12.14 Approved Minutes

City and County of San Francisco

DEpartment of the ENvironment

URBAN FORESTRY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING

APPROVED MINUTES

 

Friday, December 14, 2007, 10:00 a.m.

City Hall, Room 400   

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 10:05 a.m.  Present:  Chair Milne; Vice-Chair Quirke, Members Blair, Boss, Cohen, Habert, Hillan, Miller, Nervo, Rodgers, Sherk and Short. Excused:  Members Griswold, Marks, and Sustarich.

 

2.      Adoption of Minutes of the October 23, 2007 Urban Forestry Council Regular Meeting. (Discussion and Action.) Upon Motion by Member Hillan and second by Member Cohen, the October 23, 2007 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (Absent: Chair Milne, Members Griswold, Marks, Sherk, Short and Sustarich) (Explanatory Document: Approved Minutes of the October 23, 2007 Regular Meeting).

 

3.      Better Streets Program as it relates to the Urban Forestry Council (Informational Report and Discussion) (Explanatory Document:  Better Streets Plan Presentation to the Urban Forestry Council).

Sponsor:  Chair Terry Milne

Speaker:  Adam Varat, Planner, City Planning Department

 

Mr. Varat reported that he is managing the Better Streets Plan and introduced Mr. Andres Power who would be managing the Urban Forest Master Plan.  It was stated that the Better Streets Plan would include standards and guidelines on urban forest considerations, and the Urban Forest Plan would contain details such as placement, location and design considerations of street trees and other plantings.  Mr. Varat presented an overview on the Planning Department’s work on the Better Streets Plan discussing why a Better Streets Plan is needed, what a Better Streets Plan is, draft concepts and recommendations, urban forest considerations, current achievements, and next steps.  Topics discussed included:

 

·        Why a Better Streets Plan is needed—streets take up about 25% of the City’s land and can be better utilized in order to create a more generous pedestrian environment, better landscaping, and more ecological functioning.  Another major goal is to coordinate with other City agencies on standards, guidelines and practices so there is more consistency with street design.

·        What is the end result for a Better Streets Plan: standards and guidelines for how to design and maintain the pedestrian environment that can be used by city agency designers, community members, and private developers. 

·        What will the Better Streets Plan cover: ecological and streetscape features; sidewalk and curb dimensions.

·        Draft Concepts for streets types (residential, commercial, industrial, special and small streets) and sidewalk zones (edge, furnishings, throughway and frontage).

·        Streetscape Design: urban forest considerations including constraints and draft recommendations:

Objective 1:  Maximize opportunities for healthy well maintained street trees and other plantings in the public right of way.  Discussed issues that include (1) researching strategies to consolidate utilities and minimize impact of placement, (2) restricting driveway cuts that limit where trees can be planted; and (3) improve tree planting standards.

Objective 2:  Minimize cluttering elements in the streetscape.

Objective 3:  Use urban forest elements to give a sense of design, definition and neighborhood identity. 

·        Current Achievements, Next Steps and Public Process: define visions and goals (Spring 07); draft concepts (Summer 07); refined guidelines and policies (Fall 07); Draft Plan for review (Winter/Spring 08). 

 

Detailed information can be accessed by clicking on the Better Streets Plan explanatory document presentation link above.

 

Council members provided recommendations that included:

 

·         Add functional opportunities; e.g., how the ecological place can become part of the aesthetic. Reframe the definition of the place to look not just at the utilities and things we see in a place, but what goes on beneath the ground and utilities and what might have been there before the utilities and street was there as part of the design solution.  Expand the kind of species and explore some of the more native species that are not usually used in San Francisco. The Better Streets Plan effort should be coordinated with all of the different City agency street plans that are being worked on (BS).

·        Consider the City’s Urban Design Plan that encourages street trees on corner intersections into the concept (CB).

·        Preserve and maintain existing trees on streets and in new developments (JC).

