UCSF Meeting Report – 11 Feb 2014

UCSF Feb 2014 meeting for LRDPUCSF had called this meeting to discuss, not Mount Sutro Forest, but their Long Range Development Plan. However, Craig Dawson, Executive Director of the Sutro Stewards sent out a call for people to attend and talk about Mt Sutro, apparently to push UCSF to revert to the previous plan.

We therefore asked people who support the forest also to attend to counter attempts to turn the Plan backward. While we oppose the felling of thousands of trees in the New Plan, we think it’s progress compared to the Previous Plan that was much worse.


In February 2013, UCSF published a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) that embodied a plan to cut down tens of thousands of trees in two phases, with the possibility of using large amounts of toxic herbicides to prevent regrowth. In Phase I, they would cut down 80-90% of  trees on 7.5 acres (about 5,000), remove all the understory, and amputate vines at 10 feet off the ground so they died. In Phase II, they would extend the same management plan to cover 3/4 of the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, doing one-quarter (10-12 acres) at a time. This implied that 90% of the trees on 3/4 of the forest would be gone in 4-5 years – and large amounts of toxic herbicides would be used in an area which has seen no herbicides since 2008.

In November 2013, in response to the public comments on the DEIR, UCSF announced a New Plan. It would commit to not using herbicides at all in Sutro Forest. It would simplify its multiple objectives in the Previous Plan down to a single one: Safety. And as a safety measure, it would cut down trees up to 10 inches in diameter on about half the forest all at one time.

The four affected areas are shown on the map below: (1) The South side – in purple (2) the strip on either side of Medical Center Way (3) The orange area on the West side, and (4) the blue area on the North side (behind Edgewood).

We consider the new Plan to be progress over the horrendous Previous Plan, though still destructive of trees and habitat. Our post about that is HERE.

ucsf new mt sutro plan nov 2013THEMES OF THE COMMENTS

UCSF noted that while this meeting was not about Mt Sutro, they would accept comments about  the forest.  After the presentation (which focused entirely on the LRDP) it was comments time. A few people spoke to the LRDP issues; but many more spoke about the forest.

Some of the themes:

1. Let down? The Sutro Stewards and their supporters felt UCSF had let them down with the New Plan. However, others felt that UCSF was actually listening to other views for the first time.

2. Forest needs management? They also emphasized that the forest “a plantation” required management and was dry, not a “rain forest.” Others want the forest to remain natural, with only enough management to keep the trails open and remediate hazards.

3. Previous Plan – Better or Worse? The Sutro Stewards supporters spoke about the previous plan as a gradual one, with little loss of trees or vegetation.  However, we pointed out this was not actually in the Plan as embodied in the Feb 2013 DEIR.  What that Previous Plan would have done was the same thing as the New Plan, only on more land, over 4 years, and with added toxic herbicides.

4.  UCSF thanked for eschewing herbicides. Supporters of the forest expressed gratitude to UCSF for its commitment not to use toxic herbicides in the forest. One Stewards supporter also said he did not want pesticides used.

5.  Opposed to Tree-cutting and Forest-gutting.  The Stewards’ supporters were quite eloquent about how awful the forest would look with its understory gone on 25 acres, and all the trees under 10 inches cut down, and how it would destroy habitat. Forest supporters agreed on this, and asked UCSF to revisit the Plan. They spoke of the beauty of the forest, the importance of every tree in a time of climate change

There seemed to be broad agreement that the commitment not to use pesticides was good; and that thousands of  trees should not be cut down, nor the understory removed.

5. Other themes:

  • Would the forest sequester more carbon or less?
  • Risk of mosquitoes if the stream on the North side is revived but becomes standing pools of water.
  • Should the Aldea student housing units be preserved as UCSF wishes? (Original plan was to demolish them and add them to the Open Space.)
  • [Edited to Add: One commenter pointed out that Ishi, a native American, in his last years spent a lot of time in this forest. He suggested preserving the trees had historical value, and also asked for a memorial for Ishi.]

Since the objective is now limited to Safety, the question is whether the planned actions would make the forest more safe. We do not think it will; in fact, by destroying the understory and weakening the remaining trees, it could increase the risk.


1) Important Timeline Change: The revised DEIR will come out in March 2014 (not February), and a Sutro Forest public meeting will be held in April 2014 (not March).

2) The revised DEIR will not incorporate the Previous Plan as one of the alternatives. It will be only look at the Environmental Impacts of the New Plan.

3)  We learned that Sutro Forest is independent of the LRDP. However, there are some things the LRDP covers  that will affect the forest:

  • A new staircase and trail will be added to provide access from the West side of the mountain to the trail system.
  • Three buildings in the forest will be knocked down and the footprint added to the Open Space Reserve. Those are the red squares on the map below.
  • Three student housing units on Aldea that were planned to be knocked down, will not be.

