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: 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.)

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( 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:

Supervisor Elsbernd:
(415) 554-6516; Fax (415) 554-6546 – fax; Email: