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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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.
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.
This article is reprinted from SaveSutro.com with permission. The landslide hazard described touches our neighborhood; Christopher Drive and Crestmont are both in Forest Knolls!
This is risk that may actually increase over the years as a result of actions being taken now, for two reasons.
First, tree roots take time to die and rot, but when they do, they weaken the living geotextile that stabilizes the hillside.
Second, trees take up water and help to regulate moisture deep in the ground. When large trees are cut down and stop doing this, small saplings and ground cover are not an effective substitute. So if the trees are cut in dry or normal years, nothing may happen for a while – and then a really wet year can trigger landslides that would not have happened if the trees had remained.
We’re reading the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the 2017 Sutro Forest Plan, and got to the section on landslide risk. This has been one of our concerns, especially since the tragedy at Oso, Washington, where the felling of trees in previous years was a factor in destabilizing the slope. (We wrote about that HERE: Cut Trees, Add Landslide Risk) We know this area is subject to landslides – we had a blue tarp covering unstable areas in Forest Knolls for a year when cutting trees destabilized a slope, and another just above UCSF’s Aldea housing area.
SHOCKING LANDSLIDE INFORMATION
We were shocked at what we found in the DEIR: “Increased instability could cause a landslide that would impact Crestmont Drive, Christopher Drive, and Johnstone Drive. An existing landslide scarp is visible above Christopher Drive. Some homes along Christopher Drive could be placed at additional risk from localized landslides due to plan implementation. Phase I activities would result in a potentially significant impact…”
The map above is taken from the DEIR. All the dark green areas are potentially unstable. All the gold areas are potentially unstable. All the cream areas are potentially unstable. The little red blobs and stars are already unstable. The black arrows show the direction of potential landslides – right into our communities. Here’s the key to the map. The light yellow and light green areas are where they are cutting down trees in Phase I (five years, starting this fall – 2017):
What’s the proposed “mitigation”? Avoiding work in the forest for 2 days when the soil is wet after rain. This completely ignores the fact that landslides are a MULTI-YEAR hazard after tree removal.
Here’s the proposed mitigation in their own words:
“After a significant storm event (defined as 0.5 inches of rain within a 48-hour or greater period), the following conditions shall be met prior to any vegetation management activities:
The maps detailing areas of historic slope instability or rock fall in the Final Geotechnical and Geological Evaluation Report for UCSF Mount Sutro shall be reviewed (Rutherford + Chekene 2013)
If ground-disturbing or vegetation removal activities are proposed within or adjacent to areas of historic slope instability or rock fall, the saturation of the soils shall be estimated in the field; if muddy water drips from a handful of soil, the soil is considered saturated (Brouwer, Goffeau and Heibloem 1985)
The areas of historic slope instability or rock fall shall be flagged if the moisture content of the soils is determined to be high (i.e., muddy) and ground-disturbing or vegetation removal activities shall be avoided for a minimum of 48-hours after a significant storm event to permit soil drying…”
In other words, we won’t chop down trees in the rain or when the soil is wet.
Other mitigations are palliative. They’re planning to build roads into the forest for trucks and heavy equipment, and those roads will follow the contour of the slope. The quarter-acre staging plazas – where they’ll remove trees so trucks can turn around and heavy equipment be parked – will be flattish, with a slight slope for drainage. None of this is as effective as not building these roads or bringing in heavy equipment in the first place.
WHY THE MITIGATION IS MEANINGLESS
The problem is, the effect of cutting down trees is a LONG TERM problem. The effect of tree removal takes years – not days, not months – to fix. In Oso, Washington, the slope gave way three years after the last tree-destruction. Here’s the story (from the article we published at the time). The tragedy was foreseen… but the regulators thought they had enough mitigations in place.
On March 22, 2014, a huge landslide destroyed the small Washington community of Oso. Rain was of course a factor, as was erosion at the base of the slope. But it’s probable that tree-cutting above the slide area was an important factor too. An article in the Seattle Times that quotes a report from Lee Benda, a University of Washington geologist. It said tree removal could increase soil water “on the order of 20 to 35 percent” — and that the impact could last 16-27 years, until new trees matured. Benda looked at past slides on the hill and found they occurred within five to 10 years of harvests [i.e. felling trees for timber].
There had been red flags before. The area was second growth forest, grown back from logging in the 1920s/30s. Over 300 acres were again logged in the late 1980s.
The first time regulators tried to stop logging on the hill was in 1988. But the owner of the timber successfully argued that measures could be taken to mitigate the risk. Eventually, the state only blocked it from logging some 48 acres, and the owners gave in on that.
In 2004, new owners applied to cut 15 acres; when the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) objected, they halved the area and re-located the cut. DNR gave approval, subject to no work during heavy rain and for a day afterward. The tree-cutting finished in August 2005.
