top of page

Our Public Trees

(trees in the public right-of-way )




The City is planting again in the public landscape, after a long moratorium. The new Managing Arborist’s emphasis, citywide, has been on planting street trees in open sites. SMPNA identified all of the open spaces along our streets that could be appropriate planting locations. We contacted homeowners at those locations, seeking endorsement for planting in their public right of way. The City requires this notification because homeowners are expected to “adopt” their street trees and water them. SMPNA supplements the watering of these young trees during the dry season, in a partnership effort with homeowners.        

* More than 50 new trees grace our streets and islands.



We continue our annual summer watering program for street and island trees planted within the last3 – 5 years. The drought has required extended support, especially for island trees not watered by homeowners. We will have up to 105 trees on supplemental water this year at a cost of approx $13,000. We also may provide water boosts for some large island trees that are showing signs of distress.

* Residents are responsible for watering their own street trees.



All of the Park’s street trees are planned for routine maintenance during the next fiscal year beginning in July. Maintenance includes deadwood removal and pruning for structural health. Island trees will be included at that time or in the following year.

* This will be the first comprehensive tree maintenance program the City has conducted here in decades: your property taxes at work!



The drought has taken its toll and we continue to see trees fail. SMPNA maintains a list with the City of dead street and island trees. If they are not an imminent hazard, the City removes these trees in batches under citywide contracts, which often results in some delay. Typically, stumps are not taken out until just before replacement trees are planted.

* If you have a dead street tree, let us know: we will make sure it is on the City’s list.


"Based on a master design created by John McLaren and George Howard Jr., San Mateo Park is home to over 2,700 public trees."

 - Linda Bogue

  • If the leaves on your street tree are limp or starting to turn brown, the tree needs immediate water.

  • A new tree is like a potted plant: if the top inch or two of the soil around the tree is dry and hard, it’s time to water.

  • A good watering program is an investment that more than pays off in trees that grow more quickly, develop good form, and increase property values.


Watering Methods:  

  • Leave a hose running slowly enough that water does not run away from tree — for about 45 minutes.

  • Attach a hose to a probe (these are inexpensive and readily available at Home Depot and elsewhere) and water in a few places around the drip line of the tree.

  • Build a berm of dirt around the tree and fill the well with water 3x until each fill of water drains.


Our Unique Islands




Three islands are being replanted and renewed:

  • Hurlingham, mid-block between W. Bellevue and W. Poplar: Pines in our area are succumbing to beetle infestations. An alternative, resistant pine species, Canary Island, is being planted. These are gorgeous trees that will maintain the presence of pines in the Park and perpetuate our distinctive, tall tree profile.

  • Occidental at Westmoreland: Failed hawthorns are being removed, and coast live and valley oaks planted. Complementing the oak already there, these oaks will eventually fill this large island far more effectively.

  • Clark at El Camino Real: City grounds crews conducted a cleanup last fall of this entrance island. They also installed an efficient, targeted irrigation system that ensures the young elms on the island's perimeter get the water they need to establish and thrive.


These renewals are part of a wider review the Board is undertaking to determine which islands need redirection and improvement.


This spring, our islands have been as weedy as we have seen them in some years. The good news: this is a consequence of rain, at last. The bad news: the City has not kept up due to weed abundance citywide, crew shortages, equipment down for repair, reassignment of all ground crews to re-landscaping at City Hall, etc. Our islands are also classified as “medians”, which are at the bottom of the priority list. * For immediate maintenance, Park residents are encouraged to pitch in with weeding and picking up litter.


The City is in the process of revamping its approach to grounds maintenance, including possible outsourcing. The SMPNA board will continue to look for supplemental options amenable to the city for visible improvements in both the short- and long-term.


"Based on the master design set by John McLaren and George Howard Jr., San Mateo Park is home to 62 islands, each planned with its own unique horticulture and character."

 - Linda Bogue


San Mateo street curbs are swept once a month.  Islands in SMP, however, are scheduled for sweeping only in months when there is a fifth week in the month, so they are swept four times a year.

  • Those fifth weeks are when sweeping equipment gets maintenance, if needed, which can interfere with our island service. 

  • The sweepers aren’t efficient in collecting pine needles.  Some residents may enjoy the natural feel of a grove of pine trees and the visual softening of our concrete curbs that those needles provide.

  • Sweepers also are not particularly effective when leaves are wet from recent rain, and they are not sent out during heavy rains.

  • In the event of heavy rain, curbs are raked and leaves collected by hand. Pressing “storm duty” problems can interfere with rainy season sweeping and the hand work required can mean that not all curbs are completed. Under those conditions, Public Works does its best.

  • A number of neighborhood volunteers regularly sweep islands nearby. The Parks Dept. ground maintenance crews strongly request that we NOT deposit swept up leaves on the islands, as they may contain oil and other pollutants from the street. Please deposit in your trash compost bins.

bottom of page