Disturbing Story of the Mt Davidson Bench

Here’s the story of the Mount Davidson Eagle Scout bench, from its sudden removal by the Natural Areas Program, to the silly lie included in the Environmental Impact Report on the Natural Resource Areas Management Plan.  The Natural Area Program’s disregard for the public is illustrated at every twist and turn along the way.

Once upon a time, there was a nice little bench on Mt. Davidson.  It was built by Boy Scouts.  It wasn’t much, but people liked it and it was well used.

benchphoto1

THIS IS THE BENCH THE SCOUTS BUILT

Then one day the bench disappeared.  Who were the vandals?

It turns out it was actually the work of our RPD Natural Areas Program.  When people complained they received this response from NAP management:

To: XXXXXXXXXXX
CC: XXXXXXXXXXXX; Lisa.Wayne@sfgov.org
Subject: Re: Bench missing on Mt. Davidson
From: Christopher.Campbell@sfgov.org
Date: Thu, 27 May 2010 08:42:45 -0700

Hello XXXXXX,

The bench that you’re referring to was installed by the Recreation and Park Natural Areas Program. It was installed a number of years ago on this site to take advantage of the views, beauty and serenity of the plateau. We monitored the use of the bench and it unfortunately became an attractive nuisance. The secluded location was a draw for night time drinking and smoking. Bottles were thrown down the hill slope and most often broke, causing a hazard for both animals and people. Secondly the bench became a draw for commercial dog walkers, at times with more than 12 dogs in the area at once. This activity resulted in trampling of this sensitive slope, disturbance of wildlife and the creation of trails around the bench. One of the trails remains in the grassland below the bench location. After consideration we concluded it was best to remove this bench.

Over the coming year we will evaluate the installation of benches city-wide. This will be done in correlation with a natural areas trail project . Due to the activities associated with this bench we unfortunately do not have intentions to re-install one on the lower plateau at Mount Davidson.

Sorry for the disappointment this may bring,

Christopher Campbell
Natural Areas Program

 

Why does NAP management take credit for installing this popular bench?  They had nothing to do with it.  Why did they remove it?  Because people liked it and it attracted them to this area of the park. Clearly the NAP does not want us in their Natural Areas.

storyphoto2

THIS IS THE BENCH THAT WAS UNDER THE TREE THE NATIVISTS KILLED

After much pressure, the NAP finally installed a replacement bench a bit higher up the mountain.  For some reason they sited it right under a dead tree.  In fact, it was a tree they had killed by girdling some years earlier.  Given the NAP’s zeal for removing even slightly hazardous trees along its “trail Improvement” projects, it seems especially odd they would site a popular amenity directly under this tree.

Can you guess what happened next?  The tree fell over right across the bench.  Thankfully no one was sitting there at the time.

benchphoto3

In the photo below you can see where a wide ring of bark was cut away to kill the tree.

benchphoto4

It appears when the facts don’t suit the writers of the EIR, they substitute other “facts.”

That brings us to today.  The final Environmental Impact Report for the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP) has been released.  In the section addressing public comments made during review of the draft EIR the bench makes another appearance. (page 4-340)  In response to questions raised by the public about the removal of benches from NAP areas, some specifically citing the Mt Davidson bench, the NAP offers the following response,

“These comments refer to prohibition benches and the removal of a bench at Mt. Davidson Park. In 2011, SFRPD removed a bench on the northern portion of Mt. Davidson because it was rotting and unsafe for sitting. In late 2012, SFRPD installed a replacement bench close to where the unsafe bench had been located.”

“rotting and unsafe for sitting”?.  That is a bold lie.  How many other items in the SNRAMP EIR are based on fabrications like this? (Quite a few)

Claiming the original was unsafe and installing a replacement right under a tree they purposefully killed – That is disturbingly ironic.

benchphoto5

 

This little story is just the tip of the iceberg.

