Report: Agenda Planning Meeting #3

This agenda planning meeting discussed the four demonstration sites, herbicide usage, and more fundamental issues of process and input.

It clarifies what UCSF/ Sutro Stewards want:  to remove the forest, and convert the mountain to a park with broad trails, little undergrowth, and a depleted habitat for birds and animals.


UCSF added new information about expected outcomes of the projects. For South Ridge and Edgewood (Projects #1 and #2), they seek a park-like setting, with an open understorey, and trees spaced, like street trees, an average of 30 feet apart. After the demonstration, they will seek community input, and then extend the same spacing to 40 acres of forest. This would imply that 47.5 acres of the 61 acres would be thinned, leaving very little forest as such.

Project #3 (the small area near the summit) would be a grassy area with a view of the city. Afterward, more view corridors would be considered in other areas. (Though with 30-foot spacing, we cannot understand how they would be necessary.)

Project #4 (the “redwood bowl”) would have trees spaced 60 feet apart, and a sunny meadow (or presumably, a foggy one). This project is planned for a longer period than the other three, which would be activated in September 2011.


Herbicides will be discussed again because they will be used on poison oak and blackberry. This was not discussed in earlier meetings, which focused entirely on eucalyptus. One member suggested a test site, away from all housing, where herbicides could be applied and tested for migration. We pointed out that there were actually no areas away from housing (especially not in the four Demonstration areas), since the mountain was surrounded by residential areas.


UCSF is contracting with LSA Associates to do a wildlife study. Meanwhile, Forest Knolls neighbors were concerned about invasions of rodents from Demonstration Area 1, which appear to run far lower on South Ridge than even the FEMA project had planned.


  • Craig Dawson pointed out that there had been no discussion of view corridors.
  • One of the Forest Knolls neighbors wanted to know about the responsibility for hazardous trees on Crestmont, where disputes between the City and UCSF mean no one has done anything.
  • Separately, Julie Sutton of UCSF talked about installing two kiosks with a bulletin board, maps of the reserve, and rules and regulations. The consensus was that both the kiosks and hazardous trees could be addressed independently of the planning process.

With all the topics left to discuss, one more meeting might not be sufficient. UCSF was concerned that more meetings could delay the Environmental Review process. Kevin Beauchamp (UCSF) specifically said that if more trails or view corridors were added,  it could change the parameters for the Environmental Review.

It was decided to make the July 25th meeting more efficient while leaving time for everyone to talk. Presentations would be kept short, and background papers circulated in advance.  At the previous community meeting, people had expressed concern that most of the time would be taken with presentations.


We voiced concerns with the process: Very little input is actually being taken on board by UCSF/ Sutro Stewards, except inputs from those people that support the conversion to a Native Plant park. The plan is proceeding as envisaged in the 2001 Plan, and triples the size of the demonstration areas, and plans to eventually thin a total of 47.5 acres instead of 32 acres. No consideration has been given to those who want to minimize disturbance of the forest’s ecosystem.

Craig Dawson said the Stewards are there only as part of the community, and had no special status. However, the UCSF website specifically recognizes the Stewards (and Craig Dawson in particular) with a laudatory paragraph: The Stewards work closely with the UCSF Facilities Management department… We found the claim of an arm’s length relationship disingenuous. He said we could earn the same relationship through pulling weeds on the mountain. We responded that if that was the sole criterion for community input, then we were all wasting our time.

The UCSF website also argues the case for the planned actions, indicating that the it expects to move in that direction.


  • The proposals push the envelope of the 2001 Plan, both by tripling the size of the demonstration areas, and by expanding the “thinned” area in the post-demonstration setting to nearly the whole forest.
  • The use of herbicides on the understory plants will probably imply more extensive use of Garlon and Roundup than has discussed at previous meetings.
  • It would not be the dense cloud forest that existed before. The intention is to have a drier, more open, and more bare landscape.  UCSF has apparently discounted the views of those who want to preserve the forest and its ecosystem.
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13 Responses to Report: Agenda Planning Meeting #3

  1. Sutro Resident says:

    I can’t express just how upsetting it is to hear these developments to the situation, clearly UCSF does not care at all for the ecosystem that flourishes and has established itself around this forest environment. What they want to do will not only disturb and devastate through the destruction of the ecology (utterly destroying the habitat for the year round and migratory birds while also likely making it more inviting to feral cats and raccoons) there is clearly no doubt that it will increase the fire danger. The winds will get much worse (and effect everything and everyone all over the neighborhood), the moisture produced and trapped by the density of vegetation that keeps it verdant and prevents fire will disappear , and finally their clear intent to increase the number of people using the former forest as a park introduces a much bigger fire danger.

