Noe Valley Voice March 2006

The Seeds of a Neighborhood Tree Planting

By Liz Highleyman

When Stephen Fowler moved to Noe Valley in 1997, he loved the neighborhood, but felt there was something missing. "It seemed to me that Noe Valley had a lot less trees than many other neighborhoods," says the 25th Street resident. "I think trees are overwhelmingly positive in that they add color, attract birds, absorb carbon dioxide, and create a pleasant environment."

If you agree--and if you'd like to see a new crop of saplings gracing once-barren sidewalks--the time may be ripe to get a tree of your own. The group Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) is sponsoring a May tree planting in Noe Valley. New trees cost $150 each, including tree purchase and help with concrete removal and planting. But you'll need to act soon: The deadline to sign up for a tree is March 31.

FUF, a non-profit organization that believes trees are crucial to a livable urban environment, has worked with San Francisco residents to plant more than 40,000 trees since its founding in 1981.

When Fowler heard about FUF, he called to find out how the group worked and was recruited as a volunteer neighborhood organizer for Noe Valley. Since last June, Fowler and two other local organizers, Rachel Ratliff and Isabelle Salvadori, have convinced more than 30 neighbors to participate in the upcoming planting.

"There is such a psychic benefit to having trees around, as well as the financial benefit of increased house values and the environmental benefit of better air," says Ratliff, who lives on Noe Street. She thinks the FUF offer is a good deal. "It would cost much more to do it yourself."

Also sold on the tree-planting is Salvadori, a Romain Street resident and member of the "Green and Beautifying Committee" for Noe Valley's new Community Benefit District. "A street with trees is always more attractive than one without," she says, "and it shows that people care." She notes that the benefit district is coordinating with FUF to plant about 100 trees along 24th Street.

Do It With Your Neighbors

The Noe Valley organizers say the May planting will be a true community event. A representative from each household getting a tree will be asked to attend an informational meeting in early April. Then, on Saturday, May 6, recipients (at least one person per tree) will gather to help with the planting. The neighbors will work together until all the trees are in place. The event concludes with a potluck lunch hosted by one of the participants.

At the April meeting, Friends of the Urban Forest members will answer questions about the process, discuss planting-day plans, and help participants select their trees.

FUF Program Director Doug Wildman advises new planters to consider several factors when choosing a tree, such as the available sidewalk space, soil type, amount of sunlight, and the growth rate of the species. Magnolias and olive trees are two of the many species that have thrived here in the past.

"Noe Valley has a wide range of microclimates and is able to support a variety of trees," he says.

Tree planters also should pick a location that will pass muster with the city's Department of Public Works (DPW). DPW regulates a tree's proximity to intersections, bus stops, street signs, fire hydrants, utility poles, underground lines, and other trees. In addition, trees may not interfere with visibility for passing traffic.

Fowler says the first step is for property owners to complete the FUF letter of agreement and the DPW tree planting application form, both available online at the FUF web site, The $150 cost also includes a follow-up visit to check on the tree's health after 12 to 18 months. FUF will obtain the required permits from the city, handle underground utility identification and concrete cutting, order trees and supplies, and provide tools.

To sign up for the May 6 planting, contact Fowler at stephenfowler@yahoo .com or 648-4811, or Ratliff at ratliff@ Those who submit completed forms by the deadline will be informed of the April meeting date and location.

"I'm really looking forward to the planting as a way to get to know my neighbors," says Ratliff. "We would love to have more people take part in this planting, because every tree counts for all of us!"