Update and Thanks from Crestmont Preservation

The steep hillside above the planned development
The steep hillside above the planned development

A few weeks ago, I’d noted that the Planning Commission approved the San Francisco Overlook project.

Here’s a more detailed note from Dr Sam Sobol of Crestmont Preservation. In summary: The Mount Sutro Woods Owners Association (which is the relevant association for that area of the neighborhood) decided not to file an appeal.

They may take separate action, but for now, the broader neighborhood is not involved. As Dr Sobol says: “If the time comes when we again need to mobilize the larger neighborhood to take action, we will let you know. In the meantime, we want to express our profound gratitude for the support so many of you have shown over the years…

Crestmont-Mt.Sutro-Forest Knolls Neighborhood Preservation Coalition

A note of appreciation and look toward the future
The Planning Commission 7-0 Decision

Bulletin 4-12-13

A month has passed by since the Planning Commission hearing on the San Francisco Overlook project took place. I regret that I was not able to attend as I was on a long planned overseas trip when the meeting, rescheduled from February 14 to March 7, took place.

[Article from the San Francisco Chronicle, March 11, 2013

Mt. Sutro residents fight development ]

I have now had the opportunity to review the entire video of the proceedings and wish to thank all the neighbors on Crestmont Drive, Forest Knolls and the downhill apartments who turned out to support our neighborhood, and especially the two dozen who spoke against the development. Your reasoned, intelligent, articulate and impassioned arguments covered all of the relevant issues, highlighting why this project is so wrong for our community.

[Webmaster: The Video can be viewed HERE.]

Unhappily, the Planning Commissioners seem committed in this era to the growth of housing in the City, particularly in the Western districts, no matter how disruptive or inappropriate to the location or oversized the project. It was evident that the decision had been made and that no amount of community resistance or outrage would reverse that decision, as confirmed by the 7-0 vote to approve the project.

Unwilling to give up without further action, I subsequently explored the option of mounting an appeal to the Board of Supervisors, arguing in part that the project shouldn’t be built without a pedestrian stairway downhill to 5th Ave, both for better access to public transit and for safety as an escape route in case of fire, landslide or other uphill emergency blocking Crestmont. This issue was raised by Commissioner Hillis during the Hearing, and he even brought up the question of eminent domain to force an easement by the downhill property owner which would allow for such a stair walkway.

However, conversations with two of Supervisor Norman Yee’s legislative aides, one of whom explored the issue with the City Attorney’s office, convinced us that such an appeal would be quixotic and have no chance of achieving the 8-3 necessary vote in the Board of Supervisors. Moreover, the unanimous vote of the Planning Commission made any hope of securing sufficient votes among the Supervisors to materially change any element of the project, on any grounds, virtually nonexistent.

We, therefore, did not mount the necessary petition drive to appeal to the Board of Supervisors, which would have required signatures of 20% of all homeowners within 300 ft. of the project’s borders. Nor did the adjacent homeowners’ association, the Mount Sutro Woods Owners Association (MSWOA), submit such an appeal within the 30 day limit.

Does this mean that the project will inexorably move forward in its present form? Not necessarily! There remain other issues which may have to be resolved by mediation or the courts, involving SF Overlook’s failure to abide by certain of the MSWOA’s restrictions and covenants. These issues are, however, within the provenance of the immediate homeowners’ association (of which the developer is a member) and do not directly involve the larger Crestmont Drive and Forest Knolls neighborhood.

If the time comes when we again need to mobilize the larger neighborhood to take action, we will let you know. In the meantime, we want to express our profound gratitude for the support so many of you have shown over the years in our attempt to deter or downsize this development, and in particular those who have helped on so many occasions to distribute flyers and posters, and especially those who spoke out so eloquently for our neighborhood’s values, safety and integrity at the March 7th hearing.

Samuel Sobol, M.D.

Forest Knolls Neighborhood on Facebook

LIKE us on FacebookWe’re on Facebook! There’s now a community group called Forest Knolls Neighborhood, San Francisco. If you’re on Facebook, come join.

Right now, there’s not much up there.  If you have comments, stories, blog-posts or pictures to contribute, so much the better.  It’s at  https://www.facebook.com/groups/590570520956031/

“NextDoor” in Forest Knolls

neighborhood-houses[Edited to Add on 31 March 2013: We have the needed number of people to launch the group. So Nextdoor Forest Knolls exists. Come join if you’re interested.]

There’s a new platform for groups in town: Nextdoor. It’s like our Forest Knolls Neighborhood Yahoo Group, but unlike that, no one can be anonymous. Nextdoor is a closed group, and you can only join if you live within a specified neighborhood. They verify addresses and everyone uses their real names. Our Forest Knolls Nextdoor group will only launch if we can get at least 4 more members in the next week. We have a sort of pilot going on now. I’ve heard some reports from people in other neighborhoods who like NextDoor.

(Me, I’ve joined both.  The Forest_Knolls_Neighborhood Yahoo Group and NextDoor.)

Here’s an FAQ – and if you have more questions, post them to comments and either I’ll answer them or someone from NextDoor will.

