01.23 Approved Minutes

City and County of San Francisco

DEpartment of the ENvironment




Friday, January 23, 2009, 10:00 a.m.

City Hall, Room 400  

One Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place

San Francisco, CA 94102


Order of Business


1.      Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Urban Forestry Council meeting convened at 10:07 a.m.  Voting Members Present: Members Blair, Boss, Cohen, D’Agostino, Hillan, LeBeau, and Short; Voting Members Excused: Members Sherk and Vargas; Voting Member Absent: Member Rodgers; (1 Vacant); Advisory Member Present: Member Nervo; Advisory Member Absent: Member Sustarich.  Member Boss was Acting Chair for the meeting and announced that there is one vacant seat for appointment by the Board of Supervisors that has not yet been filled.  Member LeBeau was welcomed to the Council.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera announced that the Council Bylaws require that there be an election of Chair and Vice-Chair at the next Council meeting. 


2.        Adoption of Minutes of the December 12, 2008 Urban Forestry Council Regular Meeting. (Discussion and Action) Member Blair requested an amendment to her comments on Item 3, line 6, to change “thanked the members of the Board of Supervisors for reappointing her” to “thanked the six progressive members of the Board of Supervisors for reappointing her.”  Upon Motion by Member Hillan and second by Member Blair, the December 12, 2008 Meeting Minutes were approved with amendments without objection (AYES:  Members Blair, Boss, Cohen, D’Agostino, Hillan, LeBeau, and Short; Absent:  Members Rodgers, Sherk and Vargas) (Explanatory Document: December 12, 2008 Approved Minutes)


3.        Urban Forestry Council Activities for Arbor Day 2009.  Speaker:  Urban Forestry Council Coordinator Mei Ling Hui (Discussion and Possible Action).  Coordinator Hui reported that meetings are being held to plan for Arbor Day activities and are being attended by all participating city agencies and non-profit organizations.  A schedule of events is included in the Staff Report.  Coordinator Hui recommended that the Council consider a permeable landscaping installation as a part of the Arbor Day events at the site where the eco resource fair and the Department of Public Work’s headquarters will be.  Members were asked for suggestions for event activities.  Member Short reported that Arbor Day activities would be held for a full week starting on March 7th until March 14th, which is the day of the main event.  Additional information can be found on the Arbor Day website www.sfarborday.org.  The schedule on that site would be completely updated by approximately February 9th.


Member Cohen discussed her proposal that the Council participate in a collaborative project with other agencies on three pilot sites to demonstrate the best planting environment for trees and the Resolution adopted by the Council in 2008 to create these sites.  Member Cohen also discussed a presentation to the Council by Ms. Jane Martin and herself on permeable landscaping and indicated that these sidewalk pocket park gardens would create a complete paradigm shift as to how our city looks.  Member Cohen stated that Mr. Terry Milne recommended that this project be a part of the Arbor Day celebration and would be speaking during public comment on this topic.  It was recommended that one of the pilot sites be located at the school where the Arbor Day festivities would be taking place.   Coordinator Hui reported that the school district has not yet approved the project, and that a maintenance plan would have to be worked out before the project could move forward.  It was stated that the school is located on 37th Avenue between Ortega and Pacheco Streets, and the proposed site is along Ortega Street west of 37th Avenue.   


Member D’Agostino inquired about funding for the project.  Member Cohen explained that it is hoped that it would be a volunteer effort; however, there is a question of who would handle incoming funds if they are not in-kind donations.  Member Cohen reported that the project that Mr. Milne brought forward as part of Arbor Day would be an opportunity for the Council to get publicity as well on the different kinds of issues that surround arboriculture and the urban forest.  It was explained that there are so many different public and private entities in the city that would want to be involved and would be an asset to this project.  Member Short reported that there are fundraising efforts for Arbor Day in general, and explained that the Parks Trust is a partner that has been a fiscal sponsor that could handle and route the donations to the appropriate place.  Member Short reported that there has been a lot of emphasis on planting over the past few years, and that DPW maintenance would be emphasized this year.  It was explained that DPW would be pruning the young trees that were planted as part of Arbor Day three years ago and asked Council members to volunteer on pruning projects.


Member Hillan stated that he would be interested in working on a maintenance demonstration and that maintenance should be a high priority.  Member Hillan inquired whether Member Sherk had activities planned for Arbor Day.  Coordinator Hui stated that she would inquire with Member Sherk and make a report at the next meeting.  Member Blair inquired whether there would be a celebration on existing large mature trees, trees that have been planted and correctly maintained, and are a notable species in our city, e.g. landmark trees.   Member D’Agostino reported that a tour could be given on the large established trees at the West Sunset Playground and also on Sunset Boulevard.  Member LaBeau offered her assistance with the permeable landscaping project.  Member Short reported that awareness of existing trees is something that is talked about every year. 


