Another Beloved Tree Gone – Buena Vista Park, San Francisco

We recently received a message about yet another tree that had been destroyed to the dismay of neighbors. This time it’s at Buena Vista Park (BVP).

The message is from neighbor Deborah Rodgers, who would love for more people to read the tragedy of this tree and its friend who fought back for its untimely demise:

Our beautiful canopy tree was butchered this morning at BVP – 7/11/18

This is the 5th healthy established tree that has been senselessly butchered by Park & Rec at BVP recently. This tree provided a lovely canopy shade on hot days. The directional pruning done the day before was adequate. It was really horrible to watch one of our most established beautiful shade trees get butchered this morning.

There was NEVER a notice put on this tree. It was damaged, according to Ms Sionkowski [Carol Sionkowski, Park Services Manager, SF Recreation and Parks], from splitting done to it by their Rec & Park tree department crew. Further, the canopy pine showed no sign of erosion or splitting from any of its branches. It was a healthy tree that provided much-needed shade for residents traversing the public pathway along BVP. It shaded cars which get so overheated on days like these past few that they are an oven upon entering. It was an established tree of at least a decade old.

It was a beautiful circular ball shaped tree that grew laterally with a very solid foundation on the right. Many circular ball-shaped trees when pruned back properly can last for years without eroding from the soil. This one did for over a decade. Why butcher it?

Our BVP exterior periphery is becoming an ugly graveyard of stumps where there once were beautiful shade trees.

Ms Rodgers was angry and contacted the SF Rec & Park Point Mgr on July 11, 2018, following the destruction of the tree at 8 a.m in the morning at BVP by SF Rec & Park dept. She was unable to stop the tree from being cut down.

 

We’ve talked before of San Francisco’s casual, even hostile, attitude to its trees. Little effort is made to preserve mature trees, and our urban tree canopy – already one of the smallest among big cities – is shrinking just at a time when trees are being recognized as a way to fight global warming via carbon sequestration.

 

Graph showing urban tree canopy cover in major US cities

San Francisco Has the Least Canopy Cover of any Major US City

Planting new trees is excellent, but it’s no substitute for preserving the mature ones. It takes a decade or more for saplings to provide the same benefits, whether carbon sequestration, or pollution reduction, or habitat. San Francisco must start caring for its trees, not chopping them down.

 

END

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Mt Davidson: Toxic Garlon, Felled Trees

On a recent trip to Mount Davidson, a visitor saw that Garlon had been sprayed on oxalis.

The Natural Resources Department (NRD, formerly Natural Areas Program) is the most frequent user of pesticides in San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD).  It applied herbicides on Mt Davidson 8 times in 2016. Other SFRPD units have all but stopped using herbicides.

Notice of Garlon 4 Ultra on Oxalis on Mt Davidson, San Francisco CA

Garlon 4 Ultra on Oxalis on Mt Davidson, San Francisco CA

The Natural Resource Department (NRD, formerly Natural Areas Program or NAP), observed the SF Department of the Environment guideline to use blue dye with its herbicides (so people can see and avoid those areas).

Blue dye indicates Garlon 4 Ultra on Mt Davidson Jan 2017

Blue dye indicates Garlon 4 Ultra on Mt Davidson Jan 2017

Unfortunately, they flouted the SF Environment guideline that says there should be no herbicides used within 15 feet of a trail. “Blue dye is right next to and on the trails…” said the visitor.

(Edited to Add: We subsequently learned that SFRPD got a special exemption to permit them to spray on the trail, and they were supposed to have blocked the trail to visitors.)

Here’s a picture of blue dye on the trail.

Blue dye shows Garlon on the path on Mt Davidson, Jan 2017

Blue dye shows Garlon on the path on Mt Davidson, Jan 2017

Garlon by the trail on Mt Davidson, San Francisco, Jan 2017

Garlon by the trail on Mt Davidson, San Francisco, Jan 2017

GARLON IS VERY TOXIC

The SF Department of the Environment (SF Environment), which is responsible for the Integrated Pest Management guidelines, lists Garlon 4 Ultra as a Tier I chemical, Most Hazardous. Ever since we started following this issue, it’s been on the list with a bold, capitalized statement: HIGH PRIORITY TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE.

