Glen Canyon: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

In recent weeks, neighbors and the San Francisco Forest Alliance have all faced growing confusion about what exactly was happening with Glen Canyon’s trees. Recently, the Glen Park News published an article that in our opinion only compounded the confusion by propagating some erroneous information.

[Click HERE to read that article on their website.]

We’re writing this to make sense of what’s happening thus far. (We will have continuing coverage on Glen Canyon at the dedicated website at


In 2010 and 2011, several projects were proposed for Glen Canyon (the expect timing is in brackets):
1. Rec Center, Phase 1: A renovation of the tennis court, children’s playground, a grand entrance, restroom, and a heating system for the Rec Center (scheduled for Fall 2012);
2. A  trails project through the canyon that will improve the main trail, block social trails, and cut down trees (32 trees). Native plants, way-finding signs, and fencing will be installed. (Late 2012/ early 2013.)
3. A forestry project to remove hazardous trees (2012);
4. The Significant Natural Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP, Sin-ramp) to remove 120 trees, block social trails, stop people climbing the rocks, and use pesticides to kill non-native vegetation and thickets. (After the EIR is certified, probably 2013 or 2014).
5. Recreation Center Phase II: A renovation of the actual dilapidated Rec Center, (dependent on the 2012 Parks Bond for funding).

The project now imminent is the Recreation Center Phase I.

Throughout the community process for the  project, SF RPD had mentioned 10-11 trees. These spectacular trees near the park entrance were dear to many neighbors, and their removal was contentious enough.


In June 2012, long after the community meetings had concluded, SF RPD announced that it would remove 70 trees, not 10 or 11 trees of them. The additional 60 trees, they declared, were hazardous. But when we obtained the March 2012 report of SFRPD’s hired arborist, it was apparent that only 1 tree slated for removal was considered hazardous. Another 14 were dead or dying. The remainder fell into a category called “Poor suitability”, a grab-bag of criteria including “invasiveness” – a code word in the Natural Areas program for non-native vegetation occupying space they wanted to take over for Native Plants.

Hort’s March 2012 report evaluated 627 trees throughout the park, and recommended removing a total of 247 of them – most for poor suitability. [We wrote about that HERE.]


For the Trails project, Hort recommended removing 32 more trees. And we already knew that the SinRamp asked for 120 tree removals. Trees under 15 feet wouldn’t even count as trees and could be removed without notice.

No one we met in the park had any idea about the extent of deforestation proposed for the canyon. On September 15, the 30-day removal notices went up on dozens of trees within the Rec Center Phase 1 project area. We requested the Parks Commission to separate out the tree-felling portion for further community discussion, but they refused. We planned a meeting to provide information. Volunteers distributed flyers all over Glen Park. It was standing-room only, and the audience voiced concerns not just about the trees, but the actual community decision process. The report on that meeting is HERE.

The meeting was followed by a street demonstration; over 30 people – double the number we anticipated – stood in the drizzle with signs protesting the tree removal. [Report and photographs HERE.]

None of this moved the SF RPD. On October 15th, the last day possible, a neighbor filed an appeal that Paused the project. This will be heard November 14th 15th at 5:00 pm at City Hall, Room 416. If it is denied, the tree-cutting can start soon after. [Edited to correct the date and add the time and place. The public can attend this hearing and comment.]


Recently, we got a new report from Hort, dated October 1, 2012. It’s quite different from the old one.

The Hort Report Changed in October 2012

Instead of recommending 247 trees for cutting in the vicinity of the Rec Center project, it “only” proposes felling 117. (Actually we got this new report from the Glen Park News blog. SFRPD gave it to us only on Oct 25th.)


However, we’re still looking at around 300 trees to be felled when all the projects are completed perhaps by 2014.

  • This new report still doesn’t clarify why certain trees have been chosen for cutting and others in similar condition preserved. Only 1 tree [recommended for removal] in the Rec Center project area is Hazardous (i.e. a risk-rating of 9 on a 3-12 point scale). Another 10 or so have a rating of 8. [We wrote about that HERE.] What about the remaining 46 or 47?
  • Rec & Park still hasn’t held the requested community meeting and walkthrough to explain the real justification for removing other trees – even though they know that neighbors are extremely concerned about tree removal. Instead, they’ve tried to bluff the community with two false statements: That the trees are hazardous, and that they will be replanting 163 replacement trees.
  • Furthermore, outside the Rec Center project area, the report identifies another 13 High Risk trees to be removed, and 9 other High Risk trees to be pruned and otherwise remediated – but that’s not happening now, leaving us wondering, what are SFRPD’s priorities where safety is concerned?


