04.28 Approved Minutes

City and County of San Francisco

DEpartment of the ENvironment




Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 6:00 p.m.

City Hall, Room 416  

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 6:02 p.m. Voting Members Present: Chair Milne, Vice-Chair D’Agostino (6:11 p.m.), Members Boss, Cohen, Hillan, LeBeau, Rodgers (6:09) Sherk (6:17), Short, and Vargas; Voting Member Excused:  Member Blair; Advisory Members Excused: Members Nervo and Sustarich.


2.      Adoption of Minutes of the March 27, 2009 Urban Forestry Council Regular Meeting. (Discussion and Action) Upon Motion by Member Short and second by Member Boss, the March 27, 2009 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (AYES: Chair Milne, Members Boss, Cohen, Hillan, LeBeau, Short, and Vargas; Absent: Vice Chair D’Agostino, Members Blair, Rodgers and Sherk) (Explanatory Document: March 27, 2009 Approved Minutes)


Item 4 was heard before Item 3.


3.      Consideration and Approval of Resolution File 2009-04-UFC amending the Urban Forestry Council's Bylaws to change the Landmark Tree Committee Structure from a Standing to an Ad Hoc Committee.  (Explanatory Documents:  Notice of Proposed Amendment to Bylaws and Draft Resolution File 2009-04-UFC) (Discussion and Action).


Council Chair Milne explained that changing the Landmark Tree Committee to an Ad Hoc Committee would allow the Committee to meet as needed instead of on a regular schedule.  Landmark Tree Committee Chair Boss reported that there would be a savings in resources from making this change.  Upon Motion by Member Hillan and second by Member LeBeau, Resolution File 2009-04-UFC amending the Council’s Bylaws to change the Landmark Tree Committee structure from a Standing to an Ad Committee was approved (AYES:  Vice-Chair D’Agostino, Members Boss, Hillan, LeBeau, Rodgers, Sherk, Short, and Vargas; NOES:  Chair Milne and Member Cohen; Absent: Member Blair) (Explanatory Document:  Resolution No. 004-09-UFC and Bylaws as adopted on April 28, 2009).


4.      Art Installation on City Hall Plaza Sycamore Trees:  Review and discussion of arborist report regarding artwork on City Hall Plaza trees and possible recommendation to the Arts Commission and Mayor’s Office regarding artwork on trees (Explanatory Document:  Arborist Report) (Discussion and Possible Action).


Council Members discussed positive and negative aspects of the art installation stating that it would be a good way to connect people to trees through art, but expressed concerns that tree damage would occur as a result of the installation as stated in the arborist report (see explanatory document above). Member Short questioned whether the trees would actually sustain long-term damage by the installation. Member Sherk explained that the material that is being used is willow and allows for movement and air to circulate which was confirmed by Mr. Kern of the Recreation and Park Department. Member Boss stated that the issue is one of process: how was this determined as acceptable to do and what consideration would be given if the trees were to be landmarked in the future. Member Cohen stated that the arborist report may not be enough justification to take the installation down. Members Boss and D’Agostino suggested acquiring another arborist’s opinion. 


Council Chair Milne expressed his concern that the Council was not notified of the Recreation and Park Commission’s public hearing to consider the installation so that comments could be provided in advance. Mr. Kern, Director of Operations, Recreation and Park Department apologized on behalf of the Department for the failure in the communication process. 


Mr. Kern reported that the Recreation and Park Department was approached by the Arts Commission last year to approve the art work installation of Patrick Dougherty, an internationally-recognized artist.  The artist’s website showing examples of his work is www.stickwork.net.  It was explained that the Recreation and Park Department has several certified arborists on staff in their Division of Urban Forestry that had several consultations on the project and went over their concerns with Mr. Dougherty who made changes to the original design to accommodate these concerns. 


Mr. Kern reported that the Recreation and Park Commission under the City Charter is given the jurisdiction for permitting all things on Recreation and Park Department property.  A temporary encroachment permit was considered for this installation at a public hearing held in October/November of 2008.  The hearing was publicly noticed, and at that hearing, the Recreation and Park Commission issued their support for the proposal.  The Commission was given assurance that the Recreation and Park Department arborist staff evaluated and made recommendations that the artist had made changes to and were confident that the trees were not going to be compromised.  It was stated that the Recreation and Park Department has the same sense of stewardship of trees as the Council. 


Mr. Kern reported that the encroachment permit that was issued was to have the art installation in place for a year from February 2009 through February 2010.  The installation would be in place during the annual pollarding season, which is usually done in November prior to the holiday season.  The permit specified that an evaluation would be done in October to ensure that pollarding can be done safely with the installation in place, and if it would, the permit would be extended to February 2010.  If not, the installation would have to be removed to do the annual pollarding.  Council members discussed the practice of pollarding and its effect on trees.