·        Work with other City agencies to make sure Better Street Plan recommendations are actually implemented; consider funding to implement recommendations; and consult the Urban Forest Plan on the disposition of existing street trees in the eleven neighborhood districts (DH).

·        Insure implementation methods by adding Better Streets Plan recommendations to Codes, legislation, etc. (KQ).

·        Representative agencies to give presentations to the Urban Forestry Council on street plans that are being implemented in order to discuss elements of design (TM).

·        Submit initial draft public review documents to the Council so they can be reviewed and input can be provided into planning projects (CS).

·        Council member to be directly involved with the Better Streets Plan planning process (BS).

 

Mr. Andres Power reported that the Urban Forest Plan that the Council approved in 2006 would be a framework to be build on with recommendations made from the Better Streets Plan.  It was stated that the Urban Forest Plan would contain higher level policy recommendations and funding opportunities.

 

Item 6 was heard before Item 4.

 

4.      Landmark Tree Nominations.  The Urban Forestry Council will hear the Landmark Tree Committee recommendations for trees nominated for landmark tree status at the following addresses: (Discussion and Action).

 

At the conclusion of the discussion, the Council voted on whether to approve, reject, or not take action on the nominations and adopted written findings to support its decision to forward to the Board of Supervisors.  

 

Member Boss discussed the Council’s process for landmarking trees and presented Landmark Tree Committee written findings on landmark tree nominations ((Explanatory Document:  Landmark Tree Committee Written Findings for the two Flowering Ash trees, Moreton Bay Fig tree, Blue Elderberry Tree) and Blackwood Acacia).    

 

Two Flowering Ash trees (Fraxinus ornus) located at 500 Cortland Street in front of the Bernal Heights Library (Assessor’s Block 5707, Lot 027). (Explanatory Document: Urban Forestry Council Resolutions and meeting packet Tree 1 and Tree 2)

 

Public Comment:  Mr. Roy Leggitt, consulting arborist, reported that he had provided a letter relaying his impression of the two Flowering Ash trees.  It was stated that these trees (1) are very rare in San Francisco and in the Bay Area; (2) the only other examples that he is aware of are in Palo Alto as street trees; (3) are an unusual type of Ash tree that does not become genetically large, and these are quite large for the species; (4) do have imperfections making the tree less than ideal; but does not believe they are unsound; and (5) have an association with the Bernal Heights Library, which potentially may be a landmark building.

 

Member Boss reported on (1) a letter submitted by Mr. Ted Kipping, arborist, suggesting that the trees should be landmarked, and that they are among the largest of their kind in the City, and (2) a letter of support for landmarking by the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. Council members discussed creating correspondence directed to the Board of Supervisors suggesting their ideas for preservation of these trees.

 

Upon Motion by Member Hillan and second by Vice-Chair Quirke, the two Flowering Ash trees located at 500 Cortland Street were approved for recommendation for landmark tree status with findings.  

 

VOTE:     Adopted 11-0 (4 absent)

AYES:     Chair Milne, Vice-Chair Quirke, Members Blair, Boss, Cohen, Hillan, Habert, Miller, Sherk, Rodgers, Short

NOES:      None

ABSENT: Members Griswold, Nervo, Marks, Sustarich

 

Moreton Bay Fig tree (Ficus macrophylla) located at 3555 Cesar Chavez Street (Assessor’s Block 6575, Lot 002).  (Explanatory Document: Urban Forestry Council Resolution and meeting packet).

 

Upon Motion by Member Blair and second by Member Boss, the Moreton Bay Fig tree located at 3555 Cesar Chavez Street was approved for recommendation for landmark tree status with findings.

