01.09 Approved Minutes

 

City and County of San Francisco

DEpartment of the ENvironment

URBAN FORESTRY COUNCIL
LANDMARK TREE COMMITTEE

 

REGULAR MEETING

APPROVED MINUTES

 

Tuesday, January 9, 2007, 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

ORDER OF BUSINESS

 

1.      CALL TO ORDER AND ROLL CALL. The meeting was called to order at 4:01 p.m.  Present:  Chair Boss, Members Blair, Griswold, Habert (4:10 p.m.), and Sustarich.  Deputy City Attorney Alicia Cabrera was present.

 

2.      ACTION: Adoption of minutes of the December 12, 2006 Urban Forestry Council Landmark Tree Committee Regular Meeting. Upon motion by Member Sustarich and second by Member Griswold, the December 12, 2006 Meeting Minutes were approved with no objection. (Absent:  Member Habert) (Explanatory Document: Approved Minutes of the December 12, 2006 Regular Meeting)

 

3.      DISCUSSION and ACTION: Hearing on Nominations for Landmark Tree Status. The Landmark Tree Committee held a hearing to determine whether the tree nominated at the following address meets the criteria for designation as landmark trees:

 

Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) at 22-26 Rosemont Place

 

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Landmark Tree Committee voted on whether to approve or reject the nomination and shall adopt written findings to support its decision to forward to the Urban Forestry Council.  The Council will forward approved nominations to the Board of Supervisors for further consideration. (Explanatory Documents: Landmark Tree Nomination Form, pictures, parcel map, evaluation form).

 

Members Sustarich, Blair and Habert viewed the subject tree and presented their observations.  It was stated that Staff’s and the Department of Public Work’s evaluation forms differed in reference to height and canopy width. Chair Boss stated that Committee members received only one-day notice in order to view the tree and requested additional notice in the future.  Member Blair expressed her concern that a private citizen would not have enough knowledge to fill out the landmark tree evaluation form.  Member Habert stated that landmarking the tree may cause an abridgement of property rights of the property owner behind the site and expressed concern that landmark trees could be used as part of a development war.  It was advised that there is a petition before the Planning Commission for approval to build condominium units at the site.

 

Member Griswold asked if the Committee should be addressing political issues such as possible developments and neighbor boundaries.  Chair Boss advised that the Committee’s task is to determine whether the tree fits the criteria set forth by the Urban Forestry Council pursuant to the Landmark Tree Ordinance and stated that a process discussion is an important topic that should be addressed under a separate agenda item.

 

Committee Members summarized landmark tree evaluation criteria for the subject tree as follows:  the tree is a notably large and old native tree providing wildlife habitat in an interdependent group of trees, having a character defining form for its species, and in excellent condition. 

 

Upon Motion by Member Sustarich and second by Chair Boss, the nominated tree at 22-26 Rosemont Place was recommended for landmark status to the Urban Forestry Council.  (AYES:  Member Sustarich, Chair Boss and Member Habert. NOES:  Members Blair and Griswold.)

 

Chair Boss requested that (1) Committee members who saw the tree fill out and submit an evaluation form to the Council Secretary or Urban Forestry Specialist who would forward the forms to the Chair in order to prepare a written summary; and (2) asked that the Urban Forestry Council be given an opportunity to view the tree with adequate advance notice.

   

  1. DISCUSSION and POSSIBLE ACTION:  The Committee discussed trees spanning property lines and how it affects the nomination by a property owner.  (Continued from the December 12, 2006 Meeting).

 

Chair Boss discussed the controversy surrounding the Chenery Street landmark tree nomination where the trunk was almost entirely on one property but the roots and canopy extended to another property.  It was stated that the Committee did not pass a Motion and was neutral on requiring multiple property owners collectively to be part of the nomination process.  Chair Boss explained that it was important for the Landmark Tree Committee to discuss whether trees are landmarkable or not and not to be the referendum for property disputes.  It was advised that Department Head or Board of Supervisors nominations would be valid if the nominated tree spanned multiple property lines.

 

Member Griswold asked whether the landmark process obligates the Committee to inform adjacent property owners that a neighbor’s tree has been nominated.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera advised that there is no Ordinance requirement at this time.  Member Habert stated that it was important to receive information on outstanding development permits at the nominated site.  Member Griswold recommended that the Committee consider a tree based on the evaluation criteria and not on political issues or disputes surrounding the nomination, and that the Board of Supervisors resolves the political controversy.  Member Blair recommended not allowing legal testimony at the Committee level.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera advised that public comment is legally required.

 

Deputy City Attorney Cabrera presented (1) California Statutes Sections 833 on “TREES; trunks upon land of one owner; ownership and Section 834 Line Trees; common ownership,” (2) Neighbor Law on “Ownership,” and (3) two relevant cases (Explanatory Document: Tree Cases).   It was advised that California law defines the tree trunk as determining ownership.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera stated that the Landmark Tree Ordinance reads “the property owner that contains the subject tree” as being the legal nominator and does not further define requirements for nomination.  The Ordinance does not include a reference to the tree trunk.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera stated that whether the tree has been legally nominated is left up to Committee interpretation.  Member Blair stated that requiring all property owners to approve a landmark tree nomination would present too many barriers. 

 

Member Sustarich asked if the Council’s determination could be challenged in court.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera stated that it is a matter of interpretation, and the challenge would be against the Ordinance. 

 

No action was taken on this item.

 

Item 8 was heard before Item 5.

 

  1. DISCUSSION: The Committee explored landmark tree criteria importance. 

 

Chair Boss stated that a revised draft format of the landmark tree evaluation form would be presented at the next Committee meeting.  The objective would be that the evaluation form would mirror the established criteria.  It was stated that the evaluation form currently contains items that the Committee members may not be qualified to evaluate. 