Garlon is also supposed to be twenty times as toxic to women as to men. (See page 28 of this California Native Plant Society Presentation which discusses best management practices in herbicide use: Law_Johnson 2014 presentation toxicity )

An article on SaveSutro.com, based on a detailed study by the Marin Municipal Water Department, describes some of the issues with Garlon:

  • Garlon “causes severe birth defects in rats at relatively low levels of exposure.” Baby rats were born with brains outside their skulls, or no eyelids. Exposed adult females rats also had more failed pregnancies.
  •   Rat and dog studies showed damage to the kidneys, the liver, and the blood.
  •   About 1-2% of Garlon falling on human skin is absorbed within a day. For rodents, its absorbed twelve times as fast. It’s unclear what happens to predators such as hawks that eat the affected rodents.
  • Dogs  may be particularly vulnerable; their kidneys may not be able to handle Garlon as well as rats or humans.  Dow Chemical objected when the Environmental Protection agency noted decreased red-dye excretion as an adverse effect, so now it’s just listed as an “effect.”
  •  It very probably alters soil biology. “Garlon 4 can inhibit growth in the mycorrhizal fungi…” ( soil funguses that help plant nutrition.)
  •  It’s particularly dangerous to aquatic creatures: fish (particularly salmon); invertebrates; and aquatic plants.
  •  Garlon can persist in dead vegetation for up to two years.

parent and child with oxalisThis highly toxic chemical is used by NRD against oxalis during its flowering season – in winter and spring. On Mount Davidson, they used it in February  and December 2016 as well.

It doesn’t make logical sense. Here’s our article on Five reasons it’s okay to love oxalis and stop poisoning it.

TREES BEING FELLED

Meanwhile, another visitor sent us a series of pictures showing trees being felled at the southwest end of the forest.

tree-noticed-to-be-removed-mt-davidson-jan-2017 tree-x-ed-out-jan-mt-davidson-2017 former-trees-mt-davidson-jan-2017.

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Better Parks for People Who Need Them, 2: Improving the Equity Metrics

This article expresses further concerns about the Equity Metrics developed by San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department (SFRPD). The first article is here: The  Proposed”Anti-Equity Metrics”.

Proposition B provides SFRPD with set-aside funds for the next 30 years. It also requires them to ensure equity for the parks, by spending more on parks in under-served areas. Let’s call those the “Equity” tracts (they’re based on census tracts showing below-average income).

Now SFRPD proposes a calculation method (“metric”) that indicates it’s actually devoting more resources to those parks already. (You can see that calculation HERE: item-2-equity-metrics-staff-report-final-080416) How? By simply assuming that only the “Equity” tracts use the parks within a quarter-mile of their homes, so that they get ALL the resources spent on those parks. Of course, that’s simply not true. The Equity tract users use those parks, but so does everyone else who lives nearby. (Large parks may even attract people from across the city.) They share the resources, they don’t get all the resources.

Tom Borden provides a more detailed explanation from of what’s wrong with SFRPD’s current Equity Metric (i.e., how it will calculate how it’s doing on sharing resources with under-served areas). We need improved metrics to make sure that under-served populations get more resources.


PROPOSITION B EQUITY METRICS

by Tom Borden

The Equity Metrics currently proposed by SFRPD are misleading and inadequate. The calculation method chosen by SFRPD cheats the people in under-served neighborhoods by dramatically overstating the park resources provided to them. The individual metrics chosen are indirect, subjective, open to manipulation, irrelevant and even backward to what we are trying to measure.

The Calculation Methodology
Defining census tracts based on the CalEnviroScreen data (as the current metric does) seems to be a good choice. The logic of including parks within 1/4 mile of tract boundaries also seems sound. The logic breaks down when it comes time to assign park resources to Equity census tracts. The per capita measures are based on the resources of all of the parks captured in the “Parks Serving the Equity Zones” divided by the total population of the disadvantaged census tracts. Any census tract that is within 1/4 mile of a park captures 100% of that park’s resources.

Based on this methodology, Golden Gate Park should be included, but it is not in the list of “Parks Serving the Equity Zones”. Why? Because allocating 100% of Golden Gate Park to Outer Richmond census tract 478.01 would expose the fallacy of SFRPD’s calculation method. It systematically allocates far more resources to equity zones than the residents actually enjoy. The same logical problem exists for every other park where there are non-equity tracts sharing the resources with equity tracts. It’s just that the scale of the systematic error is smaller because the parks are smaller.

When there are 20 picnic tables in a park the people from the neighboring equity census tracts do not get all of them. They share them with the other tracts within a 1/4 mile of the park. If half of the people around a park are from regular census tracts and half are from equity tracts, 10 of the picnic tables should be allocated to the equity population. The SFRPD system allocates all 20 to the equity population. All of the per capita metrics need to account for sharing in order to produce results that can be compared to the citywide averages.

[See our earlier article “The Anti-Equity Metric” for a graphic example.]

