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Huge tree smashes into San Francisco homes. Families fear it’ll happen again

Sherry stands inside her parents' bedroom, which was damaged by a falling tree. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Sherry was sleeping in her San Francisco home when she heard a thunderous crash one December morning at around 5:30 a.m. 

“It shook the house, like an earthquake,” said Sherry, who declined to give a last name.

A huge tree shot down a steep hill next to her home near Dorothy Erskine Park, crashing into her parents’ bedroom wall as they slept, caving in the wall and buckling the floor during the Dec. 11 storm. 

Her 21-year-old twin sons now share a bed thanks to the damaged room, Sherry said.

While no one was injured, Sherry and her family were shaken by the incident. She and her parents have a hard time sleeping whenever they hear any loud sounds, including thunder. 

READ MORE: ‘Big Rig’ Rolls Over on Bay Bridge, Major Delays Expected

This tree fell into several San Francisco residents' homes on Dec. 11. | Courtesy Octavio di Sciullo

“We are traumatized from the incident. The booms sound a lot like trees falling,” Sherry said. 

The impact caused more than $103,000 in damage to Sherry’s home, according to a quote from a contractor seen by The Standard. But her insurance provider, AAA, initially paid out just $17,500, along with monthly payments of $574 for the uninhabitable bedroom.

“It just isn’t enough money,” Sherry said.

Sherry filed a claim against the city for financial damages—the tree that fell and hit her home was on city land—but it was denied. 

“Our investigation into the incident found that the tree was located on unimproved land, and that there is no record that the city was notified that it was in danger of falling,” said an email sent to Sherry by the City Attorney’s Office, seen by The Standard.

READ MORE: Massive Tree Falls in Lower Haight, Smashes Car

A fallen tree damaged Sherry's Glen Park home. | Courtesy photo

A claim denial letter from the city she received on Feb. 16 said she can sue the city, but Sherry said hiring an attorney isn’t an option for her.

“We’re not made of money. It’s ridiculous. The city is supposed to protect residents, but the city’s response shows they are more interested in protecting themselves,” Sherry said.

Sherry’s home was not the only one damaged by the fallen tree on Dec. 11. 

Octavio di Sciullo was woken up when the tree fell and hit his 9-year-old daughter's room, caving in the wall as she slept and rendering their home uninhabitable, as first reported by the Glen Park Association.

Octavio di Sciullo | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“This was ultimately most traumatic for my daughter,” di Sciullo said. “She has been having trouble going to sleep when the weather is windy and rainy, like today. She is worried that another tree might fall.”

Now Sherry and her Bosworth Street neighbors are worried about more trees falling on their homes as storms continue to batter the Bay Area.

The City Attorney’s Office said that the public is not charged with notifying the city about dangerous trees, but that a complaint helps the city to address trees that could cause injury.

“The city did not cause this storm, and there was no indication that this particular tree would snap during a storm,” the City Attorney’s Office said in an email. 

Making It Right

While getting damages from the city may prove difficult for Sherry, on Tuesday, she was awarded $85,000 from AAA after The Standard contacted the insurance company for this story.

Just before publication, three more trees fell near Sherry’s home, according to di Sciullo, Sherry's neighbor. 

READ MORE: Glass Falling From Another Downtown San Francisco High-Rise as Storms Continue

The SF Recreation and Parks Department declined to comment regarding the complaint and deferred questions about the health of the trees to the City Attorney’s Office, which said it could not find that information prior to publication.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at garrett@sfstandard.com