Rally for Trees & Against Pesticides in Our Parks!  Feb 28, 2017

rally-and-hearing-feb-2017

Rally for Trees & Against Pesticides in Our Parks!

Join Our City and San Francisco Forest Alliance to demand that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote to reject the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that allows the Recreation and Park Department to cut down over 18,000 trees and spray toxic herbicides to ‘manage’ our public parks.

After the rally we will assemble in the City Hall Board of Supervisors chamber, room 250, to speak in favor of the appeal to block Rec & Park’s plan.

Rally
WHEN:       1:00 pm Tuesday February 28th
WHERE:     SF Civic Center Plaza (across from City Hall, Polk St. steps

Hearing
WHEN:       3:00 pm Tuesday February 28th
WHERE:     Board of Supervisors Chamber, SF City Hall, Room 250
(come early to get a seat)

Map – http://tinyurl.com/SFCityHall-Plaza-BART
Directions – http://sfgov.org/cityhall/directions-city-hall

More information: https://sfforest.org and https://sfforest.org/blog-updates/

See you at City Hall!

San Francisco Forest Alliance

Public opinion does make a difference!

Thank you for your support

The San Francisco Forest Alliance is a non-profit 501(c)4 environmental organization working to protect urban forests, reduce pesticide use, and preserve access to our parks.

 

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San Francisco Forest Alliance Appeals to Board of Supervisors

Our supporters are aware that we intended to file an appeal when the Planning Commission certified the deeply-flawed Environmental Impact Report on the “Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan.”

Here’s our letter:

sffa-appeal-letter-pg-1 sffa-appeal-letter-p-2(Then it continues into details of the failings of the EIR and the mitigations required.)

[Edited to Add the details!

Here is the final (amended) appeal letter: sf-forest-alliance-primary-appeal-document

Here are the detailed, information-packed, appendices to our letter.

Table relating the issues to the appendices: appendicesrelation-to-sffa-appeal-of-eir

Appendix A:  Greenhouse Gas calculations from The Quercus Group, an expert consultant: appendix-a-quercus-group-snramp-eir-comments

Appendix A1: Greenhouse Gas calculations from Heart of Green: appendix-a-1-heartofgreen_technical-memo

Appendix B:  ESA study: appendix-b-esa-sequestration-study-of-greenhouse-gases-for-snramp

Appendix C: Cal EEE Mod calculation: appendix-c-caleemod-user-manual-calculation-details

Appendix D1: SNRAMP Tree removal maps: appendix-d1-snramp-tree-removal-maps-mclaren-1

Appendix D2: SNRAMP Tree removal maps: appendix-d2-snramp-tree-removal-maps-other

Appendix E (though labeled D): Forest photos showing regeneration: appendix-e-forest-photos-1

Appendix F: Trail closure maps: appendix-f-trail-closure-maps

Appendix G: Bicycle Policy: appendix-g-rpd-bicycle-policy

Appendix H: Access control fencing: appendix-h-access-control-fence-photos-1

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Dec 15th: Joint Meeting of Planning Commission and Rec&Parks Commission

Edited to Add: Unfortunately, the Environmental Impact Report was certified despite its many flaws; and the Significant Natural Resources Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP – “sin-ramp”) was approved. Our thanks to all the people who came to the meeting and spoke.

3227413_orig 26 down through the forest

On December 15th, 2016,  San Francisco’s Planning Commission and SF Recreation and Parks Commission will have a joint meeting that will impact our urban forests for the next 20 years. This is a meeting regarding the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the Significant Natural Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP or N-RAMP).

It’s on December 15, 2016 at 1 p.m. in City Hall room 400.  [Note this information is different than our emails, though the date is the same.]

