A More Leafy Mission: Plant a Tree

Friends of the Urban Forest will be leading a tree planting in November, subsidizing the purchase and planting of trees for interested parties. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest.

Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), a nonprofit dedicated to helping San Franciscans care for sidewalk vegetation, is planting trees in the Mission to give residents a chance for subsidized foliage outside their buildings:

Mission residents have until October 1 to sign up to receive a street tree in the planting that Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) is organizing forNovember 8.  Residents who have eligible sites in front of their homes and businesses can save approximately 75% of the total tree planting costs by participating in FUF’s neighborhood tree planting program; most of the costs are covered by grants, government funding and private donations.
FUF is a non-profit organization that helps individuals and neighborhood groups plant and care for street trees and sidewalk gardens throughout San Francisco.  FUF plants trees in neighborhoods in which at least 30 trees have been requested.  The copayment for a “Tree Package” is $135, and includes the tree, permit processing, site preparation including concrete removal, and three post-planting tree care visits.  FUF’s certified arborists make recommendations regarding the tree species that are most suitable for the conditions at each planting site, and the property owner makes the final selection.

Interested parties have to fill out two short forms by October 1, wait a month and then come out on November 8 to do some digging. “Planting teams” will go around the neighborhood starting at 9 a.m. and will work until noon, when there will be a potluck for all involved. FUF stresses that no experience is necessary, and that they will supply the “tools and guidance” needed to become a bonafide arborist — so long as you bring the water and work clothes. 

The enterprise is badly needed: San Francisco has only 13.7 percent of its land area covered by trees, compared to a 33 percent national average for metropolitan areas; the city ranks 17th among the 20 most populous American cities.

This situation could change, however, as the city unveiled its Urban Forest Plan earlier this year. The plan calls for changing that 13.7 percent into 25 percent over the next 20 years by planting an additional 50,000 trees, raising the total in the city from 105,000 to 155,000. It also requires stabilization of the existing canopy to prevent tree death and removal, which currently accounts for a significant portion of planting efforts by FUF and the Department of Public Works.

With the plethora of benefits that accompany urban greening — rising property values, cleaner air and reduction of flooding and water pollution, among others — it’s no surprise that the city and FUF are passionate about making San Francisco a little leafier. FUF alone has planted more than 48,000 trees since 1981, amounting to 43 percent of San Francisco’s street tree canopy.

The eligible zone for FUF’s project extends from the Central Freeway to Cesar Chavez Street, and from Dolores Street to San Bruno Avenue. So if you live in that area and have a sidewalk in need of some green, be sure to sign up by October 1 for some new foliage outside your building.

Filed under: Mobile, Today's Mission

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  1. dpclean

    Nice program. We did this years ago, and its great, but the lesson learned is “plant the tree deep”. Even though they warned that the tree will grow and the roots could push up your sidewalk, several of us didn’t head that advice as much as should have.

  2. eee

    Our tree is a magnet for trash (most of which is far too disgusting to clean up). As much as I love trees and FUF, I’d get rid of it if we could.

  3. bigV

    All the overhead wires are a big hinderance to our urban forest. Trees get chopped brutally to keep them out of the wires (which are ugly!), and many potential planting locations for new trees are blocked because of the presence of the overhead wires.

    The city should be undergrounding the utilities — it is a major step towards helping us have a greener city with more trees. It is also a major safety issue! Living in earthquake prone SF, it is absurd that we still have overhead utility lines which can easily get knocked down in a big quake!

    There is a new citizen led effort to encourage the city to restart the undergrounding of utilities (which stalled out after the city spent all the allocated funds through 2020 on the wealth northern neighborhoods).

    Please sign the petition available here:

    Given how badly tangled our streets are with ugly overhead wires here in the mission, It would be great if ML did a focus story on this effort!

    • Sam

      Undergrounding is expensive and it is not clear that the taxpayers and ratepayers support it.

      It also means that every repair involves digging up the road in the same way we currently do for gas and water. That is very disruptive and, again, I’m not sure the residents support that.

      In any event, we shouldn’t be planting super-high trees on narrow residential streets anyway. They block light and views. And they cause a lot of damage if they fall in a storm, as they regularly do.

      I personally know a guy who killed off a tree that had grown so big it plunged his house into darkness. I’m sure there are others who have taken matters into their own hands in that way.

      • Ben

        The bigger the tree, the greater the benefits. That’s a generalization of course, and it’s true that some of the benefits of trees are subjective (such as their beauty), but mature trees (and larger species) do provide measurably greater environmental benefits. Property owners, who get to decide what species of tree gets planted in front of their properties, should weigh that against their personal preferences regarding views and light. As for the frequency with which trees fall in storms, that’s due to whether they’re properly maintained, not their size. A properly maintained tree, whatever the size, is removed before it is unable to withstand a typical storm.

        • Sam

          So you agree that residents should be able to control whether there are any trees affecting their home?

  4. Orddu

    “San Francisco has only 13.7 percent of its land area covered by trees, compared to a 33 percent national average for metropolitan areas; the city ranks 17th among the 20 most populous American cities.”
    That’s probably because the ecological entity we now call “San Francisco” had very few trees prior to the late 1900’s. We had coastal scrub. We still have some, although it’s harder to find.
    Shrubs- ceanthotus, manzanita, toyon, etc- are beautiful, smell wonderful, attract pollinators, and probably don’t pose the same threat to sidewalks and overhead wires.
    My question is this: why is FOUF pushing trees?

    • Ben

      Indeed, San Francisco was largely devoid of trees prior to the late 1900’s; sand dunes covered much of the western land. So why plant trees? They provide many environmental and scientific benefits (http://www.fuf.net/benefits-of-urban-greening/).

      Why not plant native trees? The small handful of species native to this area are not, for the most part, suitable as street trees; the Coast Live Oak, for example, needs more growing space than is typically available in a sidewalk. For that reason, over the years Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) has identified other species (from regions that have climates similar to ours) that are tolerant of our local conditions (such as sandy soil and dry summers) and that are suitable as street trees.

      FUF does its best to take overhead wires into account when recommending a species for a specific location. However, occasional maintenance will be needed to keep street trees healthy and keep them from creating problems with wires.

      FUF disagrees with the city’s policy of making property owners responsible for the maintenance of street trees and sidewalks; FUF is working to change that policy to make the city responsible for those things (as is the case in most other cities).

      FUF actually does promote native flora via its sidewalk garden program (more info about that program here: http://www.fuf.net/programs-services/planting/sidewalk-gardens/).

      • Sam

        I would always rather residents have the control of an asset than a faceless city bureaucrat.

        If i don’t like my tree, i want to be able to chop it down.

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