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Licensed Landscaper in San Francisco, CA

How to Hire a Good Landscaper in San Francisco

With the typical San Francisco home selling at three times the national average of $400,000, smart homeowners in the city still exploit home improvement works like landscaping to gain an extra 20 percent. This premium is easily achieved by leaving your landscape design, maintenance, and upgrades to trained professionals. When you are in search of a qualified landscape contractor in the city, you should always ensure that the professional is conversant with the San Francisco Landscape Ordinance. It is also advisable to ask the following questions before hiring any landscapers in the city:

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Landscaper in the City of San Francisco

  1. Are You Licensed to Practice as a Landscaper in the City of San Francisco?

    Landscapers in San Francisco are licensed and regulated at the state level by the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) of the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). This board mandates all Landscapers to obtain a C-27 - Landscaping Contractor License before bidding for or performing any work on projects that have a total value of $500 or more. Note that this value includes the cost of labor, materials, and other necessary items required to execute the project. Noncompliance with this licensing mandate can lead to misdemeanor charges, which carry penalties of up to six months jail time, $5,000 in fines, or a combination of fines and jail time. Violators can also receive separate administrative fines of up to $15,000 and will face even steeper penalties for subsequent violations.

    To obtain a landscape contractor license from the CSLB, the following conditions have to be met:

    • The applicant must be no less than 18 years old
    • The applicant must have attained at least four years of journeyman-level landscaping-related work experience and provide acceptable documentation to verify this experience. Note that this work experience must have been attained within 10 years from when the date the license request is made
    • The applicant must properly complete and submit an Application for Original Contractor License Form, pay a non-refundable fee, and provide any additional information that may be requested by the CSLB
    • The applicant must pass a CSLB-administered licensing examination.

    Applicants that successfully meet these conditions will be issued the requested landscaper license. Note that this license has to be renewed every two years. Also, licensees are generally required to meet certain bonding and insurance requirements during the validity period of their licenses. Queries concerning the CSLB's license application, maintenance, and renewal requirements can be directed to (800) 321-2752. You can also verify that your intended landscaper has a valid CSLB-issued license by calling this number or by accessing the board's Check a License portal online.

  2. How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Landscapers in the City of San Francisco?

    When searching for landscape contractors in San Francisco, you should always find out how much these professionals will charge for the job. This category of professionals is estimated to earn about $21 per hour in the city, however, the specific cost of your project will be influenced by several factors. These include the nature of the project, its scope, and its labor intensity. Depending on the contractor and the type of landscaping required, you may also be charged square footage or fixed rates for some services instead of hourly rates. Therefore, it is a good idea to get and compare bids and quotes from multiple landscapers in the city to get a working average for your project's cost. This is also a good way to spot contractors that fraudulently hike up the costs of their services.

    A landscaper in San Francisco earns an average wage of $45,160, annually. The table below provides a cost comparison of the average hourly wages of landscaping and groundskeeping workers in San Francisco against those of this category of individuals across the rest of California and other major American cities:

    San Francisco Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $21.71
    California Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $18.68
    New York City Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $18.58
    Boston Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $20.13
    Los Angeles Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $19.04
    Detroit Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $15.88
    Houston Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $14.69

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  3. Do You Comply with the City of San Francisco Landscape Ordinance?

    Ensuring that your landscape contractor is familiar with the provisions and requirements of the San Francisco Green Landscaping Ordinance is necessary for achieving a satisfactory outcome at the end of the day. This ordinance regulates landscaping that relates to permeable surfaces, greening of front setback areas, street trees, parking lots, vehicular use areas, and climate-appropriate plants with the aim of achieving environmental and aesthetic goals. These goals include:

    • Providing healthier and more plentiful plantings in the city through screening, street tree, and parking lot controls
    • Encouraging responsible water use by increasing climate-appropriate plantings across the city
    • Increasing permeability in the city through front yard and parking lot controls

    The provisions of the San Francisco Green Landscaping Ordinance apply to new construction projects as well as projects that involve the alteration or modification of existing sites, buildings, and structures. Failure to comply with the requirements of this ordinance typically results in administrative fines, citations, and other city-imposed sanctions. You can get additional information on the San Francisco Green Landscaping Ordinance as well as the specific requirements of this ordinance for your project by contacting the city's Planning Department at (628) 652-7300 or via email.

  4. Will You Get the Landscaping Permit Required as per the City of San Francisco Code?

    The San Francisco Department of Public Works issues individual permits for certain types of landscaping projects. These include sidewalk landscaping permits, which are required for projects that involve replacing concrete sidewalks with landscaping, and tree planting and removal permits, which are required for the planting and removal of street trees respectively. Note that tree planting permits are typically issued at no cost. Applications for any of these permits can be completed online or by filling out any of the following pdf application forms:

    The duly completed pdf application forms can be submitted to:

    • San Francisco Public Works
    • Bureau of Urban Forestry
    • 49 South Van Ness Avenue
    • Suite 1000
    • San Francisco, CA 94103

    Note that applicants may be required to submit additional documents, such as site plans and proof of the damage to the tree for projects that involve tree removals. Inquiries concerning these additional documents, as well as further information on the landscaping permit issuance process, can be directed to the San Francisco Department of Public Works, through its Bureau of Urban Forestry, at (628) 652-8733 or via email.

    It should be also noted that, in situations where an individual landscaping permit is not required for a development project, the project may still need to undergo environmental, design, and discretionary reviews to ensure that all applicable landscaping regulations are adhered to. These reviews are typically done before building permits for the project in question are issued. Queries concerning development project-related reviews can be directed to the San Francisco Planning Counter at (628) 652-7300 or the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection at:

    • San Francisco Permit Center
    • 49 South Van Ness Avenue,
    • 2nd/ 5th Floor
    • San Francisco, CA 94103
    • Phone: (628) 652-4900
    • Phone: (628) 652-3200
  5. What Kind of Landscaping Services Do You Offer?

