Forest Knolls, with Coyote, Great Horned Owl, and Raccoon

I love that I can walk late at night in Forest Knolls. I’ve always enjoyed these magical (though infrequent walks). Now, with social distancing, they’re better than ever; there’s hardly anyone around.

Last week, I was out a couple of times. The first night was as still and quiet as if someone had turned off the world’s sound. On my way home I saw a dark shape on the sidewalk ahead. At first, it was so still that I thought it was a small abandoned suitcase or something. But as I came closer, it moved, and the light from the street-lamp showed me a raccoon. It looked at me and dived into the roadside shrubs. I went out to the middle of the road to give it enough room. Though I was pleased to see it. With all the precautions people (including us) take with their trashcans, I thought raccoons had abandoned our neighborhood for lack of food.

Another night, the quiet was broken by one of my favorite sounds: a Great Horned Owl up in Sutro Forest. It sounded like a lone owl, and stopped after a few hoots. Later in the year, perhaps I’ll hear the duets of a pair talking to each other.

And the same night, the best sighting of all: a coyote, out on Oak Park Drive near the staircase called Glenhaven Lane. When it saw me, it retreated up the staircase, and then onto the hillside so it could escape into the bushes if I pursued it. I didn’t, of course. I gave it a wide berth, and took a few blurry pictures with my cellphone.

+

+
+
+
+ + +

Heavy Machinery Above Forest Knolls in Sutro Forest

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.

 

— ### —

Sutro Forest 2017 Plan Imposes a Landslide Risk

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.

Landslide under blue tarp. South Ridge at top left.

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):

Legend to Landslide Hazard Map Sutro Forest 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.

UCSF: First, do no harm!

UCSF Meeting Report: Dec 2014

I attended UCSF’s quarterly meeting of its Community Advisory Group on 3rd Dec 2014. (I’m not on the CAG, I went as a member of the public.)

UCSF’s Long Range Development Plan (2015-2035) has been approved. (This presumably includes removing the Aldea Student Housing from the space ceiling. You can read more about that HERE.)

Right now, there are two ongoing projects on the Parnassus campus (that’s the Inner Sunset campus, on the other side of Mount Sutro from Forest Knolls). The first is demolition and landscaping of 374 Parnassus, where a small building is being knocked down and converted to open space. The larger one is work on the old building, UC Hall which was earlier to be knocked down but is now to be converted to offices and housing.

SUTRO FOREST

sutro-forest-south-view2UCSF staff made two presentations about Sutro Forest recently. One was to the Urban Forestry Council. The Council has a listening series in which they invited a large number of stakeholders to talk about San Francisco’s urban forests. (SaveSutro also made a presentation to them about Sutro Forest.) They expect to issue a report possibly next spring.

The other was to the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Committee (PROSAC). Christine Gasparac, who was one of the presenters, said that PROSAC was particularly interested in recreational access to Mount Sutro.

There was some discussion around Sutro Forest. CAG member Dennis Antenore spoke of the management plan written 14 years ago that embodied Best Management Practices. I pointed out that it didn’t – it was designed to cut down most of the trees. What management is implemented depends on what you’re trying to achieve.  If you wish to preserve the forest – which is a unique and beautiful jewel of San Francisco – then it requires less intervention, not more. If you’re trying to turn it over to native plants, then you would want to cut down trees. Craig Dawson (also a CAG member, Executive Director of the Sutro Stewards, who favors cutting down trees and using herbicides to stop them coming back) said that the opponents of the plan were stopping UCSF from acting to save the forest and it’s dying.

They’ve been talking about the forest “dying” for years. (Here’s an article from the year 2000 – in which Craig Dawson is quoted. It’s based on the erroneous assumption that eucalyptus has a 100-year life-span, which is not true. It lives 300-500 years.)  But experts in forestry, eucalyptus, and  ecology have walked through and seen a healthy, thriving forest. Some trees are in poor condition, but that’s natural. If they are actually hazardous, they should of course be removed. But if they’re not, they’re valuable to the forest’s ecology. To say that the forest is dying because some trees in it are in poor condition is like saying San Francisco is dying because it has some people who are old and ailing.

