UCSF has decided to wait on Mount Sutro Forest. For now, all plans are suspended except for routine maintenance.
We attended UCSF’s Community Advisory Group (CAG) meeting this evening. (UCSF has a sort of citizen’s panel that is supposed to be its interface with the community. We don’t know how they are selected.) Mt Sutro was on the agenda.
THE STORY SO FAR
Readers who have been following this saga will recall that on 21 November 2013, UCSF changed its plans to cut down up to 30,000 trees on 3/4 of the forest, and use large amounts of herbicides repeatedly for 7 years or more to prevent regrowth.
Instead, it would cut down “only” about 3,700 trees (up to 10 inches in diameter) on around 26 acres (this in addition to the “Urgent Fire Safety” work in August 2013 that removed around 1000 trees on 12 acres.) But it did promise not to use herbicides.
At the same meeting, it offered a time-line: It would put out a new Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in February, open it to 45 days of public comment, have a public meeting in March 2014, and they hoped to do the tree-felling in about a month starting mid-August 2014. More recently, they updated the time-line: new DEIR in March, public meeting in April 2014.
While we were happy to see that herbicides would not be used, and that the objectives had been simplified to safety, we opposed the removal of thousands of trees and the gutting of half the forest. (For instance, in the picture on the screen in the photograph above – we estimate that only 1-2 trees would remain.)
Craig Dawson, Executive Director of the Sutro Stewards (a volunteer group that works on the mountain) was also vehemently opposed to the new plan, and has been publicizing that opposition. Many on the CAG agreed with him. He emphasized its detrimental effects on the forest and its wildlife. (We think he is right about that; we had similar concerns, as we had with previous plans.)
At the meeting today, Kent Julin, the arborist hired by UCSF, presented the “New Plan” for those who had not seen it on November 21, 2013. Vice-Chancellor Barbara French explained that they had arrived at the plan by considering all the comments they had received. She thought that while there were “pockets” of opposition to the 2013 Plan, there was consensus around not using herbicide and around fire safety. Hence they had brought in Kent Julin to advise on fire safety. (He is based in the East Bay, and accustomed to the dry forests there.)
However, VC French said, while UCSF had planned to publish the new DEIR this spring, that was not going to happen. Associate Vice Chancellor Lori Yamauchi’s office (Campus Planning), which would have that responsibility, was now busy with the Long Range Development Plan.
They have set no new date for the DEIR to come out.
We ascertained that this meant nothing would happen in the forest for now. She said that routine maintenance – cutting back bushes, dealing with hazardous trees – would continue, but the New Plan would not be implemented until an Environmental Impact Report was approved.
We will keep you posted about updates, but we do think this is a sensible approach. First, do no harm.