On Sutro Tower

It sometimes happens in Yosemite. You look up at a sheer cliff, rising straight up from the valley, and realize … that small moving black speck? It’s a person up there!  The other day, looking up at Sutro Tower, I had a similar feeling. There was something small and black suspended from it, moving.

Sutro Tower, with worker

As I continued to look, I realized it was indeed a person,  riding in a basket or gondola or whatever it’s called, suspended by ropes high above the city. I’m sure he (or she) was getting slammed by the wind. But what a view!

Worker on Sutro Tower

Christopher Crestmont Cleaned Up

A few days ago, I posted (here and here) about UCSF cleaning up the brush along Christopher and Crestmont. Over the last couple of days, I’ve been walking around and talking to people who live near there. It’s looking good.

They did a pretty neat job of trimming back the bushes that were overhanging the pavement, so it’s easier for cars to park without blocking the roadway. Some of the overhanging branches have been trimmed back too, and it’s all been nicely and professionally done so it actually looks good rather than raw and nasty. They’ve been careful to preserve plants that people had put in or nurtured along the road edge.

They actually felled and removed two hazardous trees along Crestmont. Any others presumably must await the full hazardous tree report.

And as a bonus, this old prickly-pear cactus appeared, apparently thriving under all the acacia! (You may need to click on the picture to embiggen it to actually see the cactus.)

Thanks, UCSF; and thanks, Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization, which has been working to make this happen.

Separately, I’m not sure where the dispute with the city stands on who has responsibility for hazardous trees. The map below shows the issue: The purple line (I think) shows the UCSF boundary. (This map – made in Year 2000 -is based on an excerpt from the EDAW report done for UCSF. The colors just show in which direction bits of the mountain face…blue is north, red is west, yellow is south, and green is east.)

According to this map, the UCSF Open Space Reserve boundary is not exactly aligned to the roads. There’s a space between the road and the reserve. And that’s where some of the trees are that people are worried about. Of course, if the map is accurate, then one crucial area is fairly obviously UCSF’s: where Crestmont makes a sharp turn from North to East.

Furry Grass Near Forest Knolls

I thought I was the only one who’d noticed the fabulous grass on the roadside between  Junipero Serra and Randolph, next to a gas station. It’s an intense green, and instead of being mown short, it looks like long green fur. I pass it frequently on my way back from a southbound trip, and I always admire it. It’s such an unlikely location for such a beautiful planting. There’s a constant flow of traffic, and a few years ago, a shooting.

But of course I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed, and I was delighted to see an informative article in the Chronicle (in Pam Pierce’s column) in response to a reader query. It’s a fescue sod planted by the San Francisco Water Department’s Jerilyn Downing about 10 weeks ago. It doesn’t require much water once it’s established (it did have to be irrigated quite heavily initially), and it’ll only be mown twice a year. Ms Downing recommended a UC Davis publication on no-mow fine fescues by Ali Harivandi. (It can be downloaded as a PDF file: #8391 in UC Davis’s catalog.)

I thought I’d get a photograph for this post. There’s no parking right there, but I made a right turn onto Randolph, found a place to squeeze my car in, and wandered along the street. It looks wonderful. I really hope it works out. But a few weeds are finding their way in already. It may be at its loveliest right now.

So next time you’re coming back from Serramonte or Pacifica or the airport, and the light changes against you at the intersection of 19th and Junipero Serra – rubberneck the grass.

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[ETA August 2011: There’s a followup story, a year later, on this site.]

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[Edited to add: Oh, and as a bonus – while I was photographing the grass, I encountered the pinkest car I’ve ever seen. And it had zebra-patterned upholstry…]

Our Neighborhood Owls

Yes, there's a great horned owl on the branch...

Out for a walk by Sutro Forest yesterday evening, we saw our neighborhood Great Horned Owls. They live and nest in the forest, and come out around dusk. I first noticed them some years ago, and I’d heard them even before that. (If you hear a soft resonant hoot, that’s them. Most other kinds of owls don’t hoot; they screech or cry out.)

Great horned owl, not a bunch of leaves.

One of them was perched in the fork of a big eucalyptus tree, looking out at the landscape, waiting for dark and hunting time. As we stopped to watch the watcher, its mate arrived, landed on a higher branch, and looked around with interest. As long as we chattered, they ignored us, but when we whistled softly, they bobbed their heads and turned to look at us.

No one had a camera, so these indistinct images are from a cell phone.

It was amazing, to see these splendid birds so near home. “I’ve never seen owls so close up before,” said my companion. We felt very lucky indeed.

Mount Sutro Cloud Forest Hike

It’s been a foggy summer, and here in the Fog Belt, it’s been like living inside a cloud.

