We received a report (and opinion-piece) from a supporter of Anastasia Glikshtern in her appeal regarding the Glen Canyon project. [The background is HERE: Saving the Trees of Glen Canyon Park.]
While the appeal was denied, it was clear that Anastasia spoke for the trees of Glen Canyon, and it was heartening how many turned out to support her and the wonderful trees of Glen Canyon.
Here’s the report (with minor edits):
The Board of Appeals denied the appeal. They accepted San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s (SFRPD) contention that community outreach had been adequate, and found no problem with building code compliance.
They noted that it’s the responsibility of the Board of Supervisors to decide issues related to California Environmental Quality (CEQA).
Though opponents tried to position the appeal as an attempt by a single individual to block a popular project, this hearing made it so clear that she actually represents an important section of the public who want the project tweaked to save the trees of Glen Canyon.
The Appeals’ clerk said about “500 letters” were received on the appeal. A quick scan of the file suggested it was fairly divided between people for and against the appeal. The hearing video isn’t up yet [Webmaster: We will edit in a link once it is available] but it felt like a little less than 50% for saving the trees, 15% for native plants, and 35% for just getting on with the playgrounds/project (but I may be biased).
THE COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROCESS
The main argument against the appeal was that repeated community workshops allowed people to voice their concerns. I find it strange that the workshops are put on such a pedestal. During the workshops, SFRPD disclosed only about 11 of the 58 tree removals for this project; no one mentioned other funded projects (like the Trails project) that will quickly take down about 100 more trees deemed “unsuitable” by Rec & Park.
It’s funny to me how the community workshops do allow people to speak out — but then do nothing nothing to ensure buy-in or consensus. If the community doesn’t like what SFRPD is doing, they can voice their concerns; but SFRPD doesn’t have to do anything about those concerns. These workshops have no mechanism for identifying and resolving controversy so Rec & Park just does what they like. It’s still considered an adequate community process.
Many of the letters and the speakers highlighted the fact that community workshops and Rec & Park just suppressed objections, and never offered any options other than removal of the beautiful old heritage trees. (Later, of course, it turned out to be many more than just the 11 trees mentioned during the workshops.)
A NATIVIST VIEWPOINT
What struck me the most was Ruth Gravanis, a Dept of Environment commissioner and “biodiversity” advocate who has earned awards from San Francisco Tomorrow, the Sierra Club, and the Golden Gate Audubon Society, supporting moving on with the project. She expressed no concern about non-compliance with State environmental regulations. I have to believe if, instead of hundreds of massive eucalyptus, even one native oak sapling was coming down, it would be quite different.
One would think a Commissioner for the Environment would advocate for analyzing the impact of removing hundreds of mature and healthy trees on carbon sequestration, air quality, wildlife, property values, historic resources, allergies, and noise, sound, water, and wind buffering.
It’s strange how extremists only want the environmental laws to apply when it benefits native plants. Everyone should definitely check out the Death of a Million Trees post about other extremists’ efforts: HERE.
Liam O’Brien [Webmaster: San Francisco’s butterfly expert] also tried to speak, but was told he couldn’t because he works for the city (not sure if as a contractor or employee).
SFRPD PROPAGANDA WEAKENS
I really appreciated the President of the Board asking some pretty probing questions of SFRPD about the tree removals. In my biased opinion, SFRPD’s chest-thumping about hazardous trees is getting weaker and less convincing with each outing. Part of Rec & Park’s argument included the slanted article in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was an interesting exercise in circular logic: SFRPD gets the Chronicle to write about dangerous trees and that somehow implies it is true. Karen Mauney-Brodek also said a person was injured recently by a tree – I think it was in the Panhandle — which is strange since I believe that was after SFRPD did their Forestry work to remove hazardous trees. HERE‘s the only internet reference I can find to an injury in Golden Gate Park — and it is someone using a branch to attack a police officer.
The Board’s President didn’t seem convinced, but was persuaded that the California CEQA determination is not within the Board’s purview.
The probable next step is to appeal the CEQA determination to the Board of Supervisors. While I hope I’m not right, I fear the Supervisors would also uphold the determination and give little consideration to the merits of the case. The next step after that would be to go to State Court, which might provide a fair hearing.
The City could probably get the project done faster and cheaper by either deciding to comply with State regulations immediately, or by changing the design such that it is less drastic and doesn’t require an environmental review.
The community priorities (a larger playground for the children, an Elk Street drop-off space, ADA access, etc.) don’t require moving the tennis courts into the hillside or removing “unsuitable” trees in the Natural Areas.
Here are the elements to be included and balanced in the project design:
- Retaining the Grand Eucalyptus trees and the Alms Rd,
- Correctly aligning the tennis courts so the sun would not be in the players’ eyes,
- A new grand native plant entrance, and
- Zero reduction in the large grassy field.
SFRPD’s current design does 3 and 4 but not 1 or 2.
While it’s sad we’re being forced to slow down all the high-priority improvements planned for Glen Canyon, I think it is important. It’s important for SFRPD to respect environmental protection regulations and stop diverting funds promised for the recreation center to deforestation and native plant gardens.
Even though the appeal failed, a huge THANK YOU to those that wrote or spoke! And thank you to all that continue to support Anastasia in her quest to preserve Glen Canyon Park’s legacy and to stop the bit-by-bit destruction of trees and wildlife habitat in city parks.
“ANASTASIA IS MY HERO”
People have accused Anastasia of seeking the limelight. In fact, she’s a private person who has involved herself in this battle because she cares passionately about the trees. A supporter writes:
“Fearlessly standing up to the powerful Rec & Park and San Francisco political machine is not for the faint of heart. Retired, with few daily responsibilities other than picking up her grandson or walking her 14-year old dog in the park, suddenly this grandmother has become the only shield stopping Rec & Park from destroying the much-loved heritage eucalyptus trees, grown over the past 130 years, the Gum Tree Ranch legacy. SFRPD’s pushing the angle in media outlets about ‘how dare one person stand in the way.’ But defying all odds, the SFRPD political machine didn’t squash the ‘One Person.’ Anastasia is MY HERO.”
Another person who attended the hearing added: “By the way, the electricity went off — creating drama during the hearing — precisely when the Appeal Board’s vice president was making a very important comment. He said it was odd that in the last 4 months they have had more appeal hearings against SFRPD than he can remember. He thought this was something that should be noted. It really sounds like people are not happy with SFRPD.”