In January 2006, there was a major landslide 600 feet from the cut zone. The state built a log wall to shore up the slope.
The owners continued logging. In 2009, they removed 20% of the trees. In 2011, they removed another 15%. In 2014, the hillside collapsed.
The regulators were aware of the risk; they thought they were mitigating it with their restrictions and reaching a compromise with the owners. But it wasn’t enough. Destabilizing the mountainside is a long-term thing; the effects can show up in months, but it’s more likely to take years.
THE LESSON FOR MOUNT SUTRO
Our mountains not only are potentially unstable, they actually have landslides. The picture at the end of this article shows one on Twin Peaks, where rocks tumble after nearly every heavy rainy season.
The roots of the trees are helping to hold the unstable soil in place and that as the roots rot, landslide risk will increase. It is going to be more unstable 2-3 years after the trees are removed than 2 days after it rains. The information that instability increases over time is a little counter-intuitive.
Moreover, removing the trees takes away their ability to suck water out of the soil. If the tree-cutting is done in dry years, it may take a wet winter to trigger landslides… which would not have happened if the trees had been regulating the water and functioning as a living geotextile.
Since UCSF are not going to use herbicides on the stumps to prevent them from resprouting, they say they will grind the stumps. That is an effective way to prevent resprouting, but it will greatly increase the instability of the soil because the heavy equipment digs down several feet into the stump to destroy the roots. That’s another reason why they should not destroy trees where slide risk has been identified.
Anyone seriously considering the map above can only hope that UCSF will draw a better conclusion than the Washington State loggers and regulators. The planned destruction of thousands of trees – many within the first five years – could cause landslides in surrounding communities not days or months later, but years after the event.
We’ve known for years that coyotes are all around us in Forest Knolls – I wrote about it here when a couple of neighbors reported seeing them. (LINK: Coyotes Among Us)
But this time, neighbor Michelle Lukban got this really neat picture (published here with permission). For everyone who’s been jealous of Bernal Heights coyote pictures, we got ours! [Edited 3/27/17 to correct attribution of picture]
BEING CAREFUL AROUND COYOTES
Janet Kessler, the Jane Goodall of SF’s coyotes, has for many years been observing, photographing, and reporting on our San Francisco coyotes. Her website is at CoyoteYipps.com. She’s also involved with Coyote Coexistence, an organization that helps people and coyotes to co-exist safely.
Coyotes are not very concerned about people, and are generally quite shy of them. But they are very interested in dogs. Coyotes are territorial animals, and dogs could be considered interlopers. Also, some dogs chase coyotes, and so coyotes may feel threatened. Often the coyote will remember which dog it was. Don’t let your dog do this. It could be dangerous for both animals. Finally, really small dogs – and cats – may be viewed as prey. This is rare, but it has happened. If you have pets, the video above may be useful.
Walter Caplan of the Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization asked me to post this “save the date” for the Forest Knolls Holiday Party. It’ll be at the Armenian Church at 275 Olympia Way, on Dec 18 at 4 p.m. – with snacks, dinner, Santa, and gifts for children.
Unlike previous years, there’ll be a $10 per adult charge to cover costs. Children are free! If you wish to attend, please fill in the form below (or still better, in the linked PDF file) and mail it in with your check.
It’s that time of the year again! You may have seen the orange flyer in your mailbox or on the fence at the entrance to Forest Knolls: “Forest Knolls Trick or Treat Monday October 31”
Each year, the Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization (FKNO) encourages neighbors on Oak Park and Warren Drive (and a small stretch of Christopher) to join the “Loop” – a Halloween-friendly route that kids can trick-or-treat on.
This year, it’s been expanded to Forest Knolls Drive and Woodhaven Court. It runs between 5.30 and 8 p.m. People who want to greet kids with candy can get a pumpkin and a pumpkin sign to let them know they’re in. FKNO will provide both pumpkin and sign – email Walter Caplan at email@example.com
Here’s the map. If anyone wants to send me pictures afterward (and maybe a few lines about the event?) I’d be happy to publish them.
Recently, we posted about the Halloween Loop, homes in Forest Knolls that would have candy for trick-or-treaters. For the 4th year in a row, it’s been great. It’s not the huge event that some streets put on that draw crowds from all over the city – it’s a friendly neighborhood Halloween.
“A successful Halloween was had by all!” writes neighbor Laura. “I know our family enjoyed going out trick-or-treating with our friends, who came to FK to join us. Among other terrific costumes we had that night, we had a detective, a bartender, a goth guy, and a zombie cheerleader!”
The pictures here are published with permission. (If you’d like to add in pictures of you or your kids in costume from Halloween, please email them to fk94131 at yahoo.com)
Recently, Danh Tran of the web-based real estate company Trulia (acquired earlier this year by Zillow) reached out to me with an interesting map. It showed noise complaints across San Francisco for 2010-2013 as an animation. Would I care to share it with our readers?