It’s the perfect time, if you like mysterious ethereal forests, for a walk in our neighborhood Cloud Forest. On a foggy day, it may be the most beautiful place in all of San Francisco .

So for those who haven’t done it before… here’s my personal guide to the forest.

There are several ways to approach the forest from our neighborhood, but I’ll divide them into the Adventurous and the Easy. On foggy days, you could describe them as Wet and Dry. Generally, there’ll be few people on either set of routes (though maybe a few more on the Easy ones).

If you double-click on the map above, you get a larger one that can be printed out. (There’s also a Sutro Forest trail map as a PDF file at Pease Press Cartography.)

THE ADVENTUROUS ROUTES

The two routes that lead directly from Forest Knolls are what I call adventurous, for two reasons.

First, access is very steep, especially for the first part of it. It involves scrambling up a trail. It’s not inaccessible by any means – I’ve been up there with neighbors in their sixties. But … it’s not a walk in the park. Also, it’s easier going up than coming down it, so you might plan a route that returns by a less steep path.

Second, on foggy days, it leads into the deepest Cloud Forest. This is actually my favorite part, but it’s Wet. The ground can get very slushy indeed, and I often return with much mud on my shoes and jeans.  Sometimes, the narrowest trails can become boggy.

The first route starts with a few steps opposite 365 Crestmont. On the map, it’s the West Ridge Trail. It’s narrow and you may need to go carefully, moving back blackberry stems as you go. (And be aware there may be poison oak around.)

The second is the access to the South Ridge, opposite 101 Christopher, between the lamp-post and the chain-link fence (fenced radar site) hidden among the bushes. It may even be a little steeper.

There’s also another access point on Crestmont, about halfway between these two, but I think that’s maybe unofficial. It seemed to have more poison oak, too. And finally, I have sometimes scrambled up the Gash left by the SFPUC’s water-pipe replacement (on Christopher) but I don’t recommend it because it’s very steep.  It brings you to the Aldea campus.

THE EASY ROUTES

The “dry” routes, which are still lovely but don’t feel as wild, start out in the Aldea Student Housing. If you want to drive up, you can sometimes find parking on Clarendon Avenue next to the campus. There’s no public parking on the campus itself.

Here again, there are two options.

1)  If you go uphill on Johnstone and then along  Behr, you will come to a chain blocking vehicle access. That’s the Nike Road, and it’s wide and paved. If you follow it to the top (this is a pretty short route) , you will find the Native Garden, officially the Rotary Meadow. It’s about 3 acres of shrubs, (which are green this time of the year) and grass (which is brown). It has  wide gravel paths, and is surrounded by the forest. You can investigate some paths with an easy out if it becomes too steep or slushy.

2)  The second option is the Fairy Gates trail, which starts on Johnstone, right in front of the Chancellor’s House. (That’s the very elegant house opposite the lower intersection of Johnstone and Behr. Do stop to notice the stand of redwoods right there…) This trail is pretty dry, not too steep, and quite broad except where it goes between two rocks (the “Fairy Gates”). It used to be more wooded in feeling, but some trees have been removed on either side and it’s now very open except at the beginning. It offers views of the forest in the ravine below, and has nasturtiums blooming along parts of it. It ends on the road through the forest, Medical Center Way. Though that is open to traffic, it has sidewalks. Also, not much traffic goes that way, especially not now when the bottom end is closed for construction. [ETA: It’s reopened. Watch out for cars, but there’s still not much traffic.]

If you feel like checking out the forest a bit more, the bottom part of the Historic Trail is also relatively dry, though if you follow it to the top it takes you back into the clouds. The Edgewood Trail will take you down  into the Edgewood neighborhood. It’s steep but not very muddy. This area has some huge trees and interesting terrain.

3. [ETA June 2011:  There is a new trail now from Stanyan (just above 17th) that climbs up to Medical Center Way. Of course, you can also take it in the opposite direction. Though it’s a climb, it’s quite broad and easy to hike. Its bottom end starts with a wooden staircase between two houses; the top end connects to Medical Center Way.]

OTHER TRAILS

These are many other trails, of course.  Exploring the whole mountain probably wouldn’t take more than 3-4 hours. The rule of thumb is that in areas where the forest canopy is open and the undergrowth thinned, the trails tend to be dry (and sometimes slippery with dust and dry leaves). Where it’s closed, and the undergrowth remains, it’s usually damp or wet (and sometimes slippery with mud). Dress warm on foggy days, and expect it to be quite cool even on warmer ones. I always wear long sleeves, jeans, socks and walking shoes I can get muddy. (It also helps in case of poison oak… haven’t been hit by it yet, in all the time I’ve wandered around in there.) There’s a checklist here.