See the rest of the problems with the SNRAMP EIR at:
https://sfforest.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/arguments-against-certification-of-snramp-eir.pdf

Additional coments against EIR organized on CA Environmental Quality Act Criteria

Hands Off Mt Davidson’s Forest – Take it Away from NAP

San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s Natural Areas Program (NAP) plans to remove 1/3 (10 acres) of the mature and healthy forest on Mount Davidson. We think the 30-acre forested area of the mountain should be removed from NAP’s control to prevent this destruction. The forest should be managed by professional foresters, like those in the Presidio, not gardeners.

In June, 3 years ago, U.C. Berkeley Forestry Management Professor Dr. Joe R. McBride (pdf link: MtDavidson_McBride_Ginsburg(06-29-13)) wrote about his inspection of the Mt Davidson forest, concluding that the Natural Areas Program’s  Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP) for the removal and thinning of different portions of the eucalyptus plantation on Mt. Davidson is NOT justified.

He noted that the forest serves an important role in the history and visual characteristics of the city. Trees and the existing understory provide habitat for wildlife and wind protection for walkers.

mt davidson forest - hiker on trail

Summary of Dr. McBride’s letter to Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the SF Recreation & Park Dept (parent Department of Natural Areas Program (NAP)):

1) Historic importance and Visual Value.
The eucalyptus forest on Mount Davidson was planted under the direction of Adolph Sutro, philanthropist and former Mayor of San Francisco. The hilltops covered in eucalyptus trees and Monterey cypresses are a distinctive feature of San Francisco’s landscape. They’re been there for a hundred years and are an important historical heritage.

2) Eucalyptus is not invasive.
The Plan frequently refers to these trees as “invasive.” Prof. McBride’s studies indicate that eucalyptus does not invade adjacent grasslands; and this is also obviously true on Mt Davidson, where a stable boundary exists between the forested and unforested areas. [In fact, the California Invasive Plant Council, which had earlier considered eucalyptus as moderately invasive downshifted this classification in April 2015 to “Limited.]

3) Eucalyptus groves are biodiverse.
Eucalyptus groves are richer habitats for vertebrates than either redwood or Monterey cypress/pine forest; and are similar to dry chaparral and grasslands.

4) More Pesticides.
Removing the number of trees shown in the Plan will expose the ground to more light than existing understory plants can tolerate. In the disturbed ground and increase light conditions, existing exotic species will proliferate and will have to be controlled by using even more pesticides.

5) Increased wind-throw and breakage of remaining trees.
Removing trees in this windy area will affect the trees that remain, which are not wind-hardened. More trees will go down.

6) Reducing a wind-break.
This is a very windy part of the city, with winds blowing in straight from the ocean. Walking recreationally on Mt Davidson will be a less pleasant experience.

7) Reduction in habitat.
The Plan’s assumption that birds will quickly adjust to removal of 1600 trees is unfounded. Many birds return to the same nesting site each year. Cutting down large numbers of trees displaces these birds, and also causes a great deal of disturbance. Bird protection plans usually call for a 300-foot radius of protected area around a nest.

Girdled tree Mount Davidson

Girdled tree Mount Davidson

8) The forest is healthy.
The dead trees in the forest have been girdled by someone/s with a vendetta against eucalyptus; few trees – if any – have died naturally.

9) Ivy is not a problem.
English and Algerian ivy climbs up the trees, but cannot smother the trees by growing into the canopy. The only snags covered in ivy were those that had been girdled.

10) Regeneration is a 22nd Century issue.
It’s been argued that the understory of ivy, Cape ivy, and Himalayan blackberry may restrict the establishment of eucalyptus seedlings. If so – and it’s possible – this is a problem for the next century. The forest, though 100 years old, is comparatively young. This could be revisited in another 100 years or so. Meanwhile, the understory provides an excellent food source and cover for wildlife.

