12.12 Approved Minutes


City and County of San Francisco

DEpartment of the ENvironment







Thursday, December 12, 2006, 4:00 P.M.


City Hall, Room 421

One Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place

San Francisco, CA 



COMMITTEE MEMBERS:  Mike Boss (Chair), Carolyn Blair, Steve Griswold, David Habert, and Mark Sustarich


Urban Forestry Council Associate:  Grace Ma


Council Secretary:  Monica Fish



1.      CALL TO ORDER AND ROLL CALL.  The meeting was called to order at 4:05 p.m.  Present:  Chair Boss, Members Blair, Habert (4:10 p.m.), and Sustarich.  Excused:  Member Griswold.  Deputy City Attorney Alicia Cabrera was present.


2.      ACTION: Adoption of minutes of the November 14, 2006 Urban Forestry Council Landmark Tree Committee Regular Meeting. Upon motion by Member Sustarich and second by Chair Boss, the November 14, 2006 Meeting Minutes were approved with no objection. (Absent:  Members Habert and Griswold) (Explanatory Document: Approved Minutes of the November 14, 2006 Regular Meeting)


3.      DISCUSSION and POSSIBLE ACTION:  The Committee discussed trees spanning property lines and how it affects the nomination by a property owner. 

Chair Boss advised that landmark tree nomination issues presented at the November Landmark Tree Committee meeting went beyond the legal scope of the Committee and requested that a recommendation be made as to how the Committee should proceed.


Member Sustarich asked what the legal ramifications are of the location of the tree roots, branches and trunk in determining proper tree nominations.  Member Blair stated that she is not aware of any local or state laws pertaining to this issue and agreed with Neighbor Law that states, “the location of the majority of the trunk defines ownership.”


Deputy City Attorney Cabrera stated that she researched ownership identification for tree trunks that span two property lines and advised that under California Law if a tree trunk spans two property lines, the two property owners would have co-ownership.  It was stated that Mr. Frattin’s argument was that the Landmark Tree Ordinance was ambiguous and because some of the branches, roots, and shoots were on the adjacent property owner’s land, he had an interest and should have been included as a nominator for the nomination to be legal.  It was stated that the Landmark Tree Ordinance Section 810(b) states, “The tree may be nominated for designation as a landmark tree by any of the following parties (i) the property owner whose property contains the subject tree by written request to the Urban Forestry Council.”  It was indicated that once a tree is landmarked, the roots are also protected. 


Chair Boss recommended that the Committee could interpret Section 810(b) to read “the property owners whose property (ies) contain(s) the tree.”  Member Blair stated that Neighbor Law indicates that the adjacent property owner would not have ownership of a tree unless they have paid money to care for and maintain the tree.  Member Blair stated that according to state law and the referenced book, the neighbor has a right to trim the tree, but not a right to harm the tree.  Chair Boss asked Deputy City Attorney Cabrera for a legal opinion as to whether care of a tree would determine ownership. Member Habert indicated that adjacent property owners who have branches or shoots on their property should have a voice but not be able to block the nomination.  Member Blair advised that if the adjoining neighbor causes destruction of the tree, then the property owner would incur a huge debt to remove the tree. 


Member Sustarich recommended that the legality of nominations be decided legally.  Chair Boss stated that if this issue is left open, it could leave the Council open to future legal actions and jeopardize future landmark designations.


Urban Forestry Specialist Ma recommended that Department of Building Inspection staff attend a future meeting to share their experience as they frequently review permits at private properties.


Public Comment:  Urban Forestry Council Chair Terry Milne stated that Mr. Frattin was using the City Administrative Code and Architectural Landmarks Ordinance as an analogy to making his argument instead of using an actual argument.  It was recommended that the Urban Forestry Council not look beyond what the Landmark Tree Ordinance states.


Member Blair motioned to not make recommendations for amendments to the Landmark Tree Ordinance at this time; second by Member Habert.  AYES:  Members Blair and Habert; NOES:  Members Boss and Sustarich.  (Tie Vote) This Motion did not pass.


Public Comment:  Ms. Fish spoke in support of recommending amendments to the Landmark Tree Ordinance to contain language on what defines a legal property owner nomination.


Chair Boss recommended that the Urban Forestry Council discuss what defines a legal property owner nomination at a future meeting.  A request was made for Urban Forestry Specialist Ma to research whether other communities with Landmark Tree Ordinances have a precedent for dealing with this issue.  Member Sustarich stated that he had read Arboriculture and the Law, which is vague and open to interpretation in terms of legal ownership. 


Member Blair advised that Neighbor Law refers to California State Law and quotes actual cases.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera advised that it is a secondary source and you would have to go to the cases to attain the actual text.  Chair Boss asked Member Blair to cite specific cases that were referred to from Neighbor Law.  Member Blair advised that 25 other cities do not deal with this issue because they have protection for all trees with a 12 inch plus trunk diameter.