1. How is this different from the Forest Knolls Yahoo Group that anyone can join?

Two main differences: First, it’s not anonymous; everyone who joins gives their name and address.

Second, it has more functions – it can have subgroups, like for instance a dog-owners group, or a parents group. Here’s a list:

  • A neighborhood directory, which is built on top of real profile pages, making it possible to really get to know your neighbors (as well as having a dynamically updated directory of contact info).
  • A neighborhood map.
  • The ability to create public or private groups (sub-groups) within the neighborhood or to communicate with people who live near you but outside the neighborhood through the Nearby Neighborhoods feature.
  • The ability for users to control their email settings based on the types of messages they want to receive.
  • An Urgent Alerts feature, which makes it possible to blast out urgent information (emergency, crime, etc.) by text message as well as email.
  • A Recommendations section which archives recommendations by category making it much easier to browse and find information over time.
  •  Event functionality with RSVPs.
  • Classifieds and Free Items categories which makes this kind of exchange easier and more efficient than a purely message based solution.
  • A dedicated Crime and Safety section.

2. How do I join?

You need an invitation, and then once you agree to join, your address needs to be verified. (This can be done by credit card – not with a charge, just for address verification – or by postcard.)  If you  click on this link, I’ll invite you to sign up:  https://forestknolls.nextdoor.com/invitation_email/?is=navbar

You can learn more at http://www.nextdoor.com

3. Why should I join?

It’s an easy way to stay in touch with neighbors, and start discussions about things that are important to the neighborhood. For instance, if we want to start a discussion about the new route-plan for the 36-Teresita, we could do so.

4. Can we post photographs and documents?

Yes, you can add one attachment to an original post.  (More functionality may be added later on.)

5. How private is it, anyway?

Well, it’s a private forum. Anyone who lives within the community and joins Nextdoor Forest Knolls can read it. If you choose to publish a post to nearby neighborhoods instead of just Forest Knolls, people in nearby neighborhoods can read it as well.  There’s nothing to stop anyone from cutting and pasting and sending a message to other people. So you can post things there that you don’t necessarily want to tell the whole world – but I wouldn’t recommend putting anything on that’s *really* private.

6. Does it cost anything?

No, Nextdoor is free. Later on they may add advertisements from local business to support the service. (The company intends to focus on local businesses as much as possible.)

SF Planning Commission Approves San Francisco Overlook Project

The steep hillside above the planned development
The steep hillside above the planned development

So the SF Planning Commission, following the hearing on March 7, 2013, approved the San Francisco Overlook project.

(See earlier posts – like this one  or this one – for more details.)

I’ll keep this website posted with more details as they come out.

Mount Sutro Forest: 30,000 trees to be cut down

I guess by now, most people in Forest Knolls have some idea that big changes are planned for the forest behind our neighborhood. Essentially, UCSF plans to cut down over 90% of the trees on three-fourths of the forest, and remove 90% of the undergrowth. The only bit to be spared would be 15 acres or so of steep hillside on the western side, above Inner Sunset.

UCSF is having a hearing on Feb 25th at 7 p.m. (They sent around postcards about this.) It’s at the Milberry Union, 500 Parnassus, CA 94134. If you can attend, please do, and speak up. If there’s a big turnout, they may limit each speaker to 2-3 minutes, so have your points ready.



We’re concerned that it would ruin the forest’s character, and Forest Knolls would face consequences like:

  • Changes in wind patterns (the tall, closely-spaced trees are an impressive windbreak);
  • Risk of landslides (the old forest has intertwined and intergrafted roots that function like a living geo-textile and hold up the mountain, while the exposed rock on Twin Peaks has a rock-slide every year or two);
  • Pesticide drift into our neighborhood, affecting us and our pets (right now, Sutro Forest may be the only pesticide-free wildland in the city; the Natural Areas Program, which controls most of it, uses pesticides regularly)
  • Increased noise (the vegetation – the leaves of the trees and the shrubs in the understory are like soft fabrics absorbing sound)
  • Changes in air quality (trees reduce pollution by trapping particle on their leaves until they’re washed down)
  • Environmental impact – (eucalyptus is the best tree species for sequestering carbon because it grows fast, large, is long-lived, and has dense wood; but felled and mulched trees release this carbon right back into the atmosphere).

The implementation would be in two phases; it would start with the “demonstration” plots, around 7.5 acres in Phase I. The largest of these, #1 in the map is a 3-acre strip directly above Forest Knolls. Most of the trees would be cut, and tarping or pesticides used to prevent resprouting. Later, UCSF would extend the same plan to the entire forest (except for the 15 acre piece mentioned).


1. Write to the Board of Regents, who will ultimately decide whether to approve this project. Ask them why they are undertaking this controversial, expensive, and ecologically destructive project, and gutting a San Francisco treasure to achieve a “parklike” environment. You can contact the Regents at their website HERE. (Their email address is: regentsoffice@ucop.edu )

2. Write a comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report. The report is HERE. (It will take some time to load.) The person to write to is Diane Wong, and her email address is at: EIR@planning.ucsf.edu

3. Sign a petition to ask the Regents not to approve this plan. (And see how many signatures we have already!)

Copy (2) of sign button


The article below has been copied with some modifications from http://www.SaveSutro.com, which is a website set up to inform people about Mount Sutro Cloud Forest and to defend it.

