Is SF trying to prevent trees from falling?

June 19, 2008 7:09:01 PM PDT
ABC7 News has learned that the tree that dropped a limb and killed a woman at San Francisco's Stern Grove three months ago was inspected but no action was recommended. That is according to an investigation by the Recreations and Park Department.

The arborists report commissioned four years ago by the Recreation and Park Department, gave the redwood that dropped a branch and killed professional dog walker Kathleen Bolton a hazard rating on the high end of moderate.

It recommended that the city conduct an aerial inspection of that tree.

In an exclusive interview with ABC7 News, Recreation and Park General Manager Yomi Agunbiade says they did that, but determined no further action was required.

"I dont have anything requested by our tree crew to go in and do any work on that tree," said Agunbiade.

Agunbiade says changing weather conditions probably weakened the tree.

"Depending on the weather, depending on the wind, things change quite often," said Agunbiade.

The report also identified 550 of stern grove's 2,600 trees as potential hazards which needed attention.

Agunbiadi says 75 percent of the trees rated very high risk were addressed, which means they were either removed, pruned or inspected -- as were 63 percent of the trees considered high risk.

Agunbiade says the remaining trees in those two categories are in areas with less pedestrian traffic.

"What our goal now is to go through and identify those, regardless of where they are and address them," said Agunbiade.

That may take time. There are only three tree crews to maintain the estimated 100,000 trees in the city parks.

Mayor Gavin Newsom says he wishes he could hire more crews but the city's tight budget wont permit it.

"We would probably have to hire probably a dozen arborists or more to come to any rational defense of having an appropriate level of staffing," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Regular dog walkers at Stern Grove told ABC7 News they don't always think about trees falling on them, but they are concerned about the maintenance of the city's parks.

"There's a park near my house but I come all the way over here because that park is disgusting," said park visitor Lorraine Bustamante.

"Possibly dangerous?" asked ABC7's Vic Lee.

Yeah for children and for dogs," said Bustamante.

"They need more money for everything, the city is in the hole. Maybe there not running the city right. I don't know, I think they ought to have priorities," said park visitor Albert Benitou.

Agunbiade says he's dedicated one of the three tree crews to Stern Grove to continue inspecting the trees there. This, as the outdoor summer concert season begins.


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