Laguna Honda Reservoir: Good News for Now

We’ve been following the situation of the Laguna Honda Reservoir over the past months. The issue in summary: The Reservoir, situated at the intersection of Clarendon Avenue and Laguna Honda Boulevard, belongs to the Water Department. They had used a corner of it below Clarendon during the renovation project, assuring the neighbors that they would restore it to greenery afterward. Instead, last year, they decided to make it into a gravel yard and headquarter their dive team there. (The details are here and here.)

The neighbors — particularly at The Woods, which is right next to the spot and overlooks it — were very upset and have been in discussion with the SFPUC about it.

But it wasn’t over; and the neighbors have been following up with SFPUC.

We blogged about it here and here and here.

Another issue is that a beekeeper has been permitted to place a number of beehives in this area (which is otherwise inaccessible to the public. Some neighbors are concerned about how it looks, and also about how the bees might behave.

It seems that there’s been some kind of a resolution, at least for now. This is a letter from Judith Clarke, President of the Woods Home-Owners Association. (It’s published here with permission and added emphasis.)

I wanted to give you an update on what is happening at the Laguna Honda Reservoir. On August 24, 2011, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) cleaned up the piles of gravel and dirt that had been stored on the Laguna Honda site for about a year. They also removed the pipes that were stored there and raked the loose gravel to allow the plants to grow.

The SFPUC will be working up the street at the Sutro Reservoir to do seismic retrofitting. This work will begin in either November or January. The SFPUC will not use the Laguna Honda Reservoir area for that work.

At this time, there is no movement by the SFPUC to move a trailer and/or shed onto the Laguna Honda Reservoir site for their Dive Team, as had been discussed previously. I spoke with Suzanne Gautier of the SFPUC and she told me that she does not know of any movement in that direction at this time.

This is good news and thank you to all who donated money and participated in the efforts to prevent the installment of the trailer. We must still be vigilant in watching that area in case something changes in the future. Please continue to report any activity. We are still discussing the issue with Sean Elsbernd, District 7 Supervisor, and other members of the Board of Supervisors. Our attorney is not doing any work for us at this time, but she is available to us to provide legal advice and work in the future.

The tarps that covered the beehives on the far side of the reservoir were damaged by the storms we had this year. Currently, there are no tarps covering the fence to hide the beehives. Some homeowners had indicated that they did not like the tarps. Others have said they want the beehives hidden. Please let me know what your preference is for having the tarps on the fence. We have an opportunity to influence whether they are put back or not. Thank you.

Judy Clarke
President, The Woods of San Francisco

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in comments and I’ll send them on. [ETA: This post has been edited to remove personal/ non-public information as requested.]

Laguna Honda Reservoir – Neighbors’ Meeting 3/2/2011

This notice was sent out by a neighbor’s group, calling a meeting on Wednesday March 2, 2011 to discuss the SFPUC’s plans for Laguna Honda Reservoir. (I’d posted about those plans here.)


Dear neighbors:

We have invited our fellow neighbors from Midtown Terrace and Forest Knolls to the Social Center this Wednesday for an urgent meeting regarding the PUC’s plans for Laguna Honda Reservoir.  The meeting is at 7:30 PM, this Wednesday, 3/2/11.

On 2/18/2011, the PUC filed a Categorical Exemption with the SF Office of Planning and SF County Clerk for the Laguna Honda Reservoir that, if upheld, will allow the PUC to move forward with their plans to install the 20 x 40 trailer next door to The Woods.

The deadline to appeal the Categorical Exemption is March 25th. If we don’t take action by then, this exemption is permanent.  Please attend to lend a voice and discuss how our neighborhood can work together to preserve this site and our property values.

We look forward to seeing you at the The Woods’ Social Center on Wednesday at 7:30 PM.

The Woods of San Francisco HOA


[Edited to Add:  I attended the meeting, led by Judy Clark of The Woods and Walter Kaplan of Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization.  Well-organized and interesting. The website for the Friends of Laguna Honda Reservoir is here. They’re on Facebook here.]

Laguna Honda Reservoir: SFPUC note, Exemption Notice

The SFPUC has apparently decided to stop using the area next to the reservoir as a gravel yard, and use it mainly as a Dive Team HQ. We received a note (reproduced below) from the SFPUC regarding the Laguna Honda Reservoir, following the neighborhood meeting on Feb 9th, 2011.

The SFPUC is asking for an exemption from the Planning Commission that would permit them to operate a Dive Team office. This would involve having two structures, one a trailer 20 x 40 and ten feet in height (the office and prep site); and the other, a shed 10 x 20 feet and eight feet high (for storage). Electricity has already been connected.

They have already filed for the exemption, on 18 February 2011. If anyone has comments, this would be the time to send them in. The person to contact appears to be Bill Wycko.   [ETA: No, he’s the SFPUC person. I guess the SF Office of Planning and Research would be the place to send comments. And the County Clerk. Addresses in the notice at the bottom.]


