PRO & CONS – Prop E – November 8, 2016

PROPOSITION E – RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF STREET TREES

Charter Amendment

Placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors

Requires a 2/3rds vote for passage

THE QUESTION:

Should the city of San Francisco set aside $19 million from the General Fund and transfer responsibility from property owners to the City for the maintenance of trees and sidewalks damaged by the trees?

BACKGROUND:

Since 2011, City law has generally required property owners to maintain trees in the public sidewalk area next to their property, and maintain the sidewalk around those trees. The property owner can be liable for injuries and property damage others suffer from the owner’s failure to maintain those trees and the sidewalks damaged by those trees. The San Francisco Unified School District (School District) is also responsible for maintaining trees on its property.

THE PROPOSAL:

Proposition E is a charter amendment that would transfer responsibility from property owners to the City for maintaining trees and sidewalks damaged by the trees. The City would then be liable for injuries and property damage resulting from failure to maintain the trees and to repair sidewalks damaged by the trees.

Specifically, under this newly-proposed parcel tax, those duties would be transferred back to the city beginning July 2017. The measure would raise $19 million per year through a budget set-aside and a progressive parcel tax ($36.75 per year for a typical single-family home), and would require The City to use those funds to properly maintain all of the City’s street trees and public sidewalks, as well as assuming liability for trip-and-fall lawsuits, and supporting the care of trees in public schoolyards.

A “YES” Vote Means:

If you vote “yes,” you want to amend the Charter to transfer responsibility from property owners to the City for maintaining trees on sidewalks around their property as well as sidewalks damaged by the trees. The City would pay for this by setting aside $19 million per year from its General Fund, adjusted annually, based on City revenues.

A “NO” Vote Means:

If you vote “no,” you do not want the City to take on responsibility for maintaining the trees along the sidewalks and any sidewalks damaged by the trees.

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF PROP E:

  • The current system unfairly places responsibility on property owners to take care of the trees and fix the sidewalks, many of whom do not have the resources to do so.
  • Transferring care and maintenance to the City ensures they will be cared for on a regular basis, by professional arborists.
  • This measures includes funding to maintain 50,000 new trees, in addition to maintenance for current street trees.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST PROP E:

  • This measure would reassign all responsibility for trees and sidewalks without identifying a dedicated funding source for maintenance.
  • Proposition E would significantly increase the cost of government.
  • Funding for the measure could fluctuate year-to-year, depending on the change in the City’s overall discretionary revenue.

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