04.08 Approved Minutes

City and County of San Francisco

Urban Forestry Council

LANDMARK TREE COMMITTEE

APPROVED MEETING MINUTES

 

Tuesday, April 8, 2008, 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, Malcolm Hillan, and Mark Sustarich.

 

Order of Business

 

1.      Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Landmark Tree Committee meeting was called to order at 4:07 p.m.  Present:  Chair Boss, Members Blair, Griswold and Hillan; Excused: Member Sustarich.

 

2.      Adoption of Minutes of the December 11, 2007 Urban Forestry Council Landmark Tree Committee Regular Meeting (Discussion and Action).  Upon Motion by Member Blair and second by Member Hillan, the December 11, 2007 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (Explanatory Document: Approved Minutes of the December 11, 2007 Regular Meeting). 

 

3.        Public Works Code Section 802(x). The Committee shall discuss and refine the existing City definition of the word "tree" as it relates to the Landmark Tree Ordinance and make recommendations to the full Council (Discussion and Possible Action) (Explanatory Document: Article 16 Public Works Code 802(x) (page 5)

Chair Boss read the Public Works Code Section 802(x) definition of tree: "Tree" shall mean any large perennial plant having a woody trunk(s), branches, and leaves. Trees also shall include palm trees.”  Chair Boss felt that this definition was not precise enough to make a determination of what a tree is.  It was stated that the Committee has a woody plant to consider at this meeting that may or may not fall into the definition of a tree, and an alternative definition would be a shrub.  Chair Boss explained that the Public Works Code definition as written does not make a distinction between a tree and a shrub except for its interpretation of the word large.

Chair Boss distributed definitions of trees from three sources, the Jepson Manual, Hortus Third, and the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs).  It was stated that the definitions from all three sources aren’t precisely the same, but in general, one of the operative considerations is that trees and shrubs are all woody. Definitions do vary from consideration of size to the nature of the trunk.  Chair Boss indicated that the consensus is that trees are large and shrubs are smaller and that in general, trees have a single main trunk whereas shrubs have multi trunks or they branch from the base.  It was stated that in California, trees and shrubs do not always fall into the pattern as described, and definitions do not define the difference in size; e.g., what is small and what is large. Chair Boss referenced a definition that was used from his graduate school work that trees tend to be over 15 feet, and shrubs tend to be smaller than 15 feet.

Member Griswold stated that there are plenty of other criteria through which “landmarkable” qualities should be considered and would rather judge on the object itself to see if it meets most of the landmark criteria.  Member Hillan stated that the Committee should apply their collective experience and common sense as professionals to make future judgments on whether a nomination is a tree.  Coordinator Hui reported that whatever is decided has to be in line with the existing Public Works Code.

Chair Boss stated that since the Council is an advisory body, they can make a recommendation to refine the definition of a tree.  Member Blair felt that the Council should not limit itself by a vague definition and should examine the landmark tree evaluation criteria when making a determination.  Chair Boss stated that before consideration is given to whether it is “landmarkable”, consideration has to be given to whether it is a tree. 

Public Comment:

Mr. Roy Leggitt, Consulting Arborist, commented on the concept of size stating that size is a relative value--every species has a different genetic potential and reaches a different size over a different amount of time and has a different finite life span. The Committee was asked not to exclude woody perennials from discussion and not to be narrow as to what it is willing to consider.  An example was given of two Manzanitas that are 30-feet high with 18-inch trunks.  This group of plants should not be excluded because they are cultivated commonly in the nursery and landscape trade as shrubs, which is a misconception. Mr. Leggitt explained that woody perennials can develop as single-trunked trees.  Mr. Leggitt stated that he would recommend that the horticultural community abandon their definitions of shrub trees and woody perennials and categorize them all as woody plants as reflected in many major publications.

Mr. Mike Vasey, botanist and lecturer San Francisco State University, explained that some shrubs grow very tall and are actually trees.  Mr. Vasey stated that he was not familiar with the Landmark Tree Committee and their goals, and asked if there was an interest in trying to protect the remnant vegetation of the peninsula before landscaping took place.  It was stated that San Francisco has relatively few trees and asked if there is an interest in protecting the existing indigenous flora as it consists of many more lower-stature woody perennial entities than tall trees.

Dr. Tom Parker, Professor, San Francisco State University and botanist, stated that there is no black and white distinction between shrubs and trees, so whatever definition is decided will be unsatisfactory.  Mr. Parker stated that he thinks that the ambiguity should be to the Committee’s advantage because things can be added or removed as is deserved based on other criteria.  It was explained that Manzanita are extremely long-lived and live as long as many trees that would not be questioned as being a tree. Mr. Parker explained that Manzanita have single trunks for the most part. 