 

Member Blair recommended including rare criteria as the determination of the number of species of its kind and its diversity in San Francisco.

 

This item was continued to the February 13, 2007 Committee meeting as a Discussion and Possible Action Item to approve the amended Landmark Tree Evaluation Form.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera would report at the next meeting whether the full Council would be required to approve the evaluation form before the new version can be adopted.

 

  1. DISCUSSION and POSSIBLE ACTION:  Public Outreach Plan (Continued from the December 12, 2006 Meeting).

SPEAKERS:  Members Blair and Habert

 

Member Habert stated that he had drafted a letter to San Francisco citizens and Departments that own property to convey the Council’s enthusiasm about landmarking trees, to initiate property owner’s interest, and a walk-through of the process.  The letter contains information on who can place a tree nomination and how, what happens when a tree nomination is placed, what happens when a tree is nominated and accepted, and then in closing what a great idea it is and the Council wants you to do it.  Member Habert recommended that the evaluation criteria once finalized should be appended to the letter.  A letter would also be addressed to the Board of Supervisors requesting that each Supervisor nominate a tree in their district. 

 

Members Blair and Sustarich discussed the idea of citizens receiving public outreach through PG&E or water bill mailings and Members Habert and Chair Boss agreed that this type of effort may initiate more nominations than the Committee can handle. 

 

Member Habert asked whether private citizens can initiate the nomination of buildings to be on the national or local register of historic buildings.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera advised that nominations would have to be heard by the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board and stated that she would report back whether private citizens can initiate nominations.  Member Habert suggested that the Landmark Tree process mirror the Landmark Building process.

 

Member Blair urged the Department of the Environment to launch the Landmark Tree website and suggested that it be done right away as part of the public outreach plan.

 

Member Habert agreed to email the Council Secretary the draft letter to include as part of the next Committee meeting packet.  This item was continued to the February 13, 2007 meeting.  

 

  1. DISCUSSION: New Business

 

Ms. Fish, Council Secretary, stated that at a previous meeting, Chair Boss requested that the Landmark Tree Committee process be heard at a future Council meeting and asked whether it should be placed on the next Council agenda.  Chair Boss indicated that it would not be necessary to add this item to the Council agenda at this time.

 

Chair Boss asked how the Committee members would know when the Board of Supervisors hears a landmark tree so comments could be provided.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera stated that the only way was to check “Legislation Introduced” on the website or to call the Board office directly.  It was advised that Ms. Grace Ma, Urban Forestry Specialist had in the past inquired as to when a tree would be introduced in order to coordinate an effort for staff or someone from Urban Forestry to speak on behalf of a particular tree.

 

Member Blair recommended that an amendment be made to the Landmark Tree Ordinance requiring that the Urban Forestry Council be made aware of all potential landmark tree nominations that are introduced at the Board of Supervisors.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera advised that once the Board of Supervisors introduces a tree nomination, the 180-day protection of the tree starts.  However, the Urban Forestry Council does not have jurisdiction to hear the tree until the full Board has voted to nominate the tree.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera indicated that the Board of Supervisors is not prohibited from landmarking a tree once the 180-day protection status expires.

 

Member Blair asked Deputy City Attorney Cabrera to explain the landmark tree introduction of nominations process.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera stated that it depends what the sponsor of the nomination decides to do. A Motion can be made to send the introduced legislation to the full Board to sit as a Committee of the Whole or a Motion can be made for it to be heard by a Board Committee.  The Board President can put a 30-day restriction on the item.  If there is no 30-day restriction and it goes to Committee, it can be decided in Committee or potentially four or more supervisors can call the measure back to the Board of Supervisors so they can hear it or it can stay in Committee for up to six months.  The “Legislation Introduced” indicates the disposition of the item, whether it was referred to Committee or if there is a restriction that it needs to stay in Committee for 30 days.

 

A request was made to add this item to the Urban Forestry Council agenda as a “Discussion of the 180-day Process as it Relates to the Valley Oak Tree on 25th Street.”

 

  1. FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS.  (1) Tree replacement discussion (Sponsor:  Member Habert), (2) Revised evaluation form on landmark tree criteria (Sponsor:  Chair Boss).  Member Blair requested that the 180-day landmark tree protection date be discussed so a process is established that everyone is kept apprised of time requirements.   Chair Boss recommended that this issue be considered at the next full Council meeting.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera advised that Member Blair could present her recommendations independently to Supervisor McGoldrick and/or through the full Council.

 

Public Comment:  Council Chair Milne asked the Deputy City Attorney whether there was additional information on potential amendments to the Landmark Tree Ordinance that is being drafted so the Council can discuss and provide input at their next Council meeting.  Deputy City Attorney Cabrera stated that Deputy City Attorney John Malamut is charged with drafting the Ordinance on behalf of Supervisor McGoldrick’s office and would report back with further information.  Chair Milne presented a copy of a newspaper article on Commission attendance that the Council adopted a policy on at a previous meeting.

 

  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.

Mr. Kenneth Gwin, neighbor of the 25th Street Valley Oak, discussed the failure of the landmark tree process in the case of the valley oak tree on 25th Street that was cut down after the 180-day protection status expired.  It was stated that property owners, tenants, and neighbors have certain rights and that the Committee will continue to hear landmark tree disputes as a result of conflicting viewpoints.  Mr. Gwin recommended that the Committee focus on whether the tree is worthy of being a landmark and not be involved in disputes.

 

  1. ADJOURNMENT.  The Landmark Tree Committee meeting adjourned at 6:17 p.m.

 

The next Landmark Tree Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. in Room 421, City Hall.

 

Respectfully submitted by,

 

Monica Fish

Council Secretary

 

Adopted:  February 13, 2007

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