The UCSF Mount Sutro Management Project is a proposal to implement management activities to keep the UCSF Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve accessible to the community, healthy as a forest, and safe for both our own campus and our neighbors. The next step of this process will be the certification of the final EIR. If the EIR is certified, UCSF will then conduct community meetings before implementing small demonstration projects to identify the best approach to managing the entire Reserve. The recommendation to pursue demonstration projects results from a lengthy community planning process held in 2009-2010. For more information please see below.
VIDEO: Managing and Maintaining UCSF Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve
History of the Reserve
Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve is a peaceful 61-acre area in the midst of San Francisco homes, businesses and the University of California San Francisco campus (UCSF). Named for its former owner and San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro, the Reserve has a history of transition much like many San Francisco neighborhoods.
A successful engineer and real estate investor, Adolph Sutro served as San Francisco Mayor from 1894 to 1896. Sutro’s many land holdings included Mount Parnassus, now named Mount Sutro in his honor. Like most of San Francisco’s higher terrain in the 1800s, the hill was covered primarily with native grasses, wildflowers and shrubs. In celebration of San Francisco’s first Arbor Day in 1886, Sutro began planting the hill with imported blue gum eucalyptus, Monterey pine, Monterey cypress and possibly other species. The eucalyptus quickly adapted to the new location and soon became the predominant tree species on the hill.
Sutro donated 13 acres of land on Parnassus Avenue to the UCSF Regents in 1895 for development into the UCSF Parnassus Heights campus. It wasn’t until 1953 that UCSF purchased a 90-acre parcel to the south, which included Mount Sutro. Most of this land is now the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.
UCSF is committed to maintaining the Reserve as a resource for San Franciscans and takes seriously its responsibility to keep the site safe and accessible.
Visiting Mount Sutro
UCSF welcomes the use of the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve. The hiking trails are maintained by volunteers under the supervision of the Sutro Stewards, in partnership with UCSF. The Sutro Stewards, a program of the non-profit San Francisco Parks Trust, have developed a trail map [PDF] and have outlined suggested hikes.
The Sutro Stewards were founded by Craig Dawson, who grew up on Christopher Drive near Mount Sutro and has been a member of the UCSF Community Advisory Group since 1992. The Stewards regularly turn out volunteers to work on Mount Sutro. Everyone who walks the trails of Mount Sutro owes their nature-walk-in-the-city to the Stewards volunteers, who have logged thousands of hours clearing the trails. In addition, Stewards volunteers helped to develop Rotary Meadow, the native plant demonstration area identified in the 2001 Sutro Plan and funded by the Rotary Club.
The Sutro Stewards work closely with the UCSF Facilities Management department, gaining the University’s approval for the work they propose to do in the Reserve. The Stewards organize, plan, and manage all volunteer days, supervising and training volunteers to perform habitat and trail maintenance work. Recognizing the value of the contributions of the San Francisco Parks Trust/Sutro Stewards program, in 2010 UCSF began providing $1,000 per month to ensure the continuation of this valuable service. UCSF provides hand tools, a staging area, and tool storage for use on volunteer days, and supplies pizza and water for the volunteer workers. UCSF very much appreciates the hard work of all the volunteers who donate their time to help the Reserve.
The Sutro Stewards were recently recognized by San Francisco Magazine as a group that makes the Bay Area one of the best places to live, work and play. The San Francisco Neighborhoods Parks Council recognized Stewards founder Craig Dawson, as volunteer of the month for July 2009. For information on volunteering and on these awards, please visit:
Managing Mount Sutro
During the 1990’s, while working with the campus on the UCSF Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), the UCSF Community Advisory Group advised that the LRDP include recommendations for a maintenance and restoration program for the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve’s vegetation and hiking trails. This became the impetus for the 2001 Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Management Plan. The plan was developed over three years with substantial involvement from members of the community. The plan strikes a balance between neighborhood interests and UCSF concerns, and it is organized around seven planning principles, or goals:
- Ensure public safety and property protection
- Improve the health of the forest
- Protect and expand native plants
- Enhance wildlife habitat values
- Maintain scenic quality
- Improve public access
- Implement the resource management plan
UCSF has worked for the past eight years to implement the Management Plan, focusing on top priorities in the plan related primarily to hazardous tree removal. The priorities that have been accomplished are: hazardous tree removal in Crestmont-Christopher, Edgewood, Upper Medical Center Way, Chancellor’s Residence and East Aldea; screen planting at Aldea, a UCSF housing community; and coast scrub demonstration planting and needle grass enhancement on the Mount Sutro Summit. Work has been done outside the scope of the Management Plan as the need has arisen, and this work includes: understory clearing to recover a newly discovered historic trail and other trail improvements and maintenance by the Mt. Sutro Stewards; rehabilitation of a mudslide area caused by a water line break; and additional hazardous tree removal as needed. In addition, the San Francisco Public Utility Commission removed brush and trees to build a new water pump house and install a new line up the hill to an existing water tank.
Other projects have also been completed as needs have arisen, but no tree thinning projects or other types of demonstration areas have occurred in the Reserve, with the exception of the native plant demonstration project on the summit, which was funded by a generous grant from the Rotary Club of San Francisco and planted by Rotarians and community members.
In the years since the Management Plan was completed, two independent professional foresters have evaluated the Reserve for UCSF and determined that the forest has declined in vigor as exhibited by the increase in dead trees and dying trees with thin crowns and small tree trunks due to lack of optimal growth conditions. In addition, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management issued a Hazard Mitigation Plan in 2008 to “assess risks posed by natural and human-caused hazards and to develop a mitigation strategy for reducing the City’s risk”. This Hazard Mitigation Plan includes a Wildfire Hazard Area map [PDF] that identified the area of the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve as having a high to very high wildfire hazard based on its fuel ranking. UCSF is responsible for managing its property and mitigating hazards, including wildfire risk.