Mount Sutro Forest has approximately 45,000 trees in the 61 acres belonging to University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and designated as an open space reserve. This dense forest, with an estimated 740 trees per acre, a sub-canopy of acacia, an understory of blackberry and nearly a hundred other plant species, is functionally a cloud forest. All summer long, it gets its moisture from the fog, and the dense greenery holds it in. Where it isn’t disturbed, it’s a lush beautiful forest, providing habitat for birds and animals, and a wonderful sense of seclusion from urban sounds and sights.

(CLICK HERE to see the Google Map of the forest.)

Mount sutro forest greenery


UCSF now has published a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on a project to remove over 90% of the trees on three-quarters of the area. Only 15 acres – on the steep western edge of the forest – will remain as they are. Tree-felling could start as early as Fall 2013.

[Edited to Add:

Here is the PDF of the DEIR. Mount_Sutro_EIR_1-16-13_with_Appendices

Comments were due on March 4th, but because of the length and complexity of the document, neighbors asked for, and got, an extension. Comments are now due before March 19, 2013.]

On most of the forest (44 acres), UCSF plans to cut down trees to achieve a spacing of 30 feet between trees – the width of a small road – and mow down nearly all the understory habitat. On another 2 acres, they will space the trees 60 feet apart. The stumps of the trees will be covered in black plastic, or else poisoned with Garlon to prevent re-sprouting. Eventually, this will kill the roots, which will start to decay. We’ll address some of these issues in more detail in later posts.

Right now, we want to talk about the number of trees that will be felled. A spacing of 30 feet between trees gives about 50-60 trees per acre. A spacing of 60 feet gives 12-15 trees per acre.

(The easiest way to think about it is that each tree occupies a 30 x 30 foot space, or 900 sq ft. An acre is 43,560 sq ft, so this would give 48.4 trees to an acre. The DEIR calculates it as 61 trees per acre, assuming each tree occupies a circle that’s 30 feet in diameter, 707 sq ft. But there’s no way to arrange circles without wasted spaces between them, so this doesn’t exactly work.)

So on 44 acres, they will retain maybe 50 trees per acre (or maybe fewer). On two more acres with a 60-ft spacing, they will retain 12-15 trees per acre. All the rest will be cut down. Even using the DEIR’s overly optimistic calculation, they will be felling some 31,000 trees. Our calculations are closer to 32,000. Either way, it’s a huge number.

That means that in the 46 acres where UCSF will be felling trees, they will remove more than 90% of the standing trees.

The DEIR says that they will start by cutting down trees that are dead or dying. Aside from their value as habitat (some birds like woodpeckers depend on them), there are not all that many of them in Sutro Forest, which despite everything that has been claimed to to opposite, is a thriving forest. Next in line will be trees with diameters under 12 inches, or roughly 3 feet around – as thick as an adult’s waist. Then they’ll start on the larger trees. Since it’s going to be 90% of the trees, we expect thousands of large trees to be removed.


However, this is not all. We expect further tree losses for four reasons:

  • Wind throw. Since these trees have grown up in a dense forest where they shelter each other, removing 90% of the trees exposes the remaining 10% to winds to which they’re not adapted. This can be expected to knock down a significant number of the trees not felled. Since the Plan only calls for monitoring the trees and felling any that seem vulnerable to wind-throw, it’s unlikely any vulnerable trees will be saved.
  • Physical damage. Damage done to the remaining trees in the process of removing the ones they intend to fell. With such large-scale felling, damage to the other trees is inevitable, from machinery, erosion, and falling timbers.
  • Something like AvatarPesticide damage. This forest has an intertwined, intergrafted root system. When pesticides are used to prevent resprouting on tree-stumps and cut shrubs and ivy, it is quite possible for it to enter the root system and damage remaining trees.
  • Loss of support. Compounding the effects of the wind-throw, the remaining trees will suffer from a lack of support as the root network dies with 90% of the trees being removed. This could destabilize them, and make them more likely to fail.

What remains will be a seriously weakened forest with a greater risk of failure and tree-loss, not the healthier forest that the DEIR claims. It is likely that the long-term impact of the Project will be the elimination of the forest altogether, and instead will be something like Tank Hill or Twin Peaks plus a few trees.


The project is to be implemented in two phases. In the first phase, trees will be felled and the understory removed in four “demonstration areas” totaling 7.5 acres. They are shown on the map below in yellow, as areas #1-#4. [The 3-acre area #1 is right above Forest Knolls.]  One of these, #4 “East Bowl”, is the two-acre area slated to have only 12-15 trees per acre.

hand-drawn map not to scale

One area (#5 on the map) is supposed to be a “hands off” area to demonstrate the untouched forest. However, a trail has already been punched through it in November 2011, even before the DEIR had been published.

