It seems that nearly every San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) project starts with removing trees – often mature ones that have taken fifty years or more to reach their current size. At a recent meeting of the Capital Committee of the San Francisco, the San Francisco Forest Alliance made a public comment about the importance of preserving these trees.
San Francisco has one of the lowest canopy covers of any major city in the US – only 13.7% against a national average of 22%.
You are probably familiar the benefits of trees:
- reducing pollution,
- reducing the urban heat island effect,
- reducing storm water runoff,
- providing habitat for birds and wildlife, and of course
- sucking carbon out of the atmosphere.
And they improve the quality of life: People love trees.
It seems that every capital project that San Francisco Rec and Park undertakes results in losing trees. There are many examples, but here are two that were mentioned here today:
– In Glen Park, between the renovation of the Rec center and the new Trails project, around 100 mature trees are being removed.
– In the Minnie and Lovie Ward park, there are 58 trees – and over a third of them are to come down. This isn’t even required for the main project.
SF Forest Alliance supports capital improvement projects. We also support remediation of hazardous trees. However, it seems that every project is an excuse to remove trees. If SFRPD is to be believed, a frightening number of trees in our city are “hazardous.”
There is talk about 1-for-1 replanting. But in Glen Canyon those plans for include a large number of shrubs and really small trees, maybe 15-20 feet high while the trees removed are 50,60 or 100 feet tall. For Minnie and Lovie Ward Park, no replanting plan has been formulated, it’s just been stated in principle.
We ask San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission to be proactive in preserving trees. Capital Projects should be an opportunity to increase, not decrease, our tree cover and the number of trees in our parks. The question should not be, how many trees do we need to remove, but rather, how can we preserve and add to these trees?
They’re an amenity that people care about, and an asset that appreciates in value. We need to stop thinking about them as green things that stand in the way.
We should also note that not only does San Francisco have too few trees – it’s getting worse. Each year, San Francisco loses more trees than it plants.