San Francisco Street Tree Maintenance Implementation Schedule

San Francisco Street Tree Maintenance Implementation Schedule

The passage of Proposition E last November, was welcome news for San Francisco property owners.
There is, however, a lengthy start up period as San Francisco’s street tree maintenance implementation doesn’t begin until 2019.
Depending on the type, health or age of the tree, waiting until that time could be problematic.

Consider That Trees Should be Evaluated Annually

It is ideal to have an Arborist evaluate a tree’s condition and advise if pruning is necessary.
Generally, some trees may need annual pruning. Others bi-annually and others an “as needed” basis.

Reasons for pruning a tree.

  • Maintain its health
    • Reduce risk of failure from dead or weak branches
    • Improve tree structure
    • Save a storm or wind damaged tree
  • Safety
    • Provide clearance
    • Mitigate risk that weak branches could fall
  • Other reasons

    • Improve aesthetics
    • Manage flower or fruit production

San Francisco’s Responsibility – A snapshot

Effective as of July 1st

San Francisco Street Tree Maintenance Responsibility Includes
Maintaining all San Francisco street trees within The City limits
Any sidewalk repair due to tree root damage
Any injuries and property damage resulting from failure to maintain the trees

Street Tree Maintenance Implementation Schedule Order of Priority
First – trees in decline or that pose safety threats. This work is expected to last two years.
Routine pruning schedule will be posted July 2018
Routine pruning will not start until 2019
Trees will be subsequently scheduled for pruning every 3-5 years.

Any tree pruning requests from The City prior to July 1st. The property owner is responsible for that work.
Sidewalk repair not due to tree roots.

San Francisco’s Urban Forest Vision

Proposition E, the ordinance describing The City’s street tree maintenance program is Phase I of an overall vision for growing San Francisco’s Urban Forest.
It was a collaboration of SF Public Works, and Friends of the Urban Forest
Trees were inventoried and placed on a map

Friends of the Urban Forest highlights their goals as

  • Increase The City’s street trees by 50%. There are currently 125,000 street trees.
  • Improve maintenance efficiency and effectiveness
  • Ensure a more equitable distribution of trees throughout San Francisco’s neighborhoods

If You Choose to not Wait Until 2019 for Routine Street Tree Pruning

Guidelines haven’t been formalized.
You can have your trees evaluated and/or schedule work without opting out

The City only asks for information that assures them that your Arborist conforms to ISA standards. 

It can be sent in an email that includes

  • Name of the Arborist
  • Description of work and location
  • A statement that asserts that the work will meet ISA standards

Gardeners’ Guild is consulting with clients and non-clients whose trees have not been tagged but want work done now.
Call us if you have questions about tree care. (510) 439-3700.
SF Department of Public Works will also answer your questions.
(415) 554-6700


San Francisco 2017 Street Tree Ordinance Simplified

San Francisco Street Trees – Example

What the ordinance is

  • Shifts responsibility of street trees from property owner to the City of San Francisco
  • Sidewalks damaged by trees will also the City’s responsibility (see photo below)
  • Measure E on November 2016 ballot. 80% SF voters approved it.
  • Measure E was the result of pressure from property owners and Friends of the Urban Forest.

Sidewalk damage as a result of street trees

Start date of change: July 1, 2017

Street trees defined:

  • A tree planted in the public right-of-way. In other words, trees on sidewalks adjacent to a property

Who is affected

  • Commercial and residential property owners and managers

What Property Owners Need to Know

  • A permit will be required for tree planting that would be in the public right of way
  • They can continue to maintain street trees by “opting out”. There is an “opt-out” application.
  • Street tree ordinance only applies to trees within the City limits
  • A property owner who has received a tree pruning request from the City will still be responsible for that
  • Property Owners can view their tree(s) on the Urban Forestry map
  • Each tree has been inventoried and placed in 3 categories relative to their condition.

 When – Plan and Timeline

  • First – High Priority Projects
    • Damaged trees located in the primary path of travel. See map for priority 1 & 2
    • Bus stops, schools, senior centers, health centers in pedestrian throughway zones
  • Then The City begins catch up on the backlog of deferred tree pruning throughout.
  • Public Works estimates:
    • It could take 3 years for this to be completed
    • A regular cycle of routine pruning will start in 2019.
  • Trees to be pruned on a 3-5 year cycle. SF Public Works will post the schedule in July 2018.


$19 million dollars*

No new taxes

*the cost comes out of the City’s general fund.


  • Sidewalks not damaged by trees are the property owner responsibility
  • If a property owner has already received a notice to address an issue with a street tree, they are responsible for that request.

For more information

(415) 554-6700 or