Here’s the PDF we were sent: 121516-special-joint-meeting-with-planning-final

Public comment is allowed, and a lot is expected. We think the public will get only one minute each to speak.  This is your last chance to say anything in support of our treasured urban forests. Let us know if you’re planning to attend (if you haven’t already done so) by Email at sfforestnews@gmail.com

Click Here to see the City’s online link for the final EIR. It was dismissive of all our comments.  Comments for changes to the project did not matter because they were deemed “environmentally insignificant“.  Support of an alternative to the project, such as the maintenance alternative, or criticism of the maximum restoration alternative were deemed “irrelevant” (see the Responses to Comments section).

TWO THINGS IN ONE MEETING

Whenever there’s a major project, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, pronounced seek-wa) requires the project’s sponsor to make an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department wants to implement a plan in the “Natural Areas” which will require cutting down thousands of trees, closing trails, and using toxic herbicides. The EIR is for this Project.

This meeting has two objectives.

1) First, the Planning Commission has to decide to certify the Environmental Impact Report. To do this, they have to determine that it is accurate, adequate, and objective. We think it’s deeply flawed and should not be certified.

Here’s our article on what’s wrong with the EIR: Ten Reasons Why the Environmental Impact Report for Natural Areas is Flawed

2) Second, after the EIR is certified, the Recreation and Parks Commission will vote whether to approve the Plan, and in what form. The EIR describes alternatives to the Project, and we think that if they must approve the Plan, they should implement the Maintenance Alternative. This is a “lite” version of the Project, which allows the Natural Resources Department to continue its current activities but not chop down 18,400 trees, reduce access to the natural areas, and use much more herbicide than at present. We ask the SFRP Commission make a motion to approve the Maintenance Alternative for the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Project

Here’s our article on Ten Reasons to Oppose the Natural Areas “Project”

We will keep asking for your support in the hope that we, the voices for the trees, are heard by those with the power to unleash destruction on our beautiful old stands of trees.

We want to maintain access to the Natural Areas, not lose 95% of the parks which become prohibited areas with a “stay on the designated trail” requirement. And we want herbicide use in Natural Areas to stop.

mt davidson forest - hiker on trail

POSTPONED: Sept 29, 2016 NAP Meeting; EXTENDED: EBMUD Comment Deadline

We recently posted about two important dates: a City Hall meeting regarding the Natural Areas Program (NAP)  that was scheduled for Sept 29, and the last date for comments on the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) that was September 2, 2016. They have both changed.

THE NATURAL AREAS PROGRAM

Mt Davidson 13 - only watered by the trees catching fog its still green during droughtThe Sept 29th meeting about the NAP (We wrote about that HERE) has been postponed without a new date.

Here’s what the Planning Commission wrote to one of our supporters:

“The September 29 Planning Commission hearing to certify the SNRAMP EIR has been postponed. We had two Planning Commissioners term out, so it was unlikely that we would have a full Planning Commission for the September 29 hearing date. The Planning Department is currently looking for candidates to replace the two seats on the Planning Commission but we don’t have a date of when that would occur by. Because of that, we currently don’t have a future date in mind just yet. The Planning Department is committed to publishing the Response to Comments document four weeks in advance of the hearing date. A notice will be sent out upon publication…”

This will be the meeting to certify the Environmental Impact Report on the Significant Natural Areas Management Plan for NAP. We need to make sure our voices for the forests and against pesticides are heard.

EAST BAY MUD THREATENED TREES

The last date to send in your comments to EBMUD has been extended to September 16th.  EBMUD is planning to destroy all the non-native trees in the East Bay watershed it manages, and use a lot of pesticides to do so. (We wrote about that HERE.) Comments should be sent to watershedmasterplan@ebmud.com or by mail to Doug Wallace, EBMUD, 375 11th St, Oakland, CA 94607.

The San Francisco Forest Alliance has submitted this comment:

The San Francisco Forest Alliance is a 501c(4) organization created in 2011 for the purpose of preserving our urban forest and preventing the use of pesticides in our public open spaces.  The urban forest in San Francisco is threatened with destruction for the same reason that forests in the East Bay are being destroyed by public land managers.  Most trees in the San Francisco Bay Area are non-native and for that reason native plant advocates demand that they be destroyed.

