Also gone – the tall trees that lined Clarendon Avenue in front of the Aldea San Miguel UCSF student housing.
I remember a time when you couldn’t even see the fence from the street. When UCSF thinned the vegetation there many years ago, they promised plantings that would conceal the chain link fence. Well, they planted some vines, but the concealment didn’t happen.
The chain-link fence is more prominent than ever.
And across the road, a swath of trees adjacent to the homes on Clarendon have been felled too, I think by SF Rec and Parks (or possibly Sutro Tower, not sure).
Over the last decade, we have lost a lot of the glorious trees that made Forest Knolls a community surrounded by forest. I’m glad I had a chance to see them in their former beauty.
I attended a meeting at UCSF’s Milberry Union last evening, 20 March 2019.
UCSF is rejigging its plans for Parnassus. After spending the last many years focused on its new location at Mission Bay, they want to come back to where it all started: Parnassus. They’re planning a new hospital by 2029, which will comply with new seismic codes. Beyond that, they want to improve the aesthetics of the Parnassus experience – create a sense of entry, strengthen the connection to Golden Gate Park and Mount Sutro, and build more space. They have a community group working on it, with mostly Inner Sunset residents and UCSF staff. (The list is here as a PDF: UCSF_Parnassus_Heights_Roster )
NEW PLANS FOR ALDEA
For those who aren’t aware of it, UCSF’s Aldea Student Housing adjoins Forest Knolls to the north just above Christopher Drive from Clarendon Avenue to where the forest is cut for the pipeline.
Among the plans to expand housing for students and staff, they are considering rebuilding the student housing at Aldea, from 171 units now to 500+ units when the project concludes. Aldea used to be subject to the “space ceiling” (explained in this post: UCSF’s Space Ceiling Saga) but apparently in 2014, the UC Regents decided to exempt it – as with all the other student housing.
To do this, they plan to replace their current, mostly 3-storied buildings, with 5-8 story buildings. They will probably start with the oldest ones, which are nearest to Forest Knolls.
For our neighborhood, it raises several questions:
Parking. As it is, a lot of UCSF people park in Forest Knolls and Midtown Terrace because of inadequate parking at Aldea and Parnassus. If the number of units at Aldea triples, what happens to parking?
Traffic. Aldea gives on to Clarendon at an awkward spot, just before the wide road up from Laguna Honda turns into the narrow one joining Twin Peaks Boulevard. Right now, Aldea doesn’t generate much traffic. But if it’s going to be housing 500 families? This is an area with NO amenities within walking distance – even a gallon of milk is a car-ride away. The connections to MUNI are also dismal. The only thing they have is the UCSF shuttle, down to Parnassus.
Aesthetics. Aldea is adjacent to Forest Knolls on the north. Right now, the Aldea buildings are low-key, low-rise shingled buildings partially hidden by trees. With plans for major tree removal as part of the “Vegetation Management Plan” for Mount Sutro, these buildings will be much more visible. The most recent structure at Aldea, the community center, is not very reassuring in terms of aesthetic inspiration. (See the boxy structure in the picture below.)
Time Line. I didn’t get a clear sense of the time-line on Aldea. There’s something on the last slide that suggests 2025 as the target date, which means they will move quickly. As a state organization, they don’t need city permission, and are exempt from the usual constraints on building.
I’m uploading a bunch of pictures I took of the presentation. They said that they would be putting it on their website, so hopefully you can get better quality pictures there soon. (I might download it here if it’s feasible.)
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.
The Sutro Stewards and UCSF are going ahead with plans to build the Clarendon connector trail, which would run inside the screen of trees that divides Forest Knolls from UCSF’s Aldea Housing. This is, coincidentally, the area that was severely thinned in August 2013. (Before picture above, after picture below.) This means that the actual trail probably will cause less destruction than it would have before. They hope to finish it by November 2016.
The trail would start on the Clarendon- Christopher corner, go into the narrow alley behind the pump house and fence, and continue on parallel to Christopher. (That’s the orange line on the map below.)
They’re also going to punch a new trail through on the South Ridge (the purple squiggly line), in addition to the Quarry Road Trail that was built with no notice to the community. These trails would not be bad, except that they always end up destroying trees – if not immediately, a year or two later when tree lining the trail are declared hazardous. Over 1500 trees have been removed since 2013, with around 350 being felled this last winter. There’s such a thing as too many trails for a 63-acre forest.
