San Francisco Department of the Environment

Annual Urban Forest Reports

Overview of San Francisco’s Urban Forest, FY 2016-2017

SF Environment staff surveyed 21 City departments, public agencies, and non-government organizations that oversee or manage a portion of the urban forest in San Francisco. Organizations were asked to provide information on forestry budget and staffing, maintenance activities, accomplishments, and concerns in fiscal year 2015-2016. Of the 21 organizations surveyed, 19 provided full or partial responses.

This data is tracked to:

  • Better understand the resources used to maintain the urban forest across the city.
  • Track the priorities, needs, and concerns of city departments and local nonprofits, and monitor how they change over time.
  • Better understand threats to the future well-being of our urban forest.
  • Find ways to increase the contributions that trees provide to our community.

Primary Findings:

The data provided by participating agencies for this report is compared to data provided since FY14-15. While participation is required by Chapter 12, Section 1209 of the San Francisco Environmental Code, not all agencies participate in the survey each year. 

Figure 1. Trees & Funding: Reported tree planting and urban forestry budgets since FY14-15 (eleven agencies)

Urban forestry budgets, tree planting, tree maintenance, and tree removal all increased in FY17-18 (see Figure 1 above). The number of trees maintained is the category with the largest change with an increase of 68 percent from FY16-17 (6709) to FY17-18 (21,232). Tree maintenance slowly decreased from FY14-15 to FY16-17, but the implementation of StreetTreeSF was the greatest contributor to the large increase in tree maintenance activity in the past fiscal year. The funding from StreetTreeSF gave Public Works the ability to increase their tree care efforts (both in-house and contract) by 86 percent between FY16-17 (2,372) and FY17-18 (16,493). Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) also increased the number of young street trees maintained by 19 percent from the previous year.

Most agencies reported relatively similar budgets between FY17-18 and FY16-17, with a few receiving increases and a lesser number seeing budget decreases. Public Works and FUF provided the significant jump in their urban forestry budgets. FUF’s budget increased by 20 percent from the previous year, and Public Works’ by 51 percent due to the $19 million allocated by StreetTreeSF.

Figure 2: Tree Planting & Removal Trends Since FY14-15

In FY17-18, the number of trees planted (3,157) exceeded the number of trees removed (3,156) by one single tree. While tree removals increased 37 percent from the previous fiscal year, tree planting only increased by 35 percent. Overall, these changes demonstrate a shrinking urban forest, but this is one of two important steps in creating a more resilient and healthier urban forest over the long term. The obvious second step is increasing the number of trees planted each year.

Canopy loss -
As expected, the implementation of StreetTreeSF is resulting in the removal of dead, dying, and structurally unsound trees. Removals increased by 59 percent in comparison to tree removals by Public Works prior the year prior to StreetTreeSF. The high rate of removals is primarily due to lack of maintenance for so many years prior to the new funding stream. Had maintenance not been deferred, the number of trees requiring removal would be significantly fewer. The rate at which trees are removed in subsequent years will decrease, but it is uncertain if FY17-18 will prove to be the peak year for removals by Public Works.

The rate of removals is expected to continue to increase over the next few years. Recreation & Parks Department’s (RPD) Natural Resources Management Plan (adopted in 2017) will also contribute to the increase in tree removals in future years. RPD only removed 184 trees in FY17-18 and planted 281.

Canopy increase –
Tree planting increased since last year and is expected to continue growing, dependent on funding. FUF was awarded $1.5 million from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) this fiscal year to plant 2,000 trees in the southeast section of San Francisco over the next two years. FUF increased the number of trees it planted from FY16-17 (917) to FY17-18 (1507) by 39 percent and is continuing to hire more staff to increase their abilities to plant street trees and install sidewalk gardens.

Additionally, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) increased their planting by 68 percent, from 80 trees in FY16-17 to 250 trees in FY17-18. UCSF is currently implementing the recommendations in the Mount Sutro Open Space Vegetative Management Plan.

Canopy increase will likely fluctuate widely in upcoming years because of a lack of dedicated funding and a variety of differing or non-existent replanting goals by the various agencies reporting. Article 16 of the Public Works Code requires that at least one street tree be planted for every tree removed, unless restricted by utility placement (in which an in-lieu fee is paid to Public Works to plant a tree elsewhere in the City). Between Public Works and FUF, 2,290 street trees were planted in FY17-18 and 2,646 removed. Removals outpaced replanting in FY17-18 primarily due to funding and the capacity to water new trees. StreetTreeSF does not allocate funding for tree planting or establishment care, including watering. Public Works cites watering to be major impediment for planting trees. Contractors are needed to water trees, but there is limited number of contractors with the ability to do this. 

RPD has a replanting goal of two trees for every one tree removed in all parks. This goal does not apply to natural areas outside of city limits. 

Read the full 2018 Annual Urban Forest Report here (PDF) >

Past Annual Urban Forest Reports

2017 Annual Urban Forest Report
2016 Annual Urban Forest Report
2015 Annual Urban Forest Report
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

Related Content

Urban Forest Effects Study
San Francisco Bay Area State of the Urban Forest Report
Street Tree Analysis