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VOLUNTEER WITH US!

Get your hands in the dirt!

Join us in activities like tree planting, pruning, and sidewalk gardening.

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WHY VOLUNTEER WITH US

  • Growing and caring for our urban forest is one of the most effective actions you can take to fight climate change and create environmental and health benefits for our city.

  • Volunteering with others in the community is a fun and social way to contribute to a worthy cause.

  • ​Volunteers tell us it brings them lasting joy and satisfaction to see the trees and sidewalk gardens they planted grow and flourish over time.​

 

We plant trees, install sidewalk gardens, and make tree care visits year-round in a variety of neighborhoods. Our planting events generally run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m on Saturdays. 

 

Tree Planting: Led by our staff and volunteer Planting Leaders, volunteers assist in planting 5 to 7 trees at each event.

 

Sidewalk Garden: Led by our staff, volunteers prepare the sidewalk and plant 8 to 10 native plants.

Tree Care: Volunteers work with our staff to assess the health of the trees, ensure that supporting stakes and ties are sound, and prune the trees as needed. 

 

Other: We also recruit volunteers for outreach and advocacy. 

Our Volunteer Waiver outlines the terms and conditions under which you will volunteer with us. It covers important aspects of liability, confidentiality, and code of conduct. 

CORPORATE GROUPS

Corporate workdays are a fun opportunity for groups to engage in team-building and fulfill corporate social responsibility goals while benefiting the environment.

COMMUNITY GROUPS

Our Community Group Volunteering program includes planting or caring for trees and sidewalk gardens, weekday and weekend options, youth* volunteering opportunities, capacity for 5-20 volunteers per event, and knowledgeable guidance from our staff and experienced tree leaders.

 

*For more information regarding our Youth Volunteering Policy, please reach out to volunteers@fuf.net.

LEAD A GUIDED WALK

If you would like to volunteer to share your knowledge with a captive audience (and receive a modest honorarium), we would love for you to lead a Guided Walk event for us! 

 

