Natural Areas EIR Approved

We’re reporting back on the Board of Supervisors  hearing on the appeal for the Appeal on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR)  for the Natural Areas Management Plan on Feb 28th. Supervisor Yee (District 7) voted for our appeal; unfortunately the other 9 supervisors voted against.  (Jane Kim, District 6, was absent).

GREAT RALLY

We had an excellent rally before the meeting, with about 40 people attending with signs and leaflets outside City Hall. We had banners and music, and chants of “EIR is Flawed: SEND IT BACK!”

Unfortunately, many of those who attended the rally could not stay for the public comments, but they had sent them in earlier in writing or on the phone. One of the supervisors said they got more comments and phone calls on this issue than any other.

DELAY, AND WILD EQUITY WITHDRAWS APPEAL

The hearing itself was considerably delayed. We were told it would start at 3 p.m. but in fact, the Chair accepted other items first, pushing it back to 5.30 p.m. Some of our supporters had to leave, but some stuck it out anyway for the extra hours it took. If you were one who came, thank you – whether or not you were able to comment. As soon as we had made our 7-minute presentation, we were informed that the other appellant – Wild Equity Institute et al – had withdrawn their appeal in response to San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) committing not to use the dredged material from the Laguna Salada at Sharp Park to raise the golf course fairways.

Supervisor Yee voted in favor of our appeal, primarily because he was concerned that the pesticide issue was not completely covered in the EIR. The other Supervisors opposed the appeal.  Some thought that because it was a “program level” EIR, they could expect that each individual project would be reviewed separately later. To make this actually happen will require a lot of vigilance, because it’s easier to give each project a ‘negative declaration’ – saying that it does not require a new EIR.

A SUPPORTER’S ANALYSIS

Here’s an analysis by one of our long-time supporters who watched the TV and video of the proceedings:

  • The comments of our speakers were far more substantive than those of NRD supporters.  Our speakers demonstrated deep knowledge of the complex issues.  They were well informed and their criticisms of the EIR were significant.
  • Of the 26 speakers in support, 16 (over 60%) were new.  This reflects both the success of our outreach efforts and the public’s growing awareness of what is being done in their parks.  The more  NRD does, the more the public will react, which predicts that opposition will only grow in the future.
  • Of the 29 NRD supporters, 6 were golfers who really had no interest in any of the other NRD issues; they want to preserve the Sharp Park golf course. The other NRD supporters were the regular activists who have spoken in support of NRD many times, some of them as long as 20 years ago.  They had nothing new to say.  In other words, new recruits to nativist ideology are not materializing.
  • Surprisingly, not a single NRD supporter bashed dogs or blamed NRD opposition on dog owners.  This is a significant departure from previous strategies.  The fact that two of the Supervisors specifically expressed concern about maintaining off-leash recreation was equally remarkable.
  • This EIR is a “programmatic review” – a sort of overall acceptance of the Project’s environmental impacts. A programmatic review does not contain details about each project, such as the amount and type of herbicide that will be used.  Theoretically, each individual project (except Sharp Park, which is a project EIR) would be reviewed before implementation, and some Supervisors were concerned about the lack of such information and were placated by RPD’s “promises” of project level environmental reviews. In fact, such projects often get “negative declarations” (i.e. a declaration that no EIR is needed) and those will not be visible to anyone.

OUR WINS

Even though the vote went against us, we have definitely communicated our concerns. Both SFRPD and the Board of Supervisors have had to recognize that the public has serious doubts about the theoretical benefits of “biodiversity” and turning San Francisco’s parks into native plant museums fuelled by Tier I herbicides like Roundup and Garlon.

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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

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.]

SFFA First Public Meeting Was Standing Room Only

The Rally we announced on this site a few days ago was a roaring success. The response maxed out the capacity of the Miraloma Park Improvement Clubhouse. Volunteers were watching the parking lot, because people had to double park. The room was full, people were spilling out, and some couldn’t get in at all. (For which we apologize. We’re  planning another meeting to make up for it.)

