UCSF is now pursuing its latest Plan, the 2017 Plan. We are very concerned. (You can read the Plan here:  mount_sutro_vegetation_management_plan_revised_1.23.17)

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is open for public comment until 5 p.n. on September 22, 2017. (See the next section below.)

THE 2017 PLAN 

UCSF in its 2017 Plan estimates that its 61 acres of Sutro Forest has only 10,000 live trees and 3,500 dead and dying ones. This estimate is down drastically from 45,000 trees it published in its 2014 Draft Environmental Impact Report. We’re pretty sure we would notice if three-fourths of the trees in Sutro Forest disappeared, so there’s an estimation error somewhere.

Anyway, for argument’s sake let’s accept the 10,000 + 3,500 number. In the original Plan, UCSF planned to cut down some 27,000 trees (according to their numbers), leaving some 18,000 trees in the Reserve. (See the article:  Message to UCSF: Do the Math!  about the 2014 Plan.) Now that it’s only got 13,500 trees, it would make sense to leave it alone, right?
That’s not what the new Plan recommends. Instead, they plan to cut down around 6-7,000 healthy trees and nearly all the snags.”

So here’s the Plan:

  • Remove about 19 acres from the forest altogether, and some percentage of the 18 acres will be treated so aggressively they will no longer be forest.
    • The “defensible space” around buildings will cover 14 acres, and all large trees will be removed.
    • An additional Native Plant garden of 5 acres – separate from the summit – will be cleared.
    • The “inspection areas” along trails – where any tree that’s leaning or otherwise considered problematic will be expanded and cover 18 acres. The Plan also says “Where appropriate, combine tree risk assessment and abatement with other forest management activities.” This is obviously intended to mean, cut down trees and add native plants.
  • Trees may be removed to make access roads for machinery, and include quarter-acre staging areas for machinery and trucks.
  • Cut down over 6,000 healthy trees (many more, because they are going to replant saplings, which will be included in the per-acre count) to achieve 75-100 trees per acre on the remaining 40 or so acres.
  • Leave only 2-3 snags per acre standing, despite the huge ecological value of the deadwood. This means about 80-120 snags of the 3,500 will be left.

With 10,000 stems gone and all the ivy and blackberry removed, the forest will be a shadow of its current self. And that’s without reckoning for accelerated tree death, windthrow, and loss of resilience. The native plants introduced will be primarily shrubs and herbs, with a few trees in some areas. Instead of a healthier forest, it’s going to be  weaker and more vulnerable.

Please read our article about it: How many trees in Sutro Forest? And what will be left?


The Draft EIR on the 2017 Plan is here: UCSF_Mt_Sutro_DEIR_wAppendices.  It’s open for public comment through September 22, 2017.  We are reading through this extensive report and preparing our comments.

Our first concern is landslide risk as trees are felled above potentially unstable areas. See our article HERE: Sutro Forest 2017 Plan Imposes a Landslide Risk

2017 Plan Preparation

The document for this is the Notice of Preparation and Initial Study (NOPIS). You can read that HERE (as a PDF):mt-sutro_nop-and-initial-study-checklist_final_2017-02-03_0

We wrote about the initial plan development in August 2016: UCSF’s New Draft Plan for Sutro Forest, August 2016.


This plan is only the latest of a number of plans, going back to the turn of this century. Here’s some of that history


In November 2013, UCSF announced a different plan from its earlier Feb 2013 Plan. It undertook not to use herbicides in the forest. (In fact, UCSF has not used herbicides in the forest since 2008, but the February 2013 Plan called for a large amount to be used.) It also reduced the number of acres affected. This was described in a presentation: Sutro Cmty Mtg PPT 11-21-13

Key changes:

  1. Restricted objective: Safety. The main objective will be safety – the safety of structures and people. (Earlier objectives included Native Plant restoration.)
  2. Somewhat reduced area. The area to be “treated” will be reduced to 25 acres, but this may be in addition to some of the 12 acres already treated under the “Emergency Fire Hazard” work done in August 2013. (This area of around 35 acres compares with 46 acres under the earlier Plan.)
  3. Fewer trees felled. Trees 10 inches or less in diameter will be felled, compared with a 12-inch diameter the earlier plan used  as the benchmark. UCSF’s hired forester Kent Julin estimates this will mean about 3,700 trees, in addition to around 1000 trees already cut down in the “Emergency” work. No pre-determined spacing will be used. This total of about 4,700 trees compares with around 27-30,000 trees under the earlier Plan, which sought a spacing of 30-60 feet between trees.
  4. No pesticides will be used. (This compares with a potential use of bucketloads of herbicides under the earlier plan.)