VOTE:     Adopted 11-0 (4 absent)

AYES:     Chair Milne, Vice-Chair Quirke, Members Blair, Boss, Cohen, Hillan, Habert, Miller, Sherk, Rodgers, Short

NOES:      None

ABSENT: Members Griswold, Nervo, Marks, Sustarich

 

Blue Elderberry Tree (Sambucus Mexicana) located at Folsom Street and Bernal Heights Boulevard in the Bernal Heights Natural Area (Assessor’s Block 5548, Lot 002). (Explanatory Document:  Urban Forestry Council Resolution and meeting packet)

 

Upon Motion by Member Hillan and second by Member Cohen the Blue Elderberry Tree located at Folsom Street and Bernal Heights Boulevard in the Bernal Heights Natural Area was approved for recommendation for landmark tree status with findings.

 

VOTE:     Adopted 11-0 (4 absent)

AYES:     Chair Milne, Vice-Chair Quirke, Members Blair, Boss, Cohen, Hillan, Habert, Miller, Sherk, Rodgers, Short

NOES:      None

ABSENT: Members Griswold, Nervo, Marks, Sustarich

 

Findings that will be part of the Urban Forestry Council Resolution endorsing landmark tree status on the above four trees can be accessed by contacting the Commission office.  Resolutions will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for their determination of landmark tree status.

 

Blackwood Acacia Tree (Acacia melanoxylon) located at 1245 Masonic Avenue (Assessor’s Block 1244, Lot 005) (Explanatory Documents:  Urban Forestry Council Resolution and Meeting Packet Part 1 and Part 2). 

 

Member Short requested recusal from voting as she had played an extensive role representing DPW when the tree came before them as an application for removal, at the departmental hearing, and at the Board of Appeals hearing.  Upon Motion by Member Rodgers and second by Member Hillan, Member Short was recused without objection (Absent: Members Griswold, Nervo, Marks, Sustarich).

 

Public Comment

 

Mr. Rick Galbreath, Legislative Aide to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, stated that if this tree were to not be landmarked, the Board of Appeals decision would become operative, and the tree would likely be taken down.  Mr. Galbreath reported that the underlying reason for removing the tree is no longer relevant as DPW has informed him that a curb cut will not be approved for the anticipated garage.  Mr. Galbreath stated that because of this reason, neighborhood appreciation, and that the tree is now more closely being monitored by DPW, they would be happy to have the tree landmarked if that would be the Council’s decision.

 

Mr. Gabriel Berns, 1235 Masonic Avenue, discussed the 15 letters from neighborhood residents and petitions signed by 29 people saying that they would not like this tree to be removed.  Mr. Berns stated that there are four Blackwood Acacia trees in that location that form a grove and are an interesting collection of trees that grace an area of historic value. Mr. Berns believes the other trees should also be considered for landmark status.  It was stated that the property owner at 1245 Masonic had hired paid consultants to claim that the tree is dangerous and is likely to fall.  Mr. Berns stated that the property owner wanted to remove the tree so he could build a garage, which has not been approved for construction. It was reported that Mr. Brennan, an arborist, and DPW had indicated that the tree is not in danger of immediate falling.  Member Boss report that Mr. Brennan had indicated that the tree is a moderate hazard.

 

Mr. Keith Saggers, Volunteer, San Francisco Tree Council, stated that this tree is part of a historic planting of Blackwood Acacias planted by DPW in the City during the 1960’s and 1970’s that thrive in coastal conditions.  The Board of Appeals granted the tree removal so an entrance to a garage could be built at the house at 1245 Masonic.  The Planning Department is denying the permit to build a garage due to bay window and sidewalk encroachment.  Mr. Saggers stated that the Blackwood Acacias on this block are all magnificent trees and should all be landmarked. 