    Not only is it clear that they do not care at all about the impact to the wild animals that rely on the forest they apparent do not care about us and how the severe changes to the environment where we live will have a big impact on us, the residents, as well. These changes will be of no small consequence to the quality of life for those of us who live around this forest, and the usage they intend, with its human and ecological consequences, will also have a direct impact on our lives as well.

    This is not right.

  2. Michael Scott says:

    Dear Sutro Resident:

    Your post is hilarious because for some reason you draw a distinction between raccoons, which you seem to equate to feral cats, and “wild animals”. Are you trying to advocate on behalf of wild animals but not raccoons? The last I knew raccoons were not domesticated animals so I don’t know how they no longer fall under the definition of a wild animal.

    Please explain this logic. This isn’t a rhetorical question…I would sincerely like to know why raccoons don’t count as wild animals, which you seem to be so fond of.


  3. Sutro Resident says:

    Michael, while raccoons are wild all of us know that like rats (and the non-native domestic cats and pigeons) they are prone to becoming over populated and problematic to people and other animals in urban environments. If you had wanted to take a moment to consider the context and content of what I was getting at vs being intent on taking me to task you would know what I was intending when I made that comment in spite of my error in verbiage.

    Pardon my slip-up with the term wild animal as it applies to raccoons, it was early for me and I was posting hastily and emotionally. I stand by the greater context and point of my original post however and would like to add an additional concerns regarding the project – Garlon exposure and potential runoff and erosion issues.

  4. Michael Scott says:


    Ahhh, now I see. So you’re concerned for the welfare of wild animals as long as they don’t have any impact on you personally. Because once they do, they just become a nuisance, right? That sounds very “not in my backyard”-ish of you.

    Regarding the herbicide issue…I hope you are as outspoken about the City’s use of herbicides in its natural areas as you are with regards to Mt. Sutro. Certainly if you are going to stand for a cause it shouldn’t be contained to the only the area in which you live, correct? I mean, if you really want to stand up for a cause that is. Otherwise it might appear as if you are only concerned with what directly affects you. In which case, you may want to put a sign in your yard that says “NOT IN MY YARD!!!”

    I’m starting to enjoy this website.


    • webmaster says:

      Hi Michael,

      I’m going to chime in here, and respond in two comments. I’m glad you’re enjoying this website, and I hope you’ll stop by frequently and comment. On the matter of wild animals, I have to agree with SR. I love raccoons, and I think it’s amazing gift that we have them right inside the city. But the reality is, it’s a city; and the raccoons (and the rats, and the coyotes) will run into trouble when they impinge on people. If they knock over a garbage can and strew garbage all over the street, or move into people’s basements – it’s unrealistic that most people will tolerate it. If I’m not mistaken, if a “nuisance” raccoon has to be “removed” – it’s dead. It can’t be relocated. So yes, there’s a strong welfare case for not letting them become a nuisance.

    • webmaster says:

      Michael, here’s our reply to the other part of your comment, on herbicides.

      We actually hadn’t realized how widely they were used in the city. We’re only beginning to see that. It looks like wherever there are Native Areas, there are Roundup/ Garlon/ Imazapyr. We saw a notice on Mt Davidson from April/ May; on Twin Peaks in March (see our posts here and here and here); in Stern Grove in December.

      We also hadn’t realized until we started going through the research, how potentially dangerous these chemicals are, in an insidious way. They won’t kill you right off – you could probably drink some of that stuff without dropping dead. But it increases birth defects, it damages kidneys, it’s associated with higher rates of cancer. And there are no long term studies showing the effect of repeated exposure to low doses, which is what users of these areas (and people in the watershed) would be exposed to. The chemical companies wouldn’t bother, and the EPA doesn’t require it.

      We wish we had the time and energy to stand for all the causes we believe in (and it takes *a lot* of both, as you probably know). But in the end, it’s people who are local to a landscape that have to speak up. NIMBY is an epithet when it’s applied to something that is necessary but should be located “elsewhere.” A power plant. A road. A psychiatric facility. A high school. That’s not exactly the same as “Don’t destroy a unique and beautiful ecological asset, and use toxic chemicals uphill of our homes.” We are not recommending using toxic chemicals anyplace else, either, as you will see from the articles we’ve linked.

