Seeking an “open aesthetic,” the buyer of 3066 Market Street, a speculative project which had been stalled mid-construction and ended up selling on the courthouse steps earlier this year, was planning to chop down the 75-foot-tall redwood tree in the backyard.

Sponsored by Supervisor Wiener and recommended by San Francisco’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee, the Sequoiadendron giganteum at 3066 Market Street has been nominated for Landmark Tree status. Yes, that’s a real thing.

If approved by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors next week, the tree will likely have to be trimmed and maintained rather than removed as planned. The best line from San Francisco’s Landmark Tree Program Criteria and Procedures which were adopted in 2006:

“Whereas, Older mature trees with historic, cultural, economic, or visual significance to a municipality can be designated as “landmark” trees; which is not to say that younger tress are insignificant or may not be designated as a landmark tree in the future…”

While not historic, the 3066 Market Street redwood has been described as “majestic and unique for the area,” provides a wind and sound barrier from Market Street for the neighbors, and “reflects the aesthetic of the homes of the area” (other than the one it’s behind).

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Jackson

    So the moral of this story is “don’t plant any trees which will cause you, the homeowner, a lifetime of maintenance issues.”
    And the City wonders why property owners are hesitant to plant trees in front of their homes?

  2. Posted by jeremy

    Owner needs to use the “George Washington Defense”. Chop it down, and then just say “I cannot tell a lie,” and he’ll be revered for his honesty.

  3. Posted by moz

    The guy didn’t want to “maintain” it. He wanted to chop it down. If we can landmark blighted theaters around town, why not a tree? A native California tree at that.

  4. Posted by R

    Thankfully our supervisors are concentrating on the important issues facing our city!

  5. Posted by James

    You have to maintain your sidewalk, too, and the solution is not to tear the sidewalk out. Some trees, like some buildings, are a benefit to the cityscape. The tree was there before the new owner bought it. Caveat emptor.

  6. Posted by lol

    I believe this rule was initiated when a great old tree was cut down in 2004 at 606 Ellis in the TL.
    At the time, a much beloved/hated micro-managing busybody Supe none other than Chris Daly decided to make his own little crusade.
    Per the Study Center article: “Responding to complaints, Supervisor Daly authored the legislation that allows San Franciscans to nominate “significant” trees of a certain size for land- mark designation and Board of Supervisors protection.”
    Wow, time flies.

  7. Posted by Don

    I live in the neighborhood and believe that the petition to ‘landmark’ this tree is being driven by the abutting neighbor to the north. It looks as if this tree happens to shade their (south facing) rhododendron garden. The tree is virtually invisible unless you are in the back garden of one of the abutting properties, for the general public it is visible only from stretches of market street at a distance of 150ft or more. My conclusion is that this is essentially an ‘across the fence’ dispute where one neighbor is attempting to play the ‘landmark’ trump card.

  8. Posted by Mark

    The logic here escapes me. If the tree is “unique” to the area, how can it reflect the aesthetic of the homes in the area?
    Not an issue where I live in the Sunset…it’s mostly cement and illegal off street parking. But, I have a huge cedar tree in the corner of my postage stamp backyard (it was there when we rented the place). I really wouldn’t see any neighborhood opposition if our landlord decided to remove it, but the city might pose a hassle if it were deemed “majestic and unique.” lol
    However, Jackson is correct. The city wants trees, but the owner is responsible for maintenance and any potential damage from storms, decay, etc.

  9. Posted by Jake

    does Mel Murphy’s engineer trim trees?

  10. Posted by Sierrajeff

    I don’t understand the attempted sidewalk analogy. The sidewalk is part of the urban infrastructure, required of everyone by the City. (And, frankly, should be a City maintenance obligation, but that’s a different story…)
    If a redwood can be landmarked – and a young tree at that (75′ is nothing for a redwood), why stop there? Suppose your predecessor put it a bottle-brush tree; you hate it, you’re allergic to it, it’s messy… but your neighbors all love it and remember the parties they used to have under its boughs, so Bam! it’s a landmark and you can’t do anything. Want to rip out that gazebo and grow veggies? – sorry, it’s a neighborhood landmark, you’re stuck with it.
    This is an absolutely, positively stupid proposal, no way around it.

