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City panel recommends contentious Russian Hill redwood become landmark

But city lawmakers get final say

A low-perspective photo of a redwood tree on Montclair Avenue. Google

San Francisco’s Urban Forestry Council voted unanimously last Friday to confer landmark status on an 85-foot redwood in a Russian Hill homeowner’s backyard.

Believe it or not, this was a watershed vote in a long and highly contentious neighborhood fight. But the battle isn’t over yet.

Local nonagenarian Mari Jaye planted the tree at her Russian Hill home at 4 Montclair Terrace (just a few feet from the postcard-friendly curving stretch of Lombard Street) in 1962 to commemorate her husband and two children, who had recently died in plane crash.

Jaye chose a redwood to remind her of Muir Woods, where she and her husband got engaged. Friday’s meeting was the third time UFC considered Jaye’s sequoia for San Francisco’s tree landmark program.

Some neighbors complained at previous meetings that the giant tree posed a hazard, with one tearful mother asking the council, “If the branches were to fall on my child, is that worth it?”

Jaye’s tree in 1972, already peeking over her house.
SF Public Library

If added to the city’s tree landmark registry, it would be impossible for future homeowners to remove the redwood from the property unless it poses a hazard (because it’s dying already, for example).

The Board of Supervisors gets the final say on landmark status. Local tree boosters like, realtor Roland Jadryev, are lobbying Supervisor Mark Farrell to sponsor it.

Jadryev tells Curbed SF that Farrell’s office hasn’t called them back yet. “But he’s very busy, and it is just a tree,” Jadryev adds.

Technically, any supervisor can nominate the tree, but Jadryev says it’s generally a breach of protocol to try and declare a landmark in another lawmaker’s neighborhood.

An online petition directed at Farrell’s office has stalled with just over 500 signatures of a goal of 1,000.

A sequoia sempervirens (“coast redwood) like this can top most San Francisco high rises when fully grown. “These tallest of trees reach heights of more than 350 feet (107 meters),” says the site Live Science. “The tallest tree in the world is [a sequoia] named Hyperion, which reaches 379.7 feet.”

According to the city’s recent arboreal census there are over 240 coast redwoods growing in San Francisco, not including trees on private land like Jaye’s, but few approach the age or dimensions of this one.