During this phase, they would experiment with the 3 acres on the South Ridge, just above the Forest Knolls neighborhood. On 1 acre, they would use tarping to prevent regrowth of felled trees; on 1 acre, they would use pesticides, particularly Garlon; and 1 acre they would trim off sprouts by hand. They could also use pesticides on the understory “consistent with city standards” – presumably those of the Natural Areas Program (See article on NAP’s Pesticide Use.)

In the Second Phase, the plan would be extended to the remaining forest, with the proviso that not more than a quarter of the forest would be “thinned” at “any given time.”

Why it’s called “Forest” Knolls – and described as “Marin-like”
Digitally-altered image – Forest Knolls without Sutro Forest. Maybe there’ll still be some trees left after this Plan is implemented.

Proposed Curtailment of 36 Teresita Service, by Joe Humphreys

This article about the proposed curtailment of the 36 Teresita bus service was written by Joe Humphreys  for the Midtown Terrace website. It is re-published here with permission and added emphasis. (Thanks, Joe!)  The map of proposed changes that we published here recently is appended for ready reference.

The San Francisco Planning Department and the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency have issued an “Initial Study” for the “Transit Effectiveness Project”.  The study is, apparently, the first step towards numerous changes in San Francisco’s public transit system.  Most of this 381-page document is consumed with arguments as to why the many changes will result in “improvements” to that system.  Somewhat buried in that document and its two appendixes, however, are recommended changes to the 36 Teresita service that provides public transportation to the residents of Midtown Terrace and Forest Knolls.

The changes are generally similar to changes that were proposed and defeated a couple of years ago.  They eliminate part of the existing route and would use vans instead of Muni buses to provide service on the remaining route. Under the previous proposal, service would have been eliminated on some of the steeper streets of Midtown Terrace and in all of Forest Knolls.  The current proposal would not make route changes in Midtown Terrace but would eliminate service  in Forest Knolls. (Perhaps, the planners feel it would be easier to pick off one community at a time.)

The proposed change from bus to van service does not give any indication of the nature of the vans but simply says “Recommended for van service, but the timeline for van procurement is uncertain.”  It also does not say whether or not the van service would run at the same frequency as the existing service.

The Midtown Terrace and Forest Knolls communities already suffered a degradation of bus service in the last round of changes when the frequency during the day was reduced from 20 minutes to a half hour.  The areas served by this bus are very steep and further curtailment of service would work a hardship on residents who depend on this line and a particular hardship on the increasing numbers of elderly residents who have limited or no ability to drive. (And, for all residents it goes against the general public policy of encouraging use of public transit as an alternative to driving.)

The substitution of van service for bus service requires careful study. Many older residents use the bus for shopping.  Would vans accommodate their shopping bags as well as the buses do?  The 36 is also used as transportation to the Glen Park Bart station which provides service t0 the San Francisco and Oakland Airports. Would the proposed vans provide reasonable space for a suitcase?  Would vans be of sufficient size to accommodate all of those in these neighborhoods who use the service during commute hours to connect with other routes?

The SFMTA “Initial Study” is apparently a lead up to the development of an environmental impact  report.  Comments on the proposals and issues that should be considered in that report can be made by writing to

San Francisco Planning Department
Attention: TEP
1650 Mission Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94103
or email to debra.dwyer@sfgov.org

URGENT:  The period for making comments closes on February 22, 2013

36 teresita sm


Crestmont Project Meeting Today – 13 Feb 2013

The steep hillside above the planned development
The steep hillside above the planned development

You would probably have received this  flyer in your mailbox, but at the request of the Crestmont Coalition, I’m posting it here as well.

There’s a meeting this evening about the San Francisco Overlook project, called by the project owner. Here’s what the Crestmont Preservation Coalition says.

(If you’d like to download the flyer for printing, it’s here as a PDF: Crestmont project Neighborhood Meeting,2-13-13 )

Crestmont Meeting 13 feb 2013
Crestmont Coalition Flyer

‘San Francisco Overlook’ Owner Calls a Meeting

The steep hillside above the planned development
The steep hillside above the planned development

Mr Gary Testa, owner of the San Francisco Overlook project (earlier the Crestmont Hills development) is inviting neighbors and stakeholders to a meeting on February 13, at Midtown Terrace Community Room on Clarendon to discuss the proposed development. Since our Forest Knolls communities are directly impacted, I think it’s important for us to know about this, and attend if possible. (I’ve written about it earlier, HERE.)

Here’s his letter.

January 30, 2013
Dear Neighbors,
I am pleased to invite you to join me for an update on my proposed project, San Francisco Overlook, and for a brainstorming session regarding new ideas to make improvements to the neighborhood as a whole. I hope by now that most of you are aware of the project I’ve proposed for my lot at the end of Crestmont Drive. If you are unfamiliar with the details and would like to learn more, I invite you visit my project website at http://www.sfoverlook.com.

Over the last two years I’ve hosted a number of presentations and meetings discuss my proposal, solicit feedback and hear suggestions of ways to make my project better. Some requests are simply not possible to accommodate, such as building only 1/3 of the proposed homes (the proposed project already proposes a density significantly below what is permitted by code) or providing access from a street other than Crestmont (via land which I do not own), but I’m happy to say that my project is responsive to many key concerns such as hillside stability and fire suppression. In addition, I have specifically incorporated the request for more parking as part of my proposal. My proposal currently includes two parking spaces per unit, a 33 increase over the typical maximum ratio of 1.5 spaces per unit.