Mt Davidson 2 - fuschia flourishing despite drought, watered by the trees catching the fog

 

Below: Mt Davidson map shows where 10 acres of healthy, mature trees will be removed if the  SNRAMP plans for maximum restoration are approved.  The red, green and yellow notations highlight the information contained SNRAMP plans (as per notes on the lower, bottom left).

SNRAMP. p. 6.2-10, F-14

Source: SIGNIFICANT NATURAL RESOURCE AREAS MANAGEMENT PLAN p. 6.2–19, F-14

Who is Funding the Campaign for Prop B? (And, Ooops!)

find the moneyYou’re probably going to see lots of material in support of Proposition B (the 30-year, $4.65 billion set-aside for park funding with very little oversight on how it’s spent). They have a war-chest of nearly $400 thousand to promote this measure. Where’s the money coming from?

More than half of it is from two sources:

  • The San Francisco Parks Alliance ($101 thousand) and
  • “Committee to Expand the Middle Class, Supported by AirBNB Inc.” ($100,000).

Other funders include  developers, investors, and construction companies. Here’s the list, provided by a San Franciscan who obtained it from the Ethics Commission.

Person or organization Employer Contribution
25-Apr-16 COMMITTEE TO EXPAND THE MIDDLE CLASS, SUPPORTED BY AIRBNB, INC. 100,000
11-Jan-16 SAN FRANCISCO PARKS ALLIANCE 75,000
26-Apr-16 SAN FRANCISCO PARKS ALLIANCE 26,000
10-May-16 OSL BISON, LLC 25,000
26-Apr-16 THOMAS COATES JACKSON SQUARE PROPERTIES 25,000
14-Apr-16 WILLIAM S. FISHER X INVESTOR MANZANITA CAPITAL 16,666
14-Apr-16 JOHN J. FISHER X PRESIDENT, PISCES, INC. 16,666
14-Apr-16 Robert Fisher managing director, Pisces 16,666
11-May-16 RONALD CONWAY INVESTOR, SV ANGEL, LLC 12,500
18-May-16 SUPERVISOR MARK FARRELL FOR SAN FRANCISCO COMMITTEE  11,492
6-May-16 THE RELATED COMPANIES OF CALIFORNIA & AFFILIATES 10,000
12-Apr-16 THE CALIFORNIA CONSERVATION CAMPAIGN (ID# 10,000
19-May-16 PG&E CORPORATION 5,000
12-May-16 BRIAN BOTHMAN VICE PRESIDENT, BOTHMAN CONSTRUCTION 5,000
9-May-16 VIVEK KHULLER CEO, CLEARFLY COMMUNICATIONS 5,000
5-May-16 UA LOCAL 38 COPE FUND 5,000
4-May-16 ROSELYNE SWIG 5,000
2-May-16 BOSTON PROPERTIES, LP 5,000
18-Apr-16 BAUMAN LANDSCAPE & CONSTRUCTION 5,000
4-May-16 ELLEN HARRISON ACCOUNTANT,  ROSS 2,500
8-Apr-16  JONATHAN NELSON X CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OMNICOM DIGITAL 2,500
31-Mar-16 SF FORWARD (ID# 891575) 2,500
16-Apr-16  JOHN CLAWSON DEVELOPER/CONSULTANT, EQUITY COMMUNITY BUILDERS 1,500
28-Apr-16 SAN FRANCISCO POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION 1,000
9-May-16 ARCHITECTURAL RESOURCES GROUP, INC. 750
9-May-16 ARG CONSERVATION SERVICES 750
4-Apr-16  HELEN RAISER X CHAIR RAISER ORGANIZATION 750
11-Apr-16  DEBORAH ROBBINS 100
15-Apr-16 HELEN RAISER X CHAIR RAISER ORGANIZATION -500
Total 391,840

OOOPS! ERROR IN THE VOTER PAMPHLET
In related news, the Controller’s Office made an error in its statement in the Voter Pamphlet. It says that the spending would be overseen by the Board of Supervisors. It won’t. Here are the details (from the No On B campaign):

specman-mdMany of us have been concerned about the Controller’s Statement in his letter in the Ballot Pamphlet, in which the next to the last paragraph reads:

“The proposed amendment requires Recreation and Parks to set goals and measures, develop a five year strategic plan and set operational and capital spending plans. The plans must be approved by the Recreation and Parks Commission, the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors.”