Despite all these warnings, this is a pretty accessible forest. To me, it’s completely worth it to be among those tall trees, their tops in the gray mist while inside the forest it’s fresh and green in the dimness. Birds don’t sing much in the fog, but there’ll be the odd tweet or rustle. Sounds get muffled. Usually, there are few people around. It’s the wild part of the woods. If it’s twilight, you might hear or see the Great Horned Owls.  For those who enjoy a little walk on the wild side, one of the best features of Forest Knolls is the forest.

Crestmont Clean-up: Not the trees?

It’s a bit like the Prop 8 thing: Hurry up and wait.

It looks like I jumped the gun when I posted that UCSF was doing something about the hazardous trees. I’d written to UCSF to ask if they’d pulled permits to deal with the hazardous trees on Crestmont — from Devonshire to the cul-de-sac, and especially around the area where the road turns from west to north.  (City permits are needed to remove any tree over 20 feet tall if it’s within ten feet of a public right-of-way.)

Nope. That may be happening later. Here’s the response from UCSF’s Damon Lew:

The work that is beginning this week will focus on overgrowth and removal of hazardous ground material and not the removal of hazardous trees.

The trees you mention may have been identified in a recent hazardous tree survey that was done for the Facilities Management (FM) Dept.   The work that will be done once the tree hazard survey is received by UCSF will not take place until later this year.

So I guess right now it’s precisely what they said: Mowing down vegetation for 2 feet from the roadway, including overhanging shrubs. (This may take care of some overhanging trees, actually; we’ll find out.)

If you are living on Christopher or Crestmont and have plants across the road you want to save, it may be a good idea to mark them in some way. Or be out there to talk to the crew.

[ETA: Today Damon Lew sent out a notice that they actually will be removing two hazardous trees:

I’m writing to inform you that on either Monday, August 23rd, or Tuesday, August 24th, Bartlett Tree Experts will be performing the following hazardous tree work along Crestmont Drive:

· Cutting down 1 Monterey Pine located across from 171 Crestmont Dr.
· Cutting down 1 Monterey Pine located across from 90 Crestmont Dr.
· Time permitting – cut down branches overhanging the street within the area

The stumps of the trees will be cut down to 2-4” above grade and debris from the project will be removed from the site. These trees were recently identified as part of a hazardous tree survey performed by Hortscience and were also brought to our attention by several of our neighbors. No noisy work will be performed by 9:00 a.m. but staging of the area may begin earlier.]

Crestmont Christopher Clarendon Cleanup

Some time ago I wrote about the problems Crestmont residents in particular were having with hazardous trees on the edge of Sutro Forest, and in getting either the city or UCSF to do something about them. They eventually complained to the Fire Department. UCSF said they’d do something about it, and it looks like they will. [Edited to Add: Not quite…see followup post.]

It’s scheduled for August 18-27. There will be parking restrictions in some areas of Christopher and Crestmont while they work.

Here’s a letter we got from UCSF’s Damon Lew today:

Dear Neighbor:

I am writing to inform you that in response to both neighborhood concerns and a Notice of Corrective Action we have received from the San Francisco Fire Department, the UCSF Facilities Management Department has arranged to have grounds maintenance work done along Crestmont, Christopher, and Clarendon Drives. This work is scheduled to begin on August 18, 2010 and will be completed by August 27, 2010.  The nature of this work will include the following actions:

·         High weed mowing

·         Brushes and shrubs overhanging the street curbs will be trimmed back up to a distance of 24” from the curb

·         Dead and dying vegetation to be removed

This work is scheduled to take place between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.  During this time parking along certain areas of Christopher and Crestmont Drives will be prohibited in order to allow access to the site.

Please feel free to contact me at dlew@cgr.ucsf.edu if you have any questions about this project or if you would like to be added to our listserv to receive updates about other projects pertaining to our Parnassus campus.

If you have questions or concerns during the operating hours of this project please contact the UCSF Customer Service Center at (415) 476-2021.

Sincerely,

Damon

Hope it goes well.

Just as a PS: Some neighbors have mentioned there are areas along Clarendon where our gardens, tamed or untamed, are spilling over the sidewalk and making it difficult to pass – especially in rainy weather. So this is a heads-up to anyone whose home backs onto Clarendon: Please check whether your plants are seeking world dominance by way of Clarendon Avenue, and if so, restrain them…

Sutro Forest Planned Actions

As many of you know, UCSF is planning some major changes in Sutro Forest, the dense eucalyptus forest behind our homes – the “Forest” in Forest Knolls. Many of these will affect our neighborhood directly. Details are on the SaveSutro website. A few people from our neighborhood – including Walter Caplan and Kristine Zaback from the Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization – have been attending these meetings.

