UCSF Update and March 24 meeting

We attended a meeting at UCSF today, in which they addressed several planning items.

On Mt Sutro, UCSF was seeking money from FEMA to gut a quarter of the forest in the name of fire hazard mitigation. What UCSF’s Lori Yamaguchi  said was that FEMA told them: FEMA would want an Environmental Impact Report (EIR);   it would take two years to do one; during that time, UCSF would not be allowed to do anything on the mountain; FEMA would focus “narrowly” on hazard removal.

So they have withdrawn both applications. What UCSF plan to do next is (1) a California Environmental Quality Act review for the whole mountain, all 61 acres of it. They expect this will take one year, and involve community feedback. (2) Set up a 2-acre demonstration plot, probably on the South Ridge. (3) Then get more community feedback before moving forward. They plan to adhere to the Adaptive management principle. She said they have enough funding to do the CEQA, the demonstration plot, and the 14 acres of South Ridge and Edgewood, but not the whole 61 acres. So they are seeking other sources of funding.

  • UCSF has called a meeting on Wed, March 24, 2010 at 6:30 p.m., at UCSF Millberry Union on 500 Parnassus Avenue to discuss this plan.

(Click on the picture above for a larger version, and again for an even bigger one.)

In other items, Kevin Beauchamp (pronounced “Bo-shawm”) presented the principles for the next Long Range Development Plan, approximately 2012-2030. One of the principles will be Environmental Sustainability and Climate Action Goals. He clarified this would include consideration of greenhouse gases.

Michael Bade made a presentation about the new Regeneration Medicine Building under construction now (aka the Stem Cell Research Building). It’s impressive. It is going to be a “ribbon” 660 feet long and 63 feet wide, running along the base of Medical Center Way (the orange building on the map below). About 250 people will work there.


However, this does highlight something  for the Edgewood neighbors to consider: The whole area below Medical Center Way is going to be built up. There’s a power plant there now. If the Edgewood Cut goes ahead, leaving only a sparse canopy and widely-spaced trees, this will remove the visual and noise-absorbing screen between the dense campus and the Edgewood neighborhood. Low-growing shrubs won’t have the same effect as 100-200 foot trees and dense thickets of blackberry and ivy.

Also: The plan calls for something to be done with the small UCSF buildings (in red below) near Edgewood, which are “obsolete.” It was not clear if they would be rebuilt into something big-and-shiny or if they would be knocked down.

New building (orange); cut zone (yellow); obsolete buildings (red); Edgewood and Farnsworth (green)

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8 Responses to UCSF Update and March 24 meeting

  1. Dirk says:

    So what does the University want to do with the whole 61 acres?

  2. webmaster says:

    If I recall correctly, the 2001 plan called for removing most of the trees on 32 acres and converting them to Native Plants… that may be what they were talking of. Not entirely sure. The March 24th meeting would be a good time to ask.

  3. jmc says:

    Would all of you that support keeping these non-native trees please go and take an ecology class from a reputable institution and please stop thinking about yourselves?

    The basic facts are :

    1.) That urban development has replaced over 90% of the unpaved land surface in SF with buildings, roads and other infrastructure.

    2.) The remaining “open” areas (e.g GG Park, Presidio, Mt. Sutro, etc) are largely covered with non-native trees (and no, Monterey Pine and cypress are not native to SF Peninsula).

    3.) Any of the wildlife species that historically existed on the Peninsula are now left with extremely small and highly fragmented pieces of their former and, yes, preferred habitats (coastal scrub, coastal chaparral, and mixed evergreen woodland and willow riparian habitats in the canyons).

    While I can respect your appreciation for these relatively new forests, this appreciation is only for “your” self interest, meaning “your” recreation values, “your” wind break, and “your” perceived aesthetic qualities.

    Other species, that were here long before you, no longer have their preferred habitats. The eucalyptus and pine/cypress woodlands are not part of the native ecosystem. We should strive to improve these last few remaining open spaces to a condition that gives these species the best ability to flourish, and that means restoring most of them back to at least an approximate resemblance of what they were.

