Glen Park Tree-felling: Day 3 Video and Pictures

It’s Day 3 of the tree-felling at Glen Canyon Park. This video shows one huge tree, 133 years old, going down.

And here, for those who cannot bear to watch the video (“I just want to cry,” said one observer), are still pictures. Thank you, Ron Proctor, for bearing witness to this destruction.

Tree-Limbs

TennisCourtView

Sign-RecCtrProject

Remaining-to-be-cut1

Remaining-to-be-cut

MajesticAfterFall-1

Limbs-TennisCt-Pre-FALL

HillSideView

CAT-Tractor-3

CAT-Tractor-2

CAT-Tractor-1

AlmsRd-MajesticTree

Walkway-LimbDebris

TreeView1

TreeView

Tree-stump

Natural Areas Program – Under the Radar with the 2008 Bond in Glen Canyon

We’ve said before that we’re concerned the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) is using capital projects in our parks to start implementing the Natural Areas Program (NAP) even ahead of the completion of the Environmental Impact Review. Most of this is under the guise of “forestry” and “trails.” But sometimes, it’s even merged into projects that don’t appear to be about  NAP at all.

Glen Canyon Park is one of those.

WHAT THEY SAID

Scott Wiener’s letter – click to enlarge

At first, there seemed to be no reason for concern on this score. When SFRPD applied for an exemption under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – one of the things it needed for a permit to improve the playground and the tennis courts in Glen Canyon – it stated: “The proposed project would be located on the flat programmed area of the park and would not involve any work in the Glen Canyon Park Natural Area.”

[Read that document here, dated June 2012. It’s a 6-page PDF: 2011.1141E_Glen Canyon Park Renovation_cx CEQA exemption]

In a letter addressed to the Glen Park neighbors, District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener repeated this assertion:  “The issue here is not the broader Natural Areas Plan, and the improvements in Glen Canyon are not related to that Plan.”

We can only imagine that he read the same document, and also assumed it was accurate.

BUT IT’S NOT TRUE

In fact, the project is not confined to the “flat programmed area of the park” and it does involve work within the Natural Areas. Most of the trees to be felled are in fact within the Natural Areas. SFRPD says will replace them with 163 new trees, that “range in size up to 100 feet at maturity.” But we’ve seen, from their planting plans, it actually includea a very large percentage of bushes (like flannel bush) and small trees (like madrone) and only six trees that would be around 100 feet in size. [We wrote about that HERE.]

This map is the the Natural Areas Plan for Glen Canyon Park. The colored areas are part of the Natural Areas; they claim 60 of the park’s 70 acres. Everything above the turquoise line is in the Natural Area, the area where the Natural Areas Program is trying to develop Native Plant museums.

Here’s a map showing the project area for the Glen Park Rec Center project that is imminent. [Edited to Add: This map has been updated with further information and to show the Project areas boundary (light blue) as well as the Natural Areas boundary (pink) on the same map.]

It’s obvious from this map that quite a large chunk of the project area is not in the “flatlands” but instead falls into the Natural Area.

WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR THE NAP AREA?

Those are the areas where they will be cutting down trees and replanting it with scrub.

This explains the preponderance of Native Plants and bushes in the planting plan. They’re not replacing the majestic eucalyptus and quirky acacia with tall trees, those “ranging up to 100 feet tall” that Karen Mauny-Brodek mentioned.  Those will go near the new playground and along the street.

Instead, these areas advance the Native Plant habitat conversion agenda. They will be replanted with native bushes and small trees/ shrubs as envisioned in NAP and spelled out under the Significant Natural Resources Management Plan (SNRAMP, Sin-Ramp). Only, the SinRamp is still under Environmental Review; the Environmental Impact Review has not been finalized yet, nor has it been approved. This is getting in under the radar.

It gets worse.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the Sin-Ramp considered 4 alternatives to the SNRAMP:

(1) No Project – which would mean NAP would continue doing what they planned under an earlier plan, the 1995 plan;

(2) Maximum Restoration – which would mean converting the entire 1100 acres under the Natural Areas Program to scrub and grassland, and putting in access restrictions;

(3) Maximum Recreation – maximizing recreation except where it interferes with existing native plants and federally-protected species;

(4) Maintenance – Maintain the current distribution of native and non-native species in the Natural Areas; no habitat conversion.

What is currently happening would actually be consistent with the worst of these options – the Maximum Restoration option. It tries to create a native garden of scrub on the slopes to the east and north of the Recreation Center.

WHAT TO EXPECT

When this happens, we can expect to see the usual Natural Areas effect:

  • Destruction of the the tall trees that give the Canyon’s entrance its wild ambiance, as well as the quirky twisty acacias that children love to play on ;
  • Scrubby plantings that turn brown for much of the year;
  • Access restrictions for adults, children, and pets;
  • Habitat destruction for birds and animals;
  • Increased pesticide use both by NAP and by “volunteers”

By end-September 2012, the Natural Areas Program had used more pesticides than in the whole year in 2011 and in any previous year from 2008, when we first obtained the records. No one has any way of knowing how much more is being used by supporters of Native Plants.

We find this process disturbing. SFRPD is using popular projects like playground improvements as a stalking horse for their controversial  habitat conversions under NAP.

One of the doomed trees

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 SFGlenCanyon.net)

BACKSTORY

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.

BUT THERE’S MORE

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.]

AND THERE’S STILL MORE

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.]