The East Bay Watershed Master Plan (EBWMP) renews the commitment of EBMUD to “replace non-native forests with native species over the long term.”  This commitment is based on the “Guiding Principle” of the EBWMP to “restore populations of native plants and animals and their environments.”

These commitments are antithetical to the primary mission of EBMUD to provide safe drinking water to their customers in the East Bay.  The safety of drinking water is jeopardized by the commitment to destroy trees and “restore” native plants for the following reasons:

– EBMUD is using large quantities of herbicide to destroy non-native plants.  Destroying trees will reduce shade and promote the growth of weeds.  This will increase the need for herbicide use.  Pesticides are dangerous pollutants in drinking water.

– Trees stabilize soil and reduce erosion.  Increased erosion will increase run off from the land and increase sedimentation, which will reduce water quality.

The trees of the San Francisco Bay Area are performing many valuable ecological functions.  Destroying them prematurely serves no useful purpose and damages the environment. The CalEEMod emissions model indicates that every acre of forest that is converted to grassland results in a net release of 106.7 metric tons of CO2.

Please reconsider EBMUD’s policy regarding tree removals and pesticide use and follow the lead of the Marin Municipal Water District to abandon the use of pesticides in your watershed.

Sincerely,

Dee Seligman, Interim President,
San Francisco Forest Alliance

FEMA Rule Change Could Make Tree-felling Easier

Very often, land managers seeking funding for a project look to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for funds. FEMA provides money for fire hazard reduction, and if the project can be presented in those terms, the land managers can apply for a grant.

Until now, if a project seeking FEMA funding was large enough, FEMA asked the project sponsors for an Environmental Impact Report. This made a lot of sense: Fire hazard reduction projects have massive impacts on the landscape and habitat, much of it negative.

BUT THERE’S A NEW PLAN

Now,  FEMA plans a “programmatic environmental assessment (PEA) to evaluate the potential beneficial and adverse impacts from eligible wildfire mitigation activities funded under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Program.” What this amounts to is that fire hazard reduction projects would be “pre-cleared” from an environmental standpoint. FEMA is planning to make this a nationwide measure.

It would apply to  three types of wildfire mitigation projects to protect buildings and structures on the Wildland-Urban Interface (i.e. where structures are within 2 miles of a wildland):

  • “Defensible space—The creation of perimeters around residential and non-residential buildings and structures through the removal or reduction of flammable vegetation;
  • “Structural Protection through Ignition-Resistant Construction—The application of non-combustible building envelope assemblies, the use of ignition-resistant materials, and the use of proper retrofit techniques in new and existing structures; and
  • “Hazardous Fuels Reduction—Vegetation management to decrease the amount of hazardous fuels; vegetation thinning; and reduction of flammable materials to protect life and property beyond defensible space perimeters but proximate to at-risk structures.”

The first two measures are not controversial, and can reduce hazard with a relatively minor environmental impact. However, the third one – Hazardous Fuels Reduction – is much more problematic for the environment.

WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM?

Tree removal – for whatever reason – is one of the costliest activities for a land manager. This makes any potential source of outside funding attractive.  FEMA is one such source. So if any tree-felling project can be presented as hazard reduction, it has a chance of obtaining such funds. Not having to do an environmental impact report would make the money more easily accessible.

However, removing  trees also has a significant environmental impact, which can be greater or lesser depending on the size of the project, the topography of the site, and the ecological system that would be affected. Some of the impacts:

  • Hydrology: Removing trees affects water flow and can lead to problems with erosion
  • Slope stabilization issues: The root systems of trees – especially older, mature trees that may have intergrafted roots – stabilize slopes. Removing trees can contribute to slope failures years – even decades – later.
  • Carbon sequestration: Trees capture and store carbon, fighting global warming. Felling trees stops them from collecting the carbon, and  returns it to the atmosphere.
  • Toxic herbicides: In many of these projects, managers plan to use large amounts of herbicides to prevent tree regrowth. This can end up in the soil and water, and also affect people, pets and wildlife using the lands.
  • Pollution: Trees and vegetation help fight pollution, particularly particulate pollution, by trapping particles on their leaves until they’re washed to the ground by rain.

