetation; e.g., what does overgrown vegetation mean? What does a weed mean?  Member Boss explained that he is a professional gardener and if everything that was presented today was applied, they would have to clear most of the gardens that they take care of.  Ms. Zverina welcomed input into the process.

 

Member Short suggested that tree limbs that are overhanging roofs should be addressed more specifically in the notices of violations and should include guidelines. Member Short stated that clarification is needed because people may think that if there is a limb over their house that may be fifteen feet away, that they are going to have rats.  Ms. Zverina stated that they usually do not address trees and if they do, it is the property owner that says they have found rats in their attic and asks what they should be doing.   Then the advice would be to cut back the tree, look at downspouts, and screen all openings. It is then up to the property owner. If it was an apartment building and rats are getting into the upper unit that would be a situation where they could say that the tree has to be cut back because that is how they are getting into the people’s living unit.

 

Member Sherk asked if SFDPH has a position on California native habitats and whether SFDPH thinks it is a good idea in an urban context to bring in a native environment.  Ms. Zverina stated that there has been no discussion on this issue, but that she likes the idea of raptors, which is a method of rodent control.  Member Sherk advised that the species that are causing all the problems are primarily non-native species. It was stated that there is a public health benefit to having a more wild or natural environment. Ms. Zverina discussed public land problems, stating that a notice is issued to the agency that has jurisdiction, but it cannot be enforced.  Member Sherk stated that there is an opportunity to open a conversation with more stakeholders to look at ecological principles as solutions to some of these issues. The short term of cutting things down may not be the only solution. Ms. Zverina explained that she attends Integrated Pest Management (IPM) meetings where one of their primary methods for rodent control is to keep vegetation to a manageable level instead of poisoning. 

 

Member Blair discussed a situation where the pleasure of her daily life changed by removal of ivy from the building and added that some greenscape on buildings may be a real asset.  Member Blair stated that the ivy was a nesting place for birds right near her window. Someone complained about a rodent, and now they have hard ugly hardscape to look at.  Member Blair discussed educational center buildings that are ivy colored and stated that she would like for some consideration be given to some growth to soften hardscape buildings and asked if there was an alternative to taking the ivy off.  Member Zverina stated she would like to find a solution to rodent control in an ivy-covered environment. 

 

Council members discussed contacting Ms. Zverina with their suggestions for language to the notice and handout.

 

4.      Hearing on Nomination for Landmark Tree Status. The Council will hold a hearing to determine whether the Coast Live Oak Tree located at 4124 – 23rd Street meets the criteria for designation as a landmark tree (Explanatory Documents: Nomination form, Landmark Tree Committee Evaluation Forms, Written Summary of Findings, Pictures, Supporting Letters and Petition) (Discussion and Action).

 

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Council will vote on whether to approve or reject the nomination and shall adopt written findings to support its decision.  The Council will forward approved nominations to the Board of Supervisors for further consideration.

 Presenter: Landmark Tree Committee Chair Mike Boss

 

Member Boss reported that the Landmark Tree Committee held a hearing on August 14 and voted 3-0 to approve landmark status on this tree with findings outlined in the “Written Summary of Findings” explanatory document and added an additional finding of significant neighborhood appreciation based on the neighborhood petition with 27 signatures to support landmark tree status.

 

Public Comment:  Mr. Tom Lucchini read a statement from Robert and Susan Call, the property owners, who were unable to attend the meeting: 

 

The tree has already been visited and examined by a number of arborists (names were stated), all of who have described the tree as a healthy tree with many years of life ahead.  After Supervisor Bevan Dufty initially nominated it last fall, a meeting was held in which Bo Hayward, Grace Ma, Carla Short, AnMarie Rodgers, Keith Mather, Joseph Duffy, and Paul Sacamano visited the tree and agreed that it was important that it be protected.  There is also significant neighborhood support as evidenced by the petition and wishes there was more time to gather more signatures.  So far, there has been no opposition to the landmarking and is hoping the Council will grant landmark tree status.