1) On South Ridge (the forest area above the junction of Christopher and Crestmont) UCSF plans to cut down around 2000 trees on 3 acres to space them an average 30 feet apart,  mow down all the plants growing under the trees, and use Roundup/ Garlon on a 1-acre test site to prevent it from coming back.

Our concerns are the use of herbicides upslope from our neighborhood, potential for displaced wildlife (including rodents) to move into our area, micro-climate changes and how it will look.  Drying out the forest by thinning the trees may also create a fire hazard similar to the forest in 1934, when it was being logged.

No other demonstration area lies directly above a residential neighborhood, and we had hoped UCSF would consider a different area. It hasn’t.

2) The trail leading straight up from Christopher into the forest will be re-routed into a hairpin trail that lies above Christopher. Houses below this route may lose some privacy as trail users will be able look down into them.

3) A new trail will be cut from Clarendon behind the new pump station and through the curtain of trees between the Aldea student housing and Christopher. This screen of trees has already been thinned considerably because of the PUC water project.

In the map above: 1 is the Gash cut into the forest for the water-line; 2 the concrete pad that was supposed to be returned to the forest but has instead been enclosed with a chain-link fence; 3 the area of the old pump station where the thinned trees make the buildings on the Aldea campus quite visible; and 4 the new pump station, with very few trees behind it. The blue lines are the planned new trails, and the pink one the existing trail. (Edited to Add: The aqua line shows the boundary of UCSF’s Aldea Student Housing.)

Residents nearby had hoped the screen would be regrown, not further thinned. In fact, there is no hope of a screen of trees between the new pump station and the Aldea campus; there’s no space. The pump station grounds extend nearly all the way to the Aldea campus boundary.

Pump Station on poster
New Pump Station in reality

The issue of hazardous trees along Crestmont was also raised. UCSF says they are the City’s responsibility; apparently the City, after staging the area (see the picture) has said they are UCSF’s problem and didn’t remove them. UCSF said they would discuss the matter with the city.

Edited to Add 1: Crestmont does not appear to be on the list of streets with City-maintained trees.

Edited to Add 2: We understand neighbors complained to the SF Fire Department. UCSF’s Barbara Bagot-Lopez sent out a message saying: San Francisco Fire Department had recently issued a “Notice of Corrective Action Required” stating that an area of the Reserve above Crestmont Avenue contains an “accumulation of combustible material”; UCSF will be resolving this issue.

We hope the corrective action will deal with the hazardous trees rather than merely further implementation of the predetermined plan.

Edited to Add 3:  Kathleen asked for contact information. Here it is:

Whom to contact:

For UCSF, there are whole bunch of people. The Chancellor, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellman, is at 3333 California Street, Suite 103, San Francisco, CA 94143. Here’s a link to others involved.

For SF PUC: Not sure, try Suzanne Gautier(SGautier@sfwater.org). Here’s a link to the meetings schedule of the SFPUC Commission. (If anyone has other contacts/ resources, please note them here.)

For the City, the Urban Forester is at (415) 641-2674.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd are at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102.

Mayor Newsom: Telephone: (415) 554-6141;  Fax: (415) 554-6160;  Email:  gavin.newsom@sfgov.org

Supervisor Elsbernd:
(415) 554-6516; Fax (415) 554-6546 – fax; Email:  Sean.Elsbernd@sfgov.org

Fun Forest Knolls Playdate

I dropped in on the Forest Knolls Playdate at Midtown Terrace Playground to find kids running around the play structures, and the adults standing around a table laden with snacks and drinks. Kids swooped by from time to time, foraged among the snacks, and disappeared back into the newly refurbished playground.

Ethan and Laura

It’s looking great and seems to be good for play. There’s no sand there any more, which the kids probably miss (mine used to spend hours digging in it) but the adults, not so much. (I used to spend hours afterward shaking sand out of their clothes, their hair, and my car.)

Laura Bloch, who organized the Playdate was there with her husband and two children. So were a number of other neighbors, of all ages.  I was in a rush, but I wish I could have stayed longer and chatted. Despite the grayness of the day, everyone looked to be having fun.

Golden Gate Park: More Police Patrols

Most of the time, we think of Golden Gate Park as pretty safe, and most of the time, it is. But recently, there were two unusual incidents.

  • Two dogs, believed to belong to homeless people living in the park, got loose and attacked visitors. One dog was shot by the police, the other was captured. (It happened near Lloyd Lake, Area 1 below.)
  • And separately, one homeless man stabbed another; he claims self-defense, and the case remains open. (Behind the Conservatory of Flowers, Area 2 below.)

In response to this, the police are stepping up their presence in the Park. Here’s the Captain’s Message from the Park Station newsletter:

Park Station is working together with Park and Rec and the Park Rangers to increase patrols in Golden Gate Park. In order to keep Golden Gate Park safe for everyone to enjoy, Park Station and Richmond Station will be doing daily early morning patrols in the park to address illegal camping and sleeping in Golden Gate Park.