And of course, removing trees affects the beauty and recreational value of these areas. It’s only by evaluating the environmental impact of individual projects that FEMA can determine if the negative environmental impact would be worth the hazard reduction – if any. Ironically, many of these projects would actually increase fire hazard, because removing the trees encourages growth of scrub and grass that ignite more easily and support fast-moving fires.

We’ve been concerned because we think that Native Plant “restoration” projects are often presented as hazard reduction projects. In 2008, FEMA received such an application for tree-felling in Sutro Forest. More recently, FEMA was asked to fund the removal of hundreds of thousands of trees in the East Bay.

HOW AND WHERE TO COMMENT

FEMA is accepting comments until August 18th, 2014 – this coming Monday. The comments have to be submitted at their website (not by email). Here’s how:

  1. Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov
  2.  In the Search space that comes up, input FEMA-2014-0021
  3.  Then click on Open Docket folder at the right.
 (Or try this link: HERE )

They’re not interested in comments that look like a mass mail campaign, so to have an impact, you would have to write a the comment individually.

Great horned owlets in eucalyptus. San Francisco. Janet Kessler

Glen Canyon Park: An Appeal to the Supervisors

Noting that the appeal to the Board of Appeals was rejected on November 14th, 2012, environmental group ForestForestForever has submitted an appeal to the Board of Supervisors. “The Board President, Chris Hwang, expressed serious concerns about this ‘flawed public process,’ and added that she felt that because the Board of Supervisors had exclusive jurisdiction over environmental review issues, it had ‘hamstrung’ the Board of Appeal’s ability to choose a different course.”

They are asking the Board of Supervisors for an environmental review to bring the project into compliance with California environmental protection regulations.

(For more details, go to the article at SFGlenCanyon.Net: Another Appeal Submitted)

When SF Rec and Park Department applied for a permit, they stated that none of the project would be in the Natural Areas of Glen Canyon Park. In actual fact, a substantial part of the area bid out under contract is in the Natural Areas. (See our earlier post, Under the Radar, and the map below: the pink boundary is the southern end of the Natural Areas, and the blue outline is the area of the project.) An Environmental Impact Review would require SFRPD to consider the total cumulative impact of all the planned work in the Canyon.

sm Diagram of Natural Areas Contract Area oct 29 2012

Natural Areas Plan: SFFA comments on the DEIR (Pt 6: Flawed Process)

Whatever one thinks of the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Program (SNRAMP, Sin-ramp) – and this website has documented what we do think about it –  it’s important that the public is kept informed. They should be able to know about it, understand it, and be free to comment on it.

Unfortunately, the city hasn’t been doing a really good job about letting the public know. They have done the bare minimum: Posting a notice (like the one in the picture) in the SF Examiner and at McLaren Lodge, and mailing those who were already on their mailing list.

People have to go looking for the Sin-ramp and the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). And then – things keep changing, and only those who are really alert are aware of the changes.

On top of that, there’s a big fat glaring error right at the start of the DEIR.

Read on for details. (Please note we’ll be uploading attachments later on.)

The public review and comment process for the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Significant Natural Areas Resources Management Plant (SNRAMP) was severely compromised by:

  • A major mistake in the identification of the “Environmentally Superior Alternative” and the refusal to correct that mistake during the public process
  • The last minute rescheduling of the public hearing by the Planning Commission which prevented many concerned citizens from commenting at that hearing
  • The refusal to inform the public of the extension of the deadline to October 31, 2011
  • The refusal to inform the public of the reopening of the public comment period to June 11, 2012

These errors and policy decisions will materially prejudice the public comment and therefore expose the DEIR to a legal challenge that will require that the process be repeated.

