UCSF’s Mt Sutro DEIR: How Many Felled Trees – 30,000 or 22,000 or zero?

As we’ve noted before, UCSF’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the Management Plan for Sutro Forest has been published, and public comments are due by March 19th, 2013. It covers what UCSF designates the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, an area of 61 acres.

Here is the PDF of the DEIR. Mount_Sutro_EIR_1-16-13_with_Appendices

You can submit a written public comment by 5 PM, March 19, 2013 to UCSF Environmental Coordinator Diane Wong at EIR@planning.ucsf.edu or by mail to UCSF Campus Planning, Box 0286, San Francisco, CA 94143-0286. Include your full name and address.

Mount sutro forest greenery

Perhaps one tree would remain of these; the other trees and greenery would be gone.


UCSF proposes a two-stage Plan. In the first stage, it would:

  • Cut down around 3,000 trees on four “Demonstration Projects” totaling 7.5 acres;
  • Build three new trails, including one through a narrow ribbon of trees separating the Forest Knolls neighborhood from UCSF Student Housing;
  • Remove 90% of the understory habitat in 7 acres of the Demonstration Projects.
  • Amputate tree-climbing vines on the remaining trees (around 10% of the current total on this acreage).

In the second stage, it would extend the same Plan to the remainder of the Open Space Reserve, except for 15 acres considered too steep that would be left untouched. This would effectively remove 90% of the trees on 3/4 of the Reserve – a total of around 27,000-30,000 trees.

The DEIR considers two alternatives. The “No Project Alternative” is a requirement – what would happen if UCSF did not go ahead with this Plan. They also have a Reduced Project Alternative.

NO PROJECT ALTERNATIVE  (No trees removed)

This alternative would continue existing management:  maintaining trails, removing only hazardous trees, and pruning trees and bushes. (It claims “herbicide use would continue in a limited manner”, which we don’t understand given UCSF’s claim that no herbicides have been used in the forest since 2008.)

It claims that this would mean the forest would “continue to decline in health.” This presupposes that its health is indeed declining, which we dispute on the assessment of two Certified Arborists, who consider it healthy.

This is the option that we believe is ecologically positive, responsive to the public, and financially responsible. We would also expect UCSF to maintain its current No-Herbicide policy in the forest.


The DEIR claims this is the Environmentally Superior Alternative, since the noise impacts on Edgewood would not exist.It would do the following:

  • Space the trees to 15 feet instead of 30 feet. This would give around 200 trees per acre (instead of 50 that would result from a 30-foot spacing).
  • No Management Activities adjacent to Edgewood Avenue. Though the DEIR doesn’t specify the acreage, we assume this would be an area of around 6 acres that were included in the original application to FEMA.
  • Reduce understory removal to 45% instead of 90%. Instead of mowing down all the understory habitat, they would take out about half of it.
  • Everything else would be the same – tree cutting for views, trails, herbicide use. And, we presume, the exclusion of the 15 acres above Inner Sunset.

The DEIR claims this is the Environmentally Superior Alternative, since the noise impacts on Edgewood would not exist. This Reduced Project alternative would cut down 22,000 trees – about 75% of the trees on 65% of the forest.

According to the DEIR, “The Reduced Project Alternative would partially meet the project objectives, but not at the scope and scale that UCSF desires.”

In view of what the DEIR actually states as UCSF’s desires, we wonder why they object to our statements that they plan to fell 30,000 trees.


hand-drawn map with neighborhoods The differential impact on the three neighborhoods adjacent to the Reserve is curious, though we presume coincidental.

  • The proposed Management Plan spares any direct impact on the Inner Sunset neighborhood, which lies below the steep Western slopes that are excluded from tree-felling or understory removal. (This is the home neighborhood of Craig Dawson, Executive Director of the Sutro Stewards, and member of the Parnassus Community Action Team.)
  • The Reduced Project Alternative would remove the direct impact on Edgewood, which stands to lose its windbreak and sound barrier under the proposed Plan.
  • Under either scenario, the third neighborhood adjoining the forest – Forest Knolls – is still directly impacted. The 3-acre Demonstration Project #1 lies directly above it, and that is the only area where pesticides will be used in the project’s first stage. (This is the home neighborhood of SaveSutro’s webmaster.)

But – as we’re sure both UCSF and the Sutro Stewards, (who would be responsible for at least the continued maintenance if not for actually implementing this plan) understand – the appeal of this forest is not limited to direct neighbors. Its beauty, its unique ecology, and the ecosystem benefits that it provides are important to everyone in the city – and to visitors from other cities and other countries.


We’ll end with a few comments from supporters who signed the petition:

“Mt Sutro is a beautiful green space within a busy residential area of a major city. It is a jewel with its greenery and walking/biking trail. Finding it while visiting San Francisco has been a real high point of my trip. To think someone or group wants to tear it down to ‘improve it’ is horrible. It is wonderful as it is.”

“I visited San Francisco briefly last year and went straight to Mt Sutro. A friend from Australia is visiting soon and I’ve convinced him to do the same. Mt Sutro is a major tourist draw for nature lovers because it is so unique, and because there are such beautiful photos of it coming out on social media. Please don’t contaminate the jewel in your crown!”

“This forest I’ve loved since I was a kid. Please help save this Treasure within the city.”

“Don’t destroy something so beautiful and rare as a forest inside a metropolitan city!”

“This is such a unique site and one so ecologically important. Please don’t destroy this!”

“Spare the trees! Spare the Air! Spare our FUTURE!”

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2 Responses to UCSF’s Mt Sutro DEIR: How Many Felled Trees – 30,000 or 22,000 or zero?

  1. Richard Crooks says:

    Why is there such a move on to destroy nature. I’m sure these trees have been here longer than most who are for destroying them and if left alone long after all of these people are dead.

  2. Pingback: Mount Sutro Forest “Management Plan” Timeline | Save Mount Sutro Forest

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