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Frequently Asked Questions for the Landmark Tree Program
What is the difference between a Significant Tree and a Landmark Tree?
A Significant Tree is an automatically protected tree that is on private property, with any portion of its trunk within ten feet of a public right-of-way. Significant trees also need to meet at least one of the following criteria:
• Height greater than 20 feet
• Canopy width greater than 15 feet
• Trunk diameter at breast height greater than 12 inches
Any tree within 10’ of the public right-of-way, which also meets at least one of the size criteria, is considered a “significant tree” and is automatically granted the same protections as trees in the public right-of-way. DPW may apply administrative fines or fees for removal or improper pruning of these trees.
Landmark Trees have undergone extensive assessment by the Urban Forestry Council, based on a set of specific criteria. (See Nomination Form and Process for more information) A tree must be designated by the Board of Supervisors to become a landmark tree.
Both Landmark and Significant Trees need to be cared for according to the city’s Adopted Pruning Standards and both need a permit from DPW in order to be removed.
What trees are eligible for landmark status?
Any tree within the City and County of San Francisco can be nominated for landmark tree status.
Who can nominate a tree for landmark status?
Landmark Trees may be nominated by five sources:
The property owner
The Board of Supervisors
The Historic Preservation Commission
The Planning Commission
San Francisco city agency or department heads
A member of the public may approach a property owner, any member of the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, any member of the Historic Preservation Commission, or the head of a City department or agency about nominating a tree.
Why would someone nominate a tree for landmark status?
Trees provide environmental, social and economic benefits for everyone. While nominations are submitted for different reasons, generally nominations are made because the tree has made a substantial beneficial impact, which was then recognized by the nomination source. We hope our program will encourage deeper appreciation of San Francisco’s trees, especially those of unusual size, historic or cultural significance, that provide critical habitat, and other ecological benefits or have other unique characteristics.
Who decides whether or not a tree will get landmark status?
The Urban Forestry Council will evaluate nominated trees. The Council will then give their recommendations to the Board of Supervisors for final determination. The Urban Forestry Council reviews Landmark Tree nominations at their public meetings.
What happens if a landmark tree is on a development or construction site?
There is a policy to protect a landmark tree in this situation. The Planning Department requires that people disclose any landmark trees on their property before a development or construction project begins. In addition, there are practical and straightforward techniques that must be used to protect a landmark tree. The Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and the Department of Public Works (DPW) will help implement this policy.
How many trees will this ordinance protect?
It depends on how many trees are nominated and their characteristics! We expect that the number of landmark trees will increase over the next few years and plateau once the outstanding trees in San Francisco have been added.
What happens if someone harms a Landmark Tree or cuts down a Landmark Tree without a permit?
There are serious criminal, civil and administrative penalties if someone harms a Landmark Tree or Removes a Landmark Tree without a permit. The criminal penalties include monetary fines and jail time. The civil and administrative penalties are monetary fines. For more detailed information, please read Public Works Code, Article 16.
Additional Information for Frequently Asked Questions for the Landmark Tree Program
San Francisco is habitat for 800,000 people – meeting needs for space to work, play, and learn; for food, water, and air; for community with local flora and fauna. SF Environment provides support for urban agriculture and forestry and green buildings, helping residents and businesses harness environmental opportunities.