DIVERSITY

Dr Renee Navarro presentationDr Renee Navarro, UCSF’s Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Outreach, made an excellent presentation about UCSF’s progress in increasing the percentage of women and minorities among its students and employees. On the whole, they’ve done well in terms of employing women; UCSF staff are about 68% women, and even in the rarefied group of the 20 or so people who are in senior management, 40% are female.

For minorities, staff numbers superficially look quite good: around 58% non-white. There are two issues, though. First, most of this diversity is concentrated among the support staff. Only 36% of managers are minorities, and among the senior management, it’s 15%. Second, when it’s broken down, it shows the percentage of African Americans has actually declined between 2006 and 2014 – meaning growth in hiring hasn’t kept pace with UCSF’s expansion from 13 thousand employees in 2006 to 16.5 thousand in 2014. There’s been a marked increase in the percentage of Asian employees (from 33% to 37%), and some increase in the percentage of Hispanic employees, from 11% to 12.%)

It’s possible this reflects the changing demographics of San Francisco and the Bay Area, but UCSF is also taking measures to make attract and retain minority employees, and to create a multicultural and diverse organization.

She also spoke about community partnerships and early outreach to students in High School or even earlier, and opportunities UCSF is trying to create for its own employees to improve their skills and move to higher levels.

EBOLA

UCSF’s Intensive Care Unit at Mount Zion is their designated Ebola Isolation Unit should it become necessary. They are also encouraging medical workers who want to go fight the epidemic in West Africa to do so, preserving their jobs and seniority. There’s a quarantine procedure in place for when they return, depending on the level of exposure they have had. UCSF focuses on professional quarantine, but will co-ordinate with Department of Health in case community quarantine is appropriate.

 OTHER ISSUES DISCUSSED

  • UCSF’s Mission Bay medical center is currently holding community tours and have had an excellent response. The hospital is scheduled to open February 1st, 2015, when a “stream of ambulances” will transport patients from Parnassus to Mission Bay.
  • UCSF has acquired two parcels of land – Blocks 33/ 34 in Mission Bay – and are beginning to plan what they’ll put there. Meanwhile, they are working with the City and the Warriors to figure out how to mitigate the traffic ad parking impact of the planned new stadium, which will be right next to the hospital’s Emergency Room.
  • They’re also proceeding with the plan to divest the Laurel Heights campus via a ground lease. They think the actual move from there will take about 4 years. It’s going to be replaced with housing and possibly some retail.
  • They continue with efforts to hire locally for construction projects. Part of the issue is they use Union contractors, who for skilled trades favor seniority over local residency. They also compete with other projects that seek to hire local workers in the construction trades.

 

 

 

UCSF Meeting: New Plans for Aldea Housing – 12 Aug 2014

In Aldea housing

UCSF has announced a meeting to talk about its plans for the Aldea San Miguel campus housing. 

This is a cluster of wood-shingled buildings nestled at the foot of Sutro Forest, amid tall trees and landscaping. The house of the UCSF Chancellor is also in the same complex. It’s a charming place with almost a mountain-resort feel to it. It’s adjacent to our neighborhood, lying between Cole Valley and Forest Knolls and is approached from Clarendon Avenue and connects to Parnassus Avenue by Medical Center Way, a short winding route that resembles a country byway.

BACKGROUND

UCSF is in the midst of its Long Range Development Plan, which will be valid for 20 years. They expect to adopt it in November 2014.

In the 1970s, UCSF made an agreement not to expand in the Parnassus area. The Regents voted to impose ‘space ceiling’ that limited their space in the Parnassus areas to and also not to acquire any properties in the surrounding areas. (I attended a meeting in Feb 2014 and reported on that HERE.)

Here’s some background from one of my earlier posts.

“Back in 1976, UCSF had a strategy of stealth acquisition. It quietly acquired a bunch of houses (mainly in the 4th Avenue and 5th Avenue area in the Inner Sunset), used some eminent domain, and planned to knock them down and expand. It was trashing the neighborhood, and the neighbors revolted.  The battle was bitterly fought, and went all the way up to Sacramento. When the smoke had cleared away, UCSF agreed to limits to growth in the neighborhood.  The UC Regents passed a resolution. This had several important impacts on Forest Knolls.

