Killing 5000 Trees in Mount Sutro Forest

[ETA (1 Aug 2011): We’ve just received a recent update from UCSF. It appears the timeline has been pushed out. If the projects are approved, they will start felling trees in August 2012.

This Google Map shows the forest. (You can close the shout-out saying Forest Knolls by clicking on the cross in the corner.)]

A number of people have asked for updates on the Cloud Forest on Mount Sutro.


Starting as early as September 2011, UCSF plans to cut trees on 4 “demonstration projects” totaling 7.5 acres. (This is increased from one 2-acre plot in the original 2001 plan, and mentioned in UCSF’s February 2010 letter signed by Vice Chancellor Barbara French.) According to estimates from her at various meetings, this will cost about $250,000, not including the time spent by UCSF employees. (“It’s their job.”)

The plan is to space trees an average of 30 feet apart, which would yield about 20-30 trees per acre. Currently, the trees average 740 trees per acre (this sounds like a lot, but the naturalized forest around Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine averages 955 trees per acre). It would mean cutting down 95% of the trees on the project areas.

Estimated number of trees to be felled: Over 5,000.

In addition, they will also remove vines by amputating them up to ten feet above the ground, and remove blackberry, acacia and other understorey plants.
The largest site, #1 in the map, is just above Forest Knolls on South Ridge. It’s approximately 3 acres. The second site, #2 in the map, is 2 acres and it’s on the other side of the mountain near Edgewood. The plan on both these sites is to get the look of a “forest with open understory” — and of course, trees spaced 30 feet apart.  A sort of lollipop forest, with no real habitat or ecology.

(When we explained this to someone who wanted to know why we opposed the plan, they exclaimed, “Thirty feet? That’s not a forest, that’s a neighborhood!”)

In some areas, pesticides will be used to prevent regrowth of eucalyptus, blackberry, and other plants. The pesticides mentioned are “Roundup and similar glyphosate-based herbicides such as Garlon.” (Of course, Garlon is not actually a glyphosate-based herbicide. It’s triclopyr, and even more toxic.) It’ll initially be tried on one acre, and then, potentially, the whole forest.

Site #3 is contiguous with the Native Garden, and is a half-acre site that is planned as a “grassy area with clear view corridor of the city.” This will involve chopping down trees that block that view.

Site #4, where felling starts in September 2012, is another 2-acre site. Here the trees are to be spaced at 60 feet apart and the canopy opened up.

Site #5 is the “concession” to neighbors who are trying to preserve the forest: This 2-acre area will be “hands-off” for only a one-year period. It’s not clear what this is intended to achieve.

The only thing the “demonstration projects” are intended  to demonstrate is the 30-foot spacing:  how it looks, and how the pesticide works compared with other methods. It is not going to evaluate ecological functioning, water retention, or habitat impacts. It will not consider sound barriers or windbreak effects.

Three new trails are planned (shown in red in the map above). One will punch through the screen of trees between the Aldea campus and the Forest Knolls neighborhood. It’s already been partly destroyed due to work by the SF PUC: the new pump station that backs almost to the Aldea fence line; and “The Gash” — a bare line running from a water tank in the forest down to Christopher. This planned trail can only make it worse.  Another is changing the present straight steep trail from Christopher to a hairpin one with a more gradual slope. The third is a switchback trail connecting Medical Center Way to the Historic Trail.


Afterwards, the same 30-foot spacing is planned to be extended to another 40 acres of the forest, for a total of 47.5 acres out of 61. (This is much worse than the 2001 plan, which would have affected only about 30 acres.)

At that point, we’re looking at felling around 35,000 trees.

(Note: Why are we using a hand-drawn map? We had originally used a map derived from maps published with no copyright notice in a UCSF document outlining the plan, considering it fair use in discussing the Plan. However, we received a legal notice on behalf of the Sutro Stewards claiming copyright to those maps. We’re still confused as to who owns those particular maps and can grant permission to use them, but we figure that this map the hand-drawn map together with the Google Map serves the purpose of informing the reader.)

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5 Responses to Killing 5000 Trees in Mount Sutro Forest

  1. milliontrees says:

    It will not be possible to destroy 5,000 trees for $250,000. My calculator tells me that’s $50 per tree, not counting the cost of the related destruction of the understory. UCSF is either blowing sunshine in your ear or they are displaying ignorance of what it costs to destroy trees. Costs vary, of course, depending upon the size of the tree and the conditions surrounding the tree. However, the Summer/Fall 2006 edition ot the Bay Area Checkbook says it costs between $5,000 and $9,500 to remove a SINGLE eucalyptus tree in the San Francisco Bay Area. That information is now 5 years out of date. Who does UCSF think they’re kidding? Us or themselves? Where are they going to get this money? Their State budget is being cut drastically and student tuition has been raised for the third year in a row with warnings of another mid-year increase if State revenues are not as forecast. Why aren’t their students protesting this absurd waste of money when they are being gouged to death by tuition increases? The mysteries multiply.

    • webmaster says:

      It may be a lot cheaper when the tree doesn’t have to be moved, just cut down and left where it’s fallen or chipped for mulch. Ray Moritz spoke about bringing in a Brontosaurus (the machine, not the dinosaur). In our opinion, it’s still an absurd use of funds…

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