 

Mr. Stephen Haigh, property owner, 1245 Masonic, stated that the tree was approved for removal by the Bureau of Urban Forestry (BUF) on November 28, 2006.  A DPW staff member had examined the tree and reported that it had significant trunk injury, one limb was broken off, there were sidewalk repairs in 1996 and 2006, and some decline in the canopy had been noticed.  Mr. Haigh stated that Ms. Short, arborist for BUF, in the transcript for the final Board of Appeals hearing, stated that many of the arborists who examined this tree felt that it had significant structural problems.  Mr. Ed Brennan, consulting arborist, stated that the trunk wound and associated decay represented significant decay in the structure, the condition being poor.  Mr. Leggitt, consulting arborist, after a resistograph test indicated that it was predisposed to failure on the east or west side, the east side being the street where there is auto traffic and pedestrians; the west side is the 1245 Masonic side property.  Mr. Haigh stated that the Board of Appeals had voted in his favor, and he planned to plant at his own expense two 48x48 Boxwood trees to replace the one he is removing and would be responsible for maintaining the trees for three years.  A discussion was held on the majority of neighborhood support for not landmarking the tree and the minimal support for landmarking.  Mr. Haigh also noted that some of the information presented on the historical significance of the tree and as a wildlife habitat was inaccurate.

 

Mr. Roy Leggitt, consulting arborist, stated that he had been hired by Mr. Haigh to examine the tree at 1245 Masonic.  Mr. Leggitt indicated that there are two reports and photographs that he had submitted related to the site conditions and proposed construction.  The Council was asked to review the photographs to understand that there has been significant trenching and concrete replacement had occurred for various reasons; e.g., sewer line repair, PG&E underground utility installation, and sidewalk damage associated with the base of the tree.  With those kinds of impacts, the base of the tree is significantly compromised and removing roots adversely affects both the tree’s health and stability.  Mr. Leggitt reported that it is clear that there is a significant increase in risk of catastrophic tree failure either by uprooting, trunk failure, or scaffold limb failure.  Resistograph results indicating trunk damage to the tree that would predispose the tree to failure was discussed.

 

Mr. David Grassi, general contractor, stated that he has been employed by Mr. Haigh to develop the basement area at 1245 Masonic to build a garage.  Mr. Grassi stated that the Council has been misinformed and there is no disposition that a garage cannot be built, as he had submitted the plans, and plans are being held in abeyance while landmarking matters are being determined.  Mr. Grassi asked why the Council would want to landmark a tree that the City has said should be removed and not accept Mr. Haigh’s offer to take it down himself at his own expense and plant two trees in its place.  Mr. Grassi recommended not landmarking the tree because it would be a liability for the City, Mr. Haigh, and possibly himself.  It was stated that this tree does not rise to landmark status as it is structurally defective. 

 

Member Boss seconded by Member Hillan motioned to continue this item to the January Council meeting.  The motion did not pass by the following vote (AYES: Members Boss, Habert, Hillan, and Sherk;  NOES: Chair Milne, Members Blair, Cohen, Rodgers, Absent:  Members Griswold, Marks, Miller, Nervo, Quirke, and Sustarich)

 

Member Cohen seconded by Member Blair motioned to recommend landmark tree status. 

VOTE:          Without Recommendation (4-4) (1 Recused) (6 Absent)

RECUSED:  Member Short

AYES:          Members Blair, Cohen, Habert and Sherk

NOES:          Chair Milne, Members Boss, Hillan and Rodgers

ABSENT:     Members Griswold, Marks, Miller, Nervo, Quirke, and Sustarich 

 

A Resolution without Recommendation would be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for their determination of landmark tree status.

 

5.      Landmark Tree Initiation of the Mature blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) trees located at 1661 Octavia Street (Discussion and Action).  The Council will consider the Landmark Tree Committee’s recommendation to direct staff to write a letter to the Board of Supervisors indicating that the referenced trees were approved for landmark tree status by the Department of Public Works in 1996 (Explanatory Document:  Board of Supervisors Resolution of intent to nominate). 

 

Chair Milne reported that the trees located at 1661 Octavia Street were first proposed for landmark tree status in 1972, given special consideration, and then landmarked in 1996. It was stated that the trees are officially on the landmark tree list and have a plaque on the sidewalk.  Member Short stated that it would not be a good precedent to re-landmark trees that had previously been landmarked.  It was stated that trees that had been landmarked before the current ordinance took effect have the same level of protection. Chair Milne recommended holding a press conference around these trees in order to raise awareness of the provision for landmarking trees. Members Rodgers and Habert discussed the historical and cultural importance associated with these trees and concurred with the idea of holding a press conference.  Chair Milne stated that he would confer with Urban Forestry Coordinator Hui about sending a letter and coordinating a press conference.

