UCSF to Start Cutting Trees in Fall 2018 – “Final EIR” Published

UCSF has issued its proposed Final Environmental Impact Report. (You can read it here as a PDF. It’s more than 2000 pages. Mount Sutro Vegetation Management Plan 2018 Final EIR_Full Document

They expect to have it certified by the Board of Regents soon. [Edited to add on May 5 2018: UCSF has announced the plan is approved. “Earlier this week, UCSF’s Chancellor approved the final plan following the certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report. Now that the plan is approved and finalized, UCSF can begin implementation in September, after the end of bird-nesting season.”]

This will mean they will start cutting down thousands of trees this Fall, probably in mid-August September 2018. If you love this forest, visit it now. It’s going to look very different by this time next year.


A lot of trees are already gone, cut down in the name of “safety.” This is true not only of the UCSF section of the forest, but also in the Interior Green Belt (the city-owned portion.)

It’s also going to be bad for carbon sequestration; a rough calculation made by the Nature Conservancy estimated that 1 acre of trees was equivalent to preventing a year’s emission by 30 cars. Cutting down trees here will release a lot of Green House gases.

We also expect poorer air quality. These trees fight particulate pollution, at least while they’re standing.

In both the short and long term, there may well be issues of slope stability. The trees, and their intergrafted roots, stabilize the slopes like a deep living geotextile. The trees also precipitate fog, keeping the surface soil damp, but use the moisture at the lower levels and thus prevent the soil from getting deeply saturated. As to roots of the felled trees die, the geotextile starts to decay. Meanwhile, the trees are no longer drying the deeper soil. The landslide risk could remain for years after the trees are felled, waiting for the right circumstances.

All the wiggly black lines in the map below indicate soil creep direction, and the straight double arrows show the direction of potential landslides.

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3 Responses to UCSF to Start Cutting Trees in Fall 2018 – “Final EIR” Published

  1. Megan Lehmer says:

    Mt. Sutro forest is a treasure which must be maintained. I am fortunate enough to live on upper Stanyan Street, and Mt. Sutro forest is behind my house. My neighbor hired an arborist three years who identified 17 trees which were a danger to our neighborhood and notified authorities. Nothing was done to care for these trees. At 4 am on February 8, 2017, my husband and I were awakened by a huge cracking sound, after which our ceiling and the back wall of our house fell on our bed under the weight of a falling 100′ cypress tree. Amazingly neither of us was injured, but it took some time to pick through the branches and insulation to find a phone to call 911. It took over a year to repair our house. We are delighted to be home again after a year in alternative housing. We think it is important for people to know that the next time a tree falls on someone’s house, a person could be injured or even killed. (In case anyone thinks this was a freak accident, this was not the first time a tree fell on us. The first time, the tree fell on our deck and missed the house by a couple of feet.) Mt. Sutro forest is a gift to have in the middle of a city, but it needs to be cared for to keep it healthy.

    SaveSutro: Hi Megan, we completely agree that dangerous trees need to be removed. Our issue is with situations where ‘safety’ is used as an excuse to remove far more trees than needed – and often it’s biased by the species of the tree. You mentioned 17 trees that needed removal – but in the end, 70 trees were removed in the Interior Green Belt. (This is not the first time we have heard that the City has taken years to respond to danger concerns.) We’d like to see an immediate response to actual reports of dangerous trees, and not massive removals every few years.

  2. Jim Musselman says:

    Dear Save Mount Sutro Forest, I have a question about how the eucalyptus trees that are cut down are disposed of.  Years ago, I read that all trees felled by the city cannot be sold and instead have to be run through the “chipper” and turned into wood chips.  (I don’t remember the legal analyses for why that was true.)  Is that still true?  And is it true of the trees cut down on Mount Sutro — that they get run through a chipper and turned into wood chips?   One reason I ask is that running felled trees through a chipper involves burning fossil fuels to run the chipper.  In fact, the whole act of felling the trees and chipping them would, then, involve burning fossil fuels.   Can you tell me whether the felled trees on Mount Sutro all are run through the chipper? Jim Musselman 

    SaveSutro: Hello Jim, the original plan was to leave the trunks along the paths and run branches and twigs through the chipper. More recently, I think they are removing the trunks and the branches both. They will not be leaving thousands of downed trees in the forest, so whether they are chipping all the trees or only branches, they will be using fossil fuels. Chipping also speeds the process of decay and returning the carbon dioxide sequestered in the trees to the atmosphere. This action will certainly be bad from a carbon viewpoint.

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