Letter from a Cole Valley Neighbor

SaveSutro received this letter today, with a request to publish.
Dear Friends of the Mt. Sutro Forest,

“The cover-up is worse than the crime.” — Watergate aphorism

For several months people had been asking UCSF’s public-relations spokesperson Orlando Elizondo for a copy to the UCSF grant application to FEMA that calls for extensive tree-cutting on Mt. Sutro. These requests went unanswered, and now I think we know why.

When I finally got a copy from another source, I was dumbfounded to see that in answer to the question, “Are there controversial issues associated with this project?”

UCSF officials brazenly answered, “NO” (Item J.2 on page 32). And then, of course, that relieved them of answering the next question,”If Yes, please indicate in the text box below a description of the requirements, issues or public involvement effort.” where they would have had to disclose all the citizen group protests, newspaper accounts, and contentious public meetings that have roiled San Francisco about cutting down large healthy Eucalyptus trees.

UCSF’s answer to the next question (J.3 on page 32) is equally deceptive. After answering “yes” to, “Have you conducted any public meeting or solicited public input or comments on your specific proposed mitigation project?” UCSF gave the following statement in response to “If Yes, please indicate in the text box below a description of the requirements, issues or public involvement effort.” :

“UCSF’s Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Management Plan (Plan), published in September 2001, is a product of considerable community involvement through the University’s Community Advisory Group and addresses community, campus, and budgetary concerns related to
managing this valuable resource. See hard copy. Additionally, the Parnassus Community Advisory Group which includes subject matter experts that have an active interest in the management of the Mount Sutro forest will be consulted on an ongoing basis. The UCSF Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Management Plan has been developed through a variety of public interactions, including the Parnassus Community Advisory Group meetings, extensive community workshops, presentations, a field trip, and public review and comments on the draft Plan. During the implementation phase of the project, active community members will be consulted to determine appropriate types of communications such as interpretive signs.”

So UCSF is asserting that the 2001Mt. Sutro Management Plan is the “specific proposed mitigation project”. Any objective reader of that plan would be hard put to come away thinking it was about a fire-mitigation project. For example, the only allusion to fire in the whole Executive Summary is the cursory aside in the next to last sentence of item numbered 2, “In addition fuel loads in these areas will be reduced.” Further evidence of the scant reference to fire-mitigation is the Plan’s Table 1, which lists the Plan’s goals. Fire is mentioned in just one of the 26 goals listed.

The members of the “Community Advisory Group” highlighted in UCSF’s answer above is listed in Table 3 of the 2001 Management Plan. The only person listed who lives in my neighborhood, which abuts Mt. Sutro forest’s eastern slope, is [Ms. Jane Doe], who is hardly representative of our neighborhood views on Eucalyptus tree cutting. When we canvassed the neighborhood gathering over 100 signatures protesting the planned Eucalyptus tree-cutting on Tank Hill, the ONLY neighbors that refused to sign were [Ms Doe and Mr Doe] (who was also the ONLY dissenting member of our neighborhood at the large community meeting SF officials held at the summit of Tank Hill).

Finally, Table 4 in the Management Plan reports that at the Oct. 20, 2000 public meeting “The participants resoundingly disapproved” wholesale thinning of the forest. To accommodate the strong public concern, the plan called for a small 2.5 acre demonstration project to investigate the viability of the plan before considering tree thinning on a larger scale. The current FEMA plan, encompassing 13 acres, is more than 5 times larger!

Enough said. [signed by the Neighbor]

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