08.12 Approved Minutes

Urban Forestry Council

LANDMARK TREE COMMITTEE

APPROVED MEETING MINUTES

 

Tuesday, August 12, 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 4:06 p.m.  Present:  Chair Boss, Members Griswold and Member Milne who was appointed as a temporary member for this meeting. Excused: Members Hillan and Sustarich; Absent:  Member Blair. 

 

2.  Adoption of Minutes of the June 10, 2008 Urban Forestry Council Landmark Tree Committee Regular Meeting (Explanatory Document: June 10, 2008 Approved Minutes) (Discussion and Action).

Upon motion by Chair Boss and second by Member Griswold, the June 10, 2008 Landmark Tree Committee Meeting Minutes were approved as written without objection (AYES:  Chair Boss, Members Griswold and Milne; Absent:  Members Blair, Hillan and Sustarich).

 

3.  Hearing on Nomination for Landmark Tree Status. The Landmark Tree Committee will hold a hearing to determine whether the tree nominated at the following address meets the criteria for designation as a landmark tree. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Landmark Tree Committee will vote 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. (Discussion and Action).

 

Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra) located at 501 Octavia, corner of Hayes Street, Assessor’s Block 0807, Lot 004 (approximate) (Explanatory Documents:  Nomination Forms, Evaluation Form, and Pictures 501 Octavia Landmark Nomination Packet). 

 

Sponsor for the Evaluation

 

Ms. P.J. Dayacamos, initiator of the nomination, spoke for the sponsor, Director Jared Blumenfeld, in support of recommending landmark tree status. Ms. Dayacamos reported that she had moved to the Hayes Valley neighborhood in October of 1980 and described the abundance of large trees that were in the neighborhood at that time, including the tree she proposed to landmark. Ms. Dayacamos stated that in her review of the landmark tree list, she noticed that there were no Lombardy Poplar trees previously landmarked, and that she has not seen any trees of this species in San Francisco of this majesty.  Reasons that were provided for recommending landmark tree status included tree: size, vitality, history, neighborhood appreciation, noise buffer, is a bird habitat that has served as a safe haven for many birds seeking protection from raptors, provides shade for surrounding buildings and people, and a prominent landscape feature that offers a beautiful view from the surrounding freeway and roads.  

 

Ms. Dayacamos reported that many trees in the neighborhood had been chopped down for the sake of improvements, but that the intersection where this tree resides was saved because of its landmark status and historical affiliation.  It was explained that this tree is the largest in the neighborhood and the only one of its species. Ms. Dayacamos stated that a Lombardy Poplar that was about 10-15 feet away was destroyed by abuse and neglect of the property management company that took over in the 1990’s, and that her objective is to make sure that this tree is protected.  Ms. Dayacamos has provided care for this tree over the years and explained that the property management company had hired unqualified workers that improperly pruned the tree.  Ms. Dayacamos stated that trees are everybody’s business because of San Francisco’s decreasing urban forest and should be protected from people who do not want to learn how to best maintain and protect street trees in urban forest areas.

 

Staff Evaluation Report

 

Council Coordinator Hui reported that she had inspected the Lombardy Poplar tree and presented a staff evaluation report described in the “Landmark Tree Evaluation Form and Criteria” contained in the packet 501 Octavia Landmark Packet.         

 

Other Reports: Property owners, professional staff and affected property owners were not in attendance to provide a report. 

 

Public Comment

 

Ms. Dayacamos described her intervention with the property owners to ensure that proper care would be provided for the tree and expressed her concern that she was told to mind her own business.  It was explained that the property owners are planting undesirable replacement trees for the ones that had been destroyed and that new trees that have been planted are not getting proper care and are not surviving. 

 

Committee Evaluation Reports

 

Chair Boss reported that he had inspected the Lombardy Poplar tree and discussed his evaluation report presenting findings that the tree (1) is an uncommon street tree; (2) a medium-size tree; (3) not of advanced age as it appears to not have been planted long before 1970; (4) is typical of a Lombardy Poplar that may have been topped or pruned badly; (5) is not a majestic or a large specimen; (6) is not in great condition, but does not appear to be a hazard; (7) does not have historical value or significance other than being in a potential historic site; (8) is a prominent landscape feature, in an area of moderate tree density, accessible from the public right of way; (9) is not in a high-traffic area; (10) not an important wildlife habitat because it does not appear to have a particular relationship with a particular wildlife species, although there is a picture of a raven in the tree; (10) no evidence of it providing a wind or sound barrier, (11) neighborhood appreciation consists of one vote of support; (12) no evidence of this particular species being important to various religious or cultural groups; and (13) the tree does contribute to neighborhood character and provides shade and green area in an urban setting. 

 

Chair Boss reported that the tree is a wonderful and significant street tree that is about 20 feet in height and having a diameter greater than a foot, so by definition it has significant street tree status and has protection status as a result, but does not think that this particular specimen of a street tree should be granted landmark status.  Member Griswold reported that there is something compelling about the tree being the last remnant of a larger planting in the neighborhood and expressed his concern on the lack of representation by the actual owners of the tree.  Coordinator Hui reported that she had complied with noticing requirements and the property owner was sent a letter. 