Your recommendations and suggestions have helped to improve my project and I appreciate your participation. However, I am aware that I still face opposition from some in the neighborhood and have been advised that the MSWOA board has hired an attorney to explore taking legal action against my project. Regardless of your opinion of the project, the fact is that a protracted legal battle will require significant financial assessments of all property owners within our owners’ association. [Webmaster: This refers to the Mount Sutro Woods Owners Association.] In light of the substantial potential costs to all members, I feel it is best to broaden this discussion to include all stakeholders.

My position is simple – I believe my money would be better spent for the benefit of the community rather than used to enrich attorneys. I also don’t believe that every homeowner should be required to pay for a legal action which he or she may not support or from which they may gain no real benefit. I’ve already invested a considerable sum in my project to date, and I’m prepared to spend whatever amount is necessary to defend my project and property rights should legal action be forced upon me, but I would of course prefer to avoid what I consider a waste of money and instead work with my neighbors to redirect such resources towards meaningful improvements to benefit the entire neighborhood. For example, pedestrian-scale street lighting could enhance property values and help keep cars from being burglarized and/or improvements to the existing common areas could enhance beauty and create usable areas to walk dogs and for children to play. These are only a few initial ideas; there may very well be other ore important priorities that we haven’t yet considered which is why I’m once again seeking your input with this invitation.

In the spirit of collaboration I recently reached out to the MSWOA board and began discussions about whether a community partnership of the kind I’m describing is possible. I’d like to now broaden this discussion and invite all my neighbors to participate in a brainstorming session about other general or specific contributions we could make. If you are a homeowner whose home is inhabited by renters and you feel it is appropriate to include your tenants in this discussion, please feel free to pass on this invitation to them.

Please join me:

Wednesday, February 13th at 7:00 PM
Midtown Terrace Community Room
280 Olympia Way (at Clarendon Ave.)

I hope to see you there, but if you cannot attend I still would like to get your thoughts and input. Please email me at info@sfoverlook.com or please feel free to call my outreach director, Jessica Berg, at 415-385-4876.

Sincerely  — Gary Testa

January 2013 Crime (Such as it is), and Poisoned Tree Update

Drunken CarAs usual, there was nothing much from Forest Knolls or Midtown Terrace in the Park Station police newsletters. (We like it that way!)

But a few things did catch my eye:

January 23, 1.49 a.m. Drunk driving at Clarendon and Oak Park. “Sergeant Callaway & Lewis located a vehicle that had been involved in a hit & run traffic collision. The driver was determined to be seriously in the bag.”

Jan 17th, 1.55 a.m.  A report of an attempted “hot prowl” at 300 Warren Drive: “Victim was awoken by noise at his rear door. He looked out and saw the suspect trying to break in. Victim yelled at the suspect who fled.” (A “hot prowl” is when someone enters a home when people are present.)

Jan 17th, 12.30 p.m.  Malicious damage to a vehicle at Clarendon and Panorama.

Jan 17th, 11.15 a.m.  A collision at Clarendon and Christopher, because someone was going too fast.

Jan 5th, 9 a.m. 100 Marview. A  car was stolen.

Jan 3rd, 11.30 p.m. Collision at Crestmont and Devonshire – someone was speeding.


Those poisoned trees, which I wrote about HERE? I’d written to UCSF about them; they said it looked like it was SFWD’s business. A few days ago, I saw SFWD working there, and now it looks like they have cut down one of the trees and trimmed the other. I suppose there was no other way with the trees becoming unsafe.

poisoned trees gone

Coyotes Among Us

Two neighbors have reported coyotes nearby in the last few days – one on Warren Drive, and one on Clarendon x Panorama.

“A very large coyote was seen at 11:30 a.m. today across from 101 Warren,” wrote Beverly.

“On 12/22/2012, approaching Clarendon from Panorama, waiting at the traffic signal, a rather frisky coyote crossed my path, going from south to north and into the undeveloped area bordering Clarendon on its East,” wrote John V.

Someone else saw one a few days ago on Mountain Spring Drive, which is just across Clarendon Avenue from us. In the last year, I’ve seen them myself on Twin Peaks, Glen Canyon, Diamond Heights, and in the grounds of Laguna Honda Hospital. They’ve also been sighted near West Portal, the Presidio, and elsewhere in the city. I’ve posted about coyotes here before, but I thought I’d do so again.

coyote looking at dog, San Francisco

From what I’ve been told, there are only about 10-12 12-18 coyotes in San Francisco. They are territorial, so it’s unlikely the number will increase very much. We know the Golden Gate pair had pups last year. (Click HERE for a cute picture of the pups at play; it’s from the RichmondSF blog.) The one (or ones) we’ve seen may be a Golden Gate pup grown up and seeking new spaces. (Coyotes look bigger in winter, when they grow their winter coats.) Or they could be any of the resident coyotes from the territories around us.

