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UCSF’s Aldea Campus: More Building, Fewer Trees

UCSF has revealed its plans for Aldea Housing. Back in 2014 when we reported that UCSF was removing Aldea student housing from the “space ceiling” that limited its expansion in the Parnassus area, we weren’t told what was planned. Now it’s been described in the 2020 DEIR (See the whole document here: UCSF-CPHP-Draft-EIR (1) ) Sept 11, 2020 is the last day for comments.

The plan is to demolish the existing low-rise wood-shingled buildings, and replace them with tall ones. The first phase will be three 8-storey and one 5-storey building. Here’s their impression from the DEIR document.

One of our concerns is that they’ll remove even more trees to accommodate the new buildings and the construction space to build them. We can probably expect most of the forest lying between Forest Knolls and the Aldea Housing to be thinned to the point that it is merely a few trees standing around instead of something resembling a wood.

As it is, the picture is already obsolete – most of the trees between the Aldea and Clarendon Drive are gone, and most of the ones along Christopher will be removed or drastically thinned.

Great Horned Owls in Forest Knolls

Beth Dean shared this on NextDoor:
Owls. Now that I’ve been working from home I noticed there’s a pair of owls who hang out outside my bedroom window during the day.

One was obscured by leaves so I couldn’t get a good photo but here’s the other one. A good reminder not to use poison for vermin as the owls might ingest it!

(This is published here with permission. Thanks for sharing them, Beth!)

UCSF Plans to Expand Parnassus and Aldea

I’ve posted here before about the 3.55 million square foot Space Ceiling that was meant to restrain UCSF from over-expansion in Parnassus Heights and Aldea Student Housing. UCSF never quite managed to adhere to those, but it did use it as a guideline and stayed close.

Those days may be over. UCSF is amending its Long Range Development Plan (2015-2035) to include a major 2 million square foot expansion of facilities and student housing, both in Parnassus and in Aldea. The real-estate website, http://www.socketsite.com, has released a good article that describes the expected developments, here:

UCSF’s Ambitious Plan to Expand Its Parnassus Heights Campus

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t show what’s on the cards for Aldea Student Housing, which is now much more prominent in our neighborhood with the removal of a lot of the forest and street trees that screened the student housing from the roads. We have some sense of it from planning meetings last year – we can expect taller buildings up to eight stories high.

(Meanwhile, it has dumped its Laurel Heights campus in a 99-year lease to a developer. This has been planned for a while now, to maximize the value of the site.)

Model of UCSF Parnassus Heights campus expansion - source Socketsite.comourc
UCSF Parnassus Heights expansion – source Socketsite.com

All the pictures in this post are from the Socketsite article. If you want more detailed information, check it out.

Artists rendering of Parnassus Heights Campus expansion by Perkins Eastman - source Socketsite.com
Parnassus Heights Campus as massed and rendered by Perkins Eastman – http://www.perkinseastman.com

UCSF Zoom MEETING JUNE 10, 2020

UCSF has announced a meeting of its Advisory Committee for the Future of Parnassus Heights. It’s planned for Wednesday, June 10, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Via Zoom online, and is open to the public.

If you RSVP at this web address, UCSF will send you a link to participate in the meeting.
https://ucsf.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_3vqtvrnpTAC8xjqWxdU6Ug

Forest Knolls, with Coyote, Great Horned Owl, and Raccoon

I love that I can walk late at night in Forest Knolls. I’ve always enjoyed these magical (though infrequent walks). Now, with social distancing, they’re better than ever; there’s hardly anyone around.

Last week, I was out a couple of times. The first night was as still and quiet as if someone had turned off the world’s sound. On my way home I saw a dark shape on the sidewalk ahead. At first, it was so still that I thought it was a small abandoned suitcase or something. But as I came closer, it moved, and the light from the street-lamp showed me a raccoon. It looked at me and dived into the roadside shrubs. I went out to the middle of the road to give it enough room. Though I was pleased to see it. With all the precautions people (including us) take with their trashcans, I thought raccoons had abandoned our neighborhood for lack of food.

Another night, the quiet was broken by one of my favorite sounds: a Great Horned Owl up in Sutro Forest. It sounded like a lone owl, and stopped after a few hoots. Later in the year, perhaps I’ll hear the duets of a pair talking to each other.