  11. Posted by lol

    The level of micromanagement in this city is mind-boggling.
    That’s the Chris Daly legacy for you. Intrusive, overreaching, obnoxious, counter-productive, wasteful.

  12. Posted by sfjohn

    @lol – the micromanagement has been going on long before Chris Daly……

  13. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Legacy tree protection isn’t unique to SF. Lots of Bay Area cities have ordinances protecting mature trees. One bad outcome is that sometimes trees are “assassinated”. I saw that happen to a 200+ year old Coast Oak, it was a sad outcome.

  14. Posted by noe mom

    Perhaps it is part of the greening of the City, that Gavin Newsom initiated.
    However, it was my understanding that if the tree was on your own property, in your own backyard you could get it landmarked. I did not think that a “supporter” could get it done, only the property owner. If this is in someone’s backyard I am surprised that a neighbor could get this done. I mean you can’t stop a deck or a building expansion as a neighbor, but that you can save a tree is rather surprising.

  15. Posted by lol

    I love looking at my neighbor’s hummingbirds. It has a soothing quality to it. I want these hummingbirds landmarked.

  16. Posted by Ian Berke

    Wow, does this bring the tree haters out! Very few of them have even seen this wonderful, majestic redwood that is in a backyard, not in the sidewalk. Why any developer would want to remove it is beyond me. I am a real estate broker and it is clear that the tree adds real value, in every sense, to his property, to say nothing of the dramatic green impact to adjacent properties. The tree does not shade the house at all. What possible reason for removing it? The landmark effort is an attempt to save a great tree that the developer intends to to cut down. Had the developer simply wanted to prune it, none of the neighbors would have been upset.

  17. Posted by James

    It’s not exactly “bam, it’s landmarked.” The petition could be thrown out. But I support the premise that a tree *could* be a landmark, superceding the current owner’s personal aesthetic or maintenace preferences.

  18. Posted by CoronaGuy

    The tree is actually a giant sequoia and not a costal redwood hence it is unusual for the area. During the community meetings the original, now bankrupt, developer agreed not to cut the tree down to gain approval for his project. The tree is quite spectacular and looks like a giant bonsai. Regardless of how many folks can see it it is well worth preserving. It is well within the required set back for the lot so it is not a build-able area

  19. Posted by Michael O

    Germans in Berlin take tree removal very seriously. Near Potsdamer Platz, the removal of one large heritage tree required the replanting of 300 trees.
    In 1989 when the wall came down between east and west Berlin, this opened up the development of the previously no-mans-land area between the two.
    When the wall was built, all West Berliner had for nature, were their parks and street trees. Trees became very important, and were
    part of their “Greens” movement, partly expressed in Germany’s hertitage tree legislature and tree replacement.

  20. Posted by soccermom

    I can appreciate that there would be some very rare circumstance where a tree on private property ought to be protected. That should only ever occur when the tree is in a public space (front yard, city park, etc., clearly visible from the street).
    If the tree is rare, then clearly the reverse spin is that this is a non-native plant that is foreign to the city and ought to be removed. That sort of tortured logic was enough for the National Park Service to tear out all of the Monterey Cypress trees along Lincoln Boulevard above Baker Beach, enough to destabilize the slope below and cause the roadbed to destabilize.
    Alternatively, the applicant could cite the city shadow ordinance and lift text demonstrating that the huge negative impact of shadows on greenspace causes negative emotional impacts.

  21. Posted by Toady

    Hilarious. San Francisco has turned into one big HOA.

  22. Posted by savvy

    It went on the market today as “Sequoia House” capitalizing on the tree the owner sought to remove.

    [Editor’s Note: Ironically Dubbed “Sequoia House” On The Market For $2.6M.]

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