A Better Measurement

All parks are shared between census tracts. When calculating metrics, it should be done on a park by park basis based the number of people in all census tracts with tract boundaries within 1/4 mile of each park. table-for-eq-metricsSee the spreadsheet here that illustrates the calculation for McLaren Park, Palega Rec. Center and the surrounding census tracts.  (Click on it for a larger version). A spreadsheet like this could be built out to include every park and census tract in the City.

For example, let’s assume McLaren Park received $3M in capital investment in a year. That would be allocated as follows:
Capital per person = $3M / 79,740 total park users = $37.62 per person
Capital per Equity tract resident = $37.62 per person (the same as everyone else)
Capital for the 10 equity tracts adjoining McLaren = $37.62 * 35,461 equity users = $1.33M
or
Capital for the 10 equity tracts adjoining McLaren = $3M * 44.5% = $1.33M

The per capita metrics for Recreational Resources, Park Acres, Maintenance spending, etc. can be similarly calculated. To get a measure of city wide Equity in Capital spending, we would sum up all of the parks:

Capital spent in Park A * % equity users for Park A
+Capital spent in Park B * % equity users for Park B
+Capital spent in Park C * % equity users for Park C
+….
And divide that result by the total population of all equity tracts to get a citywide per capita measure.
It would also be useful to look at this from the perspective of individual Equity tracts. The per capita resources associated with each park within a 1/4 mile of the tract could be added up to see how the particular census tract was being served.

This may sound complicated, but once the assignments are made between individual census tracts and individual parks based on location, the calculation could be easily done in a spreadsheet.

This is a key issue. If it is not fixed the equity metrics are useless and the under-served communities are cheated.

The following points should also be considered in developing an improved metric.

Transparency
All of the metrics calculations should be available to the public from start to finish. Presentation of final results from a black box calculation is not acceptable.

Excluded Parks
The metrics exclude parks that have schools and libraries, Francisco Reservoir, Marina Harbor, Candlestick, the Zoo, 17th & Folsom, 900 Innes, Geneva Car Barn and Noe Valley Town Square. Some of these should be included.

  • Parks at schools and libraries are frequently larger than mini-parks and are used as neighborhood park space. They should be included.
  • The new parks should be included for the capital spending metric. Once they open, the rest of the metrics can be applied. It looks particularly bad to exclude Francisco reservoir.
  • Excluding Candlestick makes sense.
  • The harbor and the zoo do seem like special cases. If the harbor produces a positive cash flow, excluding it is ok.

Recreation – hours of recreational resources
As defined, recreational resources includes those provided by volunteers and “recreation partners”. Those should not be counted since they are not funded by SFRPD and represent efforts by the public to make up for SFRPD’s shortfall of the needed services.

Investment – Hours of Volunteer Service
We volunteer to improve our parks beyond what SFRPD is doing. Including volunteer service in this metric means that the harder we work on our park, the less SFRPD would be required to spend. The whole intent of these metrics is to insure equitable spending of the Prop B money. Volunteer hours are more likely a measure of SFRPD’s failure to spend money in a park, the opposite of what we are trying to measure.

It does, of course, make sense to account for SFRPD’s expenditures on volunteer recruitment, scheduling, and on-site management and assistance by SFRPD staff. These expenditures should be under the Maintenance heading, not Investment. Clearing brush, pulling non-native plants, repairing trails, tending native plantings and picking up trash are all maintenance, not capital improvements.

Volunteer service hours is not a valid metric.

Recreation – scholarships granted
By definition, these program discounts are granted to low income families. Of course, more will be granted per capita in disadvantaged neighborhoods. There is no point in comparing this metric between average and disadvantaged neighborhoods. A meaningful measure would be number of people participating in SFRPD programs per capita from disadvantaged tracts versus the City at large.

Access – acres per capita
This should be acres of usable parkland. It should not include parkland that is off-limits to the public such as Natural Areas under the Natural Areas Program (NAP). According to SFRPD’s Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP) less than 5% of NAP controlled parkland will be open to the public.

This is a critical issue since the City’s southeast Equity region contains a disproportionate share of Natural Areas acreage. See the map below. Half of McLaren Park, almost all of Bayview Hill and most of India Basin are Natural Areas.

park-map

Investment – Capital
Capital spending on the Natural Areas Program should not be counted since it does not benefit local park users. Trail closures, land closures, access control fences and proscriptive signage do not benefit the local public. Spending money on the NAP in Equity Zone parks is a form of environmental racism. Wealthier neighborhoods get usable landscaped parks while the disadvantaged neighborhoods have their parkland closed off for native plant preserves. These equity metrics should not promote that outcome.

Maintenance – Park Scores
The Park Scores are a useful metric. They are a good attempt at creating an objective assessment of our parks. However, it’s hard to imagine that bias does not creep into these assessments.