  

Item 6 was heard before Item 4.

 

6.      Utility Undergrounding and Street Trees (Informational Report and Discussion).

SPEAKER:  Doug Wildman, Program Director, Friends of the Urban Forest

 

Mr. Wildman asked how the Department of Public Works (DPW) Bureau of Urban Forestry is working with PG&E and other agencies in reserving space for future trees and preserving existing trees and their root structures.  Mr. Wildman discussed consideration of structurally sound utility boxes being located in driveways and PG&E’s problem with lack of access if a car were parked in a driveway.  Member Short reported on improvements after the Board of Supervisors passed a Resolution that utility companies needed to work with DPW to preserve a planting site every 20 feet.  Member Short stated that she had spent a lot of time with the utility companies in researching where they could place their utility vaults so that tree planting sites  could be preserved approximately every 20 feet.  That effort took place only for projects that had not begun when that Resolution was passed and has gone fairly well.  It was reported that there were three potential sites where another location could not be found, and in those three cases the company did pay an in-lieu fee so the City could plant in a different location. 

 

Member Short suggested that the Council urge the Board of Supervisors to consider a Resolution to add protection to existing trees, as there have been a number lost due to trenching.  It was stated that the Bureau of Urban Forestry always investigates upcoming projects and the potential for conflicts with existing trees.   In a couple of cases, PG&E had been held accountable and paid for larger replacement trees.  Member Short stated that a request would be made to Planning and Department of Building Inspection inspectors to report contractor violations, and indicated that fines can be issued.

  

7.      Staff Report.  Staff will provide updates on UFC administrative and programmatic operations relating to research, planning, funding, outreach, and other related activities. (Informational Report and Discussion).

 

Urban Forestry Council Coordinator Hui reported that she has been working for the Landmark Tree Committee on researching visible methods for identifying landmark trees, other city’s landmark tree legislation, and an outreach letter for landmarking trees.  It was stated that there were amendments introduced to the Landmark Tree Ordinance at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday that are available on the Board of Supervisors webpage. Ms. Hui reported that she and Department of Environment staff have been working with the Planning Department on the new Urban Forest Plan to make sure that the Urban Forestry Council is adequately represented.  Ms. Hui announced that the Friends of the Urban Forest Green Christmas program was very popular this year, and a number of flattering newspaper articles have been published.

 

The meeting officially adjourned at this time (12:38 p.m.) due to a loss of quorum.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera advised that the rule is that the meeting should adjourn and anything discussed after loss of quorum would be deemed an informational meeting.

 

8.      Committee Reports: (Informational Reports and Discussion)

·        Planning & Funding Committee, Chair, Carla Short

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

·        Landmark Tree Committee, Chair, Mike Boss

The next meeting will be on January 8, 2008 at 4:00 p.m. at City Hall, Room 421.

 

9.      Chair’s Announcements: Terry Milne, Chair, Urban Forestry Council (Information and Discussion). 

 

10.  New Business/Future Agenda Items (Information and Discussion).

 

11.  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.

 

12.  Adjournment.  The Urban Forestry Council meeting adjourned at 12:38 p.m.

 

Copies of explanatory documents are available to the public at Department of Environment, 11 Grove Street, San Francisco, California between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., by clicking on the links by each agenda item above, or upon request to the Council Secretary at the address listed below, telephone number 415-355-3709, or via e-mail at Monica.Fish@Sfgov.org.

 

Urban Forestry Council

San Francisco Department of the Environment

City and County of San Francisco

11 Grove Street

San Francisco, CA 94102

 

Respectfully submitted by,

Monica Fish, Council Secretary 

 

Approved:  February 26, 2008

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