Here’s the note (emphasis added):

The SFPUC and Laguna Honda

February 2011

In June 2010 the SFPUC provided information about the planned use of an area at the Laguna Honda Reservoir, here are some updates from our Feb. 2011 community meeting.

Prior purchase and placement of a trailer at the Laguna Honda site, the SFPUC applied for and was granted:

1. A Categorical Exemption from the Planning Department – the Planning Department determined that the proposed project was exempt from environmental review – Pending Filing of the Notice of Exemption, see below.
2. General Plan Conformity Determination – for the placement of the Dive Headquarters at Lake Honda – “with consideration of removal of structures and improvements and site restoration if the proposed PUC Dive Headquarters Facility is relocated in the future, as described further in this case.”

A Notice of Exemption will be filed with the County Clerk/Recorder, confirming that this project has been granted a Categorical Exemption by the Planning Department. Once filed, anyone objecting to this Exemption will have a period of 35 days to file suit challenging the Planning Department exemption determination under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The Categorical Exemption and General Plan Conformity Determination can be found at the link below:

Community representatives and neighbors expressed deep concern regarding the lack of communication from the SFPUC, in particular because of the filing of the Categorical Exemption request and issuance of the exemption determination by the Planning Department. The community members felt that the SFPUC was not honoring its commitment to communicate throughout the process.

The SFPUC will notify the community and neighborhood stakeholders when the Notice of Exemption is filed at the Office of the County Clerk.

Community members indicated a willingness to pursue any and all options to prevent the SFPUC from using any of the space within the fence along Clarendon Ave. for any maintenance, staging or other operations, including but not limited to activities of the Dive Team.

Several questions were asked about other potential locations throughout the City. Suggestions included use of a portion of the Laguna Honda Hospital Parking Lot, as well as an area adjacent to the Summit Pump Station below Sutro Reservoir.

The valley below the Sutro Reservoir is not suitable because the area will be used for a project to seismically upgrade the reservoir will begin sometime later this calendar year.
There were questions about the P – Public zoning district and the Open Space height and bulk district designation of the reservoir parcel. The Categorical Exemption and General Plan Conformity address this designation and the proposed land use.
The trailer/Dive Team Headquarters would be in operation under the guidelines below:
Although the Categorical Exemption document says normal work hours are 7:00am – 5:00pm, activities at the site would be limited to the hours of 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM, although emergencies and operational needs may require off-hour operations. These events are infrequent, usually no more than a few times per year. The Divers are working at dive sites throughout the city. The Dive Team has three passenger trucks, and it is anticipated that only these vehicles would be parking on-site on a regular basis.
The trailer will provide office space for dive team staff and a small workshop to repair and maintain items such as air stations, helmets, dry suits, ROVs , cameras, power and light units, and filling air cylinders.

Additional installation activities at the trailer site will be limited to placement of lattice screens/fences to obscure the structure from view and additional landscaping.

Access to the area via the Clarendon Avenue gate will continue to be limited to members of the San Francisco Beekeepers Association and authorized SFPUC City Distribution Division personnel.

SFPUC is pursuing landscape and property improvements at Lake Honda/Laguna Honda:

  • Plant and maintain vines and other greenery to soften the appearance of fencing as much as possible, including both the fence along Clarendon and the interior fence. Attach green fabric to the interior fence gate because planting near the fence is not feasible. Also, since the fabric would be attached to the interior fence, graffiti tagging should not be a issue.
  • The SFPUC is working to identify plants that will thrive along the interior fence.
  • The bee boxes have all been painted and relocated along the walkway/fire access road adjacent to the reservoir.
  • There was some concern expressed about the possibility of bees swarming away from the reservoir and the risk to people and animals if they are allergic to bee stings. Paul Koski, one of the beekeepers can be reached at if there are questions about the bees.
  • The City Distribution Division Landscape Supervisor is investigating the feasibility of planting more native plants inside the fence lines.
  • The sand and gravel piles and other construction materials will be moved off-site as soon as possible and should be completed in coordination with the Dive Team Headquarters installation.

In addition to the area adjacent to Clarendon Avenue, other landscape and vegetation management projects are underway at Laguna Honda:

  • A draft tree health and hazard report has been received and is currently being reviewed by SFPUC staff. Based on the report findings the SFPUC will draft a plan of action to trim and remove diseased, dying and dead trees within the watershed to reduce the fire hazard, thin the forest for sustainability, and remove invasive plants and possible replanting with native species. The scope of the project has not yet been determined.
  •  Removal of invasive species in the Franciscan Scrub above the reservoir should occur within the next two to three months. The SFPUC has initiated discussion with representatives of Nature in the City, the California Native Plant Society and the Golden Gate Audubon Society regarding the proposed invasive species removal effort.
  • Unauthorized use of the site as a homeless encampment is being regularly monitored and has been significantly reduced.

For more information e-mail Suzanne Gautier, SFPUC Communications at


Here’s a picture of the Exemption filing notice.