Coyotes cover great distances in their explorations, so it’s possible to see them almost anywhere in the city. The west side is particularly good for them; they mostly take gophers and rats and mice, available in the grasslands, and they need cover to hide from dogs and people. The west side of the city has both.

Generally, coyotes aren’t much bothered by people (and are shy of them). They are bothered by dogs, who they see as competitors and a potential threat. I’m told they remember dogs who chase them. Like dogs, they probably also can recognize individual people.

Though coyotes mainly prey on rodents (and are a much better solution than poisons like the ones that killed the Glen Canyon owl), they have been known to takes cats and even small dogs. They may fight even with big dogs who chase them, which is not good for either dog or coyote. So it makes sense to be careful – keep your cats indoors especially at night, and leash your dog if a coyote is around. Generally, don’t run from a coyote; it may trigger a chase instinct. Instead, walk away calmly. I’ve found yelling loudly at a coyote usually makes them run off in a hurry. (I’ve only done this once, when I was walking in Diamond Heights at night.) If  you’re concerned about coyotes, carry a “shake can” – a loud rattle made of some pennies sealed into a small aluminum can.


[Edited to add: TV station CBS did a short video clip on Forest Knolls coyote sightings: Click HERE to see it.]

Janet Kessler, the Jane Goodall of San Francisco’s coyotes, spends a lot of time observing these animals and documenting her observations on www.coyoteyipps.com and she’s also written an article on peaceful coexistence for the Marina Times. You can see that HERE.

The precautions below are taken from her website.

coyote poster11

coyote poster21

Broken Water Main at Midnight

Well, it wasn’t quite midnight. It was around 10.30 p.m. when I heard noises that sounded like construction trucks somewhere in our neighborhood. Curious, I went out to investigate. A man was putting out a couple of traffic cones on Christopher Drive, and I asked him what was going on. “Broken water main,” he said.

Near where Christopher meets Crestmont, a huge light stood on the sidewalk, a van was parked near the middle of the road, and an excavator was grabbing dirt from a hole in the road and pouring it into a dump truck. A team of six men and a woman from SFWD were at work. They’d been there earlier, he said, but they had to go to another job and finish that first. “We could be here all night. It’s hard to say.” I took some photographs, staying out of the way. They were amused, but friendly when I explained it was for the neighborhood blog. I’ve written about a broken water main before, also in winter. This looked to be even bigger than that one.

“We thought we’d found the leak,” one of the men said, “But now it looks like it’s further down the road.” The excavator extended the trench, the teeth biting into the asphalt. The hole was brimming with brown muddy water. They connected a  pump to a hose, and started pumping it out in a brown gush of water that streamed down the slope. As the level fell, we could see where the leak was roiling the surface at the furthest end of the trench.

They moved the excavator over, edging carefully between the hole and a parked car, and dug some more. Soon they had the leak exposed.

As the water drained, the leak turned into a fountain, rising maybe 20 feet into the air. I could see the crack in the pipe. Now all they had to do was to put a collar on it.

Easier said than done, of course. One man put on a raincoat and gumboots and climbed into the hole, digging around to free the pipe. Soon, three of them were trying to clear the space round the pipe and position the collar over a crack that was gushing a 20-foot fountain under pressure.

I left around 11.30 p.m., and they were hard at work. Around 2 a.m., I stepped outside, and heard some banging and rattling. I hoped they were packing up to leave.


Thank you to the team for being out there mucking around in muddy water on a cold winter night when most of us are asleep, keeping our water system working.

And thank you, all the workers who provide and maintain the services that are part of civilization: running water, power, clean streets, garbage pick-up, communications, safety, emergency services, fire fighting.

Happy New Year, All!

A Happy Halloween at Forest Knolls

Despite the rain, despite not being in The Loop – we got the largest number of trick-or-treaters we’ve had in the last ten years or so. We had over twenty kids come by…

And they were a colorful troupe, in their costumes. Ironman and Spidey and Batman-in-arms and Belle, a delightful little bumblebee, an elegant witch and an eskimo and a cheetah, a little engineer (the kind that drives trains, not the kind that builds bridges or software), a strawberry and a ninja, an adorable fireman, a tall Kitten and I think Minnie Mouse, a pumpkin and a princess. An evil jester with a death’s head, and a zombie and a zombie pirate. Too many to keep track of, though I wish I had.

Near the end of the evening, Walter Caplan came by with the trick-or-treaters, dressed as a mad scientist. But he wasn’t collecting candy (though of course we offered him some). Instead he dropped off a little goody bag with a Halloween snow-globe and a thank-you note for taking part.

Thank you, Laura Bloch, and Walter Caplan, of the Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization for organizing and getting the word out.  Great job organizing this successful event. I hope all the participants enjoyed it as much as we did.

And if you missed out this time – next time, (and I hope there will be one) contact Laura early for your sign and your pumpkin so people know you’re open for Tricks and Treats!

Forest Knolls Halloween 2012 Reminder

Tomorrow’s Halloween!

[See the Halloween Plan for Forest Knolls here.]