    Confirming the specific types of services that a landscaper provides is a crucial step in determining their suitability for your intended project. Landscaping involves different areas of service, such as mulching, lawn edging, weed control, aeration and fertilization, corrective pruning, strategic plant installation, and shrub and bush care. Although many professional landscapers in San Francisco typically offer several of these services, some may decide to stick to a particular niche, and as such may not be equipped to properly deliver your required service. After finding out the contractor's area of specialization, you should consider asking them to provide pictorials of past jobs. Professional landscapers will readily provide this information and may take a step further by giving you a list of references that can vouch for the quality of their work. Consider it a red flag if a landscape is hesitant to provide pictures of their past work or verifiable local references.

    Listed below are average cost estimates for some of the commonly requested landscaping services in San Francisco:

    Commercial landscape design
    $45 - $65 per hour
    Residential landscape design
    $85 - $96 per hour
    Landscape installation
    $28 - $42 per hour (labor only)
    Lawn mowing and maintenance
    $49 - $93 per visit
    Lawn fertilization
    $37 - $80 per application
    Garden Planning
    $55 - $80 per hour
    General Bed Maintenance/Detailing
    $80 - $105
    Spring/Fall clean-up
    $185 - $350
    Pruning/Hedging
    $45 - $110
    Lawn irrigation system installation
    $1,800 - $2,750
    Mulching
    $95 - $116 per cubic yard
    Leaf removal
    $150 - $280
    Sodding
    $700 - $1,700
    Weed Control
    $65 - $70
  6. What are the Best Types of Grass for Lawns in the City of San Francisco?

    The San Francisco area has a Mediterranean climate that is characterized by temperate, wet winters and warm, dry summers. The city also experiences summer droughts that can last as long as seven months, with most rainfall occurring between November and April. However, it also receives significant moisture and cooling from coastal fogs during the summer. The best types of lawn grasses for San Francisco's complex climate conditions are grasses that can survive in drought-prone areas, such as:

    • Fescue grass
    • Ryegrass
    • Kentucky bluegrass
    • Bermuda grass

    Note that each of these grasses has different qualities and attributes. As such, you should always consult a professional landscaper to help you determine the best type of grass that suits the unique conditions of your lawn. In some situations, this may mean blending two or more types of grasses to get optimal results. You can find qualified landscape contractors in San Francisco by utilizing online search directories provided by reputable bodies like the California Contractors State License Board, the California Landscape Contractors Association, and the Better Business Bureau.

  7. Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Landscapers in the City of San Francisco?

    Landscapers face a long list of potential on-the-job hazards and injuries, including, but not limited to, chemical exposure, cuts, lacerations, amputations, slips, trips, and falls. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 110 fatalities and 10,170 nonfatal injuries occurred in the landscaping and groundskeeping industry in 2020. In view of this, it is important to make sure that any landscaper you hire has a liability insurance plan that can cover the costs of any detrimental on-the-job occurrences. These include accidents and property damage. Note that landscape contractors in San Francisco are not legally required to carry general liability insurance. However, all licensed contractors in the area must post and maintain a surety bond of $15,000 during the validity period of their licenses. These contractors must also maintain valid workers' compensation insurance for any individuals that they employ.

    You can verify that your landscaper is duly insured and bonded by requesting copies of their insurance and bonding certificates and validating these documents with the relevant organizations.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Landscaper in the City of San Francisco

In 2018, it was reported that two contractors that had fled the state after allegedly scamming at least 33 homeowners in the San Francisco area out of more than $850,000 had been arrested and returned to face criminal charges. These contractors had carried out most of these scams by requesting large down payments for home improvement jobs and absconding without doing any work or abandoning the job after doing very little work. Other common scams methods used by fraudulent contractors in the area include:

  • Falsifying their licensing status
  • Using high-pressure tactics to get homeowners to sign up for services that are not needed
  • Using inferior materials for projects despite charging premium prices for these materials.

According to the California Contractors State License Board, 3,957 legal actions were brought against allegedly fraudulent contractors in 2019 as a result of consumer complaints, and more than 1,400 of these cases were referred for possible criminal prosecution. You can take certain precautionary steps to ensure that you don't fall victim to a landscaping scam in San Francisco. These steps include:

  • Always confirm that the landscaper you hire has a valid CSLB-issued license via the board's online license search platform
  • Utilize online resources like the Better Business Bureau website to look up third-party reviews and opinions on the contractor
  • Peruse the CSLB's Most Wanted List to make sure that the landscaper is not listed there
  • Get estimates for your project from at least two or three different landscapers
  • Be wary of unsolicited offers of free or heavily discounted landscaping services
  • Insist on written contracts. Take your time to read and understand these contracts before signing them
  • Make sure that your landscaper is properly insured and bonded
  • Never pay the full cost of the project upfront or make large down payments. Down payments should never exceed $1,000 or 10% of the project's total cost. Note that you should always pay the lesser amount and you should also avoid cash payments

You can file a complaint with the CSLB if you or a loved one have been scammed by a Layndscaper in San Francisco. Landscape contractor-related scams, deceptive business practices, and fraudulent activities can also be reported to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office via an online consumer complaint form or by contacting this office at:

  • 350 Rhode Island Street
  • North Building
  • Suite 400N
  • San Francisco, CA 94103
  • Phone: (628) 652-4000
  • Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Mondays to Fridays