(Click on image for a larger version.)

Laguna Honda Reservoir: Update

If there’s anything I’m learning from having gotten drawn into neighborhood issues, it’s response times. And implementation times. And that the two are sometimes quite different.

At the Laguna Honda Reservoir, the SF PUC has built a gravel yard where it was supposed to restore the site to greenery, and decided to locate its Dive Team there. When neighbors protested and pointed out that it had Open Space zoning, the PUC promised to put the project on hold. That was on June 9th.

We wrote about it earlier here, here, and here.

15th June

After that, neighbors observed the following:

  • PUC trucks visiting the site on June 14th.
  • The Dive Team visiting the site on June 15th, unaware that any plans had changed.
  • PUC trucks and a dump truck on June 29th and 30th.
  • Loud truck activity from 11.18 and until after midnight, June 30th-July1. When a neighbor investigated, the guard said something about a water main break and asked him to leave the site.


By this time, the neighbors were both suspicious and annoyed. Said one on Facebook: “It is obvious that this site is being used and I think we have all had our fill of lies from the people at the PUC...”

From neighbor Beverly Myer: “…when I was awakened by the beep beep, at first I thought it was a dream. Then I thought, it can’t be, even that PUC would not be that BLATANT, but when it continued I realized it was them, and they don’t care about anything that affects a residential area.”


One of them emailed the PUC, and got this response:

“I apologize for the inconvenience and noise that resulted when the Laguna Honda site was accessed late last evening. There had been a water main break and crews went to that site to get material needed to fill the hole so that the street was safe for traffic after the water main was fixed. Our Dive Team and Operations crews have been advised to stay out of that site until further notice, and I have been assured that for the forseeable future, crews participating in emergency repair work will gather fill materials at a more remote location. We will be setting up another community meeting about this site during the week of July 19, and will confirm the date, time and location early next week.”

Beverly’s reaction: “I like the way they refer to the timing of the gravel trucks as ‘late last evening’ – somehow 11:15 pm and midnight do not constitute ‘evening’ in my book. Evening connotes people still being awake, having dinner, watching TV, reading etc.

So here you have it: The PUC, after officially deciding to put the project on hold (which itself took more time than it should) has somehow not conveyed that to the operating end of the organization. Delayed response, even more delayed implementation. And even more anger among the neighbors.

2 July 2010

If you’re interested, look out for the meeting the week of July 19th. We’ll send out the details.

[Edited to Add: At the Sutro Forest meeting recently, FKNO President Walter Caplan noted that he was working to have the ugly chain-link fence around the reservoir removed. Stay tuned. We’ll update this with whatever Walter is ready to make public.]

Laguna Honda Reservoir vs PUC: Not over?

So we’d reported that on hearing the area was zoned as Open Space, PUC had decided to stop all work there. Specifically, they said on their blog:  “At the meeting, neighbors asked the SFPUC to verify the zoning for this property. While we do that, Kevin Barry, City Distribution Manager, promised that the SFPUC dive and operations staff will not pursue any further activities at the site.” (Click here for their blog, scroll down to the entry for June 9th 2010.)

They later clarified in an email to one of the opponents that they would still be going ahead to provide power “PG&E will go ahead and make its connection to the transformer as planned tomorrow, June 10. There is no installation necessary but once they make this connection, SFPUC can remove the generator that is located inside the inner fence from the property.”

Okay. So why were members of the Dive Team checking out the area yesterday (June 15th), and why had they heard nothing about the moratorium?  Is it PUC’s internal communications at fault, or its external communications?

Doesn’t PUC recognize that “neighbors” means that people are right there on the spot, and they’re keeping track of what goes on?

Edited to Add: There’s been no significant activity  since the Dive Team visit. The neighbors keeping tabs on the area, and posting on Facebook.

Edited to Add (July 1, 2010): Trucks have been loading and unloading around midnight last night, with loud beeping that woke the neighbors. The guard said something about a water-main break. When neighbors emailed PUC, PUC said they would get gravel from a different location in future.

Laguna Honda Lake vs PUC: Win?

The PUC’s gravel yard project we described yesterday is apparently on hold for now, and may be cancelled. Here’s an extract from an update we received from the PUC after the June 8 meeting at Clarendon School. (We subscribed to their blog.)

At the meeting, neighbors asked the SFPUC to verify the zoning for this property. While we do that, Kevin Barry, City Distribution Manager, promised that the SFPUC dive and operations staff will not pursue any further activities at the site.

We understand the neighbors have checked and found the Laguna Honda Reservoir is zoned as open space. Presumably, the PUC will have to change their plans. This is excellent news, particularly if the PUC now makes good on their initial commitment to restore the greenery that was removed when they created the staging area.

(We’re a little surprised that the Chronicle’s journalists did not investigate this for their article before stating that since it was PUC land, it was their plans that would count.)

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, Suzanne Gautier, Ed Harrington”

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 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