The agenda started with a presentation by Eric Miller, President of San Francisco Forest Alliance (SFFA), about the problems of  the “Natural” Areas Program (NAP): Public access restrictions, tree and habitat destruction, toxic pesticides, and most important, misguided priorities in funds allocation so the NAP is funded while public programs and amenities are closed. (CLICK HERE for more details about NAP.)

This was followed by a talk by Dr Morley Singer and Paul Rotter of SaveSutro, who explained the threat faced by the 80-acre Sutro Cloud Forest on Mount Sutro. Of this, 61 acres are owned by UCSF, and 19 by the City,  also under the NAP. Thousands of trees are planned to be cut. (CLICK HERE for more details.)

Then Jacquie Proctor explained the plan for Mt Davidson under the “Significant Natural Resource Area Management Program” (SNRAMP, pronounced Sin-ramp). The Sin-ramp plans to fell 1600 trees on Mt Davidson, including clear-cutting up to 83% in some areas. (CLICK HERE for more details.)

The audience was engaged and indignant. For many of the audience, the first they had heard of any plans for tree removals was from the outreach by SFFA. The question period was very lively.

Here are excerpts candid comments of one attendee (printed here with permission).

The turnout was great! Folks did a good job of getting the word out! I was impressed with the program. And you had so many facts & numbers on hand.

Some comments and ideas:

1) Seems like many in the crowd were there because they are directly affected, e.g. Miraloma neighbor who love the Mt. Davidson trees, Glen Park visitors, etc. All four issues are important (trees, pesticides, trail closure, budget) but I think the $$$ might emphasized… Not everyone goes to or sees [particular parks such as] Mt. Davidson, Glen Park, Sutro, McLaren, but most people know about the loss of playground directors, limited rec center activities, the rundown filthy bathrooms. And most of the audience pays property tax… It cost $9,000 per application of pesticide!!!

…how many applications of pesticide = 1 full-time gardener?

Parcel 4 was a good example of how NAP money is wasted, e.g. . [Ed: “Parcel 4” is the Sutro Dunes project.]  [Other] areas are [also] planted, then neglected as they revert back to naturalized vegetation.

2) I like how Eric gave his background to show he was not an activist, but just a regular parent who understood budget cuts, until he realized how money was being spent to work AGAINST his park interests. It made it easy for the audience to identify with him.

3) The girdled trees were good photos. Might describe girdling in more detail (i.e. how it kills the tree). Also, I think it’s OK to state “—, a native plant advocate, was convicted of killing trees.”  When I told that to [someone] who had come to the rally she gasped & said, “OMG I’ve bought plants from him. I know he’s a little weird, but killing trees???!!!”

It’s a good illustration of the “ideology” that Eric referred to.

4) Nice that Twin Peaks photos were included. Shows what the end result of cutting Mt. Davidson/Sutro trees might look like (and STILL need pesticides). Folks know that Twin Peaks looks barren and is windy & cold…

5) It was good for people to hear that the Sierra Club [SC], California Native Plant Society [CNPS]  (not the “native plant society” as Eric & Jackie called them), work with NAP and are NOT our friends.  NAP & SC and CNPS have been operating under the radar since the mid 1990s, without the required public approval and oversight. I was surprised to hear Jackie say that SF tree legislation does not apply to NAP areas. Why is NAP above the law?  (Especially when the city can dictate & charge fees & fine homeowners for taking down a street tree!).

8) I really liked Morley Singer’s catchy “Don’t waste time arguing with the native plant groups. It’s like arguing Women’s rights with the Taliban” and “Put away the video game and fight a real enemy.” At the same time pointing out how California Native Plant Society works the system.

9) It was good how Eric stated individual actions are good, but group actions are very powerful.

This would have been a good opportunity to give folks an action plan.

The observer is right. Many wanted to know how to help. Several people signed up to volunteer. We’re still getting back signature sheets.

Thanks everyone who came! And apologies again to those wanted to come but couldn’t get in. There’ll be more.

Meanwhile, if you would like to volunteer and didn’t sign up then, please email us at SFForestNews@gmail.com, or write us at SFFA, P.O.Box 460668, SF, CA 94146.

 CLICK HERE if you’d like to help gather signatures for the petition. You can direct people to the big green button, or download a copy and print it.