Nov 14, 2023 - News

San Francisco opens street tree nursery

The new street tree nursery in SoMa. Photo: Courtesy of San Francisco Department of Public Works

San Francisco has a new freeway-enveloped tree nursery to support the city's street tree program.

Driving the news: The city's public works department opened the street tree nursery last week on a vacant 14,000-square-foot lot between two sections of Interstate 80 in SoMa.

  • The lot has space to grow up to 1,000 trees to plant throughout the streets of San Francisco.
  • The street tree nursery was partly funded by a $3.8 million grant from a state program that aims to beautify areas along state freeways.

Why it matters: The nursery aims to reduce carbon emissions associated with the current process of transporting the plants from the outskirts of the Bay Area into the city.

  • It is also a way to offer urban forestry education to the community and beautify the desolate area.

What they're saying: "This is about addressing one of those mysteries of life: Why the hell didn't we do this 25 years ago?" Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Of note: The nursery's New Roots workforce development program will offer job training and career opportunities in urban forestry.

  • "The nursery will be the perfect setting to grow green job skills among communities that have experienced environmental harm," Brian Wiedenmeier, the executive director for Friends of the Urban Forest, said in a press release.

The big picture: Trees in cities help to reduce air pollution and cool homes and streets, as well as prevent stormwater runoff, but San Francisco has one of the smallest urban tree canopies in the country.

  • StreetTreeSF, run by the public works department, plants about 1,000 to 1,500 trees annually, but hopes to double that number thanks to a $12 million grant the city received in September, Rachel Gordon, a policy director with the department, told Axios at the time.

What to watch: The city hopes the nursery will help bolster its efforts to improve tree canopy coverage in neighborhoods like Bayview-Hunters Point, the Tenderloin and SoMa.

  • In underserved areas of San Francisco, only 8% of the ground is covered with tree canopy, versus 15% of tree canopy coverage in other census tracts in the city.

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