 

Member Cohen recommended being careful when checking the “Age-Significantly Advanced” category on the Evaluation Criteria Form and discussed the clarity of the subcategories under the Age field.  Member Cohen suggested checking “mature” instead of significantly advanced for this tree.

 

Upon Motion by Vice-Chair Quirke and second by Member Rodgers, the Council approved landmark tree status for the Coast Live Oak Tree located at 4124 – 23rd Street without objection.  (AYES:  Members Milne, Blair, Boss, Cohen, Griswold, Miller, Quirke, Sherk, Rodgers, and Short; NOES:  None; ABSENT:  Members Habert, Nervo, Marks, and Sustarich).

 

Upon Motion by Member Boss and second by Member Short without objection, Council Members approved the Motion that would be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for endorsement with the following findings:

 

  • The tree is uncommon in San Francisco
  • The tree was notably large for a tree of the species in SF, and had a majestic canopy
  • As a tree species native to San Francisco, the tree had natural historical value
  • The tree was visible from several viewpoints, near (e.g. the nearest corner at 23rd Street and Castro) and far (from Twin Peaks)
  • As a tree species native to San Francisco, it is important for wildlife habitat
  • The tree had character-defining form, and was a fine example of the species
  • The tree was in good condition
  • Significant neighborhood appreciation

 5.      Urban Forestry Council Bylaws Amendment--Council members will discuss and vote on a possible Bylaws change Resolution to combine the functions of the Planning and Policy and Funding Committees and vote on additional recommendations for changes to the Council’s/Committees’ meeting schedule and structure. (Explanatory document: Draft Resolution for proposed Bylaws change and Notice of Proposed Bylaws Amendment) (Discussion and Action)

Sponsor & Presenter: Chair Terry Milne

 

Chair Milne stated that this item was discussed at the previous meeting because the Department of the Environment was interested in condensing the Council’s meetings. It was stated that the Funding Committee does not have a lot of activity and the Planning and Policy Committee meets regularly.  Chair Milne explained that the other consideration would be to vote on increasing membership to each Committee to seven members from five in order to enable most members to participate in committee work and for meeting quorum purposes.

 

Upon Motion by Member Boss and second by Member Rodgers, an amendment to Resolution No. 2007-09-UFC to change the Committee membership from seven to five members and to approve consolidation of the two Committees DID NOT PASS (VOTE: 6-4) AYES:  Members Boss, Cohen, Miller, Quirke, Rodgers, and Short; NOES: Members Milne, Blair, Griswold, and Sherk; Absent:  Members Habert, Nervo, Marks, and Sustarich; 1 Vacant.

 

Upon Motion by Member Miller and second by Vice-Chair Quirke, an amendment to Resolution No. 2007-09-UFC to change the Planning and Funding Committee membership to seven members, to keep the Landmark Tree Committee membership at five members, and to approve consolidating the Planning and Policy and Funding Committee into one committee, the “Planning and Funding” Committee was APPROVED without objection.  All AYES 10-0. Absent:  Members Habert, Nervo, Marks, and Sustarich; 1 Vacant. 

 

6.      Political Activity by City Officers and Employees Memorandum and the November 2007 Ballot Measure: “Parking for Neighborhoods Initiative.”  The Council will discuss legal requirements for political activity by City Officers and Employees as it relates to opposing or supporting ballot initiatives. (Explanatory Document:  “Political Activity by City Officers and Employees” Memorandum) (Discussion) 

Sponsor & Presenter:  Chair Terry Milne

 

Chair Milne reported that the Deputy City Attorney has advised that the Council cannot vote to support or oppose ballot initiatives once they are placed on the ballot. The Council can vote if it were not a ballot initiative.  Chair Milne stated that the City Attorney’s Office “Political Activity by City Officers and Employees” memorandum that outlines legal requirements is included in the packet (see explanatory document above). Chair Milne stated there has been a de-emphasis of support for this measure and it is not going to be campaigned for. There are several neighborhood groups in the City that are actively campaigning against it, and a substitute initiative will be on the ballot that encompasses parking issues that is supposed to override Proposition H.