  1. It agreed to maintain the 61 acres of Sutro Forest as an Open Space. They weren’t going to build on it.
  2. They imposed a limit – 3.55 million — on the total square footage in the Parnassus area. If they built something new, they would knock down something else.
  3. They defined an expansion restriction area in which they would not acquire properties (they cannot accept gifts of properties in this area either. This restriction area – the map in the photo above –  includes Forest Knolls (the line ends at Clarendon).
  4. Recognizing that the influx of people (with the transport requirements and other pressures they bring) was also impacting neighborhoods, they included a goal of limiting the population to 13,400.”

UCSF LRDP Feb 2014 -1

WHAT’S UP NOW?

In fact, UCSF soon exceeded the space ceiling. They’ve also exceeded the people limit. (Details HERE.) But they have kept to points 1 and 3, maintaining Sutro Forest as open space, and not acquiring properties in the restriction area.

Student housing was explicitly excluded from the Space Ceiling, with the exception of Aldea Student Housing. Now, UCSF is considering excluding that, too.

  • What does that mean? I don’t know for sure. I’ve heard people say it could mean knocking down the old dorm buildings, and replacing them with something more modern. Probably not prettier, if the Hall they built a few years ago is any indication. Could it also be bigger? I don’t know. It depends on how they interpret their earlier undertakings – or how they choose to reinterpret them.
  • Will it impact the forest? It’s possible. In the last “fire safety” action, UCSF removed around 1,000 trees and all the understory on areas around the Aldea campus. This has made the forest in these areas much drier and less healthy, especially after drought conditions.
  • Will it impact Forest Knolls?  Now that the forest between Forest Knolls and Aldea has been thinned to the point that Aldea is easily visible from Forest Knolls, whatever  they do in Aldea will have more visual (and audible) impact on our neighborhood. What further impacts it may have I’m not sure.

Here’s the meeting announcement from UCSF. If you have concerns, it may be worth attending.

UCSF’s last Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), created in 1996, was designed to guide the university’s physical development through 2012. UCSF has embarked on its next LRDP, which has an expected planning horizon of 20 years. Community involvement is a key facet of this planning process.
This meeting will focus on the UCSF Aldea San Miguel housing complex. Information regarding past agreements with the community and current proposals within the draft LRDP will be discussed.

Date: Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Time: 6:30pm
Location: Faculty Alumni House, 745 Parnassus Avenue @ 5th Avenue, San Francisco, CA

UCSF strives to ensure maximum public involvement in this important planning process. With an open and interactive process — identifying the best ideas and ensuring that all points of view are considered.

The UCSF Faculty Alumni House can be accessed by several MUNI Lines: #6, #43 and N-Judah. Parking is available in the Kirkham Avenue parking lot near the corner of Kirkham and 5th Avenue.

UCSF fully ascribes to the Americans with Disabilities Act. If at any time you feel you have a need for accommodation, please contact UCSF Community & Government Relations at 415-476-3206 or community@cgr.ucsf.edu with your suggested accommodation.

How Many Trees to be Cut? Meeting on 21 April 2013

sutro-forest-south-view2

The San Francisco Forest Alliance  and  Save Sutro Forest  are holding a meeting on 21 April 2013 to talk about the planned felling of trees on Mount Sutro — and on Mount Davidson. These actions would gut two important urban forests near our neighborhood and irretrievably alter the landscape.

forest-girl-3aDo you want to know:

  • How many thousand trees do they plan to cut down on Mount Sutro? On Mount Davidson?
  • Who’s “They”?
  • What about Pesticide use?
  • When will this happen?

For answers to these questions and more…
Come to the San Francisco Forest Alliance meeting.

WHERE: Miraloma Park Clubhouse,  350 O’Shaughnessy Blvd,
San Francisco, CA 94127

(It’s about 2 miles from Forest Knolls.)

WHEN:  April 21st, 2013 (Sunday) – 4.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.

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

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

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

sutro-forest-south-view2

WHY WE’RE CONCERNED

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

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

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

WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO:

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

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

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

Copy (2) of sign button

——————————–

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

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

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

Mount sutro forest greenery

THE TREE REMOVAL PLAN

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

[Edited to Add:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IT GETS WORSE

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

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

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

IMPLEMENTING THIS PLAN

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

hand-drawn map not to scale

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

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

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

sutro-forest-south-view2
Why it’s called “Forest” Knolls – and described as “Marin-like”
sutro-deforested
Digitally-altered image – Forest Knolls without Sutro Forest. Maybe there’ll still be some trees left after this Plan is implemented.