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azarus >> good evening and welcome to the december 17 2014 meeting of the san francisco board of appeals. # there is one seat vacant ton on the board this evening, when a vacancy exist it is board may overrule the action of the department on appeal by a vote of three members, four votes are not required.
to my left is deputy city attorney, and i'm cynthia gold steen, the board's director. chris buck is here in the front row, he's a forester with the department of public works. and at the table in the front corner here is corey tigue, representing the planning department and commission; and senior building instructor who's representing the department of building inspection. if you would please go oefrz the board meeting guidelines and conduct the swearing in process. >> the board requests you turn off all phones and pagers so they will not disturb proceedings. please carry on conversations in the holeway.
the board's each has senl minutes to present their cases and three minutes for rebuttals. people affiliated with these parties must conclude their comments within the seven minutes period. to assist the board in the accurate preparation of minutes, members of the public who wish to speak on an item are asked but not required to submit a speaker or business card to board staff when you come to the podium. . speaker cards and pin rs available on the left side of the podium. the board welcomes your comments and suggestions. there are customer satisfaction survey forms on the left side of the podium. if you have questions about requests a hearing, board rules or hearing schedules please speak to us after the break or meeting, we'll call the board office tomorrow morning. the board office is located at 1650 mission street.
this meeting is broadcast live on cable channel 78 and dvds of this meeting are available for purchase directly from sfgov tv. at this point we'll conduct our swearing in process. if you intend to testify in any hearing; please stand, say i do after it has been affirmed. do you solemnly swear or az firm that the testimony you're about to give will be the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth? thank you. >> thank you. president lazarus, commissioners, there's one housekeeping item tonight and that has to do with item 12,
appeal 14-157, which is regarding a notice of violation at 819 ellis street. that matter has been withdrawn and will not be heard this evening. item number one is for general public comment. is there anybody here who would like to speak on an item that is not on the calendar. seeing none we'll move to item 2. seeing none there we'll move to item 3, which is the consideration of meeting minutes for december 10, 2014. if no changes, is there a motion to submit minutes as is? >> so moved. >> if you could call the roll please. >> we have a motion to commissioner honda to adopt the december 10 2014 minutes. on that motion, commissioner
fung? >> i. >> president lazarus. >> i. >> commissioner wilson. >> i. >> thank you. vote is four to zero, those minutes are adopted. >> item 4 is appeal 14-1072. the property is at 2707 21st street for a tree removal permit and we will start with the appellant. you have seven minutes to present your case. >> good evening and happy holidays. nice pronunciation of my name, by the way. my name is kevin mcroy, my wife and i own the house seeking to remove four illegal placed trees in front of our
house. they're illegal planting and our neighbors' wishes. we bought our house in october 2013 for a home for a small family. we had a daughter 1 month old at the time. we planned to live in this house through her childhood and beyond. with our dream house we inherited four palm trees planted in in one tree basin in the #150id walk out front. these palms present numerous challenges to pedestrians and drivers. overhead please. the small mediterranean palm is growing diagonally over the sidewalk. it's in violation of dpw's own codes which calls for a 8
foot wide sidewalk, which in this case we only have 6 feet. you can see this tree will continue to be a nuisance for the many pedestrian dog walkers, children walking to school and baby strollers which we see on a daily basis. the mexican palm to the left is a nuisance to drivers. people parking their cars deal with its low hanging prawns and passengers exiting must duck to avoid the prawns. m the vertical clearance the only 6 feet, but the code requires 14 feet to allow for street cleaning, etc. another picture from a different angle. this palm is quote, no tors for damaging cars and injuring people due to falling prawns from the eventual height of
100 feet. the other two trees which are queen palms will grow to an eventual height of 50 feet. this is the most dangerous aspect of these palm tree this is a residential neighborhood like hours, falling prawn. i hope to bring one in tonight as evidence of the risk they pose but imagine it wouldn't get past security here at city hall. the maintenance will be upward of $2,000. this yearly fee will only increase as the palms grow since palm trees cannot be height controlled like other species. this is an unfair financial burden for us the homeowners who inherited this situation. you may be asking yourselves, how did four palm trees end up in one tree basin.