Ms. K. Rose Hillson discussed conflicting references in various publications she has read on whether certain plants are actually trees or shrubs; e.g. Blue Elderberry, Manzanita.  It was stated that there are not that many trees in San Francisco, and many existing trees are referred to as shrubs. Ms. Hillson discussed the Ohlone population’s use of plants, how only four percent of that list was considered to be trees, and indicated that not all of that four percent of trees currently exist.

Chair Boss asked whether the Committee felt that woody plants should be considered for landmark status based on whether they have historical significance instead of consideration for whether or not they are trees.  Member Griswold stated that landmark status should be recommended based on evaluation of all of the criteria.  Member Hillan stated that the Committee is not just considering historical information, an ethno-botanical reference, or the definitions that would apply in a botanical or scientific journal, but should be considering public perception and what the Committee has been charged with fundamentally by the people of San Francisco to do. Member Hillan recommended referencing professional experience, common sense, and to ask whether the plant is a tree, whether it is landmarkable, and whether it should be before the Committee. Member Hillan felt that trying to modify the existing definition would not be beneficial.

Mr. Malamut, Deputy City Attorney, stated that the definition of tree does not just apply to landmark trees but also applies to significant trees and to the definition of what constitutes a street tree.  Mr. Malamut suggested contacting the Department of Public Works who has had over ten years of experience determining what could be considered as a street tree and would have the administrative practice and guidance that would help in this discussion.     

Mr. Leggitt reported that he has worked with the Public Works Code as it relates to street trees as a member of the Tree Advisory Board which is a predecessor organization providing advice to the Department of Public Works.  It was explained that street trees have been planted for many years from shrub species that are trained as trees by nursery practice.  Mr. Leggitt stated that he upholds his earlier comment related to discarding the distinction between shrubs and trees and considering woody perennials based on their own merits rather than their size or species characteristics. 

Mr. Leggitt felt that it would be remiss to exclude a lot of the urban forest as potential landmarks because they are technically shrub species according to more restricted definitions.  It was indicated that the Department of Public Works has a precedent that supports considering what we would otherwise call shrubs as part of the tree population. Mr. Leggitt explained that certain shrub species are sometimes used as street trees because they meet street-clearance requirements. The Committee was asked to maintain flexibility in their considerations.  It was stated that the Department of Public Works would not enlighten the Committee in any way, and that the Public Works Code definition is appropriately vague.

Coordinator Hui explained that she believes that shrubs that are considered trees can be trained into a tree form and can reach a certain height so they are considered a tree form.  It was stated that there are plenty of shrubs that can’t be trained in a tree form and should not be considered a tree.

Member Hillan motioned, second by Member Blair that the Committee formally retain for purposes of their activities the definition of a tree provided in Public Works Code 802(x).  Chair Boss motioned, second by Member Hillan to table Member Hillan’s motion until relevant parties that have used this definition; e.g., the Department of Public Works, could provide feedback before an action is taken (AYES:  Chair Boss, Members Griswold and Hillan; NOES:  Member Blair; Absent:  Member Sustarich).  Motion approved—Continued to the Call of the Chair.

 

4.      Hearing on Nominations for Landmark Tree Status. The Landmark Tree Committee will hold a hearing to determine whether the trees nominated at the following addresses meet the criteria for designation as landmark trees (Discussion and Action).

 

Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa, located at 2626 Vallejo Street, Assessor’s Block 0953, Lot 006. (Explanatory Documents: Nomination Forms and Photos and Staff Evaluation Form)

 

Howell’s Manzanita (Manzanita hispidula), located at 115 Parker Avenue, Assessor’s Block 1064, Lot 002 (Explanatory Documents: Nomination Form, Photos and Staff Evaluation Form)

 

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Landmark Tree Committee will vote on whether to approve or reject the nominations 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.

 


Staff Evaluation—115 Parker Avenue, Howell’s Manzanita

 

Coordinator Hui presented her evaluation of criteria for consideration of the Manzanita for landmark tree status and stated that the Manzanita is rare, healthy and attractive, but expressed her concern whether the nomination can be considered a tree or a shrub.

 

Property Owner Presentation

 

K. Rose Hillson, discussed qualifying criteria for nominating the Manzanita at 115 Parker for landmark tree status as outlined in her nomination form explanatory document (above).   Ms. Hillson described the tree’s historical, social and cultural significance, importance due to association with a site, how it is a defining or meaningful feature of a neighborhood, serving as a wildlife habitat, and excellent vitality. 