Member Boss recommended a mention of the landmark tree program as part of Arbor Day activities in order to raise awareness on the process and on landmark trees.  Coordinator Hui reported that the Department of the Environment will have a table and will be distributing the pruning guide and cards that direct people to the landmark tree website. 


Public Comment:  Mr. Terry Milne reported on (1) a potential Water Department permeable landscaping project; (2) Council sponsorship of a landmark tree celebration in 2008; (3) DPW interest in sidewalk gardens.  Mr. Milne encouraged Council members to participate in the permeable landscape pilot project as described by Member Cohen; and (4) Mr. Mike Sullivan’s tree tours as part of Arbor Day events.


4.        Urban Forestry Council Meeting Schedule for 2009.  (Discussion)


Member D’Agostino asked the Council to consider changing meeting start times in order to accommodate her work schedule.  It was proposed that the Friday meeting start at 8:30 a.m. and the Tuesday meeting start at 6:00 p.m.  Ms. Fish reported that the Bylaws would have to be amended, that a Notice of Proposed Bylaws Amendment would be published, and Council members would be asked to vote on the time amendment at the next meeting.  Most Council members that were present at the meeting spoke in favor of the time change; however, Members Blair and Cohen remarked that the time change may pose a problem for City employees and the public and would like to think about what works as a whole.  Member Short stated that the public would be given a chance to comment at the next meeting. A request was made to calendar this item for the February 24, 2009 meeting.  


5.        Creating a System to Regulate Who Should Be Able to Work on City Trees. Speaker:  Member Carla Short (Discussion).


Member Short discussed the Department of Public Work’s (DPW) past efforts to regulate who should have permission to work on trees that the City has jurisdiction over.  It was explained that a permit process cannot be implemented because staff is not available to perform these functions at this time due to budget constraints.  Member Short reported that other municipalities have created lists of approved vendors who have agreed to uphold standards, have gone through a training program, and placed on an approved list.  As long as the vendors do not violate any of the guidelines, they can stay on that list.  One idea noted was to implement this type of process and to publish the list of approved vendors on DPW’s website; however, the City is not allowed to endorse companies at this time.  Member Short stated that she is looking for a process that the Council can recommend or endorse so a list can be established of approved vendors that property owners and others can access. It was explained that property owners may hire unacceptable companies and are then issued huge fines for unacceptable tree work as a result.


Member Boss recommended initially setting regulations so the violation would be of City policy.  Member Short stated that they would like to hold the people that do the work accountable instead of the property owner who may believe they have hired a knowledgeable person.  Member Boss suggested starting work on the foundational process now, and to implement administrative support when the economy changes in the future. Member D’Agostino reported that Redwood City has a voluntary compliance list of requirements that are updated annually.  People are required to apply for a permit to prune or remove a tree that is greater than 12 inches in diameter, and one staff member reviews these permits. 


Member Blair asked if the permit process could pay for a staff person.  Member Short stated that permission is required to hire the staff person as well as how they would be paid and budget shortfalls may limit what can be done at this time. Member D’Agostino reported that Redwood City’s permits are free but is being reconsidered at this time.  Member Cohen discussed the different tax base in other cities and differences in other City tree ordinances.  Member Cohen recommended considering an aspect that would be the most expedient to move forward.  Member Short suggested discussing this topic at the Committee level.  Coordinator Hui stated that she would consult with the City Attorney’s Office about what would be required to install a voluntary compliance program. 


Member Blair inquired if there was data available on how much the City spends on planting trees and how much money is lost when a new or smaller tree is badly pruned.  It was explained that this fact could be used in order to support more protection of trees.  Member Short reported that a lot of these trees are privately maintained so there are no records available.  Member LeBeau stated that vendors on the Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) referral list provide training classes and have an established relationship.  Member LeBeau stated that having a voluntary compliance list and referral page is a powerful tool.  Member Boss recommended that the referral list include a certified arborist requirement.
Member Blair asked whether the Council could implement a voluntary application and approval process to save DPW the work.  Coordinator Hui explained that part of her time is allocated to other programmatic work and funding would have to be made available so that she could reallocate her time to regulating the program.  Member Hillan questioned the City’s capability to track licenses, certifications, work records, and other legal issues involved.  Member Hillan and Member Cohen were concerned about discouraging smaller excellent arborists.  It was explained that recognizing certifications is important, but there is a pool of people that do excellent work without carrying the minimum insurance levels that the City is inclined to require.   

Member Hillan recommended that more time be spent on setting and publicizing arboricultural standards to practitioners and the public in general.  It was recommended that voluntary compliance be pursued and that the City should be more aggressive in pursing fines for bad pruning practices.


Member Cohen recommended (1) additional education surrounding good pruning techniques; (2) that DPW establish a relationship with FUF on this process since they have an existing referral list; and (3) direct people who visit the Urban Forestry Council website to the FUF referral list website.   Member LeBeau inquired whether 311 was the appropriate agency to contact to report illegal pruning practices.  Member Short reported that most 311 operators are trained on what to do as DPW gets service requests on a daily basis generated by 311.  It was also suggested that the police non-emergency could be contacted if the illegal act is in progress. Coordinator Hui reported that she had given a presentation to 311 staff, and that a memo had been distributed to workers on the correct process.  Member Blair reported that the San Francisco Tree Council also receives phone calls and had distributed an informational sheet to 311 staff.              


