Competition & online plant database will educate San Francisco residents on water conservation and biodiversity

The San Francisco Department of the Environment (The Department) announces the launch of a competition for ‘San Francisco’s Ugliest Yard’, which will run April 2nd to May 15th 2015 and welcomes San Francisco residents to enter for a chance to win a grand prize yard makeover featuring naturally drought tolerant plants native to our city.

The competition kicks off the launch of the SF Plant Finder website ( which highlights drought tolerant plants and trees that thrive in our city’s microclimates, in an effort to improve biodiversity in San Francisco. California has been in a drought for the past four years, and the competition and website will illustrate how it is possible to still save water and have beautiful yards that support the City’s ecosystem.

SF Plant Finder is a database and community resource developed by the San Francisco Planning Department for gardeners, designers, ecologists and anyone who is interested in greening neighborhoods and enhancing our urban ecology while conserving water; the plants in the database include California natives and mostly local San Francisco natives that are particularly adapted to the local climate.

“This competition celebrates San Franciscan’s who are transforming their yards into a drought tolerant oasis of native plants, rich with habitat for local wildlife,” says Debbie Raphael, Director San Francisco Department of the Environment.

“Wasting water is ugly and this competition is a great example of how to engage the community in learning about water conservation through enhancing our city’s ecology and contributing to urban sustainability,” says Amber Hasselbring, Executive Director of Nature in the City.

“Now more than ever, conservation is essential,” said John Rahaim, Director of San Francisco Planning. “With the launch of SF Plant Finder, residents can easily learn more about beautifying their surroundings with plants that flourish in the City’s environment while protecting natural resources.”

The database was developed as part of the Green Connections project and provides a centralized location to learn about plants and trees recommended by City agencies and local ecology experts. The plants have been selected in consultation with the San Francisco Public Works, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the San Francisco Department of the Environment, Urban Forestry Council, Nature in the City, and experts on local ecology and horticulture.

Celebrating the launch of the SF Plant Finder, ‘San Francisco’s Ugliest Yard’ Competition, is open to San Francisco residents. To enter, contestants will: take a picture of their ugly yard, upload it on the Department website ( or Facebook page ( with a caption about why their yard needs a makeover, and then share the photo on social media to increase votes. Terms and conditions apply.

Prizes will be awarded as follows:

  • One Grand Prize Winner: Yard makeover with drought tolerant native plants by Madroño Landscape Design Studio Inc.
  • Three First Prize Winners: Consultation by The Department’s Senior Biodiversity Coordinator and a supply of native plant seeds and compost courtesy of Literacy for Environmental Justice and Recology – enough to makeover 500 sq. ft. of their yard
  • All submissions will get a packet of native plant seeds – enough to get a yard makeover started donated by Larner Seeds

First Prize winners will be awarded to contestants with the most votes, and the Grand Prize winner will be chosen by a panel of judges.

About the San Francisco Department of the Environment

The Department creates visionary policies and innovative programs to improve, enhance, and preserve San Francisco's urban and natural environment, leading the way toward a sustainable future by developing wide-ranging environmental programs, fostering groundbreaking legislation, working collaboratively with key partners, and educating the public on comprehensive sustainability practices.