San Francisco Department of the Environment

Landmark Trees

Landmark Tree Program

The Landmark Tree Program aims to acknowledge, celebrate, and protect trees in San Francisco that have environmental, cultural, historical, botanical, or other significance. The program was codified in 2006 as Article 16, Section 810 of the Public Works Code. Prior to 2006, San Francisco Public Works landmarked trees meeting the code criteria that were under their jurisdiction through an internal process. The code streamlined the process and allowed additional parties to nominate trees anywhere in San Francisco. The code specifies that the following entities can nominate trees for landmark status: the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission, CIty department heads, and the owner(s) of the property on which the tree grows..

The Urban Forestry Council is charged with overseeing the nomination process, developing criteria, and making recommendations to the Board of Supervisors for each application.They hold at least two public meetings on each nomination before making their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. If the tree is found to have enough merit, the Board of Supervisors will then decide whether or not to approve its landmark status.

San Francisco Department of the Environment supports the Urban Forestry Council in every step of this process: processing forms, working with nominators, scheduling visits and hearings, gathering documentation, and providint findings to the Board of Supervisors.

Following a successful application, the newly landmarked tree will be overseen by San Francisco Public Works Bureau of Urban Forestry.


Landmark Tree Map


List of Landmark Trees

San Francisco’s Urban Forestry Council discusses and recommends trees for landmark status at their public meetings.

  • Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius),Third Street and Yosemite Street Median
  • Blue gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), 1801 Bush Street, six (6) specimens
  • Blue elderberry (Sambucus mexicana), Folsom Street at Bernal Heights Boulevard
  • California buckeye (Aesculus californica), 780 28th Avenue
  • California buckeye (Aesculus californica), behind 757 Pennsylvania Street
  • Canary Island date palms (Phoenix canariensis), Quesada Street median west of Third Street
  • Canary Island date palms (Phoenix canariensis), 730 Dolores Street median
  • Cliff date palms (Phoenix rupicola), 730 Dolores Street median
  • Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), 20-28 Rosemont Place**
  • Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), 4124 23rd Street
  • Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), 46 Stillings Avenue
  • Flaxleaf paperbark (Melaleuca linariifolia), 1701 Franklin Street
  • Flowering ash (Fraxinus ornus), 500 Cortland Street (Bernal Heights Library)
  • Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), 3066 Market Street
  • Guadalupe palm (Brahea edulis),1608 Dolores Street median
  • Howell's Manzanita (Arctostaphylos hispidula), 115 Parker Avenue
  • Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla), 3555 Cesar Chavez Street
  • Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), 2626 Vallejo Street
  • New Zealand Christmas tree (Metrosideros excelsa), 1221 Stanyan Street
  • Norfolk Island-Cook Island pine hybrid (Araucaria spp.), 46A Cook Street
  • Sweet bay (Laurus nobilis), 555 Battery Street

Please note that many trees are in private backyards and are not available for public viewing.


FAQs

What is the difference between a significant tree and a landmark tree?
A "significant" tree is any tree within 10 feet of the public right-of-way that meets at least one of the following size criteria: 

  • Height greater than 20 feet
  • Canopy width greater than 15 feet
  • Trunk diameter at breast height (DBH) greater than 12 inches

Like "street" trees, "significant" trees are protected by Article 16 of the Public Works Code. San Francisco Public Works may cite and fine property owners for removal or improper pruning of these trees. 

"Landmark" trees are designated by the Board of Supervisors for their environmental, cultural, historical, botanical, or other importance. The landmarking process requires extensive assessment by the Urban Forestry Council, based on a set of specific criteria. These trees can be on public or private land.

Both "landmark" and "significant" trees need to be cared for according to the city’s Adopted Pruning Standards and both need a permit from San Francisco Public Works to be removed.

What trees are eligible for landmark status?
Any tree with environmental, cultural, historical, or other importance within the City and County of San Francisco can be nominated for landmark tree status.

Who can nominate a tree for landmark status?
Landmark trees may be nominated by five sources:

  • The property owner
  • The Board of Supervisors (through resolution)
  • The Historic Preservation Commission (through resolution)
  • The Planning Commission (through resolution)
  • San Francisco city agency or department heads

A member of the public may approach a property owner, the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission, or the head of a City department or agency about nominating a tree.

Why would someone nominate a tree for landmark status?
Trees provide environmental, social and economic benefits for everyone. While nominations are submitted for different reasons, generally nominations are made because it has been recognized that the tree has made a substantially beneficial impact. A goal of the landmark tree ordinance is to encourage a deeper appreciation of San Francisco’s trees, especially those of unusual size, historic or cultural significance, that provide critical habitat, and other ecological benefits, or have other unique characteristics.

Can I nominate a tree in my backyard if the trunk straddles the property line with my neighbor? 
Yes, but only if the other property owner co-nominates the tree. Under California Civil Code Sections 833 and 834, tree ownership is defined by where a tree trunk stands. For the purposes of Public Works Code Section 810(b) regarding nominations of trees for landmark status, a property "contains" a tree if its trunk is within the property line, regardless of where its roots or branches may extend. If a tree trunk is wholly on the land of one owner, then the tree belongs exclusively to that owner, and the owner's property "contains" the tree; if it straddles the properties of two owners, then it belongs to them in common, and both properties "contain" the tree for purposes of tree nomination. If your tree trunk (not roots or branches) breaks the soil surface on both sides of the line, then co-nomination is required.

Who decides if a tree will get landmark status?
The Urban Forestry Council will evaluate nominated trees. The Council will then give their recommendations to the Board of Supervisors for final determination. The Urban Forestry Council reviews landmark tree nominations at their public meetings.

What happens if a landmark tree is on a development or construction site?
There is a policy to protect a landmark tree in this situation. The Planning Department requires that people disclose any landmark trees on their property before a development or construction project begins. In addition, there are practical and straightforward techniques that must be used to protect a landmark tree. The Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and San Francisco Public Works (SFPW) will help implement this policy.

How many trees will this ordinance protect?
There is no maximum or minimum number of trees that this ordinance will protect. It depends on how many trees with appropriate characteristics are nominated and approved. 

What happens if someone harms a landmark tree or cuts down a landmark tree without a permit?
There are serious criminal, civil, and administrative penalties if someone harms a landmark tree or removes a landmark tree without a permit. The criminal penalties include monetary fines and jail time. The civil and administrative penalties are monetary fines. For more detailed information, please read Article 16 of the Public Works Code.

 

Last updated July 2021


Landmark Tree Nomination Form
Landmark Tree Process Flowchart (PDF)

 

Additional Resources

Landmark Tree Program - Department of Public Works
Urban Forestry Ordinance, Public Works Code

city seal png