San Francisco Cutting Down its Ancient Trees – Lake Merced

Though San Francisco’s tree cover is inadequate by the standards of any major city, it is fortunate to have a lot of old trees – many of them over 100 years old. Unfortunately, instead of treasuring these trees – it’s cutting them down. 2019 was a bad year for our trees.


The tall trees around Lake Merced not only add to its beauty, they provide valuable habitat. Cormorants and herons have been nesting there for years.


The trees and bushes lining the road protect the lake from the pollution and noise from the motor traffic on the road – which is likely to increase as an alternate route to bypass the Great Highway.


But – the city has been felling these trees nevertheless. There’s been clearcutting in areas along the roads surrounding the lake.

When we took these pictures, some cormorants were flying back and forth, carrying twigs, perhaps seeking a nesting site that was no longer there. Are these remaining trees along the road also doomed?

Meanwhile, pesticides are going to be used on the stumps of the trees that have already been destroyed.

Pesticide notice on one of the trees that wasn’t felled

This was a majestic tree before it was felled. Lake Merced, San Francisco CA

The nativist sentiment that drives a lot of the antipathy toward eucalyptus is based on  number of myths. The myths about eucalyptus we’ve been trying to counter for years. See HERE for Eucalyptus Myths.

In fact, Lake Merced’s trees have been under attack for years. As far back as 2012, we took these pictures of trees felled inside the park.


It’s not as though San Francisco is so heavily forested that it can afford to wantonly destroy its trees, especially the mature well-established ones. Its tree cover is only 13.7%, less than any major city.

Graph showing urban tree canopy cover in major US cities

San Francisco Has the Least Canopy Cover of any Major US City

In fact, even the city government admits that, in the Planning Department’s Urban Forest Plan.

Small and Shrinking Tree Canopy
San Francisco has one of the smallest tree canopies of any major U.S. city.
San Francisco was naturally a non-forested environment with fewer trees than east coast or other forested environments. Today, the City’s urban tree canopy (13.7%), measured by the amount of land covered by trees when viewed from above, is one of the smallest of any large U.S. city – less than Los Angeles (21%), Chicago (17%) and New York City (24%) – and unfortunately, it’s on the decline. New plantings are not keeping pace with tree removals and mortality, while tens of thousands of potential street tree planting spaces remain empty.”

Cutting down healthy and mature trees is certainly one of the reasons that this tree canopy is shrinking instead of growing.


This entry was posted in Fells Trees and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.