The language for a ballot measure which would transfer the responsibility for maintaining the street trees on public property in front of a privately owned business or home, and any resultant sidewalk damage the trees cause, back to the City of San Francisco has been drafted and should appear on the November ballot.
From the legislative overview of the proposed “City Responsibility and Parcel Tax for Street Trees” charter amendment:
Effective July 1, 2017, this ordinance would add a provision to the City’s charter to transfer to the City the responsibility for the maintenance of street trees, including any sidewalk damage caused by the tree’s growth or root system. The charter provision would not: (1) affect the rights or responsibilities of the City or property owners with respect to the removal, establishment, or relocation of street trees; (2) prevent the City from entering into or continuing to abide by prior voluntary agreements with third parties for them to assume responsibility for street tree maintenance; (3) prevent the City from imposing penalties or fees on persons who injure, damage, or destroy trees; or (4) relieve abutting property owners of their responsibility for the care and maintenance of the sidewalk areas adjacent to any street tree, other than the transfer to the City of the responsibility for sidewalk repairs related to the tree’s growth or root system.
Under the proposed charter provision, abutting property owners would no longer be liable for injury or property damage to the extent that the injury or property damage was caused by the City’s failure to maintain a street tree under the new law. However, the City would not be responsible for any injury or damages related to the maintenance of a street tree if the injury or damages occurred as a result of the abutting property owner’s responsibility to maintain the street tree prior to July 1, 2017, or if the maintenance of such tree required that the City access private property, and the private property owner refused to grant access to the tree after the City’s good faith effort to obtain permission to access the tree.
In exchange, the ordinance would impose a parcel tax for every property in San Francisco based on the number of linear feet the parcel is adjacent or tangent to a public right-of-way at the following rates, which would be consumer price indexed and adjusted annually:
(1) Parcels with less than 25 feet of Frontage, including Parcels with no Frontage, and all condominiums, shall be subject to an annual Tax of $29.50 per Parcel.
(2) Parcels with Frontage of 25 feet or more but less than 150 feet shall be subject to an annual Tax of $1.42 per linear foot of Frontage.
(3) Parcels with Frontage of 150 feet or more shall be subject to an annual Tax of $2 per linear foot of Frontage.
Parcels on which no property tax is levied, and parcels owned and occupied by an individual who is 65 years of age or older, would be exempt from the tax to be attached to property tax bills.