NEW TRAIL HEAD PLANNED
On March 14th, they had a meeting to design a formal new trail head at Clarendon x Christopher. (The red labels aren’t original to the picture, they’re just to orient you.)
The initial designs showed a seating area of granite, a kiosk with maps and signs, and gravel. The idea was to provide a well-marked entrance to the forest from the UCSF side (there is already one from the Stanyan side) that would avoid the campus, connect to new trails across Clarendon Avenue being built by San Francisco Recreation and Parks (SFRPD) near Sutro Tower, and have street parking available since UCSF has no plans to provide additional parking for this. They were looking for public input on what they wanted at the Trail Head.
Some of the ideas – seating, some kind of shelter from the wind that blows up Clarendon, a water-fountain, an earthen berm along the Christopher side to provide wind protection, permeable pavers on the ground instead of gravel.
So far, no funds have been set aside for this. It seems to be a fund-raising opportunity for the Sutro Stewards, who plan to write grant proposals for the money. UCSF may provide some funding too, but it is unclear how much. The team – the Sutro Stewards, and Julie Sutton of UCSF, seemed to want people to think big. Maybe that would justify a bigger grant?
CONNECTING TO OTHER SFRPD TRAILS
Lisa Wayne of SFRPD attended, to show how the new trail would link to three other trail projects SFRPD is working on: The Creeks-to-Peaks Trail from Glen Canyon to Twin Peaks (already being built); the plan to turn half of the figure 8 on Twin Peaks into a bicycle/ pedestrian area by restricting cars to the other half (in design); and trails to connect Twin Peaks to Mount Sutro via trails past Sutro Tower (yellow dotted line below – in planning).
She’s hoping to get work started this summer, for an opportunity to use VOCAL volunteers. Hope this doesn’t mean cutting down trees in the nesting season. Actually, not cutting down trees at all would be better, but trees are apparently the casualty of every SFRPD project, especially near any “Natural Area.”
CONNECTING TO THE BAY AREA RIDGE TRAIL
Several people from the Bay Area Ridge Trail group came, and Bern Smith spoke about how this new trail would connect to other trails and become part of a 550-mile trail system around the Bay.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR FOREST KNOLLS?
Quite aside from such issues as tree removal and thinning of the forest, this project will practically be part of our neighborhood. On the one hand, if there’s enough seating, it might make a picnic or gathering spot for a neighborhood that doesn’t have one. On the other – could this mean parking problems on nice days?
UCSF is taking comments. You can send them to Christine Gasparac: firstname.lastname@example.org
COMMENTS AT THE MEETING
The gallery below shows the comments from people at the meeting – which included a few members of the public, but no neighborhood representatives. If you click on the pictures, they should become legible.
I just got an email from Christine Gasparac, the Community Relations officer at UCSF saying they’re offering a free dental clinic for kids on Feb 21, 2015. I’m sharing it here in case any parents among you are interested.
Students and faculty from the UCSF School of Dentistry will be offering free dental services – screenings, sealants, and fluoride treatments – for kids 4-17 on Saturday, February 21 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. The screening satisfies the K-1 school oral assessment requirement.
What: Give Kids A Smile Day (ages 4-17)
When: Saturday, February 21, 2015 (9:00 AM to 4:00 PM)
Where: UCSF School of Dentistry, 707 Parnassus Avenue @ 4th Avenue (served by MUNI lines 6, 43, 66, N-Judah)
Questions: mailto: CPHAN@UCSF@gmail.com https://www.facebook.com/ucsfCPHAN
UCSF is offering an open house at its Fitness Center – with free workouts – through January 10, 2015. They’re also offering free enrollments any time in January. Here’s their message:
Happy New Year. UCSF’s Fitness Center is holding an open house event this week that is open to our neighbors. The Fitness Center is offering free workouts now through January 10. If you become a member in January, there is no enrollment fee. Learn more at http://bit.ly/transform2015.
The Fitness Center is located in Millberry Union at 500 Parnassus Avenue.
If you have questions, you can call them at 476-0348.
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.
UCSF 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 inforestry, 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.
Dr 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.
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.