Annual Urban Forest Reports

Overview of San Francisco’s Urban Forest, FY 2014-2015

Primary Findings:
In fiscal year 2014-2015, all reporting organizations planted 3,277 trees (slight increase from the 3,146 reported tree plantings last year), removed 1,810 trees (significant decrease from the 3,028 reported tree removals last year), and took care of 14,104 trees (decrease from the 16,373 reported trees pruned and otherwise cared for last year.)   

The two largest citywide forestry programs decreased funding and staffing levels. San Francisco agencies reported approximately 97 full-time staff equivalent (FTE) positions that dedicated a portion of their time to urban forest programs. Of these staff positions, approximately 72.6 FTEs are dedicated to planting and maintaining trees. These staffing levels are a significant decrease from reported staffing levels last year: 129 FTE positions that spend a portion of their time on urban forest programs and 98.5 FTE dedicated solely to urban forestry programs in fiscal year 2013-2014. These staff reductions were primarily from Public Works (22 fewer forestry FTEs this year) and Recreation and Park (10 fewer forestry FTEs this year), who lost an alarming 41.25% of their FTEs this fiscal year, despite RPD’s planned staffing increases reported in the 2014 Annual Urban Forest Report.

As in all previous Annual Urban Forest Reports, departments and agencies continue to identify funding and staffing constraints as their greatest limitations. A key priority for the City must be securing resources to address these ongoing programmatic deficiencies.  

The ongoing drought has very likely been exacerbated by global climate change. Forest managers reported significant concern for tree health, caused by factors such as extreme drought stress, aging tree populations, and pests/diseases, which are anticipated effects of global climate change and which are all currently affecting several tree species. Forest managers reported tree health concerns for ornamental plum trees, ornamental pear trees, and redwood trees due to the drought and rising temperatures, which may be caused by global climate change. These managers reported that increased heat coupled with ongoing drought conditions are affecting tree dormancy periods and are resulting in increasing pest and disease pressure. Pests and diseases continue to plague several tree species, including myoporum (thrips), Monterey Pine (pitch canker), and Canary Island Date palm trees (Fusarium). Forest managers expressed interest in planting tree species that will be better able to cope with the changing climate over the long term.

With 105K estimated street trees in San Francisco, a mortality rate of approximately 4% would typically be expected, equaling 4,200 street trees lost per year.  In fiscal year 2014-2015 a reported 1,172 street trees were removed, which would indicate a mortality rate of only 1.12%. However, young trees are more susceptible to vandalism, destruction by vehicular accidents, and failure to establish, resulting in higher mortality rates overall, and their removals are not captured above, which can account for some of this gap. Regardless, only 2,406 street trees were planted which is far short of the 4,200 trees that would need to be planted to offset tree loss and prevent shrinking of the urban forest and the benefits these trees provide. This emphasizes the need to increase forestry management resources, both to better protect and manage our existing urban forest resource, and to ensure that tree planting adequately offsets tree loss. The Urban Forest Plan, Phase 1: Street Trees outlines opportunities to address street tree management shortfalls that, once implemented, will protect San Francisco’s urban forest assets and the multiple economic, environmental, and social benefits that these trees provide.

Please see the links below for earlier reports:

2014 Annual Urban Forest Report 
2013 Annual Urban Forest Report
2012 Annual Urban Forest Report
2011 Annual Urban Forest Report

2010 Annual Urban Forest Report
2009 Annual Urban Forest Report
2008 Annual Urban Forest Report