Press Release March 17, 2017

First Comprehensive Census of San Francisco’s Street Trees Reveal Higher Number than Estimated, Substantial Opportunity to Grow Urban Forest

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Year-long data collection effort provides data to develop long-term maintenance and expansion strategies with new voter-approved funding

SAN FRANCISCO: The first citywide tree census, has established a comprehensive geodatabase of San Francisco’s street trees, providing crucial data in determining a long-term strategy to effectively maintain and grow the City’s urban forest.

The EveryTreeSF census, a collaborative effort among San Francisco Planning, San Francisco Public Works, Friends of the Urban Forest, and tree inventory specialists ArborPro, is one of the key strategies identified in the Urban Forest Plan (Phase 1: Street Trees), a citywide strategy to improve the sustainability of the City’s urban forest. The Board of Supervisors adopted the plan in 2015.

“Healthy tree-lined streets not only beautify and green our city, they are a valuable part of our urban infrastructure and enhance the quality of our daily lives,” said John Rahaim, Director of San Francisco Planning. “With the information provided through this census, we can now develop a long-term plan for maintaining and growing San Francisco’s urban forest.”

Beginning in January 2016, a team of certified arborists began mapping and recording every street tree in the City. Upon completion in January 2017, the census had identified the exact location, species and current condition of every tree, in addition to identifying potential vacant sites for future plantings. Trees on private property or in public parks were not included. However, efforts are currently in place to secure additional funding to conduct future inventories of trees at schools and in the City’s open spaces.

The final results have revealed 124,795 street trees, over 20,000 more than previous estimates, and over 500 species identified.  Approximately 40,000 potential planting locations were recognized, providing tremendous opportunity to grow the City’s urban forest. Data shows that the current number of trees sequesters over 19 million pounds of carbon dioxide and filters more than 100 million gallons of stormwater every year.  

“The information that was gathered is an invaluable tool we can use as we take the next big step in San Francisco to care for our urban forest,” said San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “The data will drive our priorities and resources.”

The census results come at a time of great opportunity with the passage of Proposition E in November 2016. Taking effect on July 1 of this year, Prop. E transfers street tree maintenance responsibility from private property owners to Public Works, and establishes a $19 million annual set-aside in the General Fund to pay for tree care and to repair sidewalks damaged by tree roots. The nonprofit organization, Friends of the Urban Forest, rallied support at the Board of Supervisors to place the sustainable funding plan on ballot. San Francisco voters gave overwhelmingly support with 79 percent in favor.

“Developing a dedicated funding source for the care and growth of our urban forest is the essential investment for healthy neighborhoods,” said Dan Flanagan, Executive Director of the Friends of the Urban Forest and Chair of the San Francisco Urban Forestry Council. “With the data collected by EveryTreeSF and the passage of Proposition E, we are ready to plant new street trees for a leafier urban canopy starting this summer. These new resources will help accomplish the City’s goal to grow its urban forest by 40,000 street trees over the next twenty years.”

San Francisco Public Works’ Bureau of Urban Forestry will be using the census data to help implement Prop. E, improve tree and sidewalk maintenance, inform future planting programs and promote public stewardship of the City’s urban forest.  Upon the transfer on July 1, the trees in most need will be addressed first, with pruning prioritized based on safety considerations, to correct structural flaws, and to gain necessary clearances for overhead wires, traffic signs and signals, adjacent buildings and traffic flow. Routine pruning of street trees is anticipated to begin in 2019. Public Works will continue to work with outside partners, including Friends of the Urban Forest, to ensure that replacement trees are planted and the City can grow the street tree population by 50 percent.

All the data from the City’s recent Street Tree Census is now available to the public on an online searchable website. Visitors can zoom in to find information on street trees anywhere in the City, in addition to calculate the environmental benefits street trees provide. Each tree has its own page presenting its “bio,” and the public is welcome to upload a photo to help tell their tree’s story.

On Saturday, San Francisco Public Works and San Francisco Planning, in partnership with the Department of the Environment, the Port of San Francisco and the Recreation and Park Department, will be hosting the Arbor Day Eco-Fair, a free event at Warm Water Cove Park from 9 a.m. to noon. The event, at 24th Street and Michigan Street in the Dogpatch neighborhood, is open to the public and feature family-fun activities and informational booths about urban tree care and environmental sustainability.  We also will be celebrating San Francisco resident Chloe Wieland, who won Planning’s “Guess How Many Trees” contest with an estimate of 123,468 trees. As grand prize winner, a street tree will be planted in her name.

The San Francisco Planning Department, under the direction of the Planning Commission, plays a central role in shaping the future of our City by generating an extraordinary vision for the General Plan and in neighborhood plans; fostering exemplary design through planning controls; improving our surroundings through environmental analysis; preserving our unique heritage; encouraging a broad range of housing and a diverse job base; and enforcing the Planning Code.

San Francisco Public Works is a 24/7 City agency that cleans and resurfaces streets; plants and nurtures City-maintained street trees; designs, constructs and maintains City-owned facilities; inspects streets and sidewalks; builds curb ramps; eradicates graffiti; partners with neighborhoods; trains people for jobs; greens the right of way; and educates our communities.

Friends of the Urban Forest’s mission is to promote a larger, healthier urban forest as part of San Francisco’s green infrastructure through community planting, tree care, education, and advocacy. Friends of the Urban Forest help individuals and neighborhood groups plant and care for street trees and sidewalk gardens in San Francisco. This "green infrastructure" improves the City by beautifying neighborhoods, cleaning the air, raising property values and reducing polluted stormwater runoff. Since 1981, FUF has planted more than 50,000 trees, totaling 47% of the city's street tree canopy.


Media Contacts:

Gina Simi
San Francisco Planning

Rachel Gordon
San Francisco Public Works