1.    THE REFUSAL TO CORRECT THE MISTAKE IN THE DEIR ABOUT THE “ENVIRONMENTALLY SUPERIOR ALTERNATIVE”

The Summary of the DEIR at the beginning of the document says that the “Maximum Restoration Alternative” is the “Environmentally Superior Alternative” (page 2).  This is a mistake.  The “Maximum Restoration Alternative” is NOT the “Environmentally Superior Alternative.”   The “Environmentally Superior Alternative” is the “Maintenance Alternative.”  The correct statement does not appear in the DEIR until the very end of the document:

The Maximum Recreation and Maintenance Alternatives are the environmentally superior alternatives because they have fewer unmitigated significant impacts than either the proposed project or the Maximum Restoration Alternative. Between the Maximum Recreation Alternative and the Maintenance Alternative, the Maintenance Alternative would be the environmentally superior alternative for two reasons. While the two alternatives have the same number of significant and unavoidable impacts under CEQA, the Maintenance Alternative has fewer potential environmental effects than the Maximum Recreation Alternative. First, the Maintenance Alternative would not create new trails, the construction of which could result in impacts to sensitive habitats and other biological resources. Second, over time the Maximum Recreation Alternative would result in Natural Areas with less native plant and animal habitat and a greater amount of nonnative urban forest coverage. The Maintenance Alternative, on the other hand, would preserve the existing distribution and extent of biological resources, including sensitive habitats. For these reasons, the Maintenance Alternative is the environmentally superior alternative.” (DEIR, page 525-526) (emphasis added)

Attached is the email correspondence with Jessica Range, the staff member in the Planning Department responsible for the environmental review process, about this error.  Ms. Range acknowledges the error, confirms that the “Environmentally Superior Alternative” is the “Maintenance Alternative,” but refuses to correct the error until the public comment period is over. (See Attachment VI-A) [We will be uploading all attachments later on.]

Few readers will read a document that is over 500 pages long.  This mistake will therefore mislead the public into supporting the “Maximum Restoration Alternative” which expands the destructive and restrictive aspects of the Natural Areas Program.  Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, this expansion is NOT legal because it violates the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires that the “Environmentally Superior Alternative” has the least negative impact on the environment of all proposed alternatives:

“§21002.  APPROVAL OF PROJECTS; FEASIBLE ALTERNATIVE OR MITIGATION MEASURES
The Legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of the state that public agencies should not approve projects as proposed if there are feasible alternatives or feasible mitigation measures available which would substantially lessen the significant environmental effects of such projects, and that the procedures required by this division are intended to assist public agencies in systematically identifying both the significant effects of proposed projects and the feasible alternatives or feasible mitigation measures which will avoid or substantially lessen such significant effects.”  CEQA Guidelines, page 2 (emphasis added)

This mistake will profoundly prejudice the public review and comment period.  The mistake was exacerbated by the refusal to correct the mistake before the public process was complete.

Although the mistake was verbally acknowledged by the staff of the Planning Department at the beginning of the public hearing on October 6th, it was characterized as a “typographical error.”  The dictionary definition of “typographical error” is:  “an error in printed or typewritten material resulting from a mistake in typing or from mechanical failure or the like.”   [Ref: Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Random House, 1991] It is an insult to the public’s intelligence to characterize the substitution of an entire phrase (“Maximum Restoration Alternative”) for another (“Maintenance Alternative”) as a typographical error.   Trivializing this error further misleads the public by failing to acknowledge the substantive differences between these alternatives.  The “Maintenance Alternative” is at the opposite extreme from the “Maximum Restoration Alternative” in the range of alternatives.

The “Maximum Restoration Alternative” proposes an expansion of the active restoration efforts of the Natural Areas Program to 100% of all acreage designated as “natural areas.”  This represents a 73% increase in the acres subjected to tree removals, herbicide applications, recreational access restrictions, and the planting of endangered plants and animals that could potentially require further access restrictions.

