05.23 Approved Minutes

City and County of San Francisco

DEpartment of the ENvironment

URBAN FORESTRY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING

APPROVED MINUTES

 

Friday, May 23, 2008, 10:00 a.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 10:16 a.m.   Present:  Chair Milne, Vice-Chair Quirke, Members Cohen, Hillan, Marks, Nervo, Rodgers, and Sherk; Excused: Members Blair, Boss, Griswold, Habert, Miller, Short, and Sustarich.

 

2.    Adoption of Minutes of the April 22, 2008 Urban Forestry Council Regular Meeting (Discussion and Action).  Upon Motion by Member Hillan and second by Member Cohen, the April 22, 2008 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (Absent:  Members Blair, Boss, Griswold, Habert, Miller, Short, and Sustarich) (Explanatory Document: Approved Minutes of the April 22, 2008 Regular Meeting).

 

3.    Informational Report from the Mayor’s Office Director of City Greening on urban forestry planning and funding for the next fiscal year (Informational Report and Discussion).

  SPEAKER:  Astrid Haryati, Director of City Greening, Mayor’s Office of Public Policy

  and Finance

 

Council Members in attendance introduced themselves and described the seats they hold on the Council. 

 

Excerpt from the presentation:

Ms. Haryati introduced herself, discussed her background as Assistant to the Mayor in Chicago for greening initiatives, and described her responsibilities as Director of City Greening that includes working on improvements within the public realm of the streets and sidewalks and parks and open space in San Francisco.  It was reported that urban forestry is a core interest and policy of this administration and that Ms. Haryati is continuing to increase her knowledge about opportunities and challenges in order to improve the current program. 

 

Ms. Haryati discussed ongoing initiatives to support urban forestry in San Francisco.  It was stated that there is a great component of private and public partnerships in San Francisco working to improve urban forestry growth in terms of quantity and quality.  The “Trees for Tomorrow” program (a program to plant 25,000 trees in San Francisco) is a great accomplishment to date and will continue to be implemented in the upcoming fiscal year.  One of the focus areas is to continue to identify program expansion from that particular program.  Urban forestry staff in multiple departments and partners in the urban forestry program continue to underline the importance of maintenance in terms of quality and not only quantity so that the initial investment will be maintained.

 

Ms. Haryati explained that the growth of canopy cover will help San Francisco in addressing storm water challenges and is happy to see departments working together to improve strategic planning of this effort.  The Better Streets Plan is one of the guidelines that will be issued in approximately two weeks and will be available for public viewing.  The Plan deals with the quality and characteristic of San Francisco’s street and sidewalk condition, which greatly underlines the quality of the pedestrian environment and the health benefits of making San Francisco streets greener.  The Plan also will help define the responsibility of private development versus the City and homeowners in regard to public realms. 

 

Ms. Haryati stated that the effort of multiple departments in implementing the Urban Forest Master Plan would also assist Ms. Haryati and others in working together to improve and define strategic planning moving forward.  Ms. Haryati indicated that she would be reviewing the effectiveness of program implementation and related budget issues internally and externally as well as balancing between quantity and quality of the urban canopy.  There would be work done through multiple departments on completing the Trees for Tomorrow Program and determining how to move forward after completion.

 

Member Rodgers asked Ms. Haryati to explain the work she is doing with City agencies and which agencies would be able to help effectuate the best change.  Ms. Haryati explained that to date she has been working closely in the public realm area beyond the Department of Public Works and City Planning to include the Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco County Transportation Authority (Prop K prioritization), and PUC (water benefits), the Port and Redevelopment Department in approaches to the built environment so that when there are streetscape improvement programs or projects, that hard cape and soft scape development are moved forward. 

 

Member Sherk asked Ms. Haryati to elaborate on her ideas regarding the opportunity for using watersheds as a framing device for streetscapes and in creating a larger urban forest. Ms. Haryati stated that she seeks a guiding principle or an environmental framework beyond supervisorial districts, and many aspects of strategic planning and design discussions by way of utilizing watersheds are being pursued. Member Sherk stated that one of the opportunities in dealing with watersheds in terms of trees and vegetation for the planting of the streets and the public realm is to use California natives, either drought tolerant or riparian.  Member Sherk asked Ms. Haryati if she has been looking at the choice of trees and vegetation for specific places, and whether the Planning Department in their work on the Better Streets Plan would be choosing or creating a framework for advocating for place-based kinds of plantings.  Member Sherk stated that Mr. Power, the Project Manager for the Better Streets Plan presented on the Plan at a previous Urban Forestry Council meeting and responded that they would not be.  Ms. Haryati was asked for her thoughts on this issue.  Ms. Haryati indicated that the Urban Forest Master Plan is a more viable plan for producing such guidelines and in educating the public about tree planting methods. 

