Why I Favor UCSF Over the Mount Sutro “Cloud” “Forest” NIMBYs: #1 – UCSF Does Stuff, the NIMBYs Don’t

UCSF is finally getting off its ass and doing something about all those eucalyptus trees and this is the response?

I cry foul.

Now, leaving aside the fact that the Mount Sutro “cloud forest” aint a cloud forest and it aint a forest* neither, UCSF does stuff.

What do the whiny millionaire NIMBY neighbors of UCSF do? Nothing.

Advantage: UCSF.

Of course, there are impoverished hippies who similarly oppose UCSF doing anything to manage this area, so I’m going to look into this when I can.

But the assumption is:


See? UCSF does stuff. What do YOU do? 

Click to expand

To Be Continued…

*What is it really? A stand, a grove, a wood? (Which is the most insulting?) Alls I know is that Christopher Robin used to play in the Hundred Acre Wood, not the Hundred Acre Forest, right?

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18 Responses to “Why I Favor UCSF Over the Mount Sutro “Cloud” “Forest” NIMBYs: #1 – UCSF Does Stuff, the NIMBYs Don’t”

  1. George says:

    So you advocate them cutting down all the trees and building condos?

    Because that must be the plan! :(

  2. sfcitizen says:

    People wanted an EIR, UCSF has an EIR.

    Sutro planted this grove of eucs to save money on taxes, partly. We’ll see how it goes…

  3. savesutro says:

    Hi SFCitizen!

    We like UCSF too, for the stuff it does. Some of us were even the ones *doing* the stuff for UCSF during long and productive careers there.

    Sutro was a philanthropist who planted trees because he loved them. (See: http://sutroforest.com/a-historic-forest/ ) He left the city his home on Sutro Heights as a garden. He never meant for the forest to be cut, but after he died, his Will was broken. Logging started, as did the building of many neighborhoods on the westside.

    But that’s moot. Sutro Forest now is something beautiful that people care about and want to preserve. We get that you might not see it the same way. If you’re looking for names to call it, we offer Fimrite’s Forest.

    UCSF is a public institution, and responsible to the public. We admire UCSF’s work in the field of medicine. We disagree with its plans to “manage” the forest. We think there’s a substantial difference between 740 trees per acre and 50 trees per acre.

    If it weren’t for neighbors rising up, there would be no Open Space Reserve. It was set up in 1976 in response to huge NIMBY movement that stopped UCSF from spreading into the Inner Sunset. That put expansion curbs on the Parnassus campus, including a space ceiling of 3.55 mn square feet, an undertaking not to acquire properties in the neighborhoods around Parnassus – and the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.

  4. Sutro Forest neighbor says:

    Despite all the sky-is-falling warnings from the Save Sutro Forest group, UCSF’s management plan is a well thought out initiative to prevent the forest (well, that’s what we all call it) from being a sterile monoculture and fire trap.

    The one thing that the plan needs to add is a formal review process after the four “demonstration projects” are complete, including public input at that stage.

    Right now large areas of forest are populated solely by dense stands of mostly unhealthy blue gum eucalyptus, with a thick ground cover of ivy. Reducing the density of the forest will allow a much broader variety of native flora, which will support a broader variety of insects, birds and animals. Also, this will make for healthier growth of the remaining young eucalyptus, so that they can replace the older trees in time.

    It’s not that “Save Sutro Forest” has no legitimate concerns, but they don’t help their case by painting the plan as clear-cutting 90% of Sutro Forest.

  5. sfcitizen says:

    Uh, tax dodge? I think that was a factor.

    Uh, he also gave land to UC, right? And UC bought this land, right?

    I Didn’t say that some people don’t want it to stay the same.

    I’d call the whole shebang a wood. If you’re talking about the uecs on UC property, I’d call then a stand or a grove, perhaps. It’s not a forest, IRL. And it’s not a cloud forest. And it’s not old-growth, obviously.

    Not saying there’s not a difference between 50 and 740 trees.

    If UC wanted to expand in that area, that’d have been fine.

    You NIMBY’s are rich, right? Why not make UC an offer?

  6. sfcitizen says:

    All right, a review after the demo projects – that doesn’t sound crazy.