In addition to the inaccurate and misleading identification of the environmentally superior alternative, the public notice of the DEIR was inadequate.  No mention was made in the original public notice of the locations of the natural areas that would be impacted by the implementation of SNRAMP.  No mention was made of the significant impacts on the environment such as the removal of thousands of trees or the loss of recreational access.  The public notice did not enable the public to understand that the implementation of SNRAMP would have a significant impact on their parks or their neighborhoods.

2.    THE PUBLIC HEARING FOR THE DEIR LIMITED PUBLIC COMMENT

The public review and comment process was further compromised by the last minute decision to hold the public hearing by the Planning Commission earlier than originally announced.  The public hearing was originally announced to begin at 1:30 pm on October 6th.  Shortly before the hearing, the starting time was moved up to noon.

The public was further confused about the timing of their opportunity to speak to the Commission about the DEIR by the placement of the item on the agenda.  The DEIR for the SNRAMP was item number 13 on an agenda with 19 items.  The public had no way of knowing when the 13th item would be heard.  Many naturally assumed that it would not be at the beginning of the hearing.  They were wrong.

The public comment period on the DEIR for the SNRAMP was completed by 2 pm.  Many people came to the hearing, hoping to speak, only to find that they had missed the opportunity to do so.

A few people arrived in time to speak, but didn’t arrive in time to hear the staff of the Planning Department acknowledge the mistake about the “Environmentally Superior Alternative.”  Therefore, they wasted their public comment by focusing on an error that the Planning Department had made a commitment to correct.  No one showed them the courtesy of telling them during the hearing that the error would be corrected.

There are many neighbors of the so-called “natural areas” who have been following this issue for 15 years.  They were deeply committed to speaking and they were deprived of the opportunity to do so by the change in the time of the hearing.

3.   THE PUBLIC WAS NOT ADEQUATELY INFORMED OF THE EXTENSION OF THE DEADLINE FOR COMMENT

The President of the Planning Commission requested at the public hearing on October 6th that the deadline for written public comments be extended to October 31st.  No effort was made to inform the public of this extension of the deadline.  The Planning Department was asked (in writing) to inform any member of the public that had been informed of the original deadline of October 17th of this extension.  That request was refused.

Such refusal to provide the public with notification of the extension of the deadline will further compromise the public review process.

4.  THE PUBLIC WAS NOT ADRQUATELY INFORMED OF THE RE-OPENING OF THE PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD

The San Francisco Forest Alliance learned (from a neighborhood association) that the public comment on the DEIR was reopened on April 27, 2012 about one week after the notice was mailed.    SFFA immediately requested that this public notice be distributed more widely to the neighbors of the natural areas and posted in the natural areas.  This request was refused.

According to the mailing list that was used to distribute the notice of the reopening of the public comment period, the same neighborhood associations that were notified of the first public comment period were notified again.  The second public comment period was not more widely distributed than the first.  The organizations that had an opportunity to comment in October 2011 were essentially given a second opportunity to comment.   This is preferential treatment that will further jeopardize the fairness of the public process.

The reopening of the public comment period was another opportunity for the DEIR to be corrected.  The incorrect statement on page 2 of the DEIR stating that the Maximum Restoration Alternative is the Environmentally Superior Alternative was not corrected when the public comment period was reopened.  That incorrect statement was simply redistributed and reposted to the Planning Department website.  Once again, the refusal to correct this statement will prejudice the public comment.

Conclusion

The public review and comment process was severely compromised by a serious mistake and by several actions of the Planning Department staff.  The appropriate legal remedies for these mistakes are:

  • Correct the DEIR by accurately identifying the “Environmentally Superior Alternative”
  • Distribute the corrected DEIR in the same manner as the original was distributed
  • Announce another public hearing along with the corrected DEIR
  • Announce another deadline for written public comments that is at least as long as the original period
  • Distribute the public notice regarding the new public comment period to the neighbors of the natural areas and post the public notice in the natural areas.

The public review and comment period for the DEIR for the SNRAMP has been a stunning display of unfair dealing with the taxpayers who are paying for this project.  It is experiences such as this that turn taxpayers into protesters.