Ms. Kate Patterson, Project Manager Public Art, San Francisco Arts Commission, stated that she had consulted with the artist who had done a large number of similar installations all over the country and with the Recreation and Park Department who was in charge of issuing a permit.  Ms. Patterson explained that she had come prepared to defend the art work but found out that the Council was not against the art work, but only had questions about the process. 


Member Short requested that Ms. Patterson as the Arts Commission communications staff person work with the Arts Commission and Arts Commission members to raise concern that the Arts Commission is recommending removal permits for healthy trees so buildings can be more visible.  Member Short reported that the Department of Public Works always denies these permits, and she would like to raise awareness for the Arts Commission to think of trees as an important living infrastructure.


Council Chair Milne suggested that the Chair on behalf of the Council write a letter to the Arts Commission forwarding the arborist report and summarizing the Council’s comments.  By consensus of the Council, the Chair was directed to write a letter to the Arts Commission.

5.      Establishing a Citywide Program for Identifying Companies that do Citywide Pruning and Maintenance on Street Trees. Speaker:  Council Chair Milne (Continued  Discussion from the March 27, 2009 Meeting)


Member Short discussed the challenges regarding proper tree pruning on trees in the public right of way.  It was explained that an adjacent property owner is often times liable for improper pruning on these trees and not the company actually doing the pruning.  The property owner usually does not have any idea that improper pruning was done as they hired a company they thought was reputable. Member Short stated that the Planning and Funding Committee discussed ways to sanction certain companies or provide property owners with better information to make them more aware.


Council members discussed possible solutions, e.g., creating a licensing system, allowing only certified arborists to work on trees, providing education, establishing a site that shows pictures of good and bad examples, awareness of ISO standards, etc..  Member Short reported that a licensing system would require additional staffing and funding.  Member Short stated that other municipalities provide training on proper care to volunteers or to companies and they agree to comply with established guidelines. For San Francisco, the guidelines would be the pruning standards that the Council adopted. These guidelines could be added to various websites. Sanctions could be established and if the companies fail to uphold standards, they can be banned from the list of compliant companies for a year.  Member Short explained that the Department of Public Work’s perspective is to do something quickly and easily such as establishing a voluntary compliance list.


Council Chair Milne recommended continuing this item to the May 22 meeting to request advice from the Deputy City Attorney.


6.      Illegal Topping of Trees and Billboard Visibility. Sponsor:  Member Short (Discussion)


Member Short reported that a meeting was held with the Planning Department and San Francisco Beautiful to discuss the extent of illegal cutting of trees to provide for billboard visibility.  It was explained that the Public Works Code allows for fining the adjacent property owner when this occurs.  In some cases, the property owner whose maintenance responsibility for the trees is not the same property owner who receives the benefits (fees from the billboard company).  Ideas that were discussed included issuing notices of violation and an explanation that it is an obligation to protect trees. A billboard company may be notified that they have to reduce the height of their billboard and reminded that they cannot cut down a tree to heighten the visibility of the billboard.  Another idea was to create a significantly higher fine if the illegal cutting of the tree was done for commercial gain so there would be an incentive not to do it. 


Council Chair Milne recommended continuing this item to the May 22 meeting to request advice from the Deputy City Attorney.   Member Short asked that the Council think about ideas to present at the next meeting.


7.      Staff Report.  Staff will provide updates on Urban Forestry Council administrative and programmatic operations relating to research, planning, funding, outreach, and other related activities. (Informational Report and Discussion)  Council Coordinator Hui was not present and a staff report was not provided at this time.


8.      Committee Reports: (Informational Reports and Discussion)

Planning & Funding Committee, Chair, Carla Short

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 21, 2009, 4:15 p.m. at City Hall, Room 421. Discussions were held during the course of the Council meeting on agenda topics discussed at the Planning and Funding Committee meeting on April 16th.  No further report was given at this time.


Landmark Tree Committee, Chair, Mike Boss

Council Chair Milne reported that the Landmark Tree Committee would be considering a potential landmark tree nomination for a backyard tree at 2714 Steiner Street at a future meeting.


9.      Chair’s Announcements: Terry Milne, Chair, Urban Forestry Council (Information and Discussion).  All announcements were made during the course of the meeting. There were no additional announcements made at this time.


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

Member Rodgers requested a future agenda item to discuss a Draft Ordinance that is being prepared with the Greening Director on a green landscaping requirement that will be made part of the Planning Code.


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.  There was no public comment at this time.


12.  Adjournment.  The Urban Forestry Council meeting adjourned at 7:42 p.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: May 22, 2009 

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