UCSF LRDP Feb 2014

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8 Responses to UCSF Meeting Report – 11 Feb 2014

  1. milliontrees says:

    It is difficult to understand the strategy of the Sutro Stewards. Have they forgotten that they were critical of UCSF’s previous plan to destroy 90% of the trees on 75% of Mt. Sutro and destroy 90% of the understory? Their written public comment is a matter of public record. It states that they wanted even more trees to be destroyed and more herbicides to be used to destroy non-native vegetation. Now they claim that the new plan which will destroy significantly fewer trees is too destructive. Huh? That just doesn’t make sense.

    Their belief that UCSF has “let them down” is also inconsistent with the history of this controversy. They have apparently forgotten that the plan to destroy most of the trees on most of the mountain was spawned only because the committee that wrote the plan was stacked against the prevailing opinion of the neighborhood. Only one member of that committee was in favor of saving the trees and she fought valiantly against the plan. When the plan was presented to the community at a public meeting, the neighborhood spoke out loud and clear in opposition to that plan. UCSF chose to ignore them.

    If UCSF does not wish to be blind-sided again by their neighbors who love the Sutro Forest, they will change the composition of their community advisory committee so that it represents the community. Surely they regret not having done so earlier. They wasted a lot of time and money trying to push a plan on the neighborhood by listening only to the Sutro Stewards.

  2. Jim Musselman says:

    Have you seen Jake’s article?  It appears at http://www.miralomapark.org/wp-content/files/Feb14/Feb2014MiralomaLife.pdf .  I’m actually sure you have seen it, but want to make sure.

    Most importantly:  I am, and always have been, a supporter of the eucalpytus trees through out San Francisco.  I am especially attuned to the Blue Gums. It turns that Jake Sigg does support the Blue Gum Eucalyptus on Mt. Davidson too, and I’m confident that means he also supports the trees in Sutro Forest.  He does want the understory of ivy and blackberry removed and he says that these plants imperil the trees.  He favors thinning the trees, but he does not favor removing them wholesale.  I was encouraged by his article.

    Jim Musselman


    [Webmaster: Thanks, Jim! Unfortunately, the “thinning” is an illusion. What the Previous Plan on Mt Sutro called for amounted to removing 90% of the trees on 3/4 of the Open Space Reserve. What the Mt Davidson Plan calls for is removing 1600 trees in concentrated areas, creating clear-cuts in the heart of the forest. (See the map here)

    Clear-cuts planned for Mt Davidson Forest

    Thanks also for pointing us at Jake Sigg’s article. We’re pleased that he expressed his admiration for these trees. We disagree with his conclusion that aggressive management is required on Mt Davidson. We also read the letter from Professor Joe McBride of UC Berkeley (where he’s a Professor of Environmental Sciences) that was published in the same newsletter some months earlier. That link is HERE (scroll down until you find it.) He says ” I did not observe conditions in the eucalyptus plantations where tree density required thinning” and also “Removal of the exotic understory species at this time would reduce the habitat quality of the plantation, especially the removal of Himalayan blackberry that provides a valuable food source for many species.”]

    • milliontrees says:

      I’ve also read Jake Sigg’s article about Mount Davidson in the Miraloma newsletter. I suggest that anyone who wishes to evaluate the veracity of Mr. Sigg’s article read all the way to the end. At the end, the Editor of the newsletter points out that the written plans (SNRAMP) for Mount Davidson are not consistent with Mr. Sigg’s claim that the forest will be thinned. The Editor concludes that the neighborhood association will reserve judgment until the final environmental impact statement is published. If plans to remove 1,600 trees in concentrated areas are not revised in that document, the neighborhood association will continue to oppose the plans. Look for yourself: http://www.miralomapark.org/wp-content/files/Feb14/Feb2014MiralomaLife.pdf

      Claims that NAP is only “thinning” trees is one of the strategies NAP supporters have used to convince the public to accept their plans. There have been many such strategies, such as claims that the trees will be replaced, and claims that only hazardous trees will be removed. As each claim is discredited, new strategies are devised. If you want to know what NAP intends to do, read SNRAMP. If NAP has changed its plans, it must revise SNRAMP. The public will not be fooled by verbal assurances that are not consistent with the written public documents.

  3. ambi venkateswaran says:

    Good article

  4. Skeptic says:

    I don’t know why anyone is interested in Jake Sigg’s opinion on what NAP plans for Mt. Davidson. Sigg has stated in public meetings that he has not read the Natural Areas Management Plan, and doesn’t need to. So when he talks about what will be done on Mt Davidson (or elsewhere) he’s just making it up; he doesn’t know what NAP plans to do.

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