 

Vice-Chair Quirke stated that the City Attorney’s memorandum references Commissions, and asked whether the memo would encompass the Council.  Council Secretary Fish advised that the memorandum references Boards and Commissions.  Chair Milne stated that since the question was asked directly to the City Attorney’s Office in the context of the Council, that it would apply to the Council.  Member Short stated that the Council has appointed members and the memo applies to any appointed Board or Commission.  It was explained that page 2 of the memo, the top example is what applies to the Council directly (see explanatory document above page 2).  The memo also states that information can be asked for, a discussion can be held, and individual Commissioners can support or oppose the measure on their own time with their own individual resources so they are not limited in that way.

 

7.      Process for Monthly Reports/Updates to the Board of Supervisors.  The Council will discuss ideas for providing updates and monthly reports on their activities to the Board of Supervisors (Discussion).

Sponsors & Presenters:  Member Carla Short and Vice-Chair Kelly Quirke

 

Member Short reported that the Planning and Policy Committee members discussed a process for supplying the Board of Supervisors with monthly reports/updates as a result of a discussion that the Council held at their July meeting on how they could become more relevant to the Board of Supervisors. Strategies for increasing awareness of the Council were discussed. Vice-Chair Quirke reported that the Planning Committee thought that there should be monthly meetings with a representative of the Council (Council Chair), Dan Sider (Director Mayor’s Office of Greening), and a Board of Supervisor’s representative (Board President) to update the Board of Supervisors on its activities. The Planning Committee suggested that Dan Sider also attend the Council’s monthly meetings or to develop another mechanism to keep him informed by sending him Council minutes.

 

Chair Milne suggested creating a PR memo on the Council’s activities. Member Short stated that there was a discussion about the new staff person’s role and a hope that he or she could take a more active role on the PR side with public officials and the public.  Member Short suggested that the memo could go to all Board members, not just to the Board President.  It was explained that this would be an effective method of letting them know that the Council is here and in relaying its monthly activities. Member Rodgers explained that the Mayor’s Office has representatives for each district and recommended including more offices under the Mayor and to include the members of the Director’s working group, which has directors from every department that has anything to do with the public rights of way.  This item would be worked on additionally when a new staff member joins the Council. It was suggested that the Chair meet with a representative from the Board of Supervisors in the interim on a regular basis.

 

Member Blair asked Vice-Chair Quirke to discuss his membership on the Mayor’s Greening Council. Vice-Chair Quirke discussed his membership with the Mayor’s Green Vision Council, which has been dormant since Marshall Foster left his position as the City’s Greening Director.  

 

8.      Landmark Tree Ordinance Amendments.  The Council will hear an Informational Report on future proposed amendments to the Landmark Tree Ordinance (Explanatory Document:  Landmark Tree Ordinance) (Informational Report and Discussion)

Sponsor & Presenter:  Chair Terry Milne

 

Chair Milne reported that he had spoken with a representative from Supervisor McGoldrick’s office on the Resolution that the Council passed previously suggesting amendments to the Ordinance in the interest of streamlining the process.  Other amendments suggested included the amount of time from when a nomination is introduced to the time the Council receives a nomination. The other item had to do with notification to neighbors that were within a 300-foot radius from the side of a tree.  The reason the item is pending is because a budget has not been identified to handle the notification process. 

 

Chair Milne reported that in the meantime, the Department of the Environment’s department heads met with Supervisor McGoldrick and offered to give him several more ideas, but the ideas were not solidified. Chair Milne stated that he does not know what those amendments were.  It was explained that there would not be further action on this item for at least a few more weeks.  Member Short stated that since the Ordinance is going to be amended, then maybe the Council could take a closer look at other potential revisions in addition to streamlining the process.  Member Short suggested that the Planning and Funding Committee review the Ordinance to see if there are any other suggestions the Council would like to make.  Member Boss requested that the Council explore the possibility of either this Council or one of its Committees being a nominating body.  Chair Milne stated that three City Attorneys had explained that the Council could not be the body that decides its own nomination.  If the Council nominates, it would have to be passed along to another Committee, not just the Board of Supervisors. 

