Archive for September, 2013

Street Trees, Community/Civic Dynamic, and its Effect on Home Values!

Here in San Francisco, a city that touts its green image, many are surprised to find that only 13.7% of the city is covered in tree canopy. If you’re lacking a reference for what this number means, it’s actually less than most major cities, some notables being: Detroit, Los Angeles, and San Jose. The September newsletter from our local arborist enthusiasts – Friends of the Urban Forest – spells out this surprising information and also calls attention to the fact that our city’s tree canopy is shrinking, with tree planting falling behind tree mortality due in part to waning civic commitment.


Founded in 1981, Friends of the Urban Forest, or FUF, is San Francisco’s non-profit arborist organization that focuses on volunteer initiative to plant and maintain street trees throughout the city. FUF has planted over 47,000 trees throughout San Francisco in the past thirty years, while the Department of Public Works cares for less than half of the city’s street trees and currently maintains around 35,000 trees. In their latest newsletter, FUF articulates a certain amount of urgency in terms of the city’s decreasing canopy cover.



Street trees have transformed the intersection of Fell and Buchanan streets.

Due to budget constraints, the responsibility of tree maintenance is being shifted more and more to the homeowner, which is a situation unique to the city of San Francisco. As a result of this shift and a lack of a strong civic arborist legacy, many homeowners are forced to grapple with the consequences of a lack of tree canopy, unruly and unmaintained trees, and the personal expense of fixing them.

Essentially,  the dilemma here in San Francisco is this – trees beautify any neighborhood, but can be costly and time consuming to maintain and many homeowners don’t even know who is ultimately responsible for the care of their local street trees.

Aecom, a consulting firm, presented an extensive report in October 2012 of the costs and benefits the Department of Public Works would be facing if they took on the complete responsibility of the city’s tree maintenance and planting. In it, the hard numbers are explored and findings suggest street maintenance would be far more cost efficient if managed by the city instead of parceled out to homeowners.

Looking at this dilemma from a real estate perspective, there is real value in a home beautified by street trees. As FUF notes, one study found that average home price increases by 3% when located in a neighborhood with street trees and reduces time on market by 1.7 days. Increased canopy increases oxygen, cleans the air, reduces global warming, reduces flooding and water pollution, calms traffic, and provides many other social and indirect benefits. However, street trees must be maintained, otherwise they can become a hazard and inconvenience to the surrounding community. Roots can damage property, underground sewage, and infringe on pavement.

In San Francisco, a tip to the savvy homeowner and/or buyer may be to look at the age, type, and condition of street trees in front of a home you’re interested in. The Department of Public Works maintains a map of streets where they service trees and you can also call in to the DPW if you’re unsure. This way you can anticipate potential problems with trees that may need repair and have certain knowledge of what party bears the burden of maintenance.

Waller Street in the Lower Haight looked a little barren without trees.

Are street trees worth the expense? Well that’s for you to decide!

Rita Roti is a broker associate / assistant manager at Zephyr and can be reached at

Rita Roti is a broker associate / assistant manager at Zephyr Real Estate and can be reached at

It’s that time of the year again, PARK(ing) Day

PARK(ing) Day, an exercise in creativity centered around the repurposing and reimaging of public parking spaces, is back again this Friday, September 20th, for its annual event.

Founded by the Rebar Group, a San Francisco based art and design studio, this event began in 2005 with a 2-hour “PARK” installation on a metered parking space in the city’s financial district. The event is focused on citizens independently turning metered parking spots into temporary public parks and other spaces that encourage urbanites to reassess the way streets are perceived and utilized.

Back in 2011 the event saw 975 “PARK” installations pop up across 160 cities on six continents. The numbers aren’t in for 2012, but this global guerilla event has only grown since its inception and will surely draw plenty of installations throughout the Bay Area this year.

Here in San Francisco PARK(ing) Day seems to have been largely embraced by city officials and government. “Parklet’s” have been popping up all across San Francisco since the Pavement to Parks program began in 2010 with goals similar to those of PARK(ing) Day, but with a system of more permanent parking space conversion. Thirty-eight parklets have been installed throughout the city as of January. These “parklets” are open to the public, sponsored and maintained by local businesses/community organizations, and are permitted for 6 months with the possibility for another 6 month extension. Some may feel that this is a commercialization of the original movement. One interesting example of this manifestation is a 1 minute IKEA video posted on YouTube of a young hip couple creating a parklet entirely out of IKEA products. Commercialization or no, many seem happy with the overall direction of the movement and that this is a result of people truly reassessing how public space in an urban setting is used. As Blaine Merker, a Rebar principal, mused “What has been really gratifying is that (PARK)ing Day, which began as a guerilla art project, has been adopted by cities and integrated into their official planning strategies. A relatively modest art intervention has changed the way cities conceive, organize and use public space.”

As expected in large bustling cities full of cars and with limited parking like those found across America, an event like this is the subject of much contention. In San Francisco, it appears the use of metered parking is flexible beyond the realm of motor vehicles, but that is not the case everywhere. In many cities across the globe parking day has been outlawed and people run the risk of facing fines. What’s your take?

In any case, the event brings about beauty, creativity, and free space to enjoy so get excited and check out the “PARK” map for listings of the various sites here in San Francisco. Local participation and appreciation is the driving component of this event so get out, enjoy the beautiful late summer weather, and visit some PARK’s.

Some installments to check out this Friday:

PARK(ing) Day 2009:

Rita Roti is a broker associate / assistant manager at Zephyr Real Estate and can be reached at



Another September, another Architecture Home Tour Weekend!


Ok, September offers  far more than home tours of amazing properties with interesting ideas come to life.  In the Architecture and the City Festival, there’s design, there’s films, there’s lectures!  All in September and all bought to us by AIA SF. I’ve already missed some great events, but I am looking forward to the home tour as always.   Presented by  AIA SF and  the Center for Architecture + Design this is our chance to enter and experience diverse architecture and neighborhoods in San Francisco.

You’ll have to purchase a ticket to get the addresses of the homes, but you might recognize a few:

Such as “Hill House” in Glen Park by Cary Bernstein 

Or the Mission Residence by Richard Johnson Design


Or the Butterfly House by  John Maniscalco Architecture in Russian Hill


See more at  SF 2013 Living Home Tours and buy tickets in advance for the tours on September 28 + 29!

Rita Roti is a broker associate / assistant manager at Zephyr Real Estate and can be reached at

Rita Roti is a broker associate / assistant manager at Zephyr and can be reached at