  5. Sutro Resident says:

    MS – If you care to read my posts and see what I have been saying you will see that I am concerned about the impact to the current ecosystem. The welfare of the birds, reptiles and other creatures that have a habitat here is directly connected to the environment – the removal of undergrowth, thinning of trees, use of sprays, etc and results of these actions clearly will impact them. My original point was that along with that any possible increases in feral cats, rats and raccoons will further impact the birds and any lizards.

    Of course as residents who live adjacent to this area we are also concerned about how UCSF’s actions will impact us as well, there is nothing wrong with that. And yes, I have voiced my concerned with the use of pesticides and herbicides elsewhere – but let’s not digress from the issue at hand.

    All along I’ve made my concerns for the health of the established balanced ecosystem and the birds/wildlife that inhabit it clear, my posts may not be perfect word for word but the spirit of my intentions are there. If you just want to continue to take things out of context and be combative that is up to you.

  6. milliontrees says:

    I see there is some debate about whether or not raccoons are wildlife. As far as the city’s Natural Areas Program is concerned, they are in the same category as feral cats. They are all “predators” in the opinion of the Natural Areas Program. Here is a quote from the management plan for the Natural Areas Program:

    “Issue GR-7 Predators: Feral and free-roaming cats (Felis catus), raccoons (Procyon lotor), striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), black rats (Rattus rattus), and Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are among the terrestrial predators found within Natural Areas. Introduced amphibians such as bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) and African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) are also predaceous. These introduced or subsidized predators can have significant negative effects on native animals, contributing to their local extinction.” (page 5-7)

    And this is the recommendation of the Natural Areas Program about these animals:

    “Recommendation GR-7c: The control of other predators (raccoons, skunks, opossum, rats, bullfrogs, clawed frogs, etc.) should be undertaken only in situations where the predators are concentrated in such a manner that they are having a substantial effect on native wildlife populations. Any control program should be developed in conjunction with San Francisco Animal Care and Control, CDFG, and other resource agencies and community organizations as appropriate. To the extent possible, all predator control shall be performed in a humane manner, such that harm and suffering to the animals is minimal.” (page 5-8)

    The city’s Natural Areas Program is clearly not designed to protect wildlife, unless that wildife happens to be legally protected. In that case, all other animals must be eradicated if they are believed to be competitors of the protected species. The Natural Areas Program–and its allies, the Stewards of Sutro–are primarily interested in native plants. Protecting wildife is not the goal of their program.

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  8. Michael Scott says:

    Webmaster, I really am interested in seeing the reports that you are citing that show the effects that herbicides have on humans. Please post them for the rest of us to read.

  9. Jonathan says:

    “Issue GR-7 Predators: Feral and free-roaming cats (Felis catus), raccoons (Procyon lotor), striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), black rats (Rattus rattus), and Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are among the terrestrial predators found within Natural Areas. Introduced amphibians such as bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) and African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) are also predaceous. These introduced or subsidized predators can have significant negative effects on native animals, contributing to their local extinction.” (page 5-7)”

    milliontrees – you may not be aware of this, but bullfrogs and rats have been responsible for extinction events among a multitude of species already, and clawed frogs may be directly responsible for the chytrid fungus pandemic that’s put over a third of the frog species in the world at risk of extinction. Black rats are the primary vector of Bubonic Plague fleas and were introduced from Europe. Virginia opposums were introduced from the Eastern United States. Raccoons and striped skunks are native, but have population densities far higher in urban areas than they do in scrub and meadow habitats, and both are primary vectors for rabies as well as documented predators of endangered red-legged frogs. (and likely any other rare amphibian or reptile in the San Fran area)

    So I doubt that the natural area program is “not designed to protect wildlife”, as you say is clear. Instead, it is designed to appropriately protect native wildlife from the enormously detrimental changes we have brought to their habitats, which include the introduction and support of harmful species that could wipe them out.

    If you want to see this type of policy carried out in a good way, take a look at what they’ve done in some of the coastal Californian islands. Policies to remove or force out introduced species like rats, cats, golden eagles, goats, and pigs are allowing native species like bald eagles, island foxes, shearwaters, murrlets, auklets, and many others to thrive.

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