Please fill out the form below to express your interest. We will reach out to you to discuss potential dates and themes. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • Who can plant a tree on the sidewalk?
    Planting a tree on the sidewalk requires a permit from Public Works. Residents or community organizations can plant a tree as long as they obtain a permit and plant a tree species approved by the Bureau of Urban Forestry.
  • I got a flyer/postcard informing me that you are planting a tree near me. Where can I learn more about it?
    If you’ve recently gotten a flyer or postcard from us or seen us on your block, please visit this Block Planting FAQ to learn more about our work and what to expect in the coming weeks.
  • Do residents have to give their permission for the City to grant the permit to plant a tree on the sidewalk?
    No. Public Works give permits for planting trees on the sidewalk, and the City intends to plant trees in all viable sites in order to meet climate-resilient goals. In 2016, the city’s voters decided with Prop E that the City will manage all street trees, moving the ownership of street trees from the homeowner to the City.
  • Who is going to take care of this tree?
    We will plant the tree for free and prune it for the first three years; Public Works will water once a week during that time. You can even come out for one of our Tree Care events to learn more and help out! After the first three years, the city is legally obliged to care for your tree, including pruning it every 3-5 years.
  • I’m concerned that trash and dog poop will end up in my tree basin.
    Generally, tree basins that are cared for don’t attract trash. When we plant the tree, we cover it in a 3” layer of mulch which looks nice and keeps the soil moist. After the first year you may plant small non-aggressive annuals such as strawberry, small succulents, and native flowers.
  • I’m worried that the tree could crack my sidewalk and I will have to pay.
    We try to minimize sidewalk damage by planting trees that do not have aggressive root systems. We also water trees regularly in the first three years to encourage roots to grow downward. In 2016 San Francisco residents voted for Street Tree SF, which shifted responsibility for the care and repair of street trees from property owners to the city. The city is now responsible for sidewalk damage caused by street trees. You will not have to pay or be held liable.
  • I rent my house and would need my landlord’s permission.
    Since the sidewalk is city property and the city has given us permission, we don’t need your landlord’s permission to plant a tree. If you would like a tree, we can plant one or you can have your landlord call us for more information about getting a tree.
  • What kinds of trees do you plant?
    Tree species selection is per site/project. Most neighborhoods will have a general list, and then narrow it down with the information specific planting site
  • Will the tree roots grow into my underground utility lines?
    We maintain a minimum distance from utility lines, which we have marked out and delineated so we know where they run. Tree roots grow where water is available - in cases where they interfere with utilities, it’s often initially caused by a leaking pipe, and the roots follow the water into the pipe. Proper slow drip “deep watering” is provided to mitigate this risk to encourage the roots to follow the water down to the natural water table. Here’s how we make sure to avoid this issue: Here’s how we make sure to avoid this issue: Utility Check: We work with utility providers to identify the location of underground communication, electric, and gas utilities so we can avoid them. There are no records for sewer line markings, but we always identify the sewer vent before approving a tree location. Without locating the sewer, we do not plant trees. Basin Placement: Trees are planted at least 3 feet away from communication, electric, and gas lines and at least 5 feet away from sewers. If a sewer vent cannot be located, a tree will not be planted unless the tree is a request and there is a vent perhaps hidden in the garage. Deep root watering: Slow drip watering (from our water bags) allows water to penetrate slowly into the soil and encourages roots to grow deep rather than horizontally, increasing the potential of roots getting into the sewer. Sewer lines: A tree may "find" the leak if the property has a leaking pipe. In most cases, roots will not grow into pipes unless there is an existing opening or water is emitted. Soil Compaction: When trees are planted, they are done so where the soil is augered/loosened straight down. The soil compaction around the augered zone means roots are discouraged from growing into the area.
  • What can I do if I do not want you to plant a tree?
    If, after reading the FAQs, you still have concerns, please fill out this form. The city intends to plant street trees in all possible sites in order to meet climate resilient goals. Completing the form may result in delaying the planting for a year or so.
  • I live in San Francisco, and I’d like to plant a sidewalk tree. What are my options?
    If you fall within the green zones of our funding map, you can submit your interest for a tree by Friends of the Urban Forest at our community tree plantings. The Bureau of Urban Forestry might have plans to plant sidewalk trees in your neighborhood. The Bureau of Urban Forestry can be contacted by phone at 628-652-TREE (8733) or by email at urbanforestry@sfdpw.org. You can plant on your own! We have put together a Helpful Guide on our website.
  • How can I request a tree?
    1. FIND OUT WHERE WE PLANT This map displays the neighborhoods we currently plant in. 2. REQUEST A TREE We plan our planting projects based on interest in a neighborhood. If you live in our priority planting zones and would like a tree adjacent to your home or business, pleas complete the Tree Interest Form.
  • I requested a tree but I haven't received one. Why?
    One of two main reason: 1. It's likely that your request for a tree does not fall under the areas we currently plant in. Our tree planting efforts are focussed in neighborhoods that have the lowest tree canopy as we want trees to be equitably distributed in all of San Francisco. 2. If your request is in a neighborhood we plant in, then ask your neighbors to complete the Tree Request Form. The more interest we see in a block, the sooner we start planning a block planting in the area. It takes us 4 to 6 months to plan a block planting .
  • You planted trees in my block, but not in front of my house. Why?
    When we survey the sites, we note site conditions, look out for utility lines (gas, electricity, water), and adhere to city guidelines (distance high voltage lines, stop signs, etc). If it is not safe to plant a tree, we will not plant one.
  • Who is responsible for the maintenance and replacement of sidewalk trees?
    Generally speaking, the City is now responsible for all sidewalk trees through the StreetTreeSF program (here is a link to their FAQ page). As City Code Guidelines for tree planting evolve, not every basin is replantable. You can find some general information about spacing requirements linked here. The Bureau of Urban Forestry will be able to tell you definitively if your basin is still plantable.
  • How do you decide tree basin size?
    We cut concrete for tree basins with two factors in mind: Healthy Trees: Larger cuts allow for more space for trees to grow, allow more water to drain off the sidewalk into the tree basin (more water for the tree, less water for PUC to treat, less cost to SF taxpayers, less untreated waste getting flushed into the bay/ocean during storm events), allows for more oxygen exchange with the atmosphere. The Safest Sidewalk: The safest sidewalk is a flat, undamaged sidewalk. Concrete damage from street trees is largely correlated to the size of the tree basin. By giving the tree a larger cutout, we reduce the likelihood of that tree damaging or uplifting the sidewalk, and thus ensure a smooth, flat, unhindered path of travel for pedestrians. Our basin sizes are approved by Public Works and follow all relevant city code & ADA requirements for path of travel.
  • Do you plant trees in empty basins?
    Yes, we can plant a new tree in an empty basin the next time we plant in that neighborhood. Please fill out our Tree Interest Form.
  • I want to remove or replace a street tree near my residence. Who do I contact?
    Street trees are protected from injury and removal by the City’s Public Works Code Article 16. Thus, a City order or permit is required for removal.
  • Can I request a new tree or a different species for a tree you planted?
    We do not honor requests to replace a tree that is slow-growing, or in bad health, as street trees are protected under City ordinance, and our focus as a program is to making best use of our resources to help the trees we plant thrive for years to come. We welcome you to request a health assessment or visit from our team via our Tree Care Request Form.
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