This is a reminder – anyone on the Loop who wants to sign up, please contact Laura Bloch. Laura is at LJBloch@aol.com or (415)  504 8043.

You can join in the fun even if you’re not on the Loop – put out decorations/ pumpkins/ and have candy!


For those who’d like to bring their kids trick-or-treating (or kids reading this) – it’s from 5.30-8 p.m. tomorrow.

There’ll be other houses with decorations and candy, too! (Even if they’re not on the Loop.)

Is Someone Poisoning Our Trees?

In the last day or two, I’ve noticed that one of the trees that screen our neighborhood from the UCSF Student Housing is brown rather than green. It’s a eucalyptus, and they don’t change color; in fact, if anything, they’re greener when it rains. So I went to have a closer look at this tree, which is one of the group by the Pump House at Christopher, just off Clarendon.

I wondered if it might have been girdled. “Girdling” is a process of killing a tree by cutting all round it, and has been used by Native Plant activists to kill trees in “Natural Areas.” One example it the Murdered Tree on Mt Davidson, clearly visible from Portola.

[See “The Murdered Tree of Mt Davidson” for more information about girdling.]

Looking more closely at the tree, I didn’t see any girdling marks. I also saw it was dying in parts, which I think is more consistent with poisoning. (It’s not very clear from the photograph above – if anyone wants to take a better pic and send it over, I’ll add it here.)

In the tree beside it, someone had stuck blue plastic marker flags from The Urban Farmer Store. I’m wondering if this tree – and maybe the ones beside it – is being poisoned by some eucalyptus-hater.

If so, it’s illegal. A tree can’t be killed along a public right-of-way without a proper 30-day-notice posting, which the Department of Public Works would do. (Or, if this is UCSF property, then UCSF would do it.) There’s a process that applies.

Even more importantly – it’s incredibly irresponsible. Poisoning a tree across the road from someone’s home will leave a weakened or dead tree standing near a residential house. Even before that, it could drop branches on cars parked beneath.

I really really really hope I’m wrong on this one. I have a hard time believing that anyone could be so stupid.

[Edited to Add:  I contacted UCSF; I was hoping they might get an arborist to determine what happened. If they did that, I don’t know about it. But they thought the trees might be the responsibility of the Water Department. In any event, three of the trees have been removed. One is still dead and still there, but it does not look like it’s a hazard. If anyone would like to follow up further, let me know.]

Welcome, Phoebe! (New dog in Forest Knolls)

We have new neighbors on Christopher Drive Crestmont, (Welcome to Forest Knolls!) and they sent this picture of Phoebe, a springer spaniel/ poodle mix.  Of course it’s going on the Pets page, but I couldn’t resist putting it out here first. She’s looking so thoughtful.

D7 Supervisor Candidates on ‘San Francisco Overlook Project’

As everyone probably knows by now, District 7 is voting for a new supervisor this November. There are nine candidates.

The steep hillside above the planned development

The Crestmont-Mt. Sutro- Forest Knolls Neighborhood Preservation Coalition spoke with four of them (or their representatives) about their positions on the controversial San Francisco Overlook project.

(This is a project that plans to build 34 apartments on a steep slope at the end of a cul-de-sac below another steep slope where the houses are supported by concrete pilings. That Background is HERE. The public comment period on the recent Draft Environment Impact Report ended in June 2012; an appeal’s been filed through a lawyer HERE.)

I’m republishing the position statements here from the coalition website (www. CrestmontPreservation.org)  with permission and minor edits and formatting differences – and added pictures.


BULLETIN from Crestmont-Mt.Sutro-Forest Knolls Neighborhood Preservation Coalition

Positions on SF Overlook Development     
Position Statements by Four District 7 Supervisorial Candidates

We have met and spoken with four of the major District 7 Supervisorial candidates, or their representatives, and provided them with extensive materials outlining the reasons why our neighborhoods are united against a project the size of the proposed San Francisco Overlook development. We solicited their comments for distribution to the Crestmont-Mt.Sutro-Forest Knolls community.

The following responses were provided by FX Crowley, Joel Engardio, Mike Garcia and Norman Yee (in alphabetical order):


Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Crestmont-Mt. Sutro-Forest Knolls Neighborhood Preservation Coalition regarding the SF Overlook Development. I share the Coalition’s concern over the current DEIR [Draft Environmental Impact Report]. The developer’s vision for the project appears too dense for the surrounding neighborhood.

The developer must address the issue of compliance with the neighborhood’s Mount Sutro Declaration of Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions. Given the site’s history of frequent landslides, the developer should also provide a “design-level” geotechnical review, especially since that data is required to fully identify the project’s environmental impacts and adequate mitigation measures.

I support the Coalition’s request to consider alternatives to this project. As Supervisor, I will be an advocate for the Crestmont-Mt. Sutro-Forest Knolls neighborhood as I am for my own Lakeshore neighborhood and surrounding community. I will ensure that any proposed building development is properly vetted and neighbors’ concerns are addressed going forward.