 

Chair Boss stated that he felt the planter box was a detriment to the health of the tree, is a sidewalk intrusion that may also be a code violation, and asked if a citation could be issued by the Department of Public Works urban forester in order to protect the tree. Coordinator Hui reported that her understanding is that planter boxes and other sidewalk furniture require minor sidewalk encroachment permits, which are almost $900 each for the permit application fee. Based on the history of the care of these trees, she doubts that such an encroachment permit was granted.  It was explained that there is an encroachment permit or easement that the café next door has been granted.  Coordinator Hui stated that even though it is a wide sidewalk, she does not know if a sidewalk encroachment permit would be given for such a structure given the easement and other things going on in the sidewalk.

 

Council Member Quirke stated that he believes that Ms. Dayacamos’ primary reason for recommending landmark status is because she feels the property owners are negligent and may destroy the tree.  Council Member Quirke asked if there are protections that go along with the designation of “significant tree” that could address Ms. Dayacamos’ concerns.  Coordinator Hui reported that significant trees are actually trees on private property that have the same rights as street trees if they are one of three certain sizes, are at least 20 feet tall, have a foot dbh or have a canopy spread of 15 feet.  The trees on private property within 10 feet of the public right-of-way that meet one of those size requirements get the same protections as street trees.  Chair Boss stated that he thought it was any tree within ten feet of a public right-of-way that meets the size requirements.  Member Milne stated that within 10 feet of a public right of way does not mean in the public right of way.  It was explained that the legislation was drafted to include private property trees by naming them as significant. Coordinator Hui stated that the purpose of the legislation was to protect big trees on private property that are close to the public right-of-way and to give them the same rights as right-of-way public property trees.  Council Member Quirke asked if that would mean that significant trees do not have protection. Member Milne explained that the protection lies in the fact that you would have to apply for a permit to remove the tree.  Chair Boss recommended that the Committee at a future meeting summarize what different hurdles and barriers there are to removing significant trees.  Chair Boss stated that he would also be interested in examining why Lombardy Poplars are uncommon street trees in San Francisco.

 

Discussion and Action by Committee

 

Chair Boss stated that he does not believe that the tree rises to the level of landmark tree status and the level of protection it should be afforded is not an argument or criteria used to apply whether the tree is of landmark quality or not.  It was explained that there are other ways to protect the tree without invoking landmark tree status, e.g., the Committee could consider adding its weight to recommend that a citation be issued to remove the planter box.  Chair Boss agreed that it would be a shame to lose the tree as it provides a valuable function, but did not feel that it met the criteria of a landmark tree in that it has health and structural problems and because of its lack of age and size for the species. It was stated that it is important to tell people that this tree is legally protected by the City of San Francisco and its residents and there are consequences for violation.  Member Milne stated that the Council could ask their department representatives if they would be interested in sending official letters to the property owner advising them of the protection that this tree does have.  Member Milne thanked Ms. Dayacamos for her time and research into this effort.  Ms. Dayacamos stated that she would do whatever she could to facilitate protection of the tree.   

 

Upon Motion by Chair Boss and second by Member Griswold, the Lombardy Poplar at 501 Octavia Street was not recommended for landmark tree status (AYES: Chair Boss, Members Griswold and Milne; Absent: Members Blair, Hillan and Sustarich).  The recommendation would be forwarded to the Urban Forestry Council to consider and vote on at their August 26, 2008 meeting.

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4.      Landmark Tree Evaluation Criteria.  The Committee shall continue to discuss redefining landmark tree evaluation criteria and review drafts of revised tree nomination and evaluation forms (Explanatory Documents: Original Criteria for Landmark Tree Evaluation Drafts and Drafts of Revised Tree Nomination and Evaluation Forms Landmark Tree Forms Discussion Packet and Criteria for Landmark Tree Evaluation Drafts Revised 061008) (Discussion and Possible Action).

 

Coordinator Hui reported that the explanatory documents include the revised landmark tree evaluation criteria description, evaluation form criteria by section, and revised landmark tree evaluation and nomination forms.  Coordinator Hui reported that revisions to the criteria would have to be approved by the Council and the Board of Supervisors, but internal forms such as the nomination and evaluation forms would only have to be approved by the Council.  Members discussed and provided recommendations for revisions to the landmark tree evaluation criteria, and evaluation and nomination forms.

 

Upon Motion by Member Milne and second by Chair Boss, without objection, the Committee approved for recommendation to the Council revision of the landmark tree evaluation criteria and landmark tree evaluation and nomination forms as amended in Committee.  Coordinator Hui would present the revised landmark tree evaluation criteria to the Deputy City Attorney to determine whether the revisions would have to be readopted by the Board of Supervisors and would report back to the Council.  (Absent:  Members Blair, Hillan and Sustarich) (Explanatory Documents: Amended Evaluation and Nomination Forms Landmark Tree Nomination Form Amended 061008; Landmark Tree Evaluation Form Amended 081208 and Criteria for Landmark Tree Evaluation Drafts Revised 061008.) 

 

5.      New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Information and Discussion)  Chair Boss requested an update on the Black Acacia tree nomination at 1245 Masonic Avenue that the Council considered for landmark tree status.  Coordinator Hui reported that the Council forwarded the nomination to the Board of Supervisors without recommendation because it was a split vote.  It was explained that the sponsoring Supervisor met with the property owners and several neighbors and decided to not bring the legislation for landmark tree status for hearing before the Board of Supervisors.  Chair Boss recommended an agenda item to discuss landmark tree outreach.

 

6.      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.

 

7.      Adjournment. The Urban Forestry Council Landmark Tree Committee adjourned at 5:30 p.m.

 

Approved: November 17, 2008

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