And the same night, the best sighting of all: a coyote, out on Oak Park Drive near the staircase called Glenhaven Lane. When it saw me, it retreated up the staircase, and then onto the hillside so it could escape into the bushes if I pursued it. I didn’t, of course. I gave it a wide berth, and took a few blurry pictures with my cellphone.

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Forest Knolls Corner Grove Cut Down

Some of you may remember when I wrote about our trees being poisoned?
This was the grove on the corner of Christopher and Clarendon, and was itself what was left of a lush dense grove that was cut when the pumphouse was built in 2009 (as shown in the poster visualizing the pump station):

Pump Station on poster

Here’s what it looked like in 2013, when I was concerned about *two trees*!

Well, the trees have all been cut down, I think by UCSF.
There’s no grove between Clarendon and the pumphouse, just a couple of trees left.

These were beautiful old trees – maybe around 125 years old. All that is left are stumps.

Meanwhile, the planned trailhead from Clarendon is being built. It’s going to look *very* different from the charming visualization presented by UCSF.

CLARENDON LOSES ITS CENTURY-OLD TREES

Also gone – the tall trees that lined Clarendon Avenue in front of the Aldea San Miguel UCSF student housing.

I remember a time when you couldn’t even see the fence from the street. When UCSF thinned the vegetation there many years ago, they promised plantings that would conceal the chain link fence. Well, they planted some vines, but the concealment didn’t happen.

The chain-link fence is more prominent than ever.

And across the road, a swath of trees adjacent to the homes on Clarendon have been felled too, I think by SF Rec and Parks (or possibly Sutro Tower, not sure).

Over the last decade, we have lost a lot of the glorious trees that made Forest Knolls a community surrounded by forest. I’m glad I had a chance to see them in their former beauty.

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Forest Knolls Block Party May 19, 2019

I got an email requesting me to post this notice about the Forest Knolls Block party…

It’s on Sunday May 19th 2018, from 12 noon to 4 p.m. and will be held in the 100 block cul-de-sac of Forest Knolls Drive (that’s just above the Clarendon School playground.) There’ll be snacks (tacos, empanadas) and drinks, a bouncy house, balloons, a fortune teller and a photo booth and more. Representatives from SAFE – Neighborhood Watch, the NERT Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, and from the Fire Station and SFPD may be present. Please RSVP to Walter Caplan at forestknolls@comcast.net

You can also download the flyer above as a PDF here: 2019-block-party

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UCSF’s New Plans for Aldea (Above Forest Knolls)

I attended a meeting at UCSF’s Milberry Union last evening, 20 March 2019.

UCSF is rejigging its plans for Parnassus. After spending the last many years focused on its new location at Mission Bay, they want to come back to where it all started: Parnassus. They’re planning a new hospital by 2029, which will comply with new seismic codes. Beyond that, they want to improve the aesthetics of the Parnassus experience – create a sense of entry, strengthen the connection to Golden Gate Park and Mount Sutro, and build more space. They have a community group working on it, with mostly Inner Sunset residents and UCSF staff. (The list is here as a PDF: UCSF_Parnassus_Heights_Roster )

NEW PLANS FOR ALDEA

For those who aren’t aware of it, UCSF’s Aldea Student Housing adjoins Forest Knolls to the north just above Christopher Drive from Clarendon Avenue to where the forest is cut for the pipeline.

Among the plans to expand housing for students and staff, they are considering rebuilding the student housing at Aldea, from 171 units now to 500+ units when the project concludes. Aldea used to be subject to the “space ceiling” (explained in this post: UCSF’s Space Ceiling Saga) but apparently in 2014, the UC Regents decided to exempt it – as with all the other student housing.

To do this, they plan to replace their current, mostly 3-storied buildings, with 5-8 story buildings. They will probably start with the oldest ones, which are nearest to Forest Knolls.