 

Outside Professional Staff Presentation

 

Mr. Roy Leggitt, Consulting Arborist, stated that he has evaluated the Manzanita, which appears to be a healthy plant and indicated that it is a single stem woody perennial naturally developing in that way, meets all his criteria as a tree just like a lot of other plants do, and is healthy, without major defects or problems.  It is in a favorable cultivation environment that has changed and become more favorable with plants and would expect this plant to become larger if more competing plants nearby were removed.  Mr. Leggitt stated that the Manzanita could be much older than imagined because competing plants may have caused its suppressed growth.  From an arboriculture standpoint, it meets his criteria and is healthy. Mr. Leggitt indicated that the Manzanita is decades old, but it could be on the upper end of the age span or more because these plants grow extremely slowly in their natural settings.

 

Chair Boss inquired about the health of the Manzanita as he observed potential problems during his evaluation. Dr. Parker stated that these plants have a single cycle of growth each year, flowering in January and February.  They put out new growths a couple of months later, roughly beginning in April – June.  In late summer, the bark is growing, the wood grows, the old bark splits off, and in the fall the oldest leaves are discarded.  That period trails in through the winter depending upon how stressed they were the year before and how much they were able to grow the year before. The Manzanita species is always dropping leaves, which is not indicative of ill health.  

 

Mr. Vasey stated that he and Dr. Parker are working on rewriting the Jepson Manual section on the Manzanita.  A discussion was held about identifying which species this Manzanita is because it exhibits the characteristics of three different species. Mr. Vasey indicated that it is possible that this Manzanita is a new species altogether, but would be hesitant to name it as a new species or separate species until another example of this potential species was located.

 

Committee Evaluation Reports

 

Member Hillan discussed his Evaluation Report and stated that the Manzanita is a significant plant that should receive protection and care, but would not recommend the Manzanita for landmark status as a tree.  Member Blair discussed her Evaluation Report and stated that the Manzanita is a significant landmark whether it is a tree or not, but is not sure whether it can be landmarked at this time.  Chair Boss discussed his Evaluation Report and stated that his main concern is whether the Manzanita is a tree and questioned whether the Landmark Tree Committee is the forum for providing protection for this plant. Chair Boss indicated that he would hope that there would be a forum for this plant to receive recognition and protection and is not sure whether the San Francisco Public Works Code has an effective way to deal with this type of situation.  It was suggested that recommendations could be made to the Board of Supervisors to create landmark shrub and rare plant criteria.

 

Explanatory Documents:  Committee Evaluation Reports.

 

Property Owner Rebuttal

 

Ms. Hillson stated that she felt the Manzanita is tall enough to be considered a tree.

 

Discussion and Action by Committee

 

Member Griswold moved that the Manzanita be recommended to the Urban Forestry Council for approval of landmark tree status, second by Member Blair (AYES:  Members Griswold and Blair; NOES:  Chair Boss and Member Hillan).  Tie vote does not pass.  The Manzanita will be forwarded to the Urban Forestry Council without recommendation for consideration at their April 22 meeting.

 

Staff Evaluation-2626 Vallejo Street, Monterey Cypress

 

Coordinator Hui presented her evaluation of criteria for consideration of the Monterey Cypress for landmark tree status (see Staff Evaluation Form) and recommended this tree as a great candidate for landmark tree status. Additional letters of support for landmark tree status were distributed in Committee meeting.

 

Property Owner’s Presentation

 

Ms. Heyman discussed the merits of the Monterey Cypress and described her reasons for nominating the tree for landmark status; its beauty, age and care it is receiving.  Ms. Heyman described her interests in gardening and indicated that she has written essays about garden design. Ms. Heyman reported that an arborist was hired to prune the tree for safety, health, shape, and views.

 

Committee Evaluation Reports

 

Member Griswold reported on his favorable impression of the Monterey Cypress tree, but expressed his concern relative to the boundary of the property and inquired about the proximity of the neighbor’s property. Ms. Heyman explained that the base of the tree is on her property, but the tree spreads over both properties.  Member Hillan discussed his Evaluation Report and stated that the commonness of the tree is a concern, but given the context of this individual tree and its condition, he would recommend landmark tree status. Member Boss discussed his Evaluation Form criteria and stated that he would support landmark tree status. Member Blair indicated that she had seen a Monterey Cypress in the neighborhood which was very tall, in great shape, and in its natural form and because of the commonness of the tree, would like to landmark only the best specimens of Monterey Cypress. Member Blair expressed her hesitation for recommending landmark tree status because the tree is not in its natural form and had been topped.