THE GOOD: THE ARBORIST CHANGED HIS RECOMMENDATION

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.)

THE BAD: IT’S STILL GOING TO BE HUNDREDS OF TREES

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?

THE UGLY:  FOUR MYTHS THEY’RE SPREADING ABOUT US

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 SFForest.net: Natural Areas Program Under the Radar]

THE COMMUNITY CARES ABOUT THE CANYON

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.

Standing Room Only at SFForest’s Glen Park Meeting

The San Francisco Forest Alliance (SFForest) is very concerned about the hundreds of trees slated for destruction in Glen Canyon, starting as early as this month. The appeal period for the first phase of tree removal ends October 14th. (We have the details on the dedicated Glen Canyon site at SFGlenCanyon.net) So SFForest called a neighborhood meeting at Glen Canyon Recreation Center on October 6th, and our volunteers distributed leaflets all through the area. We’d been concerned that many people who told us they wanted to come had prior plans owing to Fleet Week, Games, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and other activities.

We need not have worried. All the seats were taken by the time the meeting started. By the end, a crowd of people stood at the back and sides of the room. We estimate that some 80-100 people attended. Six people spoke. The Question time, after the presentations, was vigorous; people clearly are interested in saving as many trees as possible, and they had questions not just for SFForest but also for Michael Rice (President of Glen Park Neighborhood Association) who was present.

SIX PRESENTATIONS

1)  Eric Miller, President of SFForest started by introducing SFForest as a grass-roots all-volunteer organization with no fiscal ties to the city government. He described our mission in trying to preserve public parks for the public, and encourage SFRPD to align their expenditures with the actual needs of park users. He emphasized that we support the removal of hazardous trees – but very few of the trees slated for removal are hazardous. He also emphasized that our presentation was based on documents we had obtained from the City.

2)  Dave Emanuel presented the details of the plan for Glen Canyon, and the Rec Center Project in particular. He emphasized that we do not oppose the renovation of the Recreation Center. When the community process ended in December 2011, those who participated understood that 10-11 trees would be felled. Now, the number is between 58 and 70. Hundreds more are to be felled for various reasons, including trail-building and the Natural Areas Program. (Go to our dedicated website, Save the Trees of Glen Canyon for details.) What we want is transparency and accountability.  SFForest should not have to use the Sunshine Act to get the arborist’s report or the bid documents. People are passionate about trees, and this information has to be made public.

Arnita Bowman, who is one of  SFForest’s researchers, also pointed out that US Fish & Wildlife is proposing to designate the grassland side of Glen Canyon Park as an endangered Franciscan Manzanita critical habitat, which would further restrict usage and could lead to more tree-felling.  The public comment period for the proposal closes on November 5th and information on how to comment is HERE.

3)  Alma Hecht, a certified arborist, spoke to the importance of tall trees as a windbreak, for its acoustic values, for wildlife including the large birds like owls and hawks. She pointed out that senescence is not a reason to remove trees, unless they are hazardous. The charm of Glen Canyon is its forests, in the sense of natural beauty from the tall trees. The 160 replacement trees are relatively small species, and anyway it would be a lifetime before they would reach the maturity and beauty of the ones that exist now.

4)  Jacquie Proctor spoke about the problems of Mount Davidson, where 1600 trees are to be felled, and the neighbors are fighting to prevent it. (More details about this plan HERE.)

5)  Guest Speaker Paul Rotter spoke about Tank Hill, where neighbors successfully fought to block the felling of most of the trees on Tank Hill, and where a replanting program failed miserably.  About ten years ago, SF RPD cut down 26 trees to grow native plants, and planned to clear all the eucalyptus trees. The infuriated neighbors fought back, arriving at a settlement that no more trees would be cut until planted native oaks were large enough to take over the habitat. Neighbors were given 36 oaks to plant under the supervision of SFRPD. Four survive, the largest being 30 inches high ten years later. (More details on the SaveSutro website, HERE.)

6)  Rupa Bose spoke about the  increasing use of pesticides in Natural Areas, including Glen Canyon Park. In addition to the regular legal spraying of toxins, “volunteers” spray unknown amounts of unapproved chemicals in unacceptable locations, without notices or records. (More of that HERE and HERE.)

QUESTION TIME

A number of people had questions and comments. Some themes that emerged:

1)  Several people wanted hazardous trees to be tackled and others left alone.

2)  People felt the community process had been top-down, and their inputs – particularly about saving the line of majestic trees at the current entrance from Elk St – had been ignored.

3)  One person supported the felling of 10% of the Canyon’s trees to make way for Native grasslands (and was promptly opposed by someone else who didn’t want to lose “even one tree” for that purpose).

4)  Michael Rice, the President of the Glen Park Neighborhood Association (GPNA) was present, and a number of questions were directed to him as to their position and why they hadn’t acted to save the trees. The people with questions were members of GPNA.

5)  There were a number of questions as to why District 8 Superintendent Scott Wiener was not listening to the concerns set out at this meeting. Someone hazarded a guess that he assumed that GPNA support represented the majority view.

With nearly 2700 signatures on the two petitions to stop the deforestation of Glen Canyon, it’s clear there is not anything close to community agreement on the changes that will affect the canyon. Add your voice, if you haven’t already and SIGN HERE.

[Edited to Add: During the Question Time, an audience member asked what SFForest’s position was on Prop B, the 2012 Parks Bond. Eric Miller stated that we are neutral on Prob B.]