it seems like an unusual situation to us. throughout this process and talking with former neighbors and owners of this house, we learned through previous owners went through this process a few years ago when they wanted the plum tree removed. one weekend they took matters into their own hand, illegally real moving the plum tree and replacing it with these palms. now as the new homeowners we're stuck dealing with the consequences. we invited our neighbors to submit their opinion to the board of appeals either in favor or against removal. in conversations we have the full support of removal and three neighbors said they'd write letters to support removal due to safety concerns. this tree bray sin is suitable for one tree, not four, particularly four dangerous
and inappropriate trees such as these palms. we've lined up a palm tree specialist to remove the trees and relocate them, hopefully keeping them right here in san francisco. we hope to have the chance to work with dpw and friends of the urban forest to replace the trees with one tree more suitable for the neighborhood, which is full or plum trees and olive trees. p palm trees are great when they're in an open space. four of them simply do not belong into a single tree basin on a busy residential street where health and safety should be the primary concerns. all we're asking is to restore the previous tree basin to its original state and undo the illegal action of the previous owners. thank you and i'm happy to answer any questions. >> since you recently purchased the property in october of last year, did you have concerns when you pir
xhased the property with those four palms? >> buying a home in san francisco, you don't have a lot of time to focus on the details. also with a one month old baby i think it's something we assumed we could deal with in the future. having gone through the process so far and losing the application and the appeal, i've since learned otherwise, but i guess we didn't know what we were getting spoo. >> was there any disclosure from the seller in regards to the four illegally planted trees? >> my wife says absolutely not. i don't think so. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> you may have mentioned this, how do you know what the history was there with the other tree? >> with the plum treel that was there is? talking to neighbors, our next door neighbor lived there through the ordeal. my wife said the homeowner admitted it to her.
>> thank you. >> we can hear from the department now mr. buck. >> good evening commissioners, chris buck, acting urban forester with department of public works. i'm at a tree hearing on august 25, 2014 and the findings of the department were outlined in order number 182947. the department supported keeping the trees in the tree basis. i have app few photos, but the basic findings are although i.t.'s unusual to have four trees crammed into a single tree planting location the four trees are coexisting rather well. we'll go to overhead.
some of the lower prawns could be pruned to provide more clearance for the pedestrians so pay sis for denial was that we felt that with some pruning and improvements this would be a very adequate path of travel for pedestrians and motorists. one recommendation would be to allow the removal of the smaller sand palm circled in red on the right and the removal of the plant -- an aloe plant on the left. is that's another view. we believe moving the smaller palm, again, the department's decision was to deny the request, but in preparation for tonight's hearing, providing some feedback we feel that removing the smaller palm along with the aloe
plant provides enough space to walk by the palm trees. they don't meet spacing guidelines, but they fit within the tree basin and don't impede the public right of way. relatively speaking the palm trees are a lower maintenance tree, which require pruning of thrower prawns. they don't damage or buckle the sidewalk so that's not typically going to be an issue with the maintenance surrounding the trees. based on google street view looking at images over multiple years it looks like perhaps in 2007 they were planted. you can see three young palms planted together in a single tree basin and there's a for sale sign. it looks like likely realtor trying to gus say up the frontage just went a little exuberantly and planted a number of palm trees in a single basin. with that said, we don't feel like we need to amount to
vigorous defense of this. it's unusual, but want to provide perspective on why we denied it at department level. we acknowledge it's an unusual setting. >> you made reference that the palms don't do a lot of sidewalk damage. would that be true of the plum treatments as well, or olive, which i gather are more common in that neighborhood? >> olive tree would do more sidewalk damage, plum trees less damage so ranking them in order of least concern would be the palms, and then the plums and then the olives are. one challenge is that we might have one owner who loves the palm trees so we try to be consistent at the department al level, but i understand the property owner's concerns. >> are they accurate about the cost of the maintenance? >> well, the citation they made is accurate. there is information on the
public works website. we're in the process of relinquishing maintenance to property owners to try to give the public a sense of what it costs to maintain an average street tree. i believe we've put in $500 every year or two so if you multiply that by four trees that would be $2,000. however, realistically i would currently estimate it would be a few hundred dollars to have someone snip off the lower prawns. >> what would be the big deal about removing them? >> the department's policy is typically if a tree is relatively healthy and sustainable to keep the tree in place. the smaller palm is less concerning, it's unusual.