 

Member Sherk stated that the Council could explore their role in working with Ms. Haryati to help educate the public about watersheds and to create opportunities where people can become more conscious of where watersheds are located.  Ms. Haryati stated that she would welcome doing so and that there is more to approaching the program beyond implementation that includes educational and marketing efforts to move the program forward and increase interest.

 

Vice-Chair Quirke asked if the various City agencies have expressed confusion understanding the watershed language approach.  Ms. Haryati stated that the great majority of colleagues in various departments have been receptive of the idea as it is approached not only from the scientific understanding of the watershed, but that it is an organizing factor for the built environment three-dimensionally.  Ms. Haryati stated to date she has seen a good reception on the concept of putting watersheds in the way of parks and open space and that challenges would have to be addressed in the future.

 

Member Marks asked about the relationship between the Director of Greening and the Urban Forestry Council, and asked how the Council would fit into a City greening organizational chart if there was one. Ms. Haryati stated that she values the Urban Forestry Council’s mandate to move the significance of the urban forest in the City, which includes the same goals and mission of her charge and is open to input on a strategic and operational level.  Ms. Haryati stated that she sees the relationship with the Council as a great collaborative effort and members as advisors to the Mayor, and as she is part of the Mayor’s staff, the Council’s advice is valued.

 

Member Marks explained that this Council was created in order for there to be an open public forum for discussions about urban forestry, and that the creation of the Director of Greening position and the Green Vision Council, which may no longer exist, was counter to what the Council was trying to achieve, which was to bring public agencies and individuals together to talk.  Member Marks explained that with the exception of Member Quirke, who was part of that Green Vision Council, there was no official relationship between the Urban Forestry Council and the Green Vision Council. 

 

Member Marks expressed his concern that the Council has been rendered somewhat impotent as year after year, the Council has had virtually no money to run their programs, and went from two full-time staff people to one part-time staff person.  Member Marks discussed the competition for funding and the fact that the Mayor’s Office has all the money and power to implement the programs.  Member Marks indicated that he was not aware that the Director of City Greening’s position was funded by various City agencies and yet the Council’s ability to get money from various City agencies is getting more limited.  Member Marks stated that he is glad the Mayor’s Office is funded, but that does not help the effort of the Council. It was suggested that there should be a way to make things work better by working together.  Ms. Haryati stated that she values the Council’s advice and that on a daily basis she hopes to continue to collaborate with the Council in order to be effective, to extend the mission, and leverage any other resources moving forward. Ms. Haryati stated that she would work closely through the Council’s subcommittees and the Urban Forest Master Plan to make the urban forestry program more effective. 

 

Member Marks requested that Ms. Haryati attend or be added to each Council’s meeting agenda.  Ms. Haryati stated that she would make it a priority schedule wise to make sure she understands the various challenges and opportunities and would work on this effort with the Council.   Chair Milne stated that the Council had discussed the possibility of the Council Chair meeting with Ms. Haryati once a month to provide an overview of work plan activities and to establish a connection between the Mayor’s Office and Council activities. In the past, the Council did not hear what was going on, it was a surprise, and coordination efforts went in different directions.  Ms. Haryati stated that the regular meeting would be welcomed and would be a working meeting to move initiatives forward.

 

Member Cohen stated that there has been a lot of talk from the Mayor’s Office about San Francisco being a green city, and feels that oftentimes greening includes everything but the forest canopy, especially in terms of preserving older canopy.  It was explained that the Urban Forestry Council has done an immense amount of work in terms of producing urban forest plans, inventories, assessments, and priorities and also on a smaller scale, on what to do about losing trees due to topping, underground utilities, etc. 

 

Member Cohen asked Ms. Haryati what she feels she would be able to bring to her position that no one previously has done and whether she is receiving support to accomplish initiatives.  Member Cohen also stated that the Council feels ignored as they did all the work on the landmark tree ordinance and it is forgotten that they did anything. Ms. Haryati stated that a green city is all about leadership and accomplishments that can be seen in the longer term. Ms. Haryati explained Chicago’s urban forestry experiences and improvements that were achieved because of various steps that were taken and priorities that had been established to devise resources. It was explained that her experience in Chicago has taught her how to work together either in a large or enough of a scale to implement improvements in a real way.  It was stated that there are going to be competing interests in utilizing the public sidewalk or spaces whether it is for pedestrian circulation or other activities, and priorities are being looked at strategically by the most challenging environmental conditions to address, e.g., storm water challenges.