 

Explanatory Documents: Committee Evaluation Reports Monterey Cypress, 2626 Vallejo Street.

    

Staff Rebuttal

 

Coordinator Hui stated that the tree is a common species, but that large trees in San Francisco are uncommon.  The UFORE Report states that 51.4% of all trees in the City have a DBH of less than 6 inches; so large trees, especially large and well cared for trees are a rarity in San Francisco. Coordinator Hui indicated that the tree has been taken care of to protect safety and can live longer in the area that it is located.

 

Property Owner Rebuttal

 

Ms. Heyman stated that the tree cutter indicated that the tree has nice spacing, is not experiencing a lot of stress, and would have been concerned if the heavier limb were on the low side pulling the tree down, but luckily, it is the lighter limb. 

 

Discussion and Action by the Committee

 

Committee Members asked Ms. Heyman whether any of the neighbors had expressed concern for landmarking the tree.  Ms. Heyman indicated that there are several letters of support that had been submitted, and her neighbor to the north had not presented their concerns for or against landmarking.  It was stated that the neighbor to the north would be doing renovation to their home, and that a tree protection plan is in place.

 

Upon Motion by Member Hillan and second by Member Griswold, the Monterey Cypress at 2626 Vallejo Street was approved for recommendation to the Urban Forestry Council for landmark tree status.  The Council’s meeting is scheduled for April 22, 2008. (AYES:  Chair Boss, Members Blair, Griswold, and Hillan; Absent:  Member Sustarich.)

 

5.      Approval of Documents for Notification of Landmark Tree Hearings and Discussion of Amendments to Public Works Code Section 810 on Landmark Trees. The Committee shall discuss Ordinance Amendments approved by the Board of Supervisors on March 25, 2008 and vote on draft notification documents to forward to the full Council for approval. (Explanatory Documents: Ordinance amending Public Works Code Section 810, Draft Landmark Tree Hearing Notices and Examples of DPW Tree Removal Hearing Notice and Urban Forestry Council’s Notice to Property Owner of Landmark Tree Nomination) (Discussion and Action).

 

Coordinator Hui explained that noticing requirements for landmark tree hearings would go into effect on April 20, and for the Council’s April 22 meeting, she would have to notice the trees that were heard today.  Coordinator Hui explained that if the property is over one acre in size, a sign can be noticed, and if the tree is under one acre, letters are sent to eight adjoining property owners. Deputy City Attorney Malamut reported that the letters comply with recent amendments to the Public Works Code.  Coordinator Hui explained that it would be her staff assignment to comply with the noticing requirements.

 

Upon Motion by Chair Boss, and second by Member Hillan, the Hearing Notices were approved without objection (AYES:  Chair Boss, Members Blair, Griswold and Hillan; Absent:  Member Sustarich). 

 

6.      Landmark Tree Evaluation Criteria. The Committee shall continue to discuss redefining landmark tree evaluation criteria and discuss criteria used in other jurisdictions. (Continued from the December 11, 2007 Meeting) (Explanatory Documents: Original Landmark Tree Evaluation Criteria Evaluation Criteria Revised 050307, Phytosphere Guidelines for Developing and Evaluating Tree Ordinances and Jurisdictions’ Criteria Forms) (Discussion).

 

This item was continued to the May 13, 2008 meeting.

 

7.      Visible Identification of Landmark Trees after Designation. The Landmark Tree Committee shall discuss methods for visibly identifying trees that have received landmark tree status (Continued from the December 11, 2007 Meeting) (Explanatory Document: Bench marker images)  (Discussion).

 

This item was continued to the May 13, 2008 meeting.

 

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

 

Chair Boss inquired whether the most current version of the Landmark Tree Evaluation Form is being used by staff as he believes the forms were revised over a period of time to include staff input into tree diameter and height. Chair Boss stated that he thought there should be a correlation between the nomination and evaluation forms.  Coordinator Hui indicated that she accessed her form from the Urban Forestry Council’s folder of current forms and explained that her staff position does not require her to be an arborist and could not provide the measurements requested. Chair Boss asked that this issue be put on the agenda for the next meeting.  Coordinator Hui asked Committee members to bring explanatory documents for Agenda Items 6 and 7 back to the next meeting in order to conserve resources.  Coordinator Hui also reported that the Landmark Tree Map that lists all landmark trees is now included in the San Francisco Environment landmark tree page.

 

9.      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. There was no public comment at this time.

 

10. Adjournment. The Landmark Tree Committee meeting adjourned at 6:28 p.m.

 

The next Landmark Tree Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 4:00 p.m., Room 421, City Hall.

 

Approved: June 10, 2008

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