they're not creating a problem, not impeding the public right of way. the trees are young so don't have required clearance over the tree. we don't expect a young treel to have 14 feet of clearance, but eventually they'll have required clearance over the sidewalk so our reluctance to approve stems from the fact that if we let everyone remove their trees now and start over with new trees we'd have no mature trees because most of the public when faced with the costs to maintain them are on a budget and they want to remove the tree and start over and set the clock back on maintenance costs so we're trying to keep a gate keeper and keep these larger trees in the public right of way. >> what about the issue of safety, high winds and prawns falling. >> on mission street we have a number of very tall mexican sand palms and we have top
trun those every couple years to prune off the lower deld prawns. in the right wind condition when the prawns detach from the tree can blow quite a bit in the wind, pick up some speed and at the base of the mexican sand palm it has sharp thorns at the base of them. if queen palms don't have those bashes on them and prawns -- you're more like lil to prawn those off in time because they'll start browning occupant and once every two years just have them pruned off. i feel they're pretty safe. i nine, we have at least 50 very large, tall mexican palms on mission street with very few -- i mean, i can't think of a single claim or injury that i can think of in the last ten years from the prawns striking someone and causing someone damage. >> thank you.
>> sure. >> what does the department think about the removal of a second palm, the mention xan palm? >> sure. . one possibility would be to allow the mexican palm. the middle tree is the mexican sand palm. one option would be to remove the mexican sand palm, which is between the taller queen palms so i'd say we're here to defends our denial, but admit it's an unusual case and are open to the direction from the commissioners. >> are there other palms in the neighborhood or is it primarily plums and olives? >> there's no real precedent or consistency. there's not a lot of other palm trees so it's not matching a pattern or species in that immediate
neighborhood in any way? >> is there a dominant spees species in the neighborhood? >> i would have to rack my mind, but there's not a lot of palm trees in that general area so it's not like it contributes to the neighborhood character in terms of a single species planting. >> thank you. >> couple questions. your first picture it looked like there was overhead wires in the tree and the brief states the palms can reach 100 feet. as it matures won't that be a problem for the overheadlines? >> probably the biggest challenge with the overheadlines is right now. the trees, the palm prawns are right now. now they're at their most movement they have in high winds. the power lines out there, there's a service drop so there's no overhead power, no
high voltage and low voltage. it brings electricity from the main lines across the street to the home in addition to phone and cable. these lines are designed to absorb a lot of movement. we tend to recommend folks to allow the canopy to kovrz these lower lines and hide them. as the palms grow taller they'll have a single stem which will be moving a little bit so we have less concern about the service drops to the property. >> okay. and then the last question i have is that with four palms so closely together as they mature won't the root ball expand a bit as well. if the root become were to expand on the center palm it appears to me it would disrupt both the two queen palms. >> is size of the palms, the base of the trunks will get a little bit larger. they -- the mexican sand palm, the side of that trunk will actually stay relatively the
same and become a little bit smaller as it gets much much taller. i.t. will lose a lot of those lower frauns that fluffs off. >> i'm concerned about the root ball below the surface. >> they're in a tight setting. with time the tree basin could be expanded slightly. right now the queen palms are on the edges of the tree basin so it would prior expanding the basin a foot or two in another direction to keep the palm base from impacting tg sidewalk. >> at full -- in your experience for the mexican palm at full growth what would the root ball width be? >> it will all be taking place below ground and would interact well with the other existing palms so i wouldn't see the root ball expansion as a primary concern. i think it's just the overall sense of house appropriate is it to have three palms tucked