However, the legislation actually states:

  1. 7  lines 21-25  “Following Commission approval of the Strategic Plan [also Capital Plan], the Department shall submit the Strategic Plan to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. The Boards of Supervisors shall consider and by resolution express its approval or disapproval of the Plan, but may not modify the Plan. If the Board expresses its disapproval of the Plan or makes recommendations regarding the Plan to the Department, the Department may modify and resubmit the Plan.”

After being contacted about this error, the Controller issued a correction (attached):

” Upon further review of the proposed amendment, I would like to clarify the approvals required for the five-year strategic plan and annual capital expenditure and operational plans as outlined in my March 11, 2016 letter. The Recreation and Parks Commission must approve these plans prior to submitting them to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors for review and comment. The Board of Supervisors can approve or disapprove the five-year strategic and annual capital expenditure plans, but may not amend the plan. If the Board disapproves, the Recreation and Parks Department can modify the plans. ”

“This clarification does not impact my earlier assessment of the proposed amendment’s cost to government, as outlined in my March 11, 2016 letter. ”

As we all know, “can” is not the same as “shall” and so under Prop B Rec and Park has the freedom to create and modify their plans, without BOS authority to modify those plans.

 

Support for “No on Prop B” (2016)

sack of goldAs we near the elections, more and more organizations are opposing Proposition B (including San Francisco Forest Alliance – mainly because it’s a 30-year $4.65 billion set-aside with very little accountability).  We are asking supporters of the No on B campaign to write to the San Francisco Examiner, requesting them to oppose Prop B. (Information below.)

Here’s a current list of those (besides the SF Forest Alliance) supporting “No on Prop B.”

*  mclaren park sign 2015Sierra Club, SF Bay Chapter
*  League of Women Voters, SF
*  CSFN – Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (a coalition of over 40 neighborhood groups)
*  SEIU Local 1021
*  San Francisco Tomorrow
*  San Francisco Tenants Union
*  HANC – Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council
*  D5 Action
*  Tenant Associations Coalition Political Action Committee, TAC PAC
*  Save the Palace of Fine Arts
*  SF Taxpayers Association
*  SF Ocean Edge
*  Golden Gate Park Preservation Alliance

POLITICAL CLUBS
*  Central City Democrats
*  District 3 Democratic Club
*  District 8 Progressive Democratic Club
*  Potrero Hill Democratic Club
*  SF Green Party
*  SF League of Pissed Off Voters
*  SF Libertarian Party
*  SF Republican Party

 MEDIA
* SF Bay Guardian
* SF Chronicle
* SF4ALL progressive blog
* Westside Observer: May 2016 – features 3 articles explaining different aspects of NO ON B.

Now we’re asking you to write to the SF Examiner and ask them to join the list. As far as we know, they are still undecided.This is the letter from the No on B campaign:

Hi fellow No on B supporters:

The article in today’s SF Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/prop-b-pump-money-city-parks/

My prior information on the SF Examiner board may be wrong — they are no longer interviewing people for Pro and Con, but IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THEY HAVE NOT YET COME TO AN ENDORSEMENT DECISION.

PLEASE WRITE TO THE SF EXAMINER. Do letters to the Editor. Write to Mr. Howerton. Give the reasons for NO on B and ask them to take that position! Include your name, phone number and city of residence.

Michael Howerton
Editor-in-chief
415.359.2868
mhowerton@sfexaminer.com

PLEASE DO IT TODAY!

Kathy H.