For our neighborhood, it raises several questions:

  1. Parking. As it is, a lot of UCSF people park in Forest Knolls and Midtown Terrace because of inadequate parking at Aldea and Parnassus. If the number of units at Aldea triples, what happens to parking?
  2. Traffic. Aldea gives on to Clarendon at an awkward spot, just before the wide road up from Laguna Honda turns into the narrow one joining Twin Peaks Boulevard. Right now, Aldea doesn’t generate much traffic. But if it’s going to be housing 500 families? This is an area with NO amenities within walking distance – even a gallon of milk is a car-ride away. The connections to MUNI are also dismal. The only thing they have is the UCSF shuttle, down to Parnassus.
  3. Aesthetics. Aldea is adjacent to Forest Knolls on the north.  Right now, the Aldea buildings are low-key, low-rise shingled buildings partially hidden by trees. With plans for major tree removal as part of the “Vegetation Management Plan” for Mount Sutro, these buildings will be much more visible. The most recent structure at Aldea, the community center, is not very reassuring in terms of aesthetic inspiration. (See the boxy structure in the picture below.)
  4. Time Line. I didn’t get a clear sense of the time-line on Aldea. There’s something on the last slide that suggests 2025 as the target date, which means they will move quickly. As a state organization, they don’t need city permission, and are exempt from the usual constraints on building.

THE  PRESENTATION

I’m uploading a bunch of pictures I took of the presentation. They said that they would be putting it on their website, so hopefully you can get better quality pictures there soon. (I might download it here if it’s feasible.)

 

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The Grab-and-Go List for Emergency Evacuations

Most of us, very fortunately, haven’t ever had to run for our lives ahead of a fire or flood or earthquake. But if it happens – it’s difficult to think straight. Someone posted this “Grab & Go” to Facebook and it looked so useful that I printed several copies. 

May none of us every need it!

Forest Knolls Holiday Party – December 9, 2018

Just in case you didn’t get the Forest Knolls annual holiday party flyer in your mailbox, here is the information.

The Forest Knolls Holiday Party is set for Sunday, 12/9, from 4-8pm with a dinner buffet at 5pm. The event will be held at the Armenian Church at 275 Olympia Way, next to our fire station.
If you plan to attend, PLEASE RSVP to forestknolls@comcast.net. There’s a form to be filled in and mailed to Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization, PO Box 31387, SF 94131 (or you can email forestknolls@comcast.net).  Adults are $25/person, kids are free. Photos of the front and back of the flyer are given below.

Questions? Just email forestknolls@comcast.net

 

Halloween 2018

It’s that time of the year again, with the orange flyers in your mailbox, telling you about the Halloween loop. The Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization does this each year.

Here’s the flyer as a PDF (the image is below): Halloween 2018 

If you’re on the loop and want to trick-or-treaters coming by, you’ll need to be home on Wednesday Oct 31 between 5.30 and 8 p.m. (with candy!).  Email the organizers by Sunday Oct 21 at forestknolls@comcast.net or call them at 415-621-0500. They’ll give you a pumpkin and a sign to indicate you’re participating.

If you want to take your kids trick-or-treating, bring them to the loop between 5.30 and 8 pm. on Oct 31 – and look out for the pumpkins of participation!

Big Machines Right Here!

They’re replacing sewer pipes on Woodhaven, right here in Forest Knolls. If you’re an aficionado of big machines (or have kids who are!), there are plenty.

I took these photos over the last week.

Every day is different and fascinating.

This was today!

Here’s the notice about the Sewer Replacement Project. It’s 5-6 weeks, they said, and started Aug 6, 2018. The first of many, from the sound of it. The big machines may be coming to a street near you!

Of course, it’s a lot of noise and dust and access/ parking limitations for the homes on Woodhaven and nearby, but hopefully it will prevent plumbing problems in future. Like this broken water main from 2009. That wasn’t even a sewer line, which would be more insidious!

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New Trail from Clarendon up to Laguna Honda

Recently, I saw a new trail marker/ map on Clarendon Avenue, across the street from “The Woods” townhome complex, and decided to explore.

It goes through the ravine that probably was part of the lake in olden times. It’s now dry, and forested with eucalyptus and understoried with blackberry. Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH) gets it cleared out occasionally with goats. It’s quite delightful, a narrow winding trail that climbs up the other side of the ravine and comes out in LHH’s front yard.

