Someone emailed us to ask why UCSF were bothering with demonstration projects, when there was the obvious example of Tank Hill. “Trees were cut down, natives planted and died,” said the email. What did they achieve?
So we looked into it.
In 2002, it was neighbors vs the NAP (“Natural Areas Program”) on Tank Hill. The NAP – and Native Plant volunteers associated with them – were cutting down mature eucalyptus trees growing around the old tank pad to improve the environment for native plants. The neighbors, who loved the trees and the little park with the big views, battled to save the trees. Community groups and political leaders were involved.
Eventually, the Management Plan recommendations were to (1) Get rid of the French broom and replace it with Native scrub and Native trees to create a habitat for small birds, especially passerines (2) Remove no more eucalyptus until “until the newly planted native trees have reached an adequate size to provide replacement habitat.” (3) Replace the logs that demarcated the trails “with with a system of rustic fencing.”
The upshot was that many trees (26, according to one source) were felled, but others were saved. Native plants were put in, including oak saplings planned to eventually replace the eucalyptus. Three existing species of native plants were slated for protection: Clarkia Rubicundia, California yellow violets and broadleaf stonecrop. These, they said, were host plants for endangered butterflies.
EIGHT YEARS LATER
So here we are in 2010 eight years later. What’s changed?
Not much. A few Coyote brush bushes have grown a bit larger. The grass is dry and yellow. Many of the rustic fences are gone.
Someone (Recs and Parks?) has tried to remove the graffiti from the rocks (which is hard because the surface is rough), and only a few cigarette butts and pieces of broken glass remain.
We spotted three types of butterflies: the West Coast Lady, the Red Admiral, and the Cabbage White. (All three figure are among the city’s top ten most common butterflies.) The only birds we saw were two white-crowned sparrows, which flew in from trees on the adjacent private property.
There are no oak trees or other native trees. (And the remaining eucalyptus has not invaded the area, either.)
Tank Hill is an amazing view-platform. It gets a broad panorama, with the greenness and motion of the Sutro Forest on one side, Cole Valley below, and Golden Gate Park and the sea beyond; on the other side, there’s the city.
As an area of “Significant Natural Resources”? Not so much. The Clarkia still blooms on the Western slope, as it did even before the “restoration.” And it has a few coyote brush bushes. And a scattering of golden poppies. Lots of bare ground and dead grass. And two dozen dead trees still green in neighbors’ memories.