Sutro Stewards

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Mt. Sutro Open Space Community Meeting: Notes

   Last Thursday marked another installment in UCSF's outreach with regard to the Mt. Sutro Open Space Plan. The meeting, which took place in the Millberry Conference Center's Golden Gate Room, was well very well attended. It's very encouraging to see a community of people coming on a Thursday evening to make their voices heard, and I want to thank all the Stewards who came out that evening.

   The meeting began with Daniel Icofano (MIG Consulting) and Barbara French (Vice Chancellor, UCSF) making opening remarks about the history of community involvement in the Plan, and how we got to the current Plan. (For more on that, click here) The main thrust of their remarks is that his has been a process of input that has been going on for the better part of a decade, and that the input from meetings like these actually do contribute to future iterations of the Plan.


   Next up came Kent Julin, a consultant with Arborscience, and a former firefighter and forester. He spoke about the conditions that he saw around structures, roads and trails, and emphasized just how dangerous with regards to fire and unhealthy with regards to the forest that the current conditions are. He went in depth about Urgent Fire Safety Measures that UCSF and SFFD undertook earlier this year, as well as the four proposed hazard reduction areas that are being addressed in the current Plan, which take place primarily in lands abutting UCSF buildings or Medical Center Way.

   The bulk of the evening, however, was dedicated to community speakers. Our very own Executive Director Craig Dawson provided one of the first comments of the evening, and one that garnered some of the biggest applause- about Sutro Stewards working to improve access for everyone. I was pretty amazed at the level of support that Sutro Stewards has in the community- but I guess that's what happens when you are out there multiple days every month putting in time and energy. Many of the comments, however, seemed to focus exclusively on native vs. non-native plants, or the idea of future development, rather than the at-hand issue of the health of the forest and the safety of everyone in and around Mt. Sutro.

   Sutro Stewards believes that an actively managed forest is the best way for Mt. Sutro to stay safe, healthy and accessible. We heard from supporters and some of our own members about the importance of active management, of environmental education, of what a healthy forest actually looks like (for more on that from Craig, check out "Understanding the Need for Forest Management on our homepage), and more about the great work of Sutro Stewards volunteers. Again, thank you to everyone who attended and either spoke, or filled out comment cards. Working to keep Mt. Sutro open and accessible comes in many different forms- and we do appreciate your work!

   There were no decisions that were made on Thursday night, only input sought- but do stay posted for more news about changes to the Plan.

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Comment by Craig Dawson on November 24, 2013 at 5:53pm

Another Email:

UCSF Mount Sutro Proposed Hazard Reduction Measures

Dear Neighbor:

We would like to thank those of you who attended last night’s community meeting regarding the UCSF Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, and we have now posted the meeting information on our website -  This includes the meeting agenda, PowerPoint presentation, project map, and a new Q&A document.


Please feel free to contact me with any questions.



Damon C. Lew

Assistant Director, Community Relations

Comment by Craig Dawson on November 24, 2013 at 5:50pm

More feedback emailed to me:

So… as the earnest young woman in big boots said…

Ivy is life!

To which I would add:

Babies are life!  And boa constrictors are life!

But you probably don't want to leave them together unsupervised in the same room. Likewise ivy and tall trees.

Ben Pease

Comment by Craig Dawson on November 24, 2013 at 5:49pm

A letter to the Editor from Jake Sigg responding the NYT article read at the meeting with a link below:

Dear Editor:
Mr Klinkenborg in his editorial swipes at the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) for its purported stand on eucalyptus.  CNPS does not have a stand on eucalyptus, but we have been peripherally engaged in the University of California's land management planning on Mt Sutro for over 15 years.  Our position from the beginning has been to manage the understory for diversity; we have not advocated removing trees.
We are a practical organization and don't spend time on non-issues.  The non-issue in this case consists entirely of words such as in your editorial and doesn't reflect anything in the physical world.  The physical reality the University must deal with is a plantation from the late 1800s of trees that left their natural controls across the ocean in Tasmania.  Thus, it is an even-aged stand now in old age and unable to regenerate because of the smothering blankets of English ivy and Himalayan blackberry.  The plantation has created conditions that are leading to its own destruction, as it cannot renew itself.  Worse, the ivy is climbing 150-200' into the tree crowns, competing for light as well as nutrients.  The trees, unable to compete, weaken and topple under the weight of several hundred pounds of ivy.  It is an evolving catastrophe that the University can't ignore--but it must ignore the chorus of pleas to "just leave it alone".  
CNPS has advocated increasing the understory diversity to support wildlife.  Something will grow in the understory, and letting the ivy and blackberry return is not a solution.  A diverse understory of shrubs and perennials will provide much-needed habitat that will make the forest much more interesting and inviting to humans as well as other creatures.
Jake Sigg, Conservation Chair
California Native Plant Society Yerba Buena Chapter
San Francisco
Original article:
Comment by Craig Dawson on November 24, 2013 at 5:44pm

Feedback from Rob Bakewell:

Someone at last night's UCSF - Sutro community meeting quoted from a fairly recent NYtimes op-ed piece that , in my view, attacked the efforts of the enviro community in SF to conserve, and modestly enhance, what is left of the remnants of indigenous biodiversity on Mt. Sutro and other places in the City.
It was at that point that I had to leave anyway.. sparing me from more, may I say, ignorance. 
Perhaps the below linked article taken off NYTimes webpage for today is an antidote.

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