This should be used as a metric, but with other robust measures beside it.

Maintenance – repair requests completed
This refers to maintenance requests logged into SFRPD’s internal TMA system. Entries are made by SFRPD staff and checked off as completed. The metric is proposed as the percentage of the requests opened during a particular year that are closed in the same year. This is not a reliable metric.

If a different level of care continues to be applied to parks in disadvantaged neighborhoods, staff would not lodge repair requests for things in those parks that they would in others. A high closure percentage for the fewer requests would not mean the disadvantaged parks were being as well maintained. There is no dollar value tied to the TMA entries. A request in a nice park might be, “the rec center windows look old, replace with new windows. “ In the Equity park it might be, “the bathroom window hinges are rusting out, nail window shut.” The TMA system is subject to manipulation and is opaque to the public.

A better metric would be number of TMA requests closed per year per capita of Equity population. However, this is still of very limited meaning since the value of the requests cannot be determined.

This metric should not be used.

Maintenance – money spent per capita
This is one of the most direct and meaningful measures. Why isn’t it in here? The previous two metrics are indirect and much less reliable. RPD says this metric is not proposed because they do not know how much they spend for maintenance in any given park. Can they be serious? They do not know how many gardeners, janitors and managers are allocated to each park? Their TMA system does not track time and materials associated with a job? If they do not have this information, they need to figure it out now. How can they do a good job of managing our parks without it?

As with capital spending, maintenance spending should not include the Natural Areas Program. The activities of the NAP do not benefit park users at large. Of particular concern is the reliance of the NAP on toxic herbicides. The NAP enjoys a special exemption from Department of Environment rules that allows it to use the most toxic herbicides freely in Natural Areas. (See the new guidelines HERE: 032216_restrictions_on_herbicides )

These metrics should not promote spraying toxic chemicals in Equity Zone parks.

Better Parks for People Who Need Them: The Proposed “Anti-Equity” Metrics

Proposition B provides San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) with set-aside funds for the next 30 years. It also requires them to ensure equity for the parks, by spending more on parks in under-served areas. Let’s call those the “Equity” tracts (they’re based on census tracts showing below-average income).

Now SFRPD proposes a calculation method (“metric”) that indicates it’s actually devoting more resources to those parks already. (You can see that calculation HERE: item-2-equity-metrics-staff-report-final-080416) How? By simply assuming that only the “Equity” tracts use the parks within a quarter-mile of their homes, so that they get ALL the resources spent on those parks. Of course, that’s simply not true. The Equity tract users use those parks, but so does everyone else who lives nearby. (Large parks may even attract people from across the city.) They share the resources, they don’t get all the resources.

Tom Borden shows graphically what’s wrong with SFRPD’s current Equity Metric. In the next article, he will provide a more detailed analysis of this hastily-designed measure.

THE ANTI-EQUITY METRIC

by Tom Borden

RPD’s Equity metrics show paradoxically that the disadvantaged neighborhoods of San Francisco enjoy more park resources than the average city resident, much more. On a per capita basis, the equity population is way ahead of the average resident. Below, the first number shows the resources for the “Equity” tracts (i.e., under-served populations, determined by census tracts), vs. City-wide resources.

  • Acres of park/1,000 people:  4.42 vs 4.00
  • Number of parks/1,000 people 0.49 vs 0.26
  • Capital Investment/1,000 people $64,003 vs $24,333
  • Recreational Resources/1,000 people 530 hours vs 284 hours

Do you believe it? They must be doing something wrong in their calculations. Let’s take a look.

The graphic below shows a 10 acre park where five census tracts are within 1/4 mile of the park.
Two of the tracts are equity tracts. For simplicity, let’s say 4 people live in each tract.

park-equity-graphic-1
When SFRPD calculates their metrics, they assign 100% of a park’s resources to equity zones if an equity zone is within 1/4 mile of the park. For our park above, let’s use the SFRPD method to calculate the acres of park per capita for the equity tracts. Here’s what that looks like:park-equity-graphic-2

Using the SFRPD method, the 8 equity neighbors share 10 acres, or 1.25 acres per capita. Do they really have all that space to themselves? No. All those other neighbors standing outside use the park too. They put wear and tear on the park, occupy the tennis courts and picnic tables, take spots in programmed activities, fill up the trash cans, and take lanes at the pool.