    Yeah, I saw that UC calls it a forest as well. I’ll call it a wood or a grove…

    thx for commenting.

  7. savesutro says:

    Hmm. Interesting discussion.

    @Neighbor: It’s not a monoculture, any more than Muir Woods is a monoculture. It’s a forest dominated by eucalyptus, but it actually has nearly 100 plant species. It’s not a fire hazard now, but it could be made into one if the forest is thinned and grasses and other flammable plants grow beneath it. http://sutroforest.com/increasing-the-fire-hazard/

    There’s no evidence at all that native plants support more wildlife. “Thinning” this forest will destroy an existing ecosystem. There’s also conflicting views about the health of the forest; two Certified Arborists and a professional forest ecologist have testified that it is healthy considered as a forest – i.e., it has a natural population including trees that are strong, some that are struggling, some that are dead or dying. A naturalized forest “self-thins” – the weakest trees die, leaving the trees that are best-adapted to the particular spot in which they grow.

    Even the *demo projects* will take out thousands of trees.

    @SFCitizen: AFAIK, the intent was beauty. On Mt D, Stanford owned the east side and didn’t plant it because he planned to build on it. Sutro owned the west side, and planted trees for beauty. He basically planted right down to Ocean Ave, 1100 acres. Mt Sutro and Mt D are all that’s left. He did donate 13 acres to UCSF. (His daughter studied medicine.) UCSF bought the rest. Let’s not get into a nomenclature issue: It *functions* as a cloud forest; and we know its age – around 120 years. It has some of the characteristics of an old-growth forest (where it’s untouched).

    Opponents of the Plan come from all walks of life, retired professionals to nearly-broke students and workers. AFAIK, none are wealthy enough to make UCSF an offer. We only wish!

    Thanks for starting this discussion, SFCitizen.

  8. savesutro says:

    One more comment – about the 90% of the trees.

    Sutro Neighbor, here’s how we figured it out: The density is 740 trees/acre now on average. After “thinning” it will be around 50 trees per acre. That’s losing over 90% of the trees on each acre that they “thin.”

    Initially, they plan to do 7.5 acres, taking out around 3,000+ trees. Then they’ll take public comments.

    Then they’ll go on to the remaining forest, and take out 90% of that – except for 15 acres that will be untouched on the Western slopes above Inner Sunset where they will remove 0% of the trees.

  9. sfcitizen says:

    All right, but it’s UCSF land and they have an EIR, right?

    If the board of supes doubled property taxes on forested land back in the day instead of halving taxes, would that have affected his actions? I think so.

    I think what you do is to plant eucs to get started and then changed things up after a while. That’s what’s happening here, it looks like.

  10. Sutro Forest neighbor says:

    @savesutro: In relation to your “90%” claim, I’d like to check that you did notice in the 1999 management plan that the figure of 740 trees/acre is clearly stated as including many very small trees, and that only 280 trees per acre are estimated to be above 12 inches in diameter?

    Sure, a sapling is still a tree by one definition, but I think the public gets a false impression when you say 90% of the trees will be felled. The demonstration projects relate to 7.5 acres out of 61. Looking at trees above 12 inches in diameter, the demonstration projects appear to propose felling maybe 1600 trees at a maximum out of a total of more than 16,000 12-inch-plus trees in the forest, so it appears that “10% felling” would be a more accurate statement.

    @sfcitizen: The EIR includes a great mini-history of how the site was managed before, during and after Sutro’s ownership (see “Cultural Landscape Evaluation Report”). It seems that Sutro’s decision to cover the hill in trees was part of a long-standing afforestation drive that may have its roots in an 1865 “paper by the Reverend Frederick Starr in the report of the Department of Agriculture that ‘predicted a timber famine within 30 years’ “.

    Sutro was a sponsor of Calfornia’s first arbor day in 1886. And by 1896 his workers had planted “eucalyptus in variety, pines, cypress,
    acacias, ash, beech and maple” over all the highest peaks in the city. As we all know, the eucalyptus proved a lot more successful than all the other species.

    The site was stuck in court disputes for 20 years after Sutro’s death and then passed to his daughter Rosa Morbio, who sold it to UCSF in 1953. During this period, the research for the EIR found references to fires in the forest in 1899, 1917, 1918, 1929, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1942 and 1948.