Hiker and blogger Tony Holiday tried out the same hike – though he went a bit further, beyond the juvenile detention facility – and has given me permission to use his story and some pictures here. (For lots more great pictures, see his blog post, Daisies, on his site Stairways Are Heaven. It’s also a great resource for transit-friendly hikes.)

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From DAISIES by Tony Holiday

Thanks again to a good Facebook friend who told me about a new multi-use trail. And it’s a beauty!

The trailhead is on the Midtown Terrace side of Clarendon, just past Laguna Honda Reservoir. This is the south side of Clarendon, across the street from “The Woods” residences. There’s a sign with a map at the trailhead. It’s also a short distance from Olympia Way and the Midtown Terrace Playground.

Does this trail have an official name? If not, how ‘bout the “Woods” Trail?
Loved it immediately. Lush, narrow, definitely magical, with beautiful old trees.

It curves round, winding up to a south ridge.

 

 

No one on the trail but me (and Karl the Fog).

Nearer the summit was chainlink fencing and some old trash just off the trail. The cans, etc. will probably eventually be cleaned up. An old dumpsite for Laguna Honda Hospital?

To my left as I climbed were backs of Dellbrook Ave. homes. To my right, above, some of the many hospital buildings, old and new.

Then there were all these amazing white daisies along the trail.

There are benches just inside the hospital grounds behind one of the buildings. Still no one around but me. Continued up to a way out at a hospital parking lot.

From here delighted to see more woods just ahead.

Hidden away in the forest here are two huge graffiti-covered tanks.

Started down (west) alongside the hospital grounds to my right; to the left the Juvenile Probation Dept. Down at street level was Woodside & Idora. Continued curving downhill to the #43 bus stop that’s just across from the Forest Hill Metro Station.

Another treat —the colorful mural at the entrance to the hospital grounds on Laguna Honda at the bus stop. I think this has to be my favorite of all murals seen so far. [For lots more mural photos, see Tony’s original blog post.]

 

 

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West Portal – Closures and Big Machines

As everyone probably knows by now, West Portal tunnel is closed while they repair and replace the hundred-year-old lines.

The main staging area is West Portal, the commercial street. It’s a big mess. But a big intriguing mess. (And, we hasten to add, it’s open for business and the shops and restaurants are operating normally.)

We were fascinated by the huge, specialized machines parked everywhere in the first couple of blocks of West Portal.

And here are some more:

All in matching, very visible yellow, though each machine is different.

It’s all very much under control, and as long as you avoid Ulloa and Vicente and the stretch between, it’s not difficult to drive there or find parking.

 

But the stores sure could do with some support, so if you were thinking about shopping or dining there… please do. And if you have kids who are interested in huge machines and construction activity – it’s the perfect time to ogle the earthmovers!

 

 

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Forest Knolls Block Party May 20, 2018

I got an email requesting me to post this notice about the Forest Knolls Block party…

It’s on Sunday May 20th 2018, from 12 noon to 4 p.m. and will be held in the 100 block cul-de-sac of Forest Knolls Drive (that’s just above the Clarendon School playground.) There’ll be snacks (tacos, empanadas) and drinks, a bouncy house, balloons, a fortune teller and a photo booth and more. Representatives from SAFE – Neighborhood Watch, the NERT Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, and from the Fire Station and SFPD may be present. Please RSVP to Walter Caplan at forestknolls@comcast.net

You can also download the flyer above as a PDF here: 2018-block-party

 

 

Weekend Night Closures – Forest Hill and West Portal Stations –

I was taking the Muni downtown yesterday, when a Muni employee stopped me. She handed me the flyer below, and told me the station would be closed weekend nights (Friday and Saturday) from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. It’ll last through June 17th, and they’ll have buses. All the details are available at SFMTA.com, or on 311.

I really appreciated the outreach. I’m seldom that late on the Muni, but when I am – it’s often a weekend.

 

Forest Knolls Holiday Party – December 10, 2017

We got a notice about the annual holiday party… you probably received it in your mailbox, but in case not, here it is!

The Forest Knolls Holiday Party is set for Sunday, 12/10, from 4-8pm with a dinner buffet at 6pm. The event will be held at the Armenian Church on Olympia, next door to our fire station.