In 2007 and 2008, UCSF applied for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to work in two demonstration areas to reduce the risk of a devastating high intensity, fast-moving wildfire and to improve the health and safety of the remaining trees. In 2010, UCSF withdrew these grant applications, but remains fully committed to reducing the risk of wildfire and improving the health and safety of the forest while maintaining scenic quality. See email to neighbors [PDF] for more information.
- Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Management Plan (2001) [PDF]
- Mount Sutro 1999 Report by HortScience, Inc. (57MB) [PDF]
- October 19, 2009 Community Meeting Powerpoint Presentation [PDF]
- Mount Sutro Q & A July 2011
Maintaining Mount Sutro
As with all of its facilities and properties, UCSF conducts ongoing, regular maintenance of Mount Sutro. The regular maintenance of Mount Sutro is independent of the longer-term management plan or potential fire mitigation demonstration projects.
Mount Sutro maintenance is conducted by UCSF Facilities Management. The Facilities Management staff is committed to the highest level of service to both its campus customers and to the community.
Regular ongoing general maintenance on Mount Sutro includes: removal of storm debris, downed trees or branches and hazardous trees; removal of broom; trash or campsite removal; managing overgrown vegetation, including along Medical Center Way, parking areas, walkways, stairs and buildings; drain clearing; weekly blowing along Medical Center Way, parking areas, walkways, stairs and buildings; spot-application of herbicide, only as necessary (supervised by licensed applicators according to State and County safety standards and with notification flyers posted in advance).
In addition to the first three tasks listed above, regular maintenance work on the Mount Sutro summit also includes removal of invasive sprouts, at least bi-annually.
Regular maintenance of the trails includes: maintenance to better allow usage and ensure continued accessibility, including keeping a clearance of up to 5 feet on both sides; removal of trash and debris; management of overgrown vegetation; removal of storm debris, downed trees or branches and hazardous trees; removal of broom; security patrol; trash or campsite removal; spot-application of herbicide only as necessary (supervised by licensed applicators according to State and County safety standards and with notification flyers posted in advance).
Herbicides have not been used in the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve since 2008 and are not being used at the Aldea housing complex pending an evaluation of an herbicide commonly known as “Roundup”. UCSF is evaluating Roundup as a result of recent studies on the active ingredient in Roundup and similar glyphosate-based herbicides.
Community Planning Process 2009-2010
UCSF is committed to a community process that fully communicates with neighbors on what work will be done on Mount Sutro to achieve the goal of reducing the risk of wildfire and improving the health and safety of the remaining trees while maintaining scenic quality. Documents related to community meetings are here.
A report documenting the extensive community involvement that UCSF facilitated in 2009 through 2010 to develop forest management goals for the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve (the Reserve) and a plan for their implementation is now available (see links below).
Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Community Planning Process Summary (2010)
- Low-resolution, optimal for on-screen viewing [PDF]
- High-resolution, high print quality—will take longer to download [PDF]
The purpose of the Community Planning Process was to define areas where “best practices” in forest management could be demonstrated and evaluated. The demonstration areas would allow for input from the campus and community prior to any further steps being taken. The overarching goal was – and remains – to collaborate with the community to identify, demonstrate and evaluate best practices before any further decisions or actions are taken. Four demonstration projects totaling less than 7.5 acres are proposed to be implemented in the Reserve. The projects were designed with different characteristics to allow for study and evaluation of varying management techniques.
The Community Planning Process Summary report outlines several changes that were made to the demonstration project plan as a result of the community’s engagement and input over the year-long planning process and also contains commitments that UCSF will follow going forward.
UCSF would like to thank all those who participated in the 2009-2010 Community Planning Process. Your continued participation is appreciated and valued as we seek to maintain and manage this treasured open space.
See UCSF Today Article here:
Environmental Review Process
The Initial Study for the environmental impact report (EIR) includes a project description and discusses potential environmental impacts and proposed mitigation measures for any significant effects. It also identifies the proposed scope and content of the environmental information that will be included in the Draft EIR. The Initial Study can be viewed at http://campusplanning.ucsf.edu. The public comment period for this document has ended.
The EIR scoping meeting, held in January 2011, provided an opportunity for the community to discuss the scope and content of the environmental information they expected to see included in the Draft EIR. This allowed UCSF to learn about potential concerns early, as well as further define the issues, feasible alternatives, and potential mitigation measures that may warrant in-depth analysis in the environmental review process. This meeting was not required by law.
The public hearing on the Draft EIR for the UCSF Mount Sutro Management Project was held on February 25, 2013. The purpose of this hearing was to solicit public comments on the adequacy and accuracy of information presented in the Draft EIR. As required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Draft EIR (1) assesses the potentially significant environmental effects of the proposed project, including cumulative impacts of the proposed project in conjunction with past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future development; (2) identifies feasible means of avoiding or substantially lessening significant adverse impacts; and (3) evaluates a range of reasonable alternatives to the proposed project, including the No Project alternative.
UCSF Campus Planning has published the public comments for the Draft EIR on the Campus Planning website:
The Draft EIR is available online at http://campusplanning.ucsf.edu . To obtain a paper or CD copy or to view reference materials, email UCSF Environmental Coordinator Diane Wong at EIR@planning.ucsf.edu or call (415) 502-5952. The original 45-day public comment period was from January 18, 2013 to March 4, 2013. At the request of some community members, the public comment period was extended an additional two weeks to March 19, 2013, bringing the public comment period to 60 days. The public comment period is now closed.
The next step of this process will be the certification of the final EIR. If the EIR is certified, UCSF will then conduct community meetings before implementing small demonstration projects to identify the best approach to managing the entire Reserve.