(KTSF by Jessie Liang)
San Francisco, CA – The City of San Francisco is facing a $300 million deficit in the fiscal year 2011 -12. The Department of Public Works (DPW) which manages the City’s street trees has also cut $600,000 from next year’s budget. That amounts to a decrease of one-third.
To balance the budget, one solution for DPW is to transfer maintenance of approximately 24,000 street trees to property owners over a seven year period. That means home owners will have to take responsibility for pruning trees, caring for them when they’re sick or damaged, and paying for sidewalk repair caused by root damage.
The Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), Dan Flanagan says, “Since the trees are in the public right way, they have responsibility but they don’t have the right to cut it down.”
The FUF has been working with DPW for 30 years but thinks the City’s tree policy is ironic. The FUF disagrees with the City’s new solution for street trees saying that although property owners have insurance to pay the costs, the maintenance responsibility for street trees should be taken by the City as well. “We think the cost should be spread out among all the City’s taxpayers because in the end, everyone is getting the benefit from the trees and not just rely on the home owner,” said Flanagan.
A woman says, “It’s good for the environment. Trees are good for people as well, so I’m fine with it. (Are you willing to pay the maintenance costs?) Pay the bill? Because I’m not in good financial status, and have to see how much I should pay. I would think about it.”
Another woman says, “It’s fine if in front of my property. (How about you paying the cost?) No problem.”
There are an estimated 105,000 street trees in San Francisco. The City planted 25,000 new trees in past five years. In the next seven years, if property owner needs to maintain a street tree, they will receive a written notice from DPW.
Besides San Francisco, The City of San Jose is also planning to have a similar policy for street trees. For now, it’s just being discussed.
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