New plan for Park Presidio proposed: Reforestation project would remove 50 'high risk' trees

by Ed Moy

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (RPD) held a second public meeting to address public concerns about the proposed Park Presidio Boulevard Reforestation Plan and Budget on Nov. 12.

Several dozen Park Presidio homeowners and members of Park Presidio Neighbors (PPN), including board members Tom Opdycke, Carol Brost and Gregory Dipaolo, turned out for the meeting, which was relocated from the Hebrew Academy on 14th Avenue to the Richmond Police Station's Community Room.

According to Dennis Kern, RPD's director of operations, $183,000 is available to contract-out the initial tree work on Presidio Boulevard. The work includes the removal of 50 trees and the pruning of 15 trees, with the work being performed by RPD reforestation crews.

The 50 trees selected for removal were chosen based on an assessment performed by the independent consulting firm HortScience, Inc. In its tree assessment, the 50 trees were identified as a "high risk" to public safety.

Kern stated that RPD's priority is to remove the 50 high-risk trees in order to abate any public safety risk. With many of the trees being nearly 100 years old, there is always the risk of a dying or diseased tree falling over during storms or high-wind conditions.

Although there is no definitive timetable for when the reforestation will begin, Kern did specify that it would proceed via a "small block planting" plan combining $10,000 in tree purchases and trees provided by the Golden Gate Park Nursery.

"Whatever I can fund the removals with, the balance of it can go to reforestation," Kern stated when asked about the proposed a funds allocation.

The impetus for the city's proposed reforestation plans came about two years ago when PPN board members began developing a long-range master plan for maintaining the Park Presidio Boulevard "greenbelt."

Members of the PPN used their master plan to draw attention to the current condition of the boulevard and held Town Hall meetings with representatives from Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Jake McGoldrick's offices and the RPD requesting the city address the much-needed removal of hazardous trees along the boulevard, many of which had been falling and destroying city and private property.

Newsom responded by putting $200,000 in RPD's 2007-2008 budget to begin the process. The department then contracted the services of HortScience, Inc. to evaluate the health, structural condition and risk of all 1,077 trees located on the boulevard.

While PPN's primary goal is still the maintenance and beautification of the blocks adjoining the boulevard, they have expanded their goals over the last few years to include enhanced pedestrian and vehicular safety, new traffic-calming measures, irrigation and lighting, and an active neighborhood watch program.

But, despite PPN's successful efforts to engage RPD, during the public comments portion of the meeting several homeowners voiced concerns about RPD's lack of a long-term tree management and maintenance plan, environmental impacts to the area, the validity of the tree assessment, how funds are allocated, the time frame for reforestation, the inadequate size of newly-planted trees, and the overall aesthetics plan for the boulevard.

Many residents also pointed out that the antiquated sprinkler systems are no longer functional along the boulevard and several residents noted that a "desert" area was created along Funston Avenue where fallen trees were removed, leaving unsightly tree stumps.

According to Opdycke, the majority of clean up and grass mowing along the Park Presidio "greenbelt" is currently being done as a result of volunteer efforts, including residents and, recently, volunteers from Deloitte and PG&E.;

Opdycke also emphasized that since the first meeting at least one more tree had fallen on its own along the boulevard. No pedestrians or motorists were injured, but a parked vehicle was severely damaged.

For Opdycke, the bottom line seems simple: "Do something before someone gets hurt."

In closing, Kern stated that if funding is released by the Mayor's Budget Office, the tree work could start as early as February or March 2009.

"I've got to get the 50 trees out," Kern said. "(At that point,) I've mitigated my risk. I reforest and then I won't go in and touch that ground again. Otherwise, I'm digging up the good work that the crews did and it's delaying the growth of the next generation."

For more about Park Presidio Neighbors, visit the group's Web site at