 

Member Cohen discussed work that was done by herself, Paul Sacamano, Alexis Harte, Member Blair, the City Attorney’s office, and Supervisor Daly on the landmark tree ordinance and the revisions that had been made when it changed sponsors from Supervisor Daly to Supervisor McGoldrick. Member Short suggested reviewing why property owners that nominate a tree do not receive temporary protected status.  Member Blair suggested protection for all trees that have significant qualities as well as landmark trees.  Chair Milne recommended working on short-term suggestions in order that they pass instead of broadening the amendments that may be more difficult to pass.  Member Cohen discussed researching the California Oak law that would cover oaks in San Francisco without further intervention.  Member Blair recommended that a more specific tracking form be added to the Department of the Environment’s web site in order to inform the community of all nominated trees.

 

9.      Selection and Interview Process for the Urban Forestry Council’s Environmental Assistant Position.

Presenter:  Chair Terry Milne

 

Chair Milne stated that he has a memorandum from Anne Eng, stating that more than 100 applications were received most of which came from Friends of the Urban Forest or the Department of Public Works. It was stated that there would be additional people coming in for interviews and that someone would likely be hired in September.

 

10.  Committee Reports: (Informational Reports and Discussion)

    • Funding Committee, Chair,

The next meeting will be on September 4, 2007 at 12:00 p.m. at 11 Grove Street. There was no report given at this time as the Funding Committee has not met recently.

 

·         Planning & Policy Committee, Chair, Carla Short.  Member Short reported that this report was covered under Agenda Item 7.

The next meeting will be on September 20, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. at 11 Grove Street.

 

·         Landmark Tree Committee, Chair, Mike Boss.  Member Boss discussed (1) the August 14 meeting in which there was a review and approval of the tree at 4124 – 23rd Street for landmark status; (2) continuing work on reviewing the evaluation criteria (continued to the September 11 meeting); (3) continuing work on an outreach program to the Board of Supervisors and Department heads to try to get more trees nominated for landmark status (September 11 meeting); and (4) discussion at a future meeting on the impacts on the community and property owners when trees have been granted landmark tree status.

 

The next meeting will be on September 11, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. at City Hall, Room 421.

 

11.  Chair’s Announcements: Terry Milne, Chair, Urban Forestry Council (Information and Discussion).  Chair Milne appointed Members Miller and Sherk to the Planning and Funding Committee.  Chair stated that there was a discussion earlier in the meeting on improving the Department’s website and that it is in process.  Member Blair volunteered to be on the Planning and Funding Committee.  Chair Milne stated that one member should not be on two Committees, as it would not allow as much participation by other members.

 

12.  New Business (Information and Discussion).  Chair Milne stated that the City Attorney’s Office advised that the Urban Forestry Council is the adjudicating body that votes for nominations and cannot nominate trees.  Member Boss inquired about appointment of a new Council member, as it is one member short.  Council Secretary Fish reported that the Board of Supervisors would be considering an appointment for Larry Costello’s previous seat by a Mr. Malcolm Hillan, from City College.  It was stated that previous member Costello recommended Mr. Hillan for the educational community seat.

 

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 7:48 p.m.

 

Copies of explanatory documents are available to the public at the Department of Environment, 11 Grove Street, San Francisco, California between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or when possible, on the Department of Environment’s webpage: www.sfenvironment.com/; or by clicking on the links by each agenda item above; or, upon request to the Council Secretary, at the above address or telephone number 415-355-3709, or via e-mail at Monica.Fish@Sfgov.org within three business days of a meeting.

 

Respectfully submitted by,

Monica Fish, Council Secretary

Urban Forestry Council

Approved:  August 28, 2007

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