If you plan to attend, PLEASE RSVP to forestknolls@comcast.net. Indicate the number in your party and ages of kids attending. For members of the Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization (FKNO), the price is $15/person. Non-members are $20/person. Kids are free. Please use the self-addressed envelope you received in your mailbox to pre-pay and/or join FKNO.

Questions?  Just email forestknolls@comcast.net

Forest Knolls – 2017 Halloween Loop

It’s that time of the year again, with the orange flyers in your mailbox, telling you about the Halloween loop. The Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization does this each year.

If you’re on the loop and want to trick-or-treaters coming by, you’ll need to be home on Tuesday Oct 31 between 5.30 and 8 p.m. (with candy!).  Email the organizers by Sunday Oct 22  at

forestknolls@comcast.net or call them at 415-621-0500.

They’ll give you a pumpkin and a sign to indicate you’re participating.

If you want to take your kids trick-or-treating, bring them to the loop between 5.30 and 8 pm. on Oct 31 – and look out for the pumpkins of participation!

Here’s a larger map of the route:

Barn Owl in the Forest Knolls’ Forest

I was driving west along Clarendon Avenue, heading homeward. As I slid into the turn lane to make a right on Christopher, something white lay on the side of the road. I slowed nearly to a stop, unsure what it was. Then I recognized it as a barn owl, wings spread. My fear was that it might be injured, perhaps from hitting a car.

To my relief, it rose into the air and disappeared into the trees of Sutro Forest, a rodent clutched in the talons of its right foot. It must have just caught it.

But I was in even more luck! As I turned right, it sailed out of the forest ahead of me, looped over Christopher Dr, and flew back to a tree beside the street. Then it took off again, but only went a little deeper into the forest.

The last time I saw a barn owl in Forest Knolls was seven years ago: Evening Walk with Owl and Moon

Later, I went back. The owl was there, but difficult to see in the darkness. I heard rustling sounds that suggested it was eating the rodent it had caught. I tried getting photographs, but both my phone and camera rebelled at the darkness. This picture is an edited public domain photograph.

So if you hear hisses, screeches, and rasping noises from the forest – or around our neighborhood – it’s barn owls on rodent patrol. (Also, please don’t use rodenticides, especially slow-acting ones like brodifacoum. It could kill the owl.)

 

Heavy Machinery Above Forest Knolls in Sutro Forest

This article is taken (with permission) from the SaveSutro.com website. It says UCSF’s Plan for Mount Sutro – which could start as early as this winter – could directly increase the risk for our neighbors on Christopher and Crestmont.

I started thinking about it. It’s a pretty insidious. The cutting of trees, and widening of the road to use heavy machinery and trucks up above our neighborhood could have very long-lasting effects – for five to ten years after the project, according to the research. Nothing might happen immediately – and then along comes a really wet stormy winter and whoosh!

Is this something real estate agents will have to disclose? I don’t know. And if something does happen – what’s the insurance situation? (I’m not even going to think of the risk to families living there.)

Anyway, this article is to let our Crestmont and Christopher neighbors know about these concerns. There’s more about the UCSF 2017 Plan on SaveSutro.com

 

Recently, we wrote that the  Sutro Forest 2017 Plan Imposes a Landslide Risk. A University of Washington study shows that mudslides are most like 5-10 years after trees have been cut down on slopes. The picture below shows the South Ridge, which will be directly affected.

But it’s not just the tree-cutting. UCSF is widening two major trails into roads fit for heavy equipment, and adding nine quarter-acre “staging areas” for machines and felled trees. Both the roads are above Forest Knolls. (The heavy yellow lines in the map below are the new roads. The red squares are the locations of the staging areas, each of which will be a quarter acre.)

The picture at the top of this article gives some indication of how steep the hillside is. And the  roads above Forest Knolls are atop a slope *known* to be unstable. Look at this landslide hazard map:

The double black arrows show landslide direction. The wiggly black arrows show soil creep direction. All those dark green areas? Potentially unstable. All the gold areas? Also potentially unstable.

Though the Draft Environmental Impact Report claims it’s making safety its first priority – it doesn’t look like it. In attempting to mitigate one (overstated) concern (dead trees falling), they’re worsening the risk of landslides.

 

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