UCSF said it would do a new Environmental Impact Report for this new Plan. As of March 2014, they decided to postpone this without a date because their staff are too busy.

Meanwhile, UCSF has cut down over 1200 trees: About 1,000 in August 2013 for the so-called urgent fire safety work; and another 212 that were declared “hazardous” and felled in March and May 2014 (at the height of the bird nesting season).


UCSF  published its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in February 2013.  Here is the PDF of the DEIR. Mount_Sutro_EIR_1-16-13_with_Appendices

However, this plan has apparently been superceded (as described above). In Nov 2013, UCSF described a different plan, which it has not published except as a presentation. We retain this section for reference purposes.

According to the Feb 2013 report, it plans to do the following:

hand-drawn map with neighborhoods1) Four “Demonstration Projects.” On 5 acres of the forest (Project Areas #1 and #2), they would cut down trees to achieve a 30-foot spacing between trees, reducing density from around 740 trees per acre now to about 50-60 trees per acre. This would mean cutting down 90% of the trees. On 2 more acres (Project Area #4), they would seek a 60-foot spacing, for 12-15 trees per acre. On a half-acre section (Project Area #3) they would cut down trees as needed to avoid shading a Nootka Reed grass area, and create view corridors.

We estimate this will destroy over 3,000 trees.

They also will remove 90% of the understory habitat, and amputate vines on the trees at ten feet, leaving the vines to dry out above that. On one acre, they would use Roundup and Garlon pesticides to prevent regrowth.

2)  Extending the same treatment to 46 acres. After the four “Demonstration Projects” and a public feedback period of 6 weeks, they would extend the 30-foot spacing and other elements of the Plan (understory habitat, vines, and potentially pesticides) to 3/4 of the Open Space Reserve, 46 acres.

We estimate this would remove over 30,000 trees. (UCSF’s estimate, based on its DEIR, is at least 270,000.)

3) They would leave untouched an area of 15 acres on the steep Western slope above Inner Sunset.

We have discussed the Plan in more detail in the articles below:


Three-fourths of is owned by UCSF, which in 1976 committed to maintain it as an open space and not build anything on it.

About ten years ago, UCSF developed a plan for managing the forest, the “2001 Plan.” This plan essentially called for the felling of thousands of trees, fragmentation of the existing eco-system, and conversion to various kinds of native plants. Opponents consider it to have been unduly influenced by Nativist interests. Nevertheless, recognizing the dangers of wholesale tree-felling, the Planners called for “adaptive management” – making small changes and observing their impact before making other changes. (Hence the Demonstration Plots.)

In recent years, budgetary constraints have reduced UCSF’s staff for the forest. The Sutro Stewards, a volunteer group headed by Craig Dawson (and originally part of the organization Nature In the City, which supports Native Plants) now perform most of the trail building and maintenance. However, as Nativists, they have supported the massive changes proposed in the 2001 Plan – and the even more extreme version that is now being proposed.

By 2010, the following had taken place:
(a) removal of hazardous trees;
(b) the development of a Native Garden on the summit
(c) Unplanned tree-removal for an SFPUC water project on Christopher Drive, and for the new Regenerative Medicine Building on Medical Center Way.
(d) An expansion of the trail system by the volunteer group, the Mt Sutro Stewards.

The remainder was on hold for funding reasons. The Cloud Forest flourishes.


In 2008, UCSF applied to FEMA for a grant to cut down thousands of trees, ostensibly for fire hazard mitigation. In February 2010, UCSF decided to withdraw its application and seek community input for a reversion to the 2001 Plan. (For details of the FEMA Plan saga, click here.)

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