Good news from our monthly Compstat meeting this week; our year to date stats for Park Station show a reduction in Part 1 Violent Crimes of 14 percent.

Working together with the community has helped us reduce crime through strategic planning, community information sharing, and teamwork. Thank you for your continued support and input.

Captain Teri Barrett
Commanding Officer Park Station

Neighborhood Playdate July 2010

[ETA: Here’s a report on the playdate.]

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Attention Neighbors with kids (or kids who are neighbors!):

Midtown Terrace Playground

Edited to Add: The date has been changed to July 25, 2010, from 1-3 p.m. The lawn area has been reserved.

There’s a Forest Knolls Neighborhood play date planned at Midtown Terrace Playground. Here’s a message from Laura Bloch on Evite for this event:

Calling all Forest Knolls families, especially those with kids! Come on over to Midtown Terrace playground for a neighborhood get-together.  We have some new families in the ‘hood, so it’s a good chance to say hello to new faces and old.

You can REPLY directly to LJBloch@aol.com.  Please indicate # of adults and # of kids attending.  We’ll advise if there’s a change to the date or time.

We have someone bringing finger sandwiches, water and a folding table.  Feel free to bring other food or drinks to share!

Last, if you know a family who is not on the Yahoo Group, let them know they are welcome to join us!

[Laura asked me to post this here as well.]

Laguna Honda Lake: PUC promises broken?

The comment below (on May 13, 2010) was the first we knew of what was happening by Laguna Honda Lake, just off the bottom of Clarendon Avenue.

“Do any members here have photos of the Laguna Honda Reservoir from a few years ago? Specifically, photos that capture the area along Clarendon Ave, to the East of the reservoir?

“The PUC just installed a large (8′high x 6′ wide) circuit breaker at sidewalk level, just inside the gate on Clarendon. They will build a 20 x 20 office on the site, unless we act NOW! In addition, they just informed us that the site will be used as a permanent distribution center for gravel and dirt for City repairs! (See the piles of gravel there today – the PUC wants to keep them).

“Four large, healthy trees were removed to install the circuit breaker and a large patch of flowers and bushes was paved over to make room for the gravel piles. With all of the other existing buildings and paved areas in The City today, it makes no sense for the PUC to destroy green and open space in a residential area.

“Please post any photos of the area you may have to help us illustrate the beauty the PUC has just destroyed.

“Join us in apposing this move by contacting your Supervisor and the PUC (Maureen Barry mbarry@sfwater.org, Suzanne Gautier sgautier@sfwater.org, Ed Harrington eharrington@sfwater.org)”

Driving by there, we feared it was already too late, until we saw an item in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

They noted that the PUC had taken 2500 square yards for use as a staging area for work on nearby pump stations. At the time, the PUC promised to return the area to its original green state.

That was then. Meanwhile, the PUC’s diver team, based at Treasure Island, lost their lease. Now the PUC, without much reference to the community, has decided to base the dive team at the reservoir site, while also still using it as a place to store gravel, sand and stuff. They plan to add a utility shed, a 20X40 trailer, and power lines. The Chronicle article concluded with, “The bottom line, though, is that it’s PUC property and that their plans are the ones that count.

PUC held a meeting in April, attended by about 30 unhappy neighbors. Another meeting was this evening at the Clarendon School. We couldn’t go, since we were at the UCSF Sutro Forest Agenda Planning Meeting, but we hope to hear from people who attended, including the President of the Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization.

The opposing neighbors have a website and a Facebook page.

[ETA1: One of the neighbors, Anthony Roy, wrote an article for the Westside Observer, summing up the issues.]

[ETA 2: It appears that the neighbors discovered that Laguna Honda Reservoir is zoned as Open Space… this may preclude the gravel yard.]

THE PUMP STATION AT FOREST KNOLLS

The PUC does indeed appear to have a rather cavalier attitude to greenery.

When they rebuilt the pump station at Forest Knolls, they selected a new site where they would have to fell trees, rather than rebuilding on the site of the old pump station. Still, it didn’t look too bad in the pictures in their circular or the billboard outside the project site. It would be a low building nestled under the existing mature trees…

Pump Station on poster

Is that what we got? Not so much.

Here’s the new pump station soon after completion. All the tall trees and dense greenery that screened Forest Knolls from the Aldea Student Housing are gone, and there’s no space to plant more. The huge gap in the trees looks to be permanent, though the brown areas in front of the Pump Station are greening out.

