More Damage for Sutro Forest

San Francisco Forest Alliance recently responded to UCSF’s Draft Environmental Impact Report consequent on changes it plans to the 2014 Long Range Development Plan. We publish that here. We also publish with permission an article from, the website that has fought to protect the forest since 2009.

First our comments:

Dear UCSF,

We were dismayed to see the planned effects of the amended LRDP, particularly on Sutro Forest.

1) Hundreds of trees will be removed for this project.

2) With the removal of Aldea Student Housing from the space ceiling, the plan is to build taller buildings – up to 96 feet high – in an area where other buildings are restricted to 40 feet. The construction space that the process of building these structures will require is likely to destroy more trees.

3) Furthermore, an oblique reference to “a completely reconfigured and redesigned site” raises the possibility that this redesigned site may no longer be a forested area at all. It will certainly lose its charming woodsy character of wood-shingled low-rise buildings.

4) The revised plan will remove an area of Sutro Forest (near Parnassus and Edgewood). In “compensation” an area that is already de facto part of the forest would be technically included in the forest.

5) In addition to the impact on Sutro Forest – the entire redwood grove on Parnassus would be felled.

The cumulative effect of all these removals on San Francisco’s shrinking tree cover is dismal. At 13.7%, San Francisco has the smallest tree canopy cover of any major city. (This percentage was calculated in 2013, and is likely even lower now with the continuing destruction of trees in Sutro Forest and elsewhere in San Francisco.)

In these times of climate change, removing trees is an environmental hazard. Furthermore, the cumulative effect on Sutro Forest is to make it drier and less self-sustaining, and thus, riskier – especially as climate change hits California harder each year. It also sacrifices all the ecosystem services provided by the trees.

We ask that these projects be revised to protect the trees.


San Francisco Forest Alliance

And now the article:


The main destruction of Sutro Forest – from the so-called “Vegetation Management Plan” of 2018 – is already underway. But a recent Draft Environmental Impact Report (Read it here: UCSF-CPHP-Draft-EIR (1) ) developed because UCSF is making significant changes to its 2014 Long Range Development Plan, presages even further damage.


The Aldea Student Housing, which is adjacent to Sutro Forest, was formerly subject to a “space ceiling” that limited construction there. Now it has been removed from the space ceiling, and UCSF plans to build dormitories up to 96 feet high in a 40-foot zone. This will involve demolishing the old buildings and putting the new ones on the same footprint – or possibly changing it all to a “completely reconfigured and redesigned site.” Either way, this is likely to destroy even more trees than the already painful Plan.

The pictures UCSF is using to mock-up the changes are already obsolete.

Almost all the trees along Clarendon Avenue and the corner of Christopher and Clarendon are gone. Trees along Christopher are likely to be felled as well. Essentially, the picture above can be visualized as bare of trees.


In addition, UCSF is removing an area at the bottom of Medical Center Way from the forest, and removing the trees from the area. (This is near Edgewood – the purple triangle with the diagonal black bars.) In “compensation” it will add back to the Open Space Reserve an area that is already part of the Reserve. (The green space with the diagonal bars, lying between the Woods parking lot and the Surge parking lot.)

In fact, in UCSF’s prior maps of Mount Sutro Reserve, that area is shown as part of the Reserve. (Something like this has happened before. An acre was taken for the Regenerative Medicine Building – and the offered compensation didn’t happen.)

Here’s a UCSF map from 2013 that shows the area as a green part of the Open Space Reserve.

UCSF will also be felling more trees as it replaces storage tanks within the foot print of the forest.

Finally, as icing on the cake – a grove of redwood trees on Parnassus are to be felled.


As the world – and California – faces climate change, carbon-sequestering trees are one of the few “easy” ways to help fight this. Not cutting down mature trees that store – and sequester – the most carbon is the first step. In addition, the Vegetation Plan for removing thousands of trees has a potential for disaster, as what was one a damp self-sustaining forest for over 130 years dries out and weakens.

San Francisco has a 13.7% tree canopy cover, the lowest of any major city in the US. That number is from 2013, and is probably smaller by now, as a lot of tree-felling is under way.

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