The SFRPD method shows the equity neighbors are getting much more than they actually are. The right way to calculate this is shown below.

park-equity-graphic-3

All twenty neighbors share the park, so each enjoys 10 acres / 20 people = 0.5 acre per capita. This is the same for equity and non-equity neighbors. The two equity tracts should be allocated acreage as follows:
8 people X 0.5 acre per person = 4 acres

The portion of any particular park resource to allocate to the adjoining equity tracts is based on the simple ratio of equity park users to total park users, in this case 8 / 20 = 40%.

If there 30 picnic tables, the equity tracts would be allocated 30 x 0.4 = 12 tables
If $1,000,000 of capital was spent in the park, $400,000 would be allocated to the equity tracts.

SFRPD needs to correct their accounting for parks shared by equity and non-equity tracts. The resources of each shared park should be calculated as illustrated above. If this is not done, the error makes it look like the equity tracts are being better served than they really are. Instead of having Equity Metrics we have Anti-Equity Metrics.

Did “Round Up” Kill My Dog? (and why you should care)

This article by Dr. Victoria Hamman was published recently in “The Natural Newsletter.” Dr Hamman is a licensed naturopathic doctor who lives in San Francisco. It’s republished here by permission with minor edits and added pictures.

RIP, good dog Barack.

Barack & Miney

Barack & Miney

Most of you knew my dog Barack. He was my office companion, always quick with the announcing bark and wagging tail when folks arrived at the gate. Barack healed many a person of their fear of dogs with his gentle way. When someone was upset, he’d come over and lie at their feet. He loved people – especially children. I never had to worry about Barack, even when toddlers hung onto his fur.

Barack died on Sept 18 from a horrific oral cancer that killed him less than 4 months after the diagnosis. I’ve had dogs my entire 58 years, been around many other people’s dogs and worked as a vet assistant during my college years, and never have I seen an cancer like this.

I accept that death sometimes arrives sooner than expected. Many dogs have died of cancer at younger ages than Barack. People die too “before their time,” for reasons that medicine all too often cannot explain. Veterinarians told me that sadly, these types of oral and nasal cancers are on the increase in San Francisco dogs, but they had no idea what was causing them.

Then it came to my attention that the City of San Francisco sprays the herbicide “Round Up” (glyphosate) liberally in parks and dog parks. And then California became the first state to demand that Monsanto place a “black box” warning on its product that Round Up “Probably Causes Cancer.” Recently I noted that the SF Recreation and Parks Dept. posted notices all around a preschool in Glen Park warning that they had sprayed Round Up. Children who crawl around on the ground share an increased risk of exposure with dogs (and other animals) who have their noses and mouths directly in the sprayed vegetation.

Barack always had his nose in the Round Up-sprayed grass and, being a ball retriever, he was constantly picking up some of that herbicide on his ball into his mouth: the mouth that developed cancer. So I started doing some research on this herbicide – the biggest-selling herbicide in the world. And what I learned alarmed and infuriated me.

Natural Areas Program pesticide notice

A recent study by eminent oncologists Dr. Lennart Hardell and Dr. Mikael Eriksson of Sweden has revealed clear links between glyphosate) and non-Hodgkins lymphoma – a common and often deadly cancer in humans. There has been convincing evidence for decades that Round Up causes a wide variety of cancers. 30 years ago the Environmental Protection Agency warned that Round Up might cause cancer.

Round Up indiscriminately kills a wide variety of “weeds.” Now, due to Monsanto’s bioengineering, 71% of genetically engineered( GE) crops are designed to be resistant to Round Up. This means that the crops are not killed by the herbicide, thus farmers are spraying 3X as much Round Up as they used to in an attempt to kill the weeds (which themselves are becoming increasingly resistant.) GEs dramatically increase the amount of pesticides sprayed. Round up residues on GE soybeans have increased from 6 parts per million (ppm) in 2005 to 20 ppm now.
Monsanto now makes seeds for soy, corn, canola, cotton, alfalfa and beets that are “Round Up Resistant”. Round up is a $6 billion dollar per year product. A large portion of the GE soy and corn become animal feed where the chemical accumulates in the fat of the cows and pigs that eat it, and the human consumer is exposed to an even bigger dose.

Round Up negatively impacts human health in other devastating ways besides cancer: endocrine disruption, organ damage, birth defects, and kidney failure.

There is an area called “The Soy Republic” in Latin America – 125 million acres in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay devoted to GE soy production. A National University of Argentina epidemiological study of 65,000 people revealed breast, prostate and lung cancer rates 2-4 times higher than the national average. In some heavily sprayed farming villages, 31% of residents have family members with cancer (compared to 3% in ranching villages.) A 2009 study of American children with brain cancer showed that if either parent was exposed to Round Up during the 2 years before the child’s birth, the risk of that child having brain cancer doubled.