 

Vice-Chair Quirke discussed the Council’s concern with their relevance to the Board of Supervisors and the idea that Ms. Haryati, Council Coordinator Hui, and Council Chair Terry Milne could make monthly presentations to the Board President on Council activities so that they would be more relevant and higher on the Board’s radar screen. 

 

Vice-Chair Quirke asked how the City’s deficit would affect urban forestry funding.  Ms. Haryati stated that in the next fiscal year, there is a commitment to complete the last segment of the “Trees for Tomorrow” program of planting 25,000 trees that combines the replacement of trees and adding new trees.  Ms. Haryati stated that she would be paying attention to the maintenance of the tree inventory and would be looking forward to working with the Council on implementation of Urban Forest Master Plan initiatives to put the right strategic plan together, determine priorities, and identify the top three strategies in order to understand what can be done by the city, the public at large, and partner organizations.  Vice-Chair Quirke explained that the Council has not previously had a lot of awareness or deliberation on how the budget would affect the urban forest, and the Council has identified it as more of a priority to be involved in.

 

Member Sherk stated that one of the ways to work together in order to be more effective that the Council has been discussing is through development of inter-departmental relationships, which Ms. Haryati has identified as one of her goals. Member Sherk indicated that the role for the Council could be to support Ms. Haryati at looking holistically at the City and the urban forest as opposed to separating each department’s activities, which is the way it is normally done. 

 

Member Marks stated that he would like to see a document on where the trees from the “Trees for Tomorrow” program have been planted and will be planted so that comments can be provided. Ms. Haryati stated that she needs that information as well and that information can and should be made available to the Council. Member Marks stated that many members believe that trees that are planted are being removed quickly, that trees are being removed without proper authorization, and that there are people that apply for permits to remove trees that have their permit denied, take the trees out anyway, and cover up the basins.  Member Marks recommended that this be recognized as a problem in the City and that the City should start enforcing the law so people are not able to do that. It was explained that enforcement of the laws aren’t there because of inadequate resources, and that laws need to be changed related to improvements to property and trees that should be planted as a result of improvements.                        

 

Public Comment

 

Mr. Alan Grossman stated that there is no public forum for the advocates of the City’s urban forest other than the Urban Forestry Council.  It was stated that because so much of the work that deals with the City’s urban forest is done either directly or indirectly and through other departments, there is no place for the public to make the case for the particular aspect of what that work consists of.  Mr. Grossman noted as a good example the Planning Department’s work on the scope of a project that involves a Master Plan for the City’s urban forest, and the lack of public input.  Mr. Grossman stated that he has written Mr. Powers, who is the project manager, but does not see a real opportunity for public input. 

 

Mr. Grossman also stated that the Department of the Environment is the host for this Council and felt that it has basically lost interest in the urban forest and in the Council because of other demands on the department’s resources.  It was suggested that if the Council does not belong with the Department, then it should either stand on its own and work with the Mayor’s Office or be in another place.  Mr. Grossman stated that he hopes that the Green Vision Council is reconstituted and is made a policy body or a body where the public can attend and provide input because that is the only place where there is a coordinated group of representatives of all of the departments that have input into the urban forest.

 

Ms. Anne Eng, Manager of the Environmental Justice Program, stated that the Department has not lost interest in the urban forest program.  It was reported that the Department has not only the Council Coordinator but other staff within the agency that are trying to support the work she is doing and to be mindful of the Council’s mission and goals.

 

Vice-Chair Quirke responded to Mr. Grossman’s comments about the Department of the Environment not showing support for urban forestry issues, stating that the Friends of the Urban Forest have recently received a grant from the Department to plant and maintain trees, and there is probably no better way to show commitment than to fund it.  

 

4.    Urban Forestry Council budget and update on City budget proposals and cuts that may affect urban forestry funding (Discussion).

SPONSOR:  Council Chair Terry Milne

SPEAKER:  Council Member Carla Short

 

Chair Milne explained that Member Short reported to him that she did not have any numbers or details to provide, but that departments are looking for ways to cut down the additional 5% requested budget cuts that would go to any programs in the City including urban forestry in whatever departments it may fall in.  It was reported that no details on how that would affect the Council have been provided to date. Chair Milne explained that the Council is being funded by contributions from several departments and is interested in what the departments propose to do with their budgets in relation to the Urban Forestry Council.  