Signs of Annoyance – Natural Areas Program

Recently, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) spent an estimated half-million dollars on signage, most of which listed various Don’ts (though ironically, they start with “San Francisco Recreation & Parks Welcomes You”). All our parks and open spaces are peppered with them. Many park users, who earlier had no idea that the Natural Areas Program (NAP) was designed to restrict access and usage, are upset. They’ve started “fixing” the signs. Someone sent us these pictures:

Natural Areas Program fixed sign

The sign has been “edited” to warn people of toxic pesticide use and wryly note that most of the park is off-limits except to staff and supervised volunteers.

Of course, we have been talking about toxic pesticides, but here’s a recent picture. Roundup (glyphosate) has been identified as “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organization.

Natural Areas Program pesticide notice

Here, it’s been used to destroy (non-native)  fennel, the pleasant-smelling feathery-leaved plant that is, incidentally, the host plant to the Anise Swallowtail, a beautiful butterfly that happens to be native.

Anise swallowtail butterfly breeds on fennel

In fact, as the altered sign below points out, nearly all the plants you see in San Francisco – including the grasslands NAP is ostensibly seeking to protect with its use of herbicides – are non-native. They still add to the beauty of the landscape, the greenery of our parks, and provide habitat for wildlife from insects to birds to mammals. The herbicides do nothing but poison these plants, leaving space for the next most aggressive plant to move in – most likely also non-native.

Fixed sign - whats wrong with Natural Areas Program

Glen Canyon with Stairs and Coyote

This is one of our “park visitor” series – first person accounts of our parks, published with permission.

Escher's_Relativity

Source: Wikipedia (fair use)

It was dusk when I climbed down into Glen Canyon from the Christopher Playground. It’s been some months since I visited it last, and I was saddened by the changes stemming from SF Recreation and Parks “trails” project.

All the hillside trails have been made into staircases.  It reminded me of a drawing by Escher: they’re nearly as as difficult to walk. The risers of the box steps are high and the pitch not suited to everyone. Tiring and hard on the knees, and so it will effectively restrict access to many people.

COYOTE…

But then a coyote came out of the bushes. I was delighted, though not surprised.  Coyotes inhabit most of the city now, and the park has coyote-spotting signs up at the Christopher playground. But what followed was a surprise (to me, anyway!)

The park is surrounded by urban areas, and an emergency vehicle was racing by on the street above, siren wailing. “Watch,” said my companion. “He’s going to howl with the siren.” And sure enough – the little coyote raised his muzzle to the sky, gave a few barks, and then howled along with the siren.

I managed to get a blurry photograph. coyote howlingA few dogs from nearby homes responded with a woof or two, but they weren’t serious. The siren-coyote duet continued until the vehicle raced away and the sound faded. The coyote sat down, convinced, I thought, that it had told off the intruder into its territory and announced who really occupied this space.

The dusk deepened, and this magical moment was broken by  flights of mosquitoes. I’ve been to Glen Canyon many times over many years, and these are a new thing for me. Wonder if it’s anything to do with the Islais Creek – and the felling of the bat trees.

Fighting The NAP Nativist Agenda

Once in a while, we want to affirm the values that San Francisco Forest Alliance stands for. We’re a grass-roots organization of people who love nature and the environment, pay taxes responsibly, and want access to our parks and wild places – with our families.

Citizens care about their city Parks, and want to keep healthy trees and to open access to natural areas. Citizens expect city management to act responsibly and in the public trust, for FAIR allocation of 2008 Clean & Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond funds.

SF Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) and particularly the Natural Areas Program (NAP), obsessed with Native Plants, is cutting down trees, restricting access, using more toxic herbicides than any other section of SFRPD (excluding Harding Park Golf Course), and using financial resources that could better be used for things our city’s residents really want.

OUR VIDEO

Watch our video on Youtube, (where you can also sign up for the SF Forest Alliance Youtube channel):

OUR MESSAGE TO SAN FRANCISCO AND SFRPD

What we stand for can be summarized in four key areas: Trees, Access, Toxins, Taxes.