This is a screenshot for December 2013, the latest data they have. What this shows is where people call the police to complain about noise. The color coding is self-evident – green shades to yellow shades to red as the density of noise complaints rises.
San Francisco’s noise complaint levels vary a lot: Here’s a screen-shot from October 2013. There’s a lot more red in this one!
Trulia’s Peter Black has made a similar analysis of several cities, including New York and Seattle. But the methodology he’s used for San Francisco is slightly different.
Why does San Francisco only have data through 2013? I asked. Simply – it looks like no one is compiling the data any more. Or if they are, it’s not easily available.
“In regards to the date, the reason for that is Peter couldn’t find any data for SF from the normal, open sources (311 calls) like he did for NYC and Seattle. Instead, he pulled it from our (Trulia) crime database. Unfortunately, and for no known explained reason, the noise complaints simply disappear from the data in 2014.”
Regardless, the data clearly show what we know already: We live in a tranquil neighborhood. Here’s the [December 2013] noise complaints map for Forest Knolls (thanks, Danh Tran). Not a spot of red in sight.
Sometimes, I cruise around the neighborhood at night in hopes of seeing our resident or visiting wildlife. It’s easier from a car; they get spooked by people walking. Last night, I was rewarded with a skunk.
The skunk looked small, perhaps a kit that’s just gone out on its own. It wasn’t the least bothered by the headlights. I got a couple of iPhone pictures, not good ones but definitely a skunk!
I never got to see its face. When I rolled down the window, it realized I was looking at it, and it decided to move along. In a minute, it scrambled up the hillside into Sutro Forest, and all that was left was a sound of scrabbling in the bushes.
Around midnight, it’s usually quiet in Forest Knolls, the only sounds coming from the house itself. Outside, you might hear the wind soughing in the trees and humming in Sutro Tower. But tonight, a bird chirped tentatively in the backyard. At first I thought it was just a songbird disturbed on its perch, or responding to the bright moon.
But it continued, growing louder and insistent. Opening a window to listen, I wondered if a raccoon had caught a bird. It sounded distressed. I could see nothing in the dark, my yard was in shadow.
I ran down to turn on the garden light. And then I saw it – not a bird at all, but a skunk, right up against the back fence in a corner. When I shone the flashlight on it, it emerged from the shrubbery. And then, out came another one. Mating season!
They stuck around for a while, but annoyed by my watching them, they left through a hole under the fence. There was mildly skunky smell. Love was in the air.
Recently, a neighbor out walking her dog encountered a large unfriendly dog that bit her dog so badly it required stitches. In the public interest, she would like this dog to be identified and asked me to put it here.
Alfie was attacked by a grey Great Dane on January 24. His owner could not control him. When he finally got his dog off Alfie he left the scene showing no concern for my small dog.
If you know where the dog lives, please let me know – it will remain confidential. Animal Care and Control consider this a “bite and run.” We do not want it to happen to another dog, cat, child or adult.
If you respond in comments, we can pass it on to the neighbor.
We dropped in on the Forest Knolls winter party on Sunday. Even the approach looked welcoming, with red and green balloons, and a sign saying FOREST KNOLLS.
People were just beginning to arrive. A lot of families showed up, with kids or grandkids. It’s a lovely change that’s happened over the last few years. At one time, there were hardly any children in Forest Knolls; young families had moved in, the kids had grown and flown, and the aging folks stayed on. Now, we have a nice mix, with people from 8 weeks to 80+ years – and many of them came to the party.
Kristine Zaback was signing people in and issuing name-tags so neighbors could get to know each other. We talked with Walter Caplan, who had organized the party. “I got money from Sutro Tower,” he told us. The arrangements were great, and the space was really nice. “My Car Club friends decorated it,” he said. They did a lovely job.
The party was just getting started when I took these pictures.
The Sutro Tower (TM) Public Relations people were there, with a banner that said Sutro Tower TM.
They had red tree decorations with Sutro Tower on it, and quite remarkably, cookies with the Sutro Tower picture on them. I took one, but Walter said, “We’ve got boxes of them,” and handed me three more.
A little label identified the source: Veronica’s Treats. They’re ‘Photo and Logo cookies’ and ‘Party favors and treats.’ Neat idea!
We left soon after Santa arrived. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. I’d like to say this photograph is blurred to preserve the privacy of the kids, but they’re blurred because the camera shook. The privacy is a positive result. (I usually get permission for kids’ pics, or shrink/ blur them so they can’t easily be identified.)
I checked in with Laura Bloch, who helped publicize the party. She was totally enthusiastic: “I can report that the party was a huge success – terrific decorations, great attendance by young and old, a fun raffle, a jolly Santa, plenty of food, and a real feeling of merriment. Walter, Kristine and their helper-elves did a FANTASTIC job!”