A study done in France (published in 2012 but silenced until it was re-published in 2014,) showed a doubled increase in breast tumors in people exposed to Round Up. The tumors were also more aggressive. There was also an increase in cancer of the pituitary gland. Furthermore, all of the animal studies showing high cancer and death rates were done with much lower doses proportionately than what we are being exposed to today. We are being exposed to Round Up residue 500-4000 times higher than the dose that has been proven to cause cancer. As if that’s not enough, a group of international scientists reported that Round Up leads to antibiotic resistance in the most common disease-causing bacteria.

Did Round Up kill Barack? I’ll never know the answer to that question. But the evidence is clear that chemical pesticides/herbicides are killing untold numbers of human beings. What can you do to stop the carnage?
1.) Never spray chemical pesticides on your own plants and never use chemicals to kill pests such as rats, mice or cockroaches. There are plenty of natural alternatives. (google organic gardening.) Talk to your friends and neighbors; if you live in a complex, talk to the management. Protest the spraying of carcinogenic chemicals anywhere near you.
2.) Always buy organic produce, meat, eggs, milk and cheese. Support organic farmers.
3.) Contact your local government agencies and demand that they use non-toxic alternatives to chemical pesticides/herbicides in your area.

glen canyon glyphosate imazapyr 2012 barack doggie

Think Globally/Act Locally! I’ve listed contact information below for San Francisco:

SF Recreation and Parks Dept.
McLaren Lodge, Golden Gate Park
501 Stanyan St., San Francisco, CA 94117
Pest Mgmt: 415-831-6306

SF Environment Dept.
1455 Market St., Ste. 1200
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 355-3700
environment@sfgov.org

SF Mayor’s Office
Mayor Ed Lee
City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B Goodlet Pl
SF, CA 94102
(415) 554-6141

Thank you for getting involved. It will not be an easy road; Monsanto is one of the biggest companies in the world and heavily supported by the U.S. Govt. But it is a battle that we must fight, for the sake of our own health and those we love. To quote Margaret Meade:

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

 

 

Saving our Urban Forests – A Small Step Forward

mt davidson understoryThis article is republished from the Death of a Million Trees website with permission and minor edits.

The San Francisco Forest Alliance (SFFA) has announced (see below) the successful conclusion of a year-long process of developing a policy for the management of San Francisco’s urban forest by the city’s Urban Forestry Council (UFC). If you have not been closely following the development of this policy it may be difficult to appreciate the importance of this accomplishment.

Native plant advocates made every effort to prevent the UFC from adopting a policy that would make a commitment to the preservation of the urban forest. As our readers know, native plant advocates want the entire urban forest to be destroyed because it is non-native, so they can attempt to recreate native grassland and scrub that existed at the end of the 18th century, prior to the arrival of Europeans.

NATIVE PLANT ARGUMENTS AND WHY THEY’RE WRONG

Native plant advocates tried several different strategies to make the case to the UFC for the destruction of the forest. This is the sequence of the many bogus narratives they attempted to sell to the UFC:

  • They started with the claim that the forest is diseased and dying and must be destroyed. With the help of arborists and our usual independent research, we were able to disprove this particular story line.
  • Then they claimed that forest health would be improved by radical thinning of the forest. Again, our research was able to prove that mature forests do not benefit from thinning because mature trees are unable to respond positively to increased light and wind. The trees that remain are actually more vulnerable to windthrow because they are not adapted to increased wind.
  • Then they claimed that the forest is dying of drought and must be destroyed to prevent the dead trees from becoming a fire hazard. Again, our research was able to prove that our eucalyptus forest is drought-tolerant and is actually more likely to survive the drought than the native plants which will not precipitate as much fog drip as tall trees. However, the final document contains an erroneous claim that the drought has “serious negative effects to mature trees.” In fact, young trees require more water than mature trees.

In December 2014, after listening to six months of these horror stories, it seemed that the UFC was headed in the wrong direction. Their questions and comments, as well as the meetings we were able to arrange, seemed to indicate they were prepared to endorse the destruction of our urban forest. In January 2015, the first draft of the UFC policy confirmed our worst fears. They endorsed “land conversion” from forest to native grassland and scrub and the use of herbicides to prevent the resprouting of the forest.

PROTECTING THE URBAN FOREST

Having done everything we could to prevent this outcome, we despaired. And then the UFC produced a revised draft in April 2015 which was a 180-degree turn from the first draft. We will never know what turned the UFC around, but we surely had a hand in it. Even if there was some unseen influence operating in the background, our viewpoint was confirmed and vindicated by the final outcome.