 

Member Rodgers stated that she has heard that the Planning Department’s Chief Financial Officer would make a presentation outlining their budget to the Planning Commission next week. Chair Milne inquired about the outcome of the Recreation and Park Department’s budget, but no additional information was available.

 

5.    Review of Urban Forestry Council Prioritized Work Plan for 2008 for selection of one or more items to begin work on and identify action steps to achieve each goal (Explanatory Document:  Work Plan Prioritized List for 2008) (Discussion). 

 

Coordinator Hui reported that the Planning and Funding Committee members chose three items that they felt were high priority items listed in the Prioritized List for 2008 explanatory document above.  It was explained that item 7 on the list was chosen as the first important priority, item 2 as the second, and item 1 as the third, and that the rest of the items had not yet been ranked.  Chair Milne reported that the first priority is about funding and asked Ms. Hui to keep the Council informed about what is going on with the funding process as it relates to department status,  what the budget cutbacks are going to be, and which departments would or would not be affected.  Chair Milne stated that the second priority would be to continue current work efforts, and that the third priority is to work on the Urban Forest Plan Priority Action Steps.   Coordinator Hui requested clarity on this item and present the Priority Action Steps document for review.  Member Rodgers asked whether this item relates to the upcoming Urban Forest Plan, and indicated that the priority action steps are outlined in the Urban Forest Plan which this body adopted in 2006 (PDF).  

 

Coordinator Hui explained that this agenda item is to request of Council Members a direction to take to pursue the Council’s work plan items. It was explained that the Planning and Funding Committee have requested that Ms. Hui report back on two specific issues which she intends to do in her staff report, but if there are other action steps, to direct Ms. Hui to do so. 

 

Member Marks asked if there are specific programs or projects that funding would be requested for, and what the strategy is for determining what those would be. Member Marks stated that the best way to make the funding program more likely to succeed is to have discrete tasks and recommended shying away from things that are large such as developing a comprehensive list of citywide urban forest activities, as it is a good thing to do, but is not necessarily going to move the Council forward in tangible ways.  It was stated that a number of tasks from the Priority Action Steps are included in number 4 of the Prioritized Work Plan.  It was recommended that number 4 be split into several different projects that are listed and then look into getting funding for those projects. Member Hillan also felt that it is useful to identify discrete doable tasks that people can identify as worth committing funds to.  

 

Ms. Eng recommended that one or two Council members and Ms. Hui schedule a meeting with the professional grant writer, Ms. Rosenmoss, who has agreed to write proposals to support the urban forest program and is looking for input as to what projects or services could be requested.

 

6.    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).

 

Coordinator Hui explained that the Planning and Funding Committee asked Ms. Hui to look into whether an add back could be requested because of the addition of work due to the Board of Supervisors Landmark Tree Ordinance designating the Council to hold hearings on landmark tree designations.  It was stated that an approach could be for the Council to say that the additional work does necessitate additional resources and ask for an increase in the budget, write a letter or pass a resolution, or ask that the duties assigned by the ordinance be housed elsewhere. 

 

Chair Milne inquired what to do if an agency decides not to contribute to the Urban Forestry Council budget because of the upcoming budget deficit, and it is determined that there are specific fees allocated to pay for Urban Forestry Council staffing or costs.  Ms. Hui stated she would research this question, and if that is the case, the Council can approach any agency that chooses not to contribute through a letter, resolution or through the Chair’s discussion with the agency.  Chair Milne asked Coordinator Hui to provide details on the status of department agency funding.  Ms. Hui reported that the Department of the Environment is expecting to receive or have received letters of response from all of the six agencies that contribute to the Council and one agency, the Planning Department, has said that they are not going to contribute this time. Member Rodgers reported that the Planning Department does not have fees associated with the Urban Forestry Council, so does not believe there would be anything additional allocated to the Council, but would check details.   

 

The meeting adjourned due to a loss of quorum. Items 7 -10 were not heard at this time.

 

7.    Committee Reports: (Informational Reports and Discussion).

Planning & Funding Committee, Chair, Carla Short

The next meeting is scheduled for June 19, 2008 at 4:15 p.m. at City Hall, Room 421.

 

Landmark Tree Committee, Chair, Mike Boss

The next meeting is scheduled for June 10, 2008 at 4:00 p.m. at City Hall, Room 421.

 

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

 

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

 

10.    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.

 

11.    Adjournment.  The Urban Forestry Council meeting adjourned at 11:38 a.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:  June 24, 2008

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