    [64MB EIR here: http://campusplanning.ucsf.edu/pdf/Mount_Sutro_EIR_1-18-13_with_Appendices.pdf ]

  11. savesutro says:

    @Sutro Neighbor:

    Thanks for all the information. It’s a naturalized forest, so it’s expected that some species will do better than others depending on terrain and microclimate, and also that some trees will do better than others. Some will die as the forest “self-thins” – that is, the weakest trees die. A natural forest, like a natural population, has trees in a variety of conditions. They’re all part of the population – or the forest.

    In terms of the “10% thinning”: that would be true if all the work that was ever going to be done was the 7.5 acres of Demonstration Areas. But they are for *demonstration* – which implies they’re a sample of the larger project, which, as we know from the DEIR, is to extend to all except 15 acres. In any case, it would be 90% thinning on 7.5 acres – not 10% thinning across the whole forest.

  12. Lydia says:

    Does anybody know who wrote this? I would love to know how long they have lived in SF, because I am so fed up with self-righteous non-natives (ha ha) thinking they are entitled to change our city. I have yet to find any fellow San Franciscans who do not either love the trees, or are indifferent. If I can find one I would love to discuss it with them though.

  13. sfcitizen says:


    Objection, relevance.

    It’s UCSF land – you are free to sue them whether or not you were born here, of course.

  14. Lydia says:

    uhhh…I can’t quite find the relevance in that myself bro.

    I happen to have worked for UCSF and have multiple family members who have worked there for decades, so yeah not planning on suing anytime soon. Even people who hold the most prominent positions in their departments, alas, are as mystified as I am about the university’s reasoning. Turns out they like the trees too, and surprise! all that “stuff” (??uh) they do up there is actually not affected by the trees outside!!

    On another note, please take a moment to consider my point of view. When I think about that forest not being there anymore I tear up, every time. I have looked at those trees every day, appreciated that we have the privilege of forest in the middle of a city. Would you appreciate it if somebody waltzed into your home town/city and decided that a feature of it should be gotten rid of. Suddenly, a piece of your home that had never been an issue before, would be gone.

    I love my city so much, why do you think it needs to be changed? And please leave UCSF out of it (unless you are privy to the mystery).

    oh and please don’t blame the “fire hazard” cop out, we all know that’s bullshit get real.

  15. sfcitizen says:

    I guess “my home” would be my propertah. Sutro “Forest” – the bulk of it – is UCSF propertah. Why should they do what you want with their propertah?

    Perhaps you could indemnify UCSF from fire damage over the next 100 years? What would that cost?

  16. Lydia says:

    Whatever dude. I don’t know why you are so vehement about the property fact. I know it’s their property, and they will do whatever they want in the end. That forest is just really important to me, and so many others. The day that we have a climate that would be capable of drying out the forest enough to facilitate such a calamity, I’d be right there supporting whatever needed to be done. I just don’t buy it. Not to mention how much more likely fires would be with less trees and more space for encampments and (!) probably some campfires…

    It would be great if you could try to empathize the with those of us whose lives are actually connected to that place, and the importance of the forests to our city.

    I am sorry if I have offended you, this is just a far bigger issue than “property” to so many of us and it makes me sad if you really can’t see that.

  17. sfcitizen says:

    You have a vote, I have a vote, right? Or, actually, you have a say and I have a say. We don’t have to agree.

    People wanted an EIR, they got an EIR, after years and years. What are we waiting for now?

  18. savesutro says:

    Again, thanks for hosting this discussion. Two more points: First. Yes, it’s UCSF property, but it *is* a public institution, responsive to public opinion. (Also, just because your home is your property doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. If you want to make changes, you need permits, and your neighbors get their say. You have to post notices to tell them what you want to do, and they can protest if they choose.) Second. All those fires? They took place when the forest was thin or thinned. There was tree felling there after Sutro’s death. They eventually stopped the logging because of the fires. What UCSF’s plan would do is recreate those conditions – drier, and much more windy. It’s a bad plan. What we’re waiting for is for UCSF to respond to the tons of comments they got on the EIR.

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