6.        Staff Report.  Staff will provide updates on Urban Forestry Council administrative and programmatic operations relating to research, planning, funding, outreach, and other related activities. (Explanatory Document: Staff Report) (Informational Report and Discussion) Coordinator Hui


Coordinator Hui presented a staff report on topics that include: status of monthly meetings with the Mayor’s Office; update on landmark tree nominations; draft of a landmark tree certificate (Explanatory Document:  Landmark Tree Certificate Draft); Board of Supervisors sponsor to introduce landmark tree criteria to the Board of Supervisors; Urban Forestry Council vacancies and appointments; Department of the Environment’s request to meet with the Planning Department to discuss the Urban Forest Plan; Green Christmas program; Arbor Day calendar and planning; and presentation to the Commission on the Environment on January 27th.   Coordinator Hui reported that presenters are being sought for the Eco Resource Fair and asked the Council if they had ideas for potential presenters. Additional details can be accessed at the explanatory document link above.


Member Blair suggested that the Landmark Tree Certificate border be changed to tree leaves.  Coordinator Hui reported that the Department is limited as to border design, and additional funding is not available for new designs at this time.  Coordinator Hui stated that members could send in designs that they have available for review, and a different design would be pursued once funding becomes available. 


7.        Committee Reports: (Informational Reports and Discussion)

Planning & Funding Committee, Chair, Carla Short

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 19, 2009, 4:15 p.m. City Hall, Room 421.

Member Short reported that the Planning and Funding Committee did not meet in January because there was not a full compliment of members.  Ms. Fish reported on the shortage of Committee members to reach a quorum for the February meeting.  Member Short requested that the February meeting be cancelled as a result. Coordinator Hui reported that the Committee structure would have to be revised since the requirement for seven members is a quorum of members for the full Council.

Landmark Tree Committee, Chair, Mike Boss

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 4:00 p.m., City Hall, Room 421.


Member Boss reported that the Landmark Tree Committee did not meet in January because there were no trees to consider.  Coordinator Hui reported that she received a lot of responses and inquiries about the Green Christmas Tree and landmark tree program article. It was stated that several people indicated that they would be working on nominations, and the McLaren Lodge potential landmark tree nomination is pending.  Ms. Fish reported that the Landmark Tree Committee has a requirement for five members and that three are still active leaving two open seats to be appointed by the Chair. On the issue of advisory members serving on the Landmark Tree Committee, Coordinator Hui reported that the City Attorney’s Office had advised that since the Landmark Tree Committee makes decisions that are followed by the full Council and oftentimes the Board of Supervisors, only voting members could vote on these issues.


8.        Chair’s Announcements: Chair, Urban Forestry Council (Information and Discussion).  There were no announcements at this time.


9.        New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Information and Discussion).  Member Blair reported on a discussion with Supervisor Mirkarimi who requested that the relationship between the Council and Board of Supervisors be improved. It was explained that Supervisor Mirkarimi’s staff receives inquiries about trees that they do not know how to answer, and it would be helpful to prepare an informational sheet on how to answer questions from the public on tree problems. Member D’Agostino reported that tree questions should go to DPW, not the Supervisor’s office.


Coordinator Hui reported that the next meeting should include (1) election of Urban Forestry Council Chair and Vice Chair; (2) Committee nominations; and (3) discussion about Committee structure.   Ms. Fish reported that a revision of the Committee structure would require a Bylaws amendment. 


Member Cohen discussed Mr. Milne’s outstanding contribution to the Council and asked what the Council can do on behalf of reinstating Mr. Milne as the Council Chair.  Member Boss explained that there is a vacant seat that the Board of Supervisors has to consider and that members could influence decisions by writing a letter and appearing at a future Rules Committee meeting.   Member Blair recommended lobbying for Mr. Milne and expressed her appreciation for his work and contribution.


Member LeBeau announced that the Friends of the Urban Forest would be holding an Arbor Day event on Saturday, March 7, at the International High School.


Member Boss reported on tree work that is either done or sponsored by the City of San Francisco that is damaging the urban forest canopy in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. Member Boss requested that this item be placed for discussion as a future agenda item.  Member Blair commended tree work that was done in her neighborhood on Bay and Mason.


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.  There was no public comment at this time.


11.    Adjournment. The Urban Forestry Council meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.


Explanatory documents are available to the public at the Department of the Environment, 11 Grove Street, San Francisco, California between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., by clicking on the attachments with each agenda or meeting minutes, or upon request to the Council Secretary at the address listed below, telephone number 415-355-3709, or via e-mail at [email protected].



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 24, 2009

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