What we find disturbing are the myths and accusations being disseminated now. Here are four that we’d like to specifically respond to:

  • “SFForest is exaggerating the tree removal by calling it ‘Deforestation'”

[See this article in the Glen Park News: “Deforestation or Restoration?”]  In fact, at the time we circulated the “deforestation” flyers in September 2012, the arborist’s first report (March 2012) recommended cutting down nearly 40% of the trees they evaluated. Even now, around 300 trees likely to be removed in the next 2-3 years – starting as early as next month – and concentrated in specific areas. Those areas will in fact be deforested.

  • “The trees are hazardous and SFForest is obstructing the removal of dangerous trees.”

Except, as we’ve shown, it’s not true. Only a handful of trees are actually hazardous according to the SFRPD’s own arborist using a standard rating system. [Again, a detailed analysis is HERE.] SFForest strongly favors dealing with hazardous trees. We don’t understand SF RPD’s priorities in planting Native plant gardens while at least 22 trees with a high hazard rating continue unremediated.

  • “SFForest is wrong that the ‘Reforestation’ of 163 trees is mostly bushes and small trees.”

A flannel bush is not a tree

They refute our contention that most of what is planted would be bushes and small trees.  In the Glen Park News blog, SFRPD’s Karen Mauney-Brodek said they were planting trees: “They range in size up to 100 feet at maturity.” But we obtained the Plan (dated May 2012) for this planting under the Sunshine Act. It only lists 116 trees, not 163. Of those, 40 are actually bushes (e.g., flannel bush and gooseberry). Another 38 are small trees, around 25 feet tall at maturity. Only 38 trees will exceed 40 feet at maturity, and the only ones that will grow up to 100 feet are the cottonwoods. How many of those are they planting? Well, six. [We wrote about that HERE.]

  • “It’s got nothing to do with the Natural Areas Program (NAP).” 

They say we’re conflating this project with the Natural Areas Program, but they’re not connected. In fact, the Natural Areas boundary actually takes in much of the area north of the Rec Center and east of it, where many of the trees are to be felled. (See map on Page 26 of the PDF document on the Natural Areas in Glen Canyon) Except for a few non-native trees (e.g. Mayten and Tristania), nearly all the plants in the Master Planting Plan are native plants and shrubs. So it’s felling non-native trees in an area within the Natural Areas Program boundary, and planting native plants there.  How is this isolated from the Natural Areas Program?

[Edited to Add: More about that issue in this article from Natural Areas Program Under the Radar]


The community cares passionately about the canyon and its trees and ecosystem. Instead of considering the public as foes and battling us with bluffs, SF RPD should respond to legitimate concerns. We’ve heard from many people who were present at community meetings that their concerns were ignored and the break-out session format left them voiceless. This is not a good time to continue with treating neighbors as a public relations problem, rather than engaging in conversation.

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2 Responses to Glen Canyon: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

  1. Pingback: Saving the Trees of Glen Canyon Park | Save Mount Sutro Forest

  2. Joel Schipper says:

    Here is my protest letter to the Board of Appeals (sent today 11/3 via USPS)

    Dear Board,
    I am protesting the proposed plan for the Glen Canyon Recreation Center Project in that it will cause the felling of nearly 60 trees, many over 100 feet tall, when only about 10-11 need to be removed for safety according to the arborist’s report.
    In addition, the on-going work will remove at least a total of about 117 trees in the vicinity of the Rec Center project area, and there is no response from Rec & Park to the community, other than clearly misleading and inaccurate YouTube video’s.
    Only 6 of the proposed replacement trees will ever reach 100 feet – those are the cottonwoods. The rest will be under 40 feet at maturity, and many (about 40) are actually just bushes. This is a very unfair replacement.
    In addition, Rec & Park is using and planning to use dangerous pesticides to remove these trees, in areas frequented by walkers, dogs, and small children, all of whom will be exposed to chemicals that are otherwise banned for use in San Francisco. If I can’t use them in my yard, why can Rec & Park use them?
    In a city that doesn’t have the money to maintain the trees on the street, why are our tax dollars being used to cut down good trees in the parks? This is insane, and should not be allowed.
    Thank you for listening.

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