SF Gov't Could Save Old Tree From Axe of Redevelopment

Sometimes the controversies in San Francisco can get so heated that it’s hard to remember that grassroots — and tree-roots — NIMBYism is still going strong here.

As the Police Department struggles to maintain face under the weight of its biased officers, with its five biggest enemies continuing to fast in the name of justice while giving Mayor Ed Lee the cold shoulder, a less intense albeit just as fiery debate is heading from a backyard into a board room this afternoon.

Added to the Board of Supervisors agenda late on Friday by Supervisor Mark Farrell, he and his colleagues will decide if a century-old, 100-foot tall Norfolk Pine hybrid growing on private property should be axed by the owner or spared felling and granted landmark status.

The Associated Press reports that neighbors have been trying to save the tree for a year now. (This is, of course, about more than just a tree.)

[jump] It’s a classic Not In My Backyard saga, even if it has a little twist. The current owner bought the property in 2012, then last year began removing trees — two palms and one of two pines. The owner was trying to redevelop (shocker in this market, eh), but neighbors just saw destruction. They successfully halted removal through a 90-day restraining order before going full bore on the landmark status attempt, which of course the owner is against.

If preservation prevails, the Norfolk Pine hybrid would become the 17th tree in San Francisco to have landmark status (old, historic, or environmentally significant), thus making it impossible to remove them without the help of Mother Nature.

Norfolk Pines are native to the South Pacific Ocean, and they look like Christmas trees — hence the nickname “living Christmas tree.” They’re widely cultivated and not endangered.

Last July, the city's Urban Forestry Council couldn’t make up its mind on the landmark status, splitting a decision over the future of the tree 2-2. That prompted intervention from the Board of Supervisors.

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