Sutro Forest – Protesting the Tree-cutting

sign 2robin sutro poster jpgThe peaceful demonstration last Thursday drew a number of supporters, both those who have already been active and newcomers. A few people approached us to find out what was happening, then offered to carry signs or distribute materials themselves.

sign 4We lined both sides of the street with signs and posters, distributed postcards and flyers, and asked people to sign our petition. We exhausted our entire stock of postcards and flyers.

sign 1The UCSF police were standing by in force – maybe about ten people outside Millberry Union at 10.45 a.m., before the 11 a.m. start time. Though they looked intimidating, they were actually quite cordial and asked only that we should not prevent people from crossing the road, or block the steps into Millberry Union. We assured them we planned a peaceful protest, and wanted to inform, not disrupt. In fact, we’re pleased to say that as far as we know, all the protestors were conscientious about it. One had brought a sign asking for cars to “honk” in support, but realizing we were opposite a hospital, she immediately discarded that.

sign 3UCSF had a table set up by their Community Relations staff, and were handing out materials of their own. They had a forester, Kent Julin, in attendance. Occasionally, people would stop at their table, assuming they were part of the protest, and ask to sign the petition. After that happened a couple of times, one of us stood nearby and directed them to the person with the Petition.


Meanwhile, the cutting has started. They are clearing most trees under 6 inches in diameter, and all the understory and vines from 15 acres of the forest. By the time they finish (around Sept 7th or so) they would have removed over 1250 trees.

Though the trees are under 6 inches in diameter – it takes a newly planted tree years to reach that size. If San Francisco were to plant one tree for every tree removed today, it would take until 2020 or 2023 for those trees to get to where these trees are now.

Here’s a before picture of the forest between the Aldea campus and Christopher Drive, as it was in April 2013.

forest beforeThe picture below is the same area as it was 2 days ago, after “urgent fire safety” work.

forest after


Has this expensive destruction of the smaller trees and all the understory habitat made the forest safer? We don’t think so, given the microclimate. In fact, we think it creates a hazard where none existed.

This  area is squarely in the fog belt, and it’s very foggy. The moisture that condenses on trees and bushes makes for a localized rain that forms actual puddles on Christopher. On the street, it evaporates in a few hours. On the bare earth, maybe in a day or two. But where it falls into dense undergrowth, it remains damp for weeks. In fact, it hardly ever dries out, as is evident in the year-round greenery. It’s lush even when it doesn’t rain.

Now that the understory is gone, that won’t happen. It’s going to dry out very much faster than before. And that’s going to be more flammable, not less so.

felled trees clarendon and christopherWe remain concerned about what UCSF is doing here, for the reasons we described earlier HERE.  We also note that this particular section of clearing just happens to be where the Sutro Stewards plan to put in a controversial trail running parallel to Christopher.

[Edited to Add: We got a note from UCSF’s Damon Lew, clarifying that the felled tree in the last picture was cut down by PG&E – which was doing its tree-work at the same time – and not by UCSF. “I’m not sure if you were aware, but I did want to let you know that the trees in the picture were cut down by PG&E as they were doing work around the powerlines on Clarendon Avenue.  You may have noticed their crew cutting branches near the powerlines along both the north and south sides of Clarendon about two weeks ago.  These trees were not cut down by UCSF or the contractor that was performing the urgent fire safety measures in/around the Reserve.”]

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4 Responses to Sutro Forest – Protesting the Tree-cutting

  1. deetje boler says:

    A scary thing about humans is that they are hypnotized by their technology, compulsively drawn to using it just because they can, thus doing unnecessary and/or undesirable things, just because they can. Frank Oppenheim, of the Exploratorium, told of his own personal experience with this when he happened to have the opportunity to drive an earth-moving machine (I can’t think of the name of it) and found himself making it do (destructive) things, just because he could. He took this as a cautionary warning against exploiting our tools just because we can not because we really need or want to. To my mind, this despoiling of the Sutro Forest is a good example.

  2. Once government gets it in their heads to do something WE THE PEOPLE DON’T MATTER AT ALL.

  3. lu says:

    over by aldea at clarendon/christopher it looks like they took down some trees much larger than 6 inches.
    all along crestmont looks pretty bad. i haven’t seen it all, but near devonshire it looks like a wasteland. let’s hope there are no slides in winter.

  4. Pingback: Sutro Forest Report: What’s Been Done? | Save Mount Sutro Forest

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