New Pump Station in reality

Updates: Elections, UCSF Community Center, Crestmont

In the past few days, several items arrived in my in-box that probably should be shared:

1. The elections are on June 8th. For people who were accustomed to the polling station in the garage on Oak Park – it’s changed. Precinct 2708, most of Forest Knolls and Galewood Circle will vote at the Clarendon Elementary School on Clarendon. But it’s a good idea to check before June 8th!

ETA (Thanks, LC): Precinct 2707 (on the Devonshire Way side of Forest Knolls) will still vote at the Lobby of Avalon Towers Inc, on 6 Locksley Avenue. There’s a 0.1% slope,  accessible to people with disabilities.

2. Dr. Sobol sent a message that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Crestmont project should be done by October or November.

“The time for action is obviously approaching: as soon as the EIR is published, our community will have the opportunity to formally respond and we will, as in 2006, mobilize a write-in campaign to challenge any deficiencies in the report and express the entire neighborhood’s opposition to this misguided and inappropriate project. A subsequent public hearing will almost certainly follow and we must plan to attend in large numbers to give voice to our opposition directly to the Planning Commissioners.

“In the meantime, new “STOP CRESTMONT HILLS” posters are going up throughout Forest Knolls and it is important to make our opposition visible to the politicians by placing them in our windows and on our fences. If you don’t have a poster or need to replace one that’s become frayed and faded (after all, this battle has been going on for six years!)
please notify us at the number below and we’ll be happy to provide one – or several.

Email: info@crestmontpreservation.org
Phone: 415-640-3869
Website: http://www.crestmontpreservation.org/

Picture of UCSF's Aldea Center
UCSF's planned Aldea Center

3. UCSF is building a new community center on Johnstone Drive within the Aldea Student Housing area, scheduled for completion in Spring 2011. (It’s near the entrance to Medical Center Way.) They had to cut down nine trees, none of which was a eucalyptus or a redwood… ” a total of nine trees will need to be removed from the project area. These will include two acacias, one hawthorne and six victorian box trees.” This picture (taken from UCSF’s message) and the diagram accompanying it does not indicate the orientation of the building.

It’s not clear to what extent the Community Center will be available for rental to surrounding communities, but if it is, and it’s not too expensive, it may be a good addition to the amenities of this neighborhood.

Street Fair, Irving at 10th

This website is a good place to let people know about nearby events and activities that might interest people in Forest Knolls. In that spirit, we bring you another Street Fair announcement. This one’s at Irving and 10th. It’s put on by the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors.

Here’s what the notice says:

“Enjoy the music, art, crafts, dance, and food of our neighbors.  The California Academy of Science, Circus Center, Sunset Academy of Music, San Francisco Massage Collective, Sutro Stewards, UCSF and many more neighborhood groups will be sharing their skills and talents.

“In conjunction with the San Francisco’s Small Business Week, local merchants will be holding sidewalk sales throughout the neighborhood along with 40 booths displaying local artists and services.  Of course the Inner Sunset has over 75 food and beverage establishments to choose a meal from, just a few steps away from the fair.

“Borrowing from Ciclovia of Bogota Colunbia, the fair will start with yoga and tai chi lessons at 10 and 11am. Then at noon the Pearse Connolly Fife Drum Band will kick off an afternoon of live music on the Irving Street stage featuring folk to jazz to blues.  At 6pm, “Lindy in the Park” will teach everyone a few new steps and from 6:30 to 8:30 the Sunset’s own Dianne Nola and the 7 against 8 Swing Band will fill the street with song and dance.”

The co-chairs are Adam Greenfield (415-786-2143) and Chris Duderstadt (415-517-2754)

If you want more details including a detailed program and a list of entertainment; or you want to sign-up, volunteer, or sponsor something – they have a website. (Or click on the picture above.)

The Crestmont Project

As many neighbors will know, there’s an ongoing proposal to build 34 new units of housing at the end of Crestmont. The City is currently conducting an Environmental Impact Review (EIR), and Dr Sam Sobol (of the Crestmont- Mt Sutro Neighborhood Preservation Coalition) tells us the draft EIR is expected to be completed in September or October 2010.  A large group of neighbors opposes it, and the Coalition’s website (click on the Stop sign to access it) details who to write to. That website also has more detailed information about the project and related issues. And photographs.

WHY THE OBJECTION

The project would extend Crestmont after a hairpin bend where the cul-de-sac ends now, and build along the lower edge of the resulting 20-foot road. This may impinge on land currently owned by a neighborhood association.

What’s the problem with the project?

This Google Map demonstrates some of the issues with the project. This is one of the steepest areas of the mountain. (The map already shows this road, complete with hairpin bend, even though it currently doesn’t exist – it’s a narrow mud trail. )

The hills are not only steep, they are not very stable. There’s a history of rock-slides, including the destruction of a home, fortunately unoccupied at the time.