into a single space and i would say the department reluctantly denied this request for removal. we have property owners change hands. we heard from the property owner, they're committed to living there long time so we're sympathetic to that but what one person finds to be nice, we don't expect every property to look that way, but we're trying to balance just keeping some of this relatively healthy. we acknowledge that long term it's an unusual situation. >> thank you. >> could you call media services and see if they can get the closed captioning to start working. thank you. is there public comment on this item? anyone to speak on public comment . seeing none we have rebuttal from the appellants. three minutes of rebuttal. 3 4 f1
>> this is my wife, chloe. i didn't sign up to live in key west, so i just wanted to say that. a few notes, we had a palm tree arborist come out, check it out. he looked at photos of the site and i quote him, in my professional opinion this is far too many palms to xram into such a small space and are in fact unsuitable palms to use in this planter even if all were cut down but one. those are his words. another note, mr. buck said the lower prawns can be pruned, but it's my understanding that with the short tree you can't lop off the top of a tree so i don't think that's an option for the smaller trees. as far as sidewalk damage go, we just replaced six squares on our sidewalk this last year and i i've heard the dpw
speak in this form that some trees are better than others so any tree can give you sidewalk damage so i don't know if that's consideration. i'd much prefer to have a mature tree there. i would like to just plant a smaller tree and start've and watch it mature along with our daughter. >> thank you, mr. buck, for your comments. i think it's wonderful you're considering removing one or two of the trees. the trees are coexisting reasonably in the neighborhood. every conversation we've had with neighbors sitting on the stoop feels that because they don't match the neighborhood, no one feels they're a friendly presence they'd like to have in their neighborhood. it's not like a set of trees
that people don't have an opinion, but this wasn't correct when it was put in and we'd prefer to have something that fits the neighborhood. while well appreciate removing two trees and that choub a good compromise, the cost still to maintain two in one station seems exorbitant and unfair and if we're going to go that far, wouldn't it be nice to meet with the neighborhood and our neighborhoods have expressed along with us to go back to the way that the trees were originally on that street. also, if they were put in in about 2007 which sounds about right because the house was put on the market in 2007 they're not that mature and we could consider putting in a more mature tree so we don't have to wait seven years to reach a similar canopy. . >> thank you.
>> have you looked into the cost of relocation of these trees? >> wech. we have. >> last time i moved two fully mature palms stored them and moved them back after the project was completed $50,000. >> wasn't that high, but we have a palm tree remover who will remove the trees for us for a very reasonable price. he would then sell them to somebody else and make money that way so that -- >> okay. >> from a financial standpoint there's an option to donate them at a higher cost. but open for negotiation. >> thank you. >> mr. buck, any rebuttal? >> chris buck, urban forestry. no rebuttal at this time. thank you. >> thank you. commissioners the matter's submitted.
>> should i start? >> sure. >> okay. i'm not a fan of the red flower plum mr. buck and i have had conversations regarding that, i do think there is some serious overcrowding in this planter. i don't necessarily believe that all of them should believe removed and replaced by one tree, but at a minimum two of these need to go away. one is definitely in the pedestrian right of way, which is, you know, right at eye length for a young adult, which would not be a safe situation. >> i think the current situation if nothing else is aesthetically displeasing and i think it's an odd compromise to get rid of a couple so i
would lean more towards getting rid of all of them. >> i'm the one who always allows it. >> okay. >> motion, madam president? >> i'll move to grant the appeal and allow the removal of the trees on the basis that it is more suitable to the neighborhood and there's justification for removing them. >> are we going to have a condition in regards to replacement? >> yes, maybe we need some help in terms of that in size. >> have they discussed what thiep of tree they'd like to replace it with? >> they did say their desire to replant with a more traditional street