The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that the City of San Francisco is working through a process of notifying residents that the street trees next to their property are now their responsibility. Each tree is individually assessed and a notice is posted and sent to the property owner when the transfer happens.
The problem is that the city simply can't afford to trim and care for the 100,000 trees in public spaces in the city. According to the plan they've posted, they will be transferring 3000 trees per year to private maintenance.
Street trees continue to be planted at the rate of about 1200 per year, but those are now automatically placed in the care of the property owner.
So here's the thing: these trees should be pruned every 3-5 years, according to the city and general common sense, but the city's only been able to trim them on a 10-12 year schedule. People who plan to hire this out can expect to spend $300-$1000 to get this done, depending on the tree.
And of course, the efficiency of having someone come along and trim all the trees on the block will, presumably, be lost when one property owner at a time decides to deal with tree-trimming. It would be nice if people would work together and coordinate this and all chip in to get the work done on a regular schedule for a good price–but come on, this is San Francisco. How likely is that to happen?
So–there's no good answer. Money's tight, budgets are being cut, and tough decisions had to be made. Sure, it might end up costing more in the long run, as things like street trees fall into disrepair or, at best, are unevenly maintained–but it's hard to see what else they could have done.
Any San Francisco property owners out there dealing with the unexpected gift of a few street trees? Or any other communities dealing with the same issue? We'd love to hear your thoughts.