The houses above where the planned project would go already rest on high stilts of steel or concrete. Residents fear that construction activities could weaken the hillside, putting the whole group of houses above it – and all the people in them – at risk during an earthquake.

(Click here for photographs of the site from the website of the Coalition.)

OTHER CONCERNS

  • Increased traffic and increased accident risk on a narrow and winding road. “…Drastically increased traffic density of Crestmont Drive, a roadway so narrow beyond the uphill bulkhead that two cars are unable to pass when cars are parked, as they always are, on either side of the street..”
  • Risk to children playing on the street (since Crestmont Drive homes lack yards).
  • Limited access for fire and emergency vehicles. The street below the hairpin bend would be a dead end and only smaller vehicles could turn there.
  • Too little parking. The plan allows for 1.5 parking spaces per 3 and 4 bedroom unit. Since this the terrain limits access to public transport,  each household will probably need 2-3 cars, especially if the condos are rented as shared housing.
  • The wind usually blows uphill from the west. It would carry noise,  and fumes from cars, fireplaces, barbeques, up to the homes above. It also heightens the fire risk. If a fire started in a downhill building,  the wind could carry cinders uphill and ignite the all-wooden homes above, while also setting brushfires in surrounding areas.
  • Four large high density buildings and a total of 34 condos would change character of this neighborhood of single family homes and duplexes,  and have a negative impact on home values.
  • The existing trail functions as a neighborhood park and open space, accessible even to those who cannot climb the steep hillside of Mt Sutro to get to the mountain trails. This is one of the few pristine areas that has never been built on.

On the street and at our feet

The pink paint marking the drains, and the broken water main a few months ago, drew attention to all the stuff that’s happening below our streets. So the other day, we wandered around with our cameras pointing at all the circles and rectangles on the sidewalk. There were a lot of them: a wealth of services beneath our feet, representing civilization, urban comfort, and the conveniences of Forest Knolls. It’s strange to think we’re only a couple of generations away from fetching water from wells, using outhouses, and lighting our nights with candles and our streets with gas.

PG&E

It was an interesting mix of covers. This grating was like a piece of modern art, with the ladder reaching down to a reflective circle of water below. At first, it appeared to be a drain of some sort… but it’s got the words  PG&E and “High Voltage.”

High Voltage

Another “High Voltage” cover was more prosaic, a simple concrete rectangle.

PG&E high voltage

PG&E-C

In fact, quite a few covers on the street were from PG&E. This manhole cover with a nice geometric design seems to be, though it’s difficult to know which cover does what. (If anyone knows, leave a comment! Or email us at fk94131@yahoo.com)

WATER DEPARTMENT

Another whole bunch were from the Water Department. (The sewer cover’s included here, though it’s actually labeled SFDPW.)

SFWD, Two covers

SFDPW sewer

The little square with holes in it is most probably a drain cover.

Scott Co (drain cover?)

But the handsomest cover on the street is a cast iron oval with the Golden Gate Bridge on it, labeled San Francisco Water Department Meter Box. Wonder when it was made? Some time in the 1950s, when Forest Knolls was built?

SFWD meter box

TELEPHONES AND TV AND ALL KINDS OF THINGS

And then there’s the Telephones.  And the TV Cable. And  the Survey Monument, which doesn’t represent a utility but instead helps put us on the map and define the lots on which our homes are built.  And the Street Lights. And “Electrical” again, but it’s not clear what and why, though it may be connected with the Street Lights since the covers are together and next to a lamp post.

Telephone
Survey Monument
Telephone (with graffiti?)
TV Cable

 

Electrical
Street Lighting

And then there was this odd-looking pair of covers labeled PT-T. Anyone know what they are?

Pacific Telephones and Telegraph

.Edited to Add: PT-T probably stands for Pacific Telephones and Telegraphs… (see the comment to this post – Thanks, Laura).

Or why X marks the spot on this sewer-cover?

X marked sewer

Edited to Add: Just saw this — the moss has picked out “Bell System” on this cover.

After the rain, moss picks out BELL SYSTEM

 

Charming Little Farmer’s Market on Sundays

We knew we shouldn’t have gone late. But it was already noon last Sunday, and the Inner Sunset Farmer’s Market at 9th and Irving ends at 1 p.m. We’d forgotten all about… parking.

So we barely made it, getting there at 12.30, but it was worth it. It’s a charming neighborhood market, year round, Sunday mornings until 1 p.m.

It only has about 20-30 stalls, which makes it just the right size to browse through. In addition to the fresh, local (and some organic) produce, there were some interesting products like soap and various kinds of foods. The Urban Farm Girls, contrary to their name, don’t farm; they do garden design, including container gardens.

