SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Recently, the City of San Francisco has placed the care of trees along sidewalks, also known as street trees, in the hands of residents. For some property owners, the move has proved costly.

Until recently, San Francisco’s nearly 24,000 street trees had been cared for by the city’s Department of Public Works. But in the last two years San Francisco has begun to transfer the ownership of their street trees to property owners.

“We want to be in partnership with the property owners,’ said Rachel Gordon from San Francisco’s Department of Public Works (DPW). “What else we want to do, very strongly in San Francisco, is to protect our urban forest.”

The problem is money. San Francisco has said it does not have the cash to care for its urban forest. But some property owners have said they are not happy about having a ‘free’ tree forced upon them only to be told by the city how to care for the tree.

“It is extremely frustrating,” said Ann Maher a San Francisco property owner. “That we are suddenly responsible as a brand new property owner.”

Maher and her husband bought an apartment building in Cole Valley last fall. This past spring, concerns about windy weather led the couple to radically trim back the mature carob tree that grows along the sidewalk in front of their building.

Someone complained to the city and when the DPW personal inspected the tree, they found 95 percent of the canopy had been removed. The City fined the Maher’s $1,715.

“We knew we were responsible for the tree when we purchased the property. In the disclosure there was one little line and it said ‘the city requires you to trim the tree’ and that was it. Once we closed and actually purchased the building we got nothing from the city,” Maher said.

DPW recently attended a meeting of San Francisco property owners to address the issue of the city’s street trees. The department has also said it intends to reduce the Maher’s fine and the agency hopes the couple will learn how to better prune trees in the future.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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