City and County of San Francisco
DEpartment of the ENvironment
URBAN FORESTRY COUNCIL PLANNING & FUNDING COMMITTEE
Thursday, April 16, 2009, 4:15 p.m.
City Hall, Room 421, One Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
COMMITTEE MEMBERS: Carla Short (Chair), Naomi LeBeau, Terry Milne, Bonnie Ora Sherk
Order of Business
1. Call to Order and Roll Call. The Planning and Funding Committee meeting convened at 4:18 p.m. Present: Chair Short, Members LeBeau, Milne and Sherk (4:41 p.m.).
2. Approval of Minutes of the September 18, 2008 Urban Forestry Council Planning and Funding Committee Regular Meeting. (Discussion and Action) Upon Motion by Member Milne and second by Chair Short, the September 18, 2008 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (Absent: Member Sherk) (Explanatory Document: September 18, 2008 Approved Minutes).
3. 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.
4. Illegal Topping of Trees and Billboard Visibility. Sponsor: Committee Chair Short (Discussion)
Chair Short reported that San Francisco Beautiful is concerned about billboards as it relates to blight in the City, and there is concern about the practice of topping of trees to accommodate billboards. A meeting was held with the Department of Public Works (DPW), Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), San Francisco Beautiful, and the Planning Department to talk about what can be done. DPW is able to issue fines in some instances to people who top trees for billboards if they are right of way trees. When the trees are fronting a property but the billboard is on a different property, a fine can’t be issued to the adjacent property owner of the trees when it may have been done without their permission or knowledge. There may not be a way to prove that the billboard company was responsible if that is the case. Chair Short reported that short-term actions to prevent this situation include sending a notice of violation information flyer to billboard owners reminding them that topping trees, reducing their height, or removal without permit is illegal.
A discussion was held about the Council’s possible involvement in making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to make a code change to create a higher fine for damage to trees if that damage was commercially-driven for financial gain. It was explained that a lot of signs are not officially permitted, and Member Milne discussed the Planning Department regulations for business signs. Chair Short reported that San Francisco Beautiful could be a partner in this effort to change the legislation to create a higher fine. A discussion was held on whether DPW’s Deputy City Attorney or the Urban Forestry Council’s Deputy City Attorney should produce the legislation. Member Milne stated that this issue could be discussed at the next Council meeting and indicated that Deputy City Attorney Cabrera would be invited to provide advice.
Chair Short reported on the proposal at the meeting with San Francisco Beautiful of San Francisco Beautiful, FUF, and activist groups working together to do a letter writing campaign to the sponsor of the billboard when trees are topped for billboard visibility. The sponsor might then put pressure on the billboard company. Member Milne recommended creating a blog. A discussion was held on requiring that licensed contractors be required to do the work. Chair Short stated that some licensed contractors do bad tree work, but the biggest problem is with unlicensed people. It was explained that there are laws in the books, but they are not always enforced. Chair Short recommended creating a voluntary compliance program instead of requiring an actual city permit or license to work on trees.
Member LeBeau discussed illegal root pruning that is done by concrete contractors. Chair Short reported that there is nothing in the code that discusses root pruning because in many circumstances it is essential, otherwise the tree would have to be removed. It was recommended that the Committee as a future agenda item discuss changing or getting more flexibility on engineering standards for sidewalks. Member LeBeau stated that basin expansion is a possibility. It was stated that awareness needs to be raised of damage caused to trees by root pruning in order to repair sidewalks.
Member Milne recommended a discussion of this item at the April 28th Council meeting and requested that the Deputy City Attorney provide a report that can be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for further action.
5. New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion) Coordinator Hui recommended further discussion of a voluntary compliance program for those who prune trees. Member Sherk reported on a hearing she attended where there was a discussion on energy and off-shore oil drilling. It was explained that the delta is too shallow and may break in an earthquake. The deltas were created by the Army Corp of Engineers and are completely devoid of any vegetation and trees. Member Sherk reported that trees and understory, particularly native trees in this case, would be helpful in strengthening the levies.
Member Sherk stated that there was so much devastation during the Thailand tsunami because people took out the mangrove, which protected the coastline. Member Sherk stated that trees should be thought of as being functionally important for multiple reasons as they provide structural benefits, attract wildlife, provide green skills job training, and improve quality of life, so there are lots of reasons to plant trees.
Member LeBeau discussed notices that people receive about having to repair their sidewalk within a certain amount of time, and if they don’t comply, someone would do it for them. Also, if they had an existing tree basin, it was paved over for them and they were sent the bill. Member LeBeau stated that she would bring the list to a future Committee meeting to review which places had basins that were paved over. Chair Short indicated that this list should be reviewed with the Department of Public Works, not necessarily the Council. Member Milne stated that basins could be preserved when sidewalks are repaved, but that if a contractor or agency is doing the work, they can’t just leave a hole there. Chair Short reported that DPW sends a notice of violation with direction for obtaining a tree permit or to pay an in-lieu fee to pave the basin. It is an option not to plant, but it costs a lot of money to not plant. Member Sherk suggested putting in gravel or a permeable surface if planting a tree is not an option. Chair Short reported that there are rules about sidewalk engineering, and a special sidewalk permit would be required, which costs more than planting a tree. Member Le Beau stated that FUF would have provided a tree, but were not contacted. A discussion was held on the need for education.
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 Planning and Funding Committee meeting adjourned at 5:07 p.m.
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 21, 2009