Photo by Kent Hall

While San Francisco may be touted as one of the world’s “greenest” cities, it has one of the smallest tree canopies of any major U.S. city. But that’s soon to change; on Wednesday, January 15, the city will unveil its first phase of the Draft Urban Forest Plan in an open house at the LGBT Community Center.

The plan aims to boost San Francisco’s street tree population through a mix of policies and community-led strategies. Some of the strategies considered include: planting an additional 50,000 street trees, securing long-term funding for tree maintenance by Public Works and creating a public awareness campaign about the economic, environmental and social benefits provided by street trees.

“Street trees beautify San Francisco’s public realm, however, our urban forest is deteriorating as a result of inconsistent street tree maintenance,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener in the Draft Urban Forest Plan press release.

A lack of current public funding has caused a drastic reduction in tree maintenance across the city as well as the transfer of tree maintenance of thousands of trees to private property owners. The Draft Urban Forest Plan will attempt to reverse this and move maintenance of trees back into the hands of Public Works.

“The best way to maintain a healthy urban forest is for Public Works to care for all of the trees,” said San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru in the press release.

Funded by a $250,000 grant from the State of California Strategic Growth Council’s Urban Greening Planning Program, the Urban Forest Plan is a collaborative with the Planning Department, Friends of the Urban Forest, the Urban Forestry Council and Public Works.

For more information, click here.

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Courtney Quirin is a trained wildlife ecologist turned environmental journalist with a knack for photography and visual storytelling. Though her interests span many topics and disciplines, she's particularly keen on capturing multimedia stories pertaining to the global wildlife trade, human-wildlife relationships, food security, international development and the effects of global markets on local environments and cultural fabric. Courtney completed a MSc in Wildlife Management at the University of Otago, New Zealand, where she not only learned how to catch and tag fur seals (among many things) but also traveled to the highlands of Ethiopia to identify the nature and extent of farmer-primate conflict and its linkages to changes in political regime, land tenure, food security, and perceptions of risk. From New Zealand Courtney landed at The Ohio State University to investigate urban coyotes for her PhD, but just shy of 2 years deep into the degree, she realized that her true passions lie within investigative journalism. Since moving into the world of journalism, Courtney has been a contributor to Bay Nature Magazine, a ghostwriter for WildAid, and the science writer for While at Berkeley's J-School Courtney will focus on international environmental reporting through the lens of documentary filmmaking and TV.

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  1. The the transfer of tree maintenance of thousands of trees to private property owners was accomplished by using tons of plastic to wrap a paper document around the trees. These have been up for months and retaining moisture and can’t be good for the trees. I have removed some on my block and underneath the bark is very moist and moldy. Please remove any you see- many landlords do not live on site and have no idea their trees have been wrapped in plastic.

  2. one thing to note. Friends of the Urban Forest and the tree give aways could be an awesome program. However, planting subsidized trees around the city has for the most part not resulted in increased home values, or beautification as FUF touts. Planting incompatible species and / or not providing regular and professional tree care eventually hinders real estate appreciation and negatively impacts the neighborhood aesthetic. I’m still hoping that FUF will realize and consider that when planting trees, it has to be done right — otherwise it’s in fact more beneficial long term to leave the concrete.

    1. FUF takes care of trees 3 to five years after they plant trees and it would be unreasonable for them to have the responsibility of caring for them after that period of time. Their planting staff are highly trained professionals who understand that correct planting and early tree care is very important. They have a lot of experience with many trees species at all stages.

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