We were especially delighted by City Bees, which actually has beehives all over the city. It may have been their bees up on Twin Peaks, browsing in the oxalis and lupin. Their honey is labeled by origin: we bought some Marin Blackberry, though it was a tough choice between that and the Star Thistle honey. 

The stalls looked to be doing well. “Are we all sold out of the red chard?” someone said  at one booth. Good!

We stopped for stuffed grape leaves at this friendly Mediterranean place:

And tasted the spicy carrot and beetroot pickles here, regretfully deciding not to buy a jar because both were delicious, but we’d never finish them. Pity they didn’t have little jars.

The Extra Virgin Olive Oil was also very tempting, but was forgone for the same reason.

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The market had an attractive medley of fruit and flowers, including some gorgeous orchids.

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Dogs aren’t allowed into the Market (that’s regulations) but the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors, the neighborhood association responsible for the market, has arrangements:

Neighborhood Meeting 11 March 2010, 7.30 p.m

There’s to be a neighborhood meeting at the Armenian Church on Thursday, 11 March 2010. The poster is shown below.  (However, Craig Dawson of Mount Sutro Stewards may be unable to attend. A short statement from him may be read out.)

[Edited to Add: Read our report on the meeting.]

In Praise of Dog Owners

Edited to Add: PETS page is up and running. Send pictures of your pets to fk94131 at yahoo.com if you want them there. (Permission to publish will be assumed if you send pictures.)

——————–

I don’t have a dog.

Nevertheless, I think that a neighborhood is richer for having dog-owners in its midst. Specifically, Forest Knolls is richer for being a dog-friendly neighborhood.

If it weren’t for dog-walkers, there’d be very few people out and about. People have busy lives, and go elsewhere for exercise. Our homes are built with garages at street level, and gardens in the back: Great for privacy, not so good for community.

It’s the dog-owners who are out there. Many of them know each other, or at least know each other by their dogs. They care about each other and each other’s pets.

That’s the kind of thing that builds community.

There’s the charm of the dogs themselves. Big ones, little ones, pure-bred or mutts, they’re a friendly tail-wagging presence and give life to our neighborhood.

I asked a few dog-owners I met around Forest Knolls to let me take pictures of their dogs. They were willing; so far, no one has said no. The dogs, too, were mostly willing – except when they were trying to get close enough to lick my face.

Shouldn't happen

(Only one request, dog-owners – please clean up after your doggies. I know nearly everyone does nearly all the time…)

They are also an obvious presence in our neighborhood; they see what’s going on. Night or day, rain or shine, the dogs need walks, and their people take them. Paws on the street means eyes on the street.

It keeps us all a little bit safer.

Rain or shine...

Some years ago, someone I know lived in a restored brownstone in Brooklyn. They had two large dogs, which occasionally barked. The neighbors grumbled, as some neighbors will.  After five years, the apartment was too small, and the dogs and their folks moved out.

Two weeks later, the building was broken into. And then a week after that, it was broken into again.

“Too bad you guys moved out,” the formerly grumbling former neighbor said. “Seems like your dogs were a deterrent.”

Probably true.

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I’m thinking of starting a Pets page on this website, if people are interested and would like to contribute. Just pictures of our cats and dogs and birds and whatever other animals are in peoples’ lives. Leave a comment if you think it’s a good idea.

Goats at Laguna Honda Hospital!

Laguna Honda Hospital has hired a herd of goats to clean out the undergrowth in front of its new building, and behind the parking lot (along Clarendon Avenue). In the picture, the white dots are the goats, and you can see a bus parked on top of the hill.

The Goat Guard Dog

We hope they inspected the place for nesting birds first, though hopefully it’s too early in the season yet.

[ETA a couple of pictures.]

A neighbor also wrote to say LHH is offering tours.

I received a flyer inviting the Forest Knolls neighborhood to tour the new Laguna Honda hospital.  They suggested we wear long pants (no skirts or dress shoes) and sensible shoes – they would provide boots – The first tour is today (Thursday) at 2 PM….  They have one more tour this month and two in March and one in April. “

So we looked it up. Here’s the tour schedule (from the LHH website):

Thursday, February 11, 2010 2 p.m.
Saturday, February 27, 2010 11 a.m.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 2 p.m.
Saturday, March 20, 2010 11 a.m.
Saturday, April ?, 2010 11 a.m.

“Tours can accommodate a limited number of people. Please let us know you are coming. Call 415-759-4597.

“Where to meet: All tours begin in the lobby of the old building.

“What to wear: Long pants, blouses or shirts with at least a four inch sleeve. No sleeveless shirts, skirts or dresses. We provide hard hats, safety glasses and vests. Please wear boots or sturdy shoes with a hard sole (we have loaner boots). For your safety, dress shoes and tennis shoes are not allowed.”