300 Moncada Way

The lone Monterey Cypress at 300 Moncada Way is a spectacular tree whose roots have caused $21,000 worth of damage to sewer pipes, the sidewalk and adjacent driveway/garage over the past fourteen years. And its roots now extend over 30 feet under the foundation of the adjacent home on Paloma Avenue.

With the long-time homeowners (the house last traded hands in 1977) upon whose property the Cypress grows having applied for a permit to remove the tree and been denied, a public hearing was held in July.

At the hearing, both the property owners and neighbor (who has lived with the tree for over 30 years and incurred the brunt of its damage) testified in favor of the tree’s removal, citing concerns of ongoing property damage and increasing safety concerns. No protests from other neighbors were proffered.

According to Urban Forestry staff, however, the tree is healthy and sustainable with a good canopy and ‘fair’ structure, which happens to be leaning, below. And as such, the City deemed the tree significant and denied the homeowners’ request to remove the tree.

The Department of Public Works did, however, direct Urban Forestry staff to provide guidance to the property owner for hiring a qualified tree contractor to make maintenance recommendations and reduce potential limb failures (at the homeowner’s expense).

An appeal of the Department of Public Work’s decision will be heard next week.

For the record, the neighbor supporting the removal isn’t an arbor hater, he actually championed the planting of 21 new trees along two blocks of Paloma where no street trees had previously grown. The homeowners have committed to planting a replacement Krauter Vesuvius (Purple Plum) where the Cypress currently grows. And elsewhere in the city, Cypress trees are systematically being removed by the City as a non-native and invasive species.

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by HousingWonk

    There, in a nutshell, is everything wrong with SF bureaucracy. Almost any other city in the country, that tree would already have been removed.

  2. Posted by Dave

    I am a huge supporter of more trees everywhere in SF.

    That said, what is the remaining life of this tree? It looks too large for a “street tree”. Monterey Cypress when mature are massive.

    Can the tree be trans-planted to Mt. Davidson or Twin peaks?

    If it is removed/transplanted then, as a tree lover, large mature trees need to be brought in. More amenable to a fairly narrow sidewalk.

    As to the urban forestry staff – where were/are you on the huge median strip on Sloat? Hello – no trees. Redwoods would be dramatic there. The median strip on Sunset? The strip along Lake Merced from Sunset to State.

    Did you choose the totally inappropriate trees for Portola between Fowler and Sloat? Narrow strip, trees falling and struggling because of the 34 inch media?

    This is ridiculous. What a waste of SF taxpayer dollars on this agency.

    • Posted by Orland

      I very much doubt a mature tree like that could survive being transplanted. The irreplaceable nature of such a tree is borne out by the saying that the best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago.

  3. Posted by Jake

    The owner should invite Mel Murphy over to consult during the next windstorm.

  4. Posted by MyOddCommentHandle

    I think you’re supposed to remodel your house with permits, accidentally damage the tree in some way, then apply to have it removed, as an invasive non-native species now, it seems.

  5. Posted by Denis

    So a hazardous, non-native tree can’t be removed because reasons? Typical. But no to the plum. Popular, yet terrible tree for SF. Lovely spring blossoms, yes, but the purple leaves mold and fall off in July/August. They are bare more the 6 months of the year.

  6. Posted by hgh

    Can we talk about the series of trees tagged for removal in St. Francis Wood? Why isn’t anyone stop that from happening?

    As for that Monterey Cypress, I’m sure the cost of maintenance is motivating the owner to take it down but tree removal isn’t cheap, and the loss of a tree can change a block in subtle unexpected ways (noise, air circulation, etc.).

  7. Posted by Orland

    What’s a lousy $21K over 14 years? A mature tree like that is worth far more.

    • Posted by PRE

      You pay for it then. Does actually owning the property count?

      • Posted by HousingWonk

        Not in San Francisco, were every busybody assumes to own a property interest over property they don’t own.

      • Posted by Orland

        To an extent.

    • Posted by MDG399

      exactly

      you cough up the money if you love it so much.

      i had the same problem with a tree….. a chain saw took care of that problem……

  8. Posted by matteo

    The fungus, Seiridium cardinale, enters a tree through cracks or wounds in the bark. Once inside, it releases toxins that interfere with the flow of water, sap and nutrients, making the tree sick and eventually killing it. Read more. See more.

  9. Posted by sfdragonboy

    Choosing a tree over people. Great. Idea.

  10. Posted by Sierrajeff

    I love trees, the bigger the better, but this should be allowed to be removed.