I oppose the San Francisco Overlook development. It’s a matter of common sense. When we have homes hanging out over one of the steepest hills in San Francisco, supported by concrete poles, do we really want to begin moving earth for a major development and risk destabilizing the area? Why risk a landslide?

I’m sure the developers will make a good case that everything can be built safely. But there’s also the issue of everyone’s safety when it comes to getting firetrucks and ambulances down that one, little road to serve all the new residents. Then there’s the parking nightmare — and if you don’t want to drive, where’s the nearest bus line? None of this makes sense.

I’m certainly not anti-development. I believe San Francisco needs to grow for the future. I also believe District 7 needs to play its part to provide more housing in places like Park Merced. But the development on Crestmont Drive is not a good fit. Neither are condo towers in Miraloma Park. We have to be smart about development. As your supervisor, I will work for you and not for the special interests that back other candidates. That means I can be an advocate for what’s truly good for the city and the residents of District 7. I am the only candidate that the San Francisco Chronicle endorsed for supervisor in District 7. I hope you read why the Chronicle says I have “the right stuff” to represent you. It’s reprinted on my website: www.engardio.com



In an effort to familiarize myself with all the issues involved having to do with the San Francisco Overlook Development, I met with Dr. Sobol, Dr. Gorman, and other concerned neighbors. They provided me with a great deal of information and expressed their concerns and took me on a tour of the site for the proposed development. I later also talked with Alice Barkley, the attorney for the neighbors, and an old friend whom I know and respect from my years on the Board of Appeals. I then talked to Jessica Berg, of Berg/Davis Public Affairs, the consultants to the developer, Gary Testa. I met with Ms. Berg and Adam Phillips, the project lead, who gave me information from their perspective about the project.

My understanding is that what is left in the process is the acceptance or rejection of the Draft EIR, to be followed by a final EIR, which is appealable to the Board of Supervisors. Also to be completed, is the analysis required under the Slope Protection Act, passed by the Board of Supervisors in 2008. My understanding of the Slope Protection Act is that while safety having to do with structural engineering issues is important, so are issues having to do with neighborhood character. After the slope analysis, another step in the process, or perhaps part of the process required under the Slope Protection Act, is a peer-review overseen by the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection at which point an analysis is made having to do with the engineering feasibility of the proposed project. In addition to all this process, yet to be held, a site permit then has to be attained from the Department of Building Inspection (DBI). That permit is appealable to the Board of Appeals. The point being, there is a considerable amount of process still to be had, and it would be a highly unusual project that goes through this much process without getting whittled down. The real issue for your neighborhood is just how much it gets whittled down.

Because I have 7 years of experience in land use having served on the Board of Appeals I am reluctant to ever express an opinion without seeing all the facts. Allow me, however, to say this – without having put pencil to paper I feel as though the project is economically infeasible. I also, again without having seen all the facts, am leaning heavily toward thinking that a considerable amount of mitigation has to take place.

Please let me be emphatic about this, regardless of where I land on this or any other project that takes place in District 7, which is not to indicate that I favor this development, it is my intent, where there are tensions between the developer and the neighbors to always be willing to have conversations with the developer about mitigation measures that would alleviate the concerns of that neighborhood. In closing, I have a record on the Board of Appeals of opposing projects that do great harm to neighborhood character, particularly if there are concomitant life-safety issues. Thank you very much for the opportunity to respond to your request for a position statement on the SF Overlook Development.




From what I’ve heard, I would support the neighborhood against a development of this size, and favor a smaller development such as the alternative proposed as Plan B* in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).



*Alternative B in the DEIR, p. 274, is a Reduced Project Alternative: 16 single-family residential buildings, with 38 parking spaces. =====================================================

We have posted the position statements on our web site, www.CrestmontPreservation.org


STOP SF OVERLOOK t-shirts can be ordered here: http://www.zazzle.com/preservecrestmont
We have also posted a link on http://crestmontpreservation.org.

REMINDER: Please display the poster in your window and urge your neighbors to also display the poster! If you need a poster, please call Sam Sobol, 415-640-3869 or email info@crestmontpreservation.org.

Working to preserve our neighborhood

Crestmont-Mt.Sutro-Forest Knolls Preservation Coalition
Samuel M. Sobol, M.D.

Crime! in Forest Knolls?

I subscribe to the Park Station Police newsletter for our area, and glance through it quickly to check if there’s anything in our neighborhood. Usually, there’s nothing. This week, there were a few reports.

  • On October 14th, 4:20 AM at Crestmont & Christopher: Malicious Mischief,  “A vile vandal damaged the lock to the victim’s toolbox.”
  • On October 16th, 6.30 a.m at 400 Crestmont: Theft from a locked vehicle.

A bit of a crime-wave, but perhaps the news below takes care of it?

Picnic at Laguna Honda Hospital Tomorrow – 13 Oct 2012

Walter Caplan asked for publicity for this flyer, forwarded by George Wooding of Midtown Terrace. (Walter, thanks for clearing publication permission with Laguna Honda Hospital.) It’s for the Laguna Honda Community picnic, tomorrow 13 Oct 2012, between noon and 4 p.m.  at the Betty Sutro meadow.  Bring your own food and toys!