UCSF’s FEMA move angers “Nature in the City”

Recently, someone sent us an anti-UCSF diatribe from the newsletter of Jake Sigg, a steering committee member of Nature in the City. (That’s the parent organization of the Mt Sutro Stewards.) The topic under discussion: UCSF’s withdrawal of the FEMA applications.

We were astonished by its tone even more than its content. (Excerpts from the note have been published on the Nature in the City website. They haven’t included the bits we’ve quoted below.)

The note accused UCSF of “reneging on its commitment to the community,”  insisted that it should fund its 2001 plan, and professed not to understand why UCSF “have withdrawn the FEMA grant applications and, presumably, why fire is no longer considered a danger.  Although there was opposition to the plan from a handful of activists, most attendees were very supportive, making UC’s about-face puzzling.

We’ll ignore “handful of activists”  (in fact the forest has been an ongoing contentious issue among a broad group of people). But UCSF clearly explained its reasons in an email to neighbors, and again at a community meeting in February where Craig Dawson of the Mt Sutro Stewards was in fact present. There’s no mystery, no reason for puzzlement.


The note seemed to include a veiled threat to withdraw the volunteer efforts of the Mt Sutro Stewards:

Much work has been done on the mountain, but it has been done almost entirely by volunteers and with outside funding by the Rotary Club (for the Summit Garden).  Aside from giving very little initial assist by its groundskeepers and feeding pizza to the volunteers, [UCSF] has done virtually nothing.  The volunteer Sutro Stewards have logged over 20,000 hours over the last four years…The University has plainly not held up its commitment to the 2001 management plan, and no amount of wordsmithing can put a good face on its abandonment of responsibilities to the community…

The investments contributed by The Rotary Club of San Francisco and the Mt. Sutro Stewards volunteers stand to be lost again to the blackberry, broom and ivy without serious commitment and immediate funding for the necessary maintenance and proactive forestry management just to keep things the way they now are. I’m sure UC is not aware of the consequences of its decision; all the more reason why it should listen to people who do know .”

Since Mr Sigg points out that the work has all been done by the volunteers, we are not sure why there is any urgent need for an injection of funding now – unless he is suggesting that the volunteers will be withdrawn.

He is clearly taking it personally. “As one who has donated hundred of hours of my time and knowledge, I feel abused and unappreciated.”  He also mentioned writing a note on Eucalyptus (that would be the one we discussed here and disagreed with on multiple levels.) In it, he “also raised the specter of landslides burying the new stem cell research buildings.”


Mr Sigg seems to have misunderstood the purpose of FEMA funds applied for.

By confusing it with the 2001 plan, with the Sutro Stewards volunteerism, and the Rotary Garden at the summit, he underlines concerns that the FEMA application was not about fire hazard reduction, but actually about landscape management.

Even his own note on eucalyptus – the one we disagreed with – suggested that the trees in the Edgewood cut should be felled as a landslide risk to the new building. Leaving aside whether there’s such a risk, or only a specter thereof, such an evaluation should already have been part of the original project plan. Remediation would have been part of that capital plan and part of that environmental review.

That’s not what the FEMA funds application was for. It was for fire hazard reduction. There’s no substantiated fire hazard in Sutro Cloud Forest.  Our fog log shows the forest doesn’t dry out. The Sutro Stewards own trail-building ally, SFUR (the cyclists) note on their website, “Remember this is Sutro, it’s not dry ever, really.” And finally: CalFire considers the fire hazard moderateits lowest hazard rating.

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4 Responses to UCSF’s FEMA move angers “Nature in the City”

  1. Sutro Resident says:

    Wow. As a resident who has felt bullied, abused and unappreciated by the Nature in the City baseless motives working against our cloud forest and irrational hatred of the trees we moved here to be close to I couldn’t care less about how he feels. He can take his snit, stop engineering false threats (hello, not a fire danger) and leave this vibrant environment alone.

  2. Sutro Resident says:

    PS: Please be our voice supporting the eucalyptus at the UCSF meeting tomorrow – I am sure many people such as myself cannot attend as the meeting conflicts with work on a weekday. Let them know about those that actually live on Mt Sutro and care about the environment and trees, we need to be heard.

  3. Nature Lover says:

    Once again, I am mystified by the perceptions of the nativists, in this case, that UCSF has “reneged” on their 2001 plan. In fact, it seems that in abandoning their FEMA applications, UCSF is actually returning to the 2001 plan.

    The 2001 plan called for several “demonstration projects” on Mount Sutro of just a couple of acres each. These demonstration projects would have shown whether or not it would be possible to replace the eucalyptus with a cypress windbreak. They would have shown that it was possible for several species of native trees to survive in this windy, foggy environment without the protection of the tall non-native trees.

    One of many reasons why the FEMA applications were controversial is that they proposed to by-pass these demonstration projects and go directly to large-scale tree destruction without knowing whether or not the proposed “replacement” plantings were in fact viable. Some of the people opposed to the FEMA projects, thought there was a good chance that the end result would be NO trees, native OR non-native.

    So, it seems to me that UCSF has decided that these demonstration projects are necessary and desirable, which is consistent with the 2001 plan. UCSF said in their announcement of their decision to withdraw the FEMA applications: “I believe that small demonstration areas, which are a part of the 2001 Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Management Plan, are a critical piece of our planning work with the community and are a vital part of project planning.”

    Nativists would be wise to read the 2001 plans again and compare them to UCSF’s recent announcement. They will find UCSF’s recent announcement consistent with the 2001 plan.

    This is not to say that support for the 2001 plan should be presumed. In fact, the neighbors may believe it is time to revisit the 2001 plan, in light of what has been learned about the changing ranges of native plants and the dangerous poisons that are used to prevent the return of the non-natives, etc.

  4. Pingback: Sutro Forest 2010-2011: UCSF Meeting update « Save Mount Sutro Forest

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