The UFC then postponed approval of their document, saying they were waiting for public comments from one of the stakeholders. I presume this delay was requested by the Recreation and Park Department, because the final revision of the document accommodated its so-called Natural Areas Program by stating that “management priorities and decisions for some of the mature and historic tree stands [within the “natural areas”] may be different from management practices for other areas of the urban forest.” However, written comments from the Recreation and Park Department were not visible to us.

We are taking the time to tell you about this accomplishment because we hope you will be encouraged by it. Sometimes the odds seem overwhelmingly against our efforts to save our urban forest. But with tenacity and commitment, it is possible to prevent bad things from happening. We are deeply grateful to those who participated in this successful effort to prevent the development of an official city policy that could have endorsed the destruction of our urban forest.

Much remains to be done. Do not give up hope that we can save our urban forest. Please renew your commitment to our efforts.

————————————————————–

SF FOREST ALLIANCE’S LETTER TO SUPPORTERS

Greetings to SFFA Supporters and Members

This week the Urban Forestry Council of the Dept. of Environment accepted a document now called“Guidelines for Managing Mature and Historic Tree Stands,” which had originally been called “Best Management Practices for Urban Forests.” It was written largely by John Leffingwell of HORT Science who sits on the Council, with assistance from Mei Ling Hui, staff member from Dept. of Environment; John Flanagan, Chair of the Council; and Igor Lacan, who also sits on the Council and works for the San Mateo-San Francisco Cooperative Extension service.

[You can also read it here: draft_guiding_principles_for_mature_and_historic_tree_stands_6_16_15]

The document went through several iterations, starting back with its first draft in January 2015, which followed six months of meetings and presentations in 2014. By April 2015 it had been completely revised and had moved away from its earlier endorsement of restoration ecology and the native plant agenda of destroying blue gum eucalyptus forests. Unfortunately, it was passed including one section called “Competing Land Use Priorities” that provides a disclaimer for the Natural Areas Program to treat its trees differently than other urban forests in the name of “protecting San Francisco’s ‘remnant fragments’ of its original landscape.” That section could, at some later date, be used by Rec and Park as endorsement of their destructive plans in the Natural Areas.

However, there is much in the document that would mitigate against that destruction, including a section called “Protect and sustain iconic forest stands.” This section argues that our mature and historic tree stands “are character defining features of the city that provide unique experiences to those who enjoy them” and should be “protected and managed for their cultural and social benefits to residents and visitors.” Their importance is “evidenced by community groups formed around the protection and management of these sites” [Note: that would probably mean the SF Forest Alliance and Concerned Citizens for the Maintenance Alternative.] Although this document may not sound important, it is. It will be used as a guideline by the Urban Forestry Council whenever issues or plans related to the urban forests are brought before them. Potentially, the Board of Supervisors might refer to it as well when there is an appeal of the EIR for the Natural Areas Program’s management plan.

It took a year’s worth of volunteer hours from SF Forest Alliance leaders who attended meetings, made comments and presentations. Additionally, others, including Dr. Joe R. McBride and members of the Hills Conservation Network made presentations before the Council supporting our point of view.

We see it as a small step in the right direction.

Thanks for your continued support!

San Francisco Forest Alliance

STAYING IN TOUCH

1) We encourage you to visit our Blog at SFForest.net. Enter your email address as the top right (“sign me up”) in order to receive our updates directly to our email.

2) If you’re on Facebook, please “Like” our page www.facebook.com/Forest Alliance. We currently have 424 “likes.” Help us to take it over 450!

3) We can be reached at this email address: sfforestnews@gmail.com

We welcome your interest and support!

Why Urban Trees Are Important to Us All

Recently, we wrote about the importance of setting a tree canopy cover goal for San Francisco, a city that should be a green leader. We’d like to see such a goal incorporated into the Urban Forest Master Plan, which unfortunately watered down its goals from the first public draft. San Francisco has an tree canopy cover percentage of only 13.7% – as against an ideal of 25%. (We’re writing to the Planning Commission at commissions.secretary@sfgov.org  – and if you would like to add your voice, please do the same. Tell them the Urban Forest Master Plan needs a canopy cover goal!)

Mt D 6-17-2013

Urban trees are a public asset. They benefit us all in many ways: Green infrastructure; fighting climate change; improved public health; reducing crime; improving economic values.  Recently, we found an excellent note from Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) that compiled all these benefits – and documented the scientific data. We’re summarizing and including the PDF with permission.

You can read it here as a PDF:  benefits_of_trees – Actrees  There’s 19 pages of  information in bullet  points.

TWENTY REASONS TREES BENEFIT US

This is based on the note from ACTrees, using excerpts and summaries to bring out key points.

  • GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE BENEFITS
  1. Economic benefits:  The 3.8 billion trees in the US have a structural asset value of around $2.4 trillion.
  2. Reducing storm water runoff and maintenance costs: Urban forest can reduce storm water runoff by 2-7%, and a mature tree can store 50-100 gallons of water during storms. Portland is planting 4,000 trees to implement a gray-green storm water management solution – and saving $64 million.
  3. Improving air quality: Trees clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and trapping particulates.
  4. Improving water and soil quality: Trees divert captured rainwater into the soil, where micro-organisms filter out impurities. Trees can also help remediate contaminated soil, absorbing many contaminants.
  • PUBLIC HEALTH BENEFITS
  1. Improving attention: Kids with Attention Deficit Disorder function better in green settings – as do college students in dorms with a green outlook.
  2. Decreasing asthma and obesity: Columbia University researchers found that asthma rates fell by 25% for every extra 340 trees per square kilometer [247 acres]. Kids in greener neighborhoods have a lower Body Mass Index.
  3. Improving physical and mental health: Visual exposure to settings with trees helps recovery from stress within 5 minutes. And in one study, workers without nature views from their desks claimed 23% more sick days.
  4. Reducing hospital days: Patients in post-op recovery had shorter hospital stays and needed less pain medicine if they had green views, compared with rooms facing a brick wall.
  5. Protection from Ultra-violet rays: A person takes 20 minutes to burn in full sun, but 50 minutes in part shade, and 100 minutes in full shade.
  6. Noise reduction: Trees absorb noise. A belt of trees 98 feet wide and 49 feet tall can reduce highway sound by 6-10 decibels.
  • ROAD AND TRAFFIC BENEFITS
  1. Traffic calming and accident reduction: Trees improve driving safety. One study found a 46% decrease in crash rates after landscape improvements were installed. Drivers reduce speeds by an average of 3 miles per hour in the presence of trees. Trees can also reduce road rage by reducing stress.
  2. Reducing road maintenance costs: Trees prolong pavement life. Shaded roads can save up to 60% of paving costs.
  • BUSINESS BENEFITS
  1. Business districts – Increased sales, desirability, and rents: Shoppers prefer districts with high-quality trees, and spend more time there. They are willing to pay 7-10% higher prices. Commercial offices with trees have a 7% higher rent.
  2. Jobs: In 2002, distributing, planting, and maintaining trees added about 2 million jobs. [Now – it can only be higher.]
  • PROPERTY VALUE BENEFITS
  1. Increasing property values: Studies have found up to 37% increase in residential values.
  • CLIMATE CHANGE AND CARBON BENEFITS
  1. Storing carbon and reduction of carbon emissions: Urban trees in the US store 700 million tons of carbon, and sequester 22.8 million tons of carbon per year. Urban trees sequester more carbon than wild forests because they grow faster. In California, if 50 million trees were planted, they would sequester 4.5 million tons of CO2 annually, and could reduce air-conditioning energy use equivalent to 1.4 million ton of CO2 in addition. That would be like retrofitting every household with energy-efficient devices.
  2. Carbon mitigation programs: In Los Angeles, the ‘Million Trees LA” campaign plans to plant one million trees, aiming to reduce carbon equivalent to taking 7,000 cars off the street each year.
  3. Reducing the heat island effect: Trees reduce the heat island effect. Shaded surfaces may be 20-45 degrees F cooler than unshaded ones. Trees cool city heat islands by10-20 degrees, reducing ozone levels and helping cities meet air quality standards.
  • ENERGY USE BENEFITS
  1. Trees reduce energy consumption: Trees can reduce both cooling and heating costs by providing shade and acting as windbreaks. A 25-foot tree can reduce annual heating and cooling costs of a typical residence by 8-12%.
  • COMMUNITY BENEFITS
  1. Less violence and crime: Public housing with nearby trees and nature reported 25% fewer acts of violence. Apartment buildings with high levels of greenery had 52% fewer crimes than those without any trees.
  2. Improves community: In buildings with trees, people report significantly better relations with their neighbors. People report a stronger feeling of unity and cohesion with their neighbors.
  3. Wildlife and biodiversity: Urban forests help create and enhance animal and bird habitat.

HOW MUCH TREE CANOPY COVER DO WE NEED?

How much tree cover a city needs depends on local climate. Eastern cities ideally need 40% and western cities need 25% canopy cover.

[San Francisco has 13.7%, a city estimate updated from USDA’s 2007 estimate of 11.9% using a different methodology. We will summarize the excellent USDA report on San Francisco’s Urban trees another time, but you can read the whole report here: SF Urban Forest fs fed US]

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