Annual Urban Forest Reports

Overview of San Francisco’s Urban Forest, FY 2013-2014

SF Environment staff surveyed 20 city departments, public agencies, and non-government organizations that oversee or manage a portion of the urban forest in San Francisco. Organizations were asked to provide information on forestry budget and staffing, maintenance activities, accomplishments, and concerns in fiscal year 2013-2014. Of the 20 organizations surveyed, 18 provided full or partial responses.

This data is tracked to:

·  Better understand the resources used to maintain the urban forest across the city.

·  Track the priorities, needs, and concerns of city departments and local nonprofits, and monitor how they change over time.

·  Better understand threats to the future well-being of our urban forest.

·  Find ways to increase the contributions that trees provide to our community.

Primary Findings:

In fiscal year 2013-2014, all reporting organizations planted 3,146 trees (decreased from last year), removed 3,028 trees (increased from last year), and took care of 16,373 trees.  

Several forestry programs increased funding and/or staffing levels. San Francisco agencies reported approximately 129 full-time staff equivalent (FTE) positions that dedicated a portion of their time to urban forest programs. Of these staff positions, approximately 98.5 FTEs are dedicated to planting and maintaining trees.

Despite this positive trend in staffing and funding levels, resources to manage the urban forest remain inadequate. As in all previous Annual Urban Forest Reports, departments and agencies continue to identify funding and staffing constraints as their greatest limitations.

Forest managers reported significant concern for tree health, citing extreme drought stress, aging tree populations, and pests/diseases that are affecting several species, including myoporum (thrips), Monterey Pine (pine pitch canker), palm trees (fusarium), and pear trees (fireblight).  Several responding organizations reported declining health in redwood trees and stands due to drought stress and unidentified disease issues. Out of the fifteen responding forest managers, ten identified significant concerns with pests and diseases. While this is consistent with previous years, this year many tree managers also reported increasing removal of diseased trees for hazard mitigation.

Reported tree planting and removal activities indicate that the urban forest is shrinking. Among the organizations that responded to last year’s and this year’s report survey, reported tree planting decreased by 20.1%, while tree removal continues the trend from last year of increasing by a significant margin. This year, tree removal increased by over 100%. (Last year, tree removal increased 79% from the previous year.) San Francisco has a relatively small tree canopy compared to other major metropolitan areas, which reduces the benefits the city can derive from the urban forest. Though reported tree planting still exceeds reported tree removal, it is likely that untracked, illegal tree removals exceed tree planting efforts. Even if tree planting stayed on par with removal, newly planted young trees cannot provide the same level of benefits as large, mature trees. The City must increase the percentage of trees that are healthy enough to survive and be retained as mature trees. To achieve this, it is imperative that the City increase resources for tree care and management to improve tree health and reduce the number of trees lost to neglect and illegal removal.

There are an estimated 105,000 street trees currently within the public rights-of-way, and the Department of Public Works presently cares for and maintains roughly 33,000 of these trees. Due to historic and ongoing declines in stable resources and budget cut backs, Public Works can only maintain and prune trees on a 10-12 year cycle, instead of the necessary 3-5 year cycle. Based on the lack of available staff to effectively maintain trees, Public Works created the tree maintenance transfer plan in 2010.  Public Works can initiate the transfer of trees to adjacent property owners when the trees have been evaluated by a Certified Arborist and the trees are in good condition, have been recently pruned or do not require pruning at this time, and have not caused sidewalk damage that has yet to be repaired. Due to repeated budget cuts over the last several years, many DPW trees evaluated for transfer will require pruning or sidewalk repairs before they are candidates for transfer.

Summary of the program to date:

•            2,203 Trees transferred to private property owners FY 12-13 

•            1,466 Transferred to other City agencies FY 13-14

•            3,052 Trees posted for transfer to property owners by June 2014     

•          18,647 Trees to remain DPW maintenance (in medians, adjacent to public properties, etc.)

The Urban Forest Plan, Phase 1: Street Trees was completed in May 2014. The Urban Forestry Council has endorsed the Urban Forest Plan by resolution and urges the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission to adopt and implement the Plan, prioritize stable funding for urban forestry programs, and  prioritize completion of the next two phases of the Urban Forest Plan (Parks & Open Spaces, Private Property & Buildings).


Read the full 2014 Annual Urban Forest Report here. 


Please see the links below for earlier reports:
2013 Annual Urban Forest Report
2012 Annual Urban Forest Report
2011 Annual Urban Forest Report

2010 Annual Urban Forest Report
2009 Annual Urban Forest Report
2008 Annual Urban Forest Report