    We need to stop sensationalizing these forests by calling them things like “cloud” forests, or “old growth” forests or “heritage” forests – they are none of these. Simply put, these trees are misplaced and belong in Australia/Tasmania, or on the Monterey Peninsula……but not in SF or the San Mateo Peninsula.

    • webmaster says:

      JMC, thanks for coming here to make your comments.

      I agree with your points 1 & 2. This is, after all, the City and county of San Francisco, so having a large paved area, and being planted with trees compatible with urban areas seems reasonable.

      I differ with your conclusion. Most of the wildlife – insects, birds, reptiles, mammals – has adapted to the conditions we have now. If we destroy existing ecosystems developed over 125 years (without even studying them properly), we will kill many of them.

      Replacing them with a shallow “native” ecosystem will not restore what was there before. A windblown peninsula of sand and dunes isn’t really compatible with a world-class city.

      And the Sutro Forest is demonstrably a Cloud Forest. It matches, as we showed in the post on the subject, the characteristics of an Old Growth Forest. It’s certainly a Heritage forest.

      I differ with the values that say these trees are misplaced. We are all transplants. Our very lives depend on imported vegetation – nothing we eat is native, except fish (sometimes). I understand yearning for a little piece of 200 years ago; but I don’t think destroying existing ecosystems is the way to go.

      I also don’t understand why my values are “self-interest” and yours are not. Nativism is not a Revealed Truth. It’s an ideology. Others may differ. My interest in saving the forest is no more self-interested than your is in replacing vegetation in San Francisco with your chosen subset of flora.

  4. NatureLover says:

    Dear JMC,
    I have attended ecology classes. I have also read countless books and articles about ecology. I have walked in the woods with and attended lectures by you and your allies. And I have observed the results of your restoration efforts. Here’s what I have learned from these experiences.

    1. The concept of nativism is an ideology, with little scientific basis. As Stephen Jay Gould, renowned evolutionary biologist said shortly before he died, nativism is inconsistent with the basic principles of evolution. Native plants cannot be presumed to be superior to more recent arrivals.

    2. Conditions have changed since the pre-European landscape of 1750 which nativists wish to recreate. Higher CO2 levels in the air, higher temperatures, lower precipitation, and many other factors—some of which we haven’t even identified—are different. Plants and animals are capable of adapting to these changes. Art Shapiro of UC Davis has been studying native butterflies for 35 years. He reported nearly 10 years ago that most native butterflies have adapted to non-native vegetation and that some are now dependent upon non-natives for survival. More recently, Dr. Shapiro reported that the ranges of native butterflies have changed in response to climate change. Many other scientists have observed the changing ranges of native plants and animals.

    3. Therefore, to say that a particular plant or animal “doesn’t belong here” has no scientific meaning. It implies that nature is immutable and, of course, it isn’t. The only constant in nature is change. The ultimate test of whether or not something “belongs here” is whether or not it is surviving here. The non-native trees are thriving here and many animals would not be here without them.

    4. Nativists make artificial distinctions between “good” animals and “bad” animals. For example, I heard Josiah Clark’s talk to Shaping San Francisco about our urban forest. He acknowledged that there are birds such as raptors, corvids, and owls here that need the tall non-native trees, but he rejected these birds as being inferior in some regard to the birds that are native here. To those with a broader view of nature, such a separation of nature into “good” and “bad” is scientifically meaningless, if not offensive.

    5. You and your allies are welcome to your horticultural preference for native plants, but this personal preference does not give you the right to confiscate public lands and destroy the plants and animals you do not like for whatever reason. By all means, plant your preferred plants to your heart’s content. Just quit destroying other plants and animals in the process either by cutting down trees and plants or by pouring herbicides over them. Your personal preference for native plants is no less “selfish” than our preference for a broader definition of nature that is dynamic and responsive to change.

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