    I hate that they’re being removed from the Presidio and GG Park, though, and it’s ludicrous to call Monterey cypress “invasive” (they are not – invasive means they spread with abandon, like all the g* d* pampas grass and ice plant and eucalyptus that are choking off other vegetation… now *those* are invasive) and non-native (they’re from Monterey, for FSM’s sake).

    • Posted by Dave

      ITA. Did not know they are removing Monterey cypress from GG Park and the presidio. Are those trees diseased?

      There are a lot of trees that don’t work in SF. Its the way it is. But for those that do and are not a threat of falling down why tag them?

      A bunch of tress on Portola are tagged. Just noticed it today. I hope it is because they are diseased and not because they are considered invasive.

      There is a redwood variety that does well in this area. They are planted along freeway and medians in the South Bay. I would absolutely love for the City to plant a string of them in the large sloat medium. That boulevard could be so dramatic but instead the City plants grass like shrubs there that grow to a whopping 18 inches.

  11. Posted by Sierrajeff

    neglected to add – has anyone challenged the seeming legal schizophrenia of the city making property owners responsible for their adjacent trees… but then forbidding property owners from removing them? Is there any other example of imposing a cost like that on individuals, for something over which they have no choice or control?

  12. Posted by Flash

    It’s a lovely tree, but this should be the property owner’s decision. We should be encouraging people to plant trees on their property, but this ruling does the opposite. Who is going to plant a tree if they know that the city might grant it protected status like this? If the city is going to force the homeowner to keep it, then the city should at least take on the substantial costs and liability for doing so.

  13. Posted by James

    Looks like a beautiful neighborhood, could use a few more trees

  14. Posted by Orland

    We bought our property in 1990 and inherited a Benjamin Ficus which lost half its trunk a few years later in a wind storm. It has somehow survived all these years and I love that gnarly old bastard in spite the three times the sidewalk has had to be redone. It currently has about six feet of trunk topped by a (best Trump impression) huge, Huge, HUGE full canopy extending at least three times that height.

    Fearing it would be brought down by the anticipated El Nino storms, we want to have it trimmed beyond the ostensible 10% per trimming for street trees as advised by Friends of the Urban Forest. Upon contacting DPW, we were advised that a request for an exemption would be entertained. Amazingly, with 24 hours we were advised that a City arborist had inspected the tree and approved removal of up to 40%!

    FWIW My wife was told by the person at FOTUF to whom she spoke that they anticipate that the ownership/responsibility of street trees will revert back to the City in the next year… gain, FWIW.

  15. Posted by Jedidah Sawyer

    Chainsaw + 15 seconds of effort would save a lot of taxpayer dollars here.

  16. Posted by unlivable city

    Our neighbors cut down every tree in their yard. There are two kinds of people: those who hate big, old lumbering trees and those who revere them. I don’t believe a peep from the mouths of the haters. But I trust the trees.

  17. Posted by HousingWonk

    A bag of rock salt spread around the base of the tree in the dead of night should do the trick.

    • Posted by DM

      Or some gasoline.

      • Posted by nry

        Or bleach.

        Urban Forestry is yet another part of why SF’s annual budget is 3x what it should be for such a small city.

    • Posted by The Lorax

      Don’t make me have to regulate on all y’all haters !!!! Do one of mine, I do one of yours. Best believe!

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      You guys can’t be serious. Contaminating the soil with salt or gasoline? That might not even affect the tree but leaves a long term legacy of soil contamination.

      There are much more reliable and eco-friendly ways to assassinate a tree.

  18. Posted by Patrick

    Poison the tree. When it dies, it will become a hazardous tree and must be taken out.

  19. Posted by jenofla

    The tree incurred 21K over 14 years, BUT does it still have potential to cause damage now that the money has been spent? I’m asking only because I have a similar tree which messed up my sewage pipes, which I replaced to the tune of 6K (so I could say “6K over 5 years”), but per the contractors, the pipes are of a material that will be resistant to the tree, so no need to remove the tree going forward.

    That said, my foundation appears fine, although I suspect the tree is growing underneath it. Does anyone know if having roots under a house but without cracking or damaging the foundation means anything going forward? The arborist that I consult with every two years doesn’t seem concerned. I personally like the tree because I’d rather look at its branches than my neighbor’s living room.

    • Posted by EBGuy

      jenfloa, Here’s what a home inspector, who has examined thousands of homes over the last 20 years, had to say on the subject: I’ve been in the field, seen a lot of houses and have never, ever seen a tree that was overturning a foundation.

  20. Posted by NOPASF

    Does the city take on any liability issues in cases where it denies the removal of trees, and where the trees subsequently cause damage or injury?

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