This item was continued to the January 9, 2007 Landmark Tree Committee Meeting.  Member Blair asked Deputy City Attorney Cabrera to cite specific cases for the meeting.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera advised that cases can be cited, but it would still be a matter of interpretation. 


  1. DISCUSSION:  The Landmark Tree Committee discussed various outreach and celebratory methods to promote landmarking of trees (Explanatory Document Distributed in Committee Meeting: Landmark Tree Outreach).

SPEAKERS:  Members Blair and Griswold


Member Blair reported that she had met with Members Cohen and Griswold to discuss outreach ideas.  It was recommended that a brochure on landmarking trees be created using the salary savings from a decrease in Urban Forestry Staff.  Urban Forestry Specialist Ma advised that there is no current funding available for a brochure and that budget funds allocated to personnel cannot be moved to creating publications.  Member Blair stated that the Board of Supervisors’ budget indicates that the Urban Forestry Council’s budget increased by $11,000 and asked if any of these funds could be spent towards a brochure.  Ms. Ma stated that those funds are allocated to salaries and overhead and cannot be redistributed to publications or other programs.


Member Blair discussed outreach methods that include (1) creating a letter for Urban Forestry Council approval asking each Board of Supervisor member to landmark a tree or trees in their district and for each Department Head to select a tree for landmarking and (2) Council Member Miller’s recommendation to include an outreach statement in PG&E notices.  Member Blair suggested that the Neighborhood Parks Council could reach out to all their neighborhood parks and that a letter be written to the Recreation and Park Department asking for their support to nominate trees in each neighborhood park, starting with the Monterey Cypress in front of McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park.

Chair Boss recommended that it could be either one letter to all entities or more than one letter.  A letter to the Superintendent of Schools asking if they would like to be involved in a school or community development process to have a school nominated tree was discussed.   Member Habert advised that the San Francisco Unified School District, the Port of San Francisco, and the Redevelopment Agency are not under the jurisdiction of the City, and properties are owned by the state.  Chair Boss stated that a Board of Supervisor member could nominate trees on state property. 


Member Blair recommended that the letter sent to the Recreation and Park Department General Manager include support letters from the Neighborhood Parks Council and other environmental groups.  It was also recommended that the Mayor proclaim that this be the Year of the Urban Forest 2007 and do a presentation to the Board of Supervisors.  Urban Forestry Specialist Ma advised that the Mayor is hiring a new Director of City Greening possibly in January 2007 that can be worked with on this effort.  Member Blair asked that outreach be completed in time for Earth Day or Arbor Day, which is approximately four months away.   


The Committee agreed to request through the Council Chair that discussion and approval of the draft letter be placed on the January Urban Forestry Council’s meeting agenda.  Member Habert would draft a letter from the Urban Forestry Council to the Mayor to the Board of Supervisors to Department Heads.  Member Blair suggested that another outreach method for recommending trees could be through arborists, Department of Public Works, and Friends of the Urban Forest.  It was advised that Friends of the Urban Forest staff would be meeting to discuss this issue.


  1. DISCUSSION: New Business.  Member Blair asked for the disposition of trees that were potential landmark nominations but have not been nominated because of various reasons.  Urban Forestry Specialist Ma advised that in some cases it was because of a lack of property owner interest.  Chair Boss asked that there be increased compatibility between the Evaluation Form and landmark tree criteria and recommended adding checkboxes to how the tree would fit into the criteria.  Chair Boss recommended exploring the possibility of having primary and secondary criteria and the importance of certain criteria over others and adding this item to a future agenda for discussion.  Member Blair recommended that the Committee ask the Urban Forestry Council to request that the Treasure Island Development Authority document existing trees and include them in the new design.  Ms. Fish, Council Secretary advised that the Council could prepare a Resolution recommending that the Treasure Island Development Authority do so.  It was suggested that Member Blair work with the Council Chair on this effort.


  1. FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS.  Urban Forestry Specialist Ma advised that the Department of Public Works has nominated a coast live oak at 22-26 Rosemont and would be before the Landmark Tree Committee on January 9. 


  1. PUBLIC COMMENT:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  Urban Forestry Specialist Ma stated that she would be on leave from December 31 – January 9 and will not be attending the Landmark Tree Committee meeting on January 9.  Ms. Anne Eng, Environmental Justice Program Manager will be attending the meeting.  Ms. Ma indicated that her evaluation form will be prepared before the meeting, but a staff analysis would not be available.  Member Sustarich announced that Council Member Costello would be presenting the Tree Pruning Standards on December 13 at the County Fair Building at Golden Gate Park from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  Member Blair requested that future meeting dates and times be added to agendas. 


  1. ADJOURNMENT.  The Landmark Tree Committee meeting adjourned at 5:22 p.m.


The next Landmark Tree Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. in Room 421, City Hall.


Respectfully submitted by,


Monica Fish

Council Secretary



Adopted: January 9, 2007

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