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Monday, January 16, 2012

How Bad Economies Lead to Bad Trees

San Francisco is putting in place a policy regarding the maintenance of street trees that I fear other communities could soon pick up on. In an effort to save approximately $300K per year in maintenance costs, the city is transferring responsibility for pruning and maintenance of street trees to individual property owners. For trees that run 20 ft. or higher, pruning can cost between $300 and $1000. I can easily foresee that cash-strapped homeowners will either forgo the necessary pruning, leading to hazardous tree conditions that could endanger lives and property, or they may attempt to do the pruning themselves, in which case we can expect to see a lot of badly pruned trees and injured amateur tree-pruners. This policy has, to some degree, been in effect for a while, but a new round of notices have been sent to lucky homeowners notifying them of the transfer of responsibility.

This kind of policy raises all kinds of interesting questions. If a homeowner doesn't want to be responsible for pruning a street tree every year, can they just have the tree removed on their own? Could we see streets stripped bare of trees because homeowners decide they're cost-prohibitive? How much is it going to cost the city to police the trees to make sure they are being kept healthy and safe? What impact may poorly maintained and potentially hazardous trees have on already devastated property values?

Property owners are being advised that they can appeal the transfer of responsibility for the trees, and if this were happening in my town, I would certainly do so. I understand that municipalities across the country need to cut their budgets but this is a pretty good example of a short-term fix being turned into a bad long-term policy.

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1 comment:

farmlady said...

All good questions.
At the prices of tree maintenance and removal there will be a lot of problems with this responsibility being dropped into the hands of homeowners.
I can see this becoming one law suit after another. The city will find it a lot more expensive to monitor the homeowners than just maintaining the trees themselves.

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