UCSF has been in the news recently for their forest management plan at Mt. Sutro. Last Monday night there was a public meeting about UCSF’s proposal to manage the open space reserve, which in total covers about 61 acres of land.
If you believe UCSF, then you’ll take their Director of Community Relations, Barbara Bagot-Lopez, at her word when she says:
“We are developing a management plan to keep the forest beautiful, accessible to the community, healthy as a forest and safe for our community and for our neighbors’ homes…”
However, if you don’t believe UCSF, then you will probably turn to the draft environmental impact report, which envisions clearing a maximum of 60% of the estimated 45,000 trees in the Mt. Sutro open space reserve. For those of you who aren’t so good at math, 60% of 45,000 is about 27,000 trees!
The point of contention is the Blue Gum Eucalyptus trees, a non-native species that is very hardy and wind resistant, and was planted all over San Francisco in previous decades. The current thinking is that substantial thinning of the Eucalyptus trees allows native plants to regain a foothold in the ecosystem, and that thinning the Eucalyptus trees would also significantly reduce the fire danger.
I live near the Mt. Sutro open space reserve and enjoy hiking through it on a regular basis. It truly is a gem of a location, an oasis of trees and nature located in the geographic heart of the city. My experience with UCSF is that regardless of what they say about wanting to be a good neighbor, at the end of the day UCSF is going to do what is best for UCSF, and they will gladly throw local neighbors and residents under the proverbial bus if neighborhood interests don’t align with the desires of UCSF.
That might sound harsh, but to take but one example, when UCSF became a smoke-free campus, it forced all of the smokers off campus and onto neighborhood streets that are now littered with cigarette butts, not to mention the blowing smoke from smokers congregating together. In short, their solution to their problem was to drive the smokers off of their property and make it the neighborhoods problem.
But don’t worry, because being the good neighbor they are, UCSF put up banners along Parnassus that say: Peace, Love, No Smoking. Which did absolutely nothing to alleviate litter or other neighborhood problems.
So when UCSF claims to be interested in forest management for the sake of the community, I’m not buying it. My hunch is that cutting trees is the cheapest way for UCSF to make sure their forest doesn’t burn down their hospitals or other campus buildings. I’m not at all convinced that it is in the best interest of the reserve, although I do certainly support efforts to re-introduce native species.
What are your thoughts?