Learn more about the history of the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, and get information for visitors, including a trail map and volunteer opportunities.
- Latest News & Updates
- Maintaining Mount Sutro
- Reserve Management Plan and Public Process
- Technical Advisory Committee
Latest News & Updates
Community Process Archives
Access agendas, presentations and documents from past community meetings.
Since the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve was declared permanent open space in 1976, UCSF has been committed to the responsible stewardship of the Reserve. Due to a severe decline in the health and safety of the Reserve as a result of California’s extended drought, UCSF began a public process more than two years ago to develop a management plan with the goals to protect the safety of the community, improve ecosystem health, regenerate the forest, and ensure public access.
Thank you to the many members of our community who have provided input for and commented on our plan.
We're aware that there's some misinformation circulating about the plan's objectives. To get the facts, please read our Frequently Asked Questions.
Upcoming Mount Sutro Vegetation Management Plan Implementation, Maintenance and Safety Work
January 11, 2019
Last spring, UCSF completed an extensive community and environmental review process and approved the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Vegetation Management Plan (Plan) to improve the safety and restore the health of the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.
Starting the week of January 14, UCSF will begin work to implement the Plan, as well as perform annual fire hazard mitigation and other maintenance work in the Reserve. This work will occur in phases over the next several weeks and will include clearing vegetation along roads and near neighbors’ homes, hazardous tree removal, tree pruning, and forest treatments detailed in the Plan (more information below).
UCSF is committed to maintaining the Reserve as a safe and accessible resource that residents and visitors can enjoy. We anticipate that the plan implementation and maintenance work will be completed before bird-nesting season begins in the spring. Even so, UCSF will conduct bird-nesting surveys before tree work to avoid any disruption or harm to wildlife.
Implementation of the Mount Sutro Vegetation Management Plan
The Plan aims to protect the safety of residents and visitors, improve ecosystem health, regenerate the forest, and maintain and ensure public access to the Reserve.
The Plan identifies three phases of forest treatment over the next twenty years. During the first few years, forest treatments will focus on the areas in greatest need of treatment. Management activities include: 1) removing dead, dying, unhealthy and structurally unsound trees, 2) controlling low-growing vines and shrubs that would compete with desired vegetation, 3) preventing sprouts from decayed stumps (these sprouts would also contain decay), and 4) planting new trees.
Over the next several weeks, UCSF will begin forest treatments in areas around the East Ridge Trail and Clarendon Trail. For a map of Mount Sutro, click here. The work will include removing dead and dying trees in the two targeted areas, clearing understory, and preparing the areas for replanting. Once the trees and understory are removed, we will begin replanting the two areas with young and vigorous trees to regenerate the tree canopy.
Annual Hazardous Tree Work
Every year, UCSF contracts with a consulting arborist to identify dead and dying trees that pose a risk to life or property and to remove or prune the hazardous trees. Starting the week of January 14, UCSF will begin hazardous tree removal and pruning, which will be largely concentrated around the Farnsworth Trail, Clarendon Trail, and Woodland Canyon areas. The tree removals in the Woodland Canyon area will require a crane and closure of Medical Center Way for one or two Saturdays. We will send a notice to neighbors when the street closure is scheduled.
Fire Hazard Mitigation
Beginning in February, UCSF will bring goats from City Grazing into the Reserve to graze in targeted areas near roads, buildings and neighbors’ homes to help clear vegetation and maintain defensible space. Fencing will be put up around the areas where the goats will graze. The goats will be grazing near the Surge and Woods parking lots, and in an area near the South Ridge Trail. In addition, UCSF facilities staff will be removing brush in other defensible space areas for fire hazard mitigation.
The work is expected to occur intermittently over the next several weeks and will be done using chainsaws and hand tools, which will generate noise in the area. UCSF's good neighbor commitment limits noisy work on weekdays to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Any weekend noisy work would take place between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
During the work, some trails will be closed or partially closed, and visitors will be redirected. Signs will indicate trail closures. For your safety and the safety of the workers, please obey posted signage in the Reserve.
We will distribute additional notices via our listserv should other impacts be identified. To join our listserv, please contact [email protected].
UCSF Approves Mount Sutro Vegetation Management Plan
April 30, 2018
UCSF's Chancellor approved a long-term management plan for the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve and certified the plan's Environmental Impact Report. The 20-year plan aims to protect the safety of residents and visitors, improve ecosystem health, regenerate the forest, and maintain and ensure public access to the Reserve.
UCSF Finalizing Plan to Restore Health of Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve
April 4, 2018
UCSF is finalizing a long-term management plan for the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve that will address the widespread damage wrought by the worst drought in modern California history. The final proposed 20-year plan aims to achieve UCSF's goals to protect the safety of residents and visitors, improve ecosystem health, regenerate the forest, and maintain and ensure public access to the Reserve.
UCSF Publishes Draft Environmental Impact Report for Proposed Management Plan
July 24, 2017
UCSF has published its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the proposed Mount Sutro Open Space Vegetation Management Plan, which addresses the potential environmental impacts of the proposed plan. Learn more about the report »
UCSF's Proposed Vegetation Management Plan for the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve
February 23, 2017
UCSF's most current Proposed Vegetation Management Plan is now available for download (revised February 2017). Hard copies of this plan are available upon request, and were made available at the EIR Scoping meeting on Feb. 23, 2017.
UCSF Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Vegetation Management Plan Initial Study
February 8, 2017
A Notice of Preparation/Initial Study is available for a 30-day public review and comment period beginning February 6, 2017, through March 8, 2017. It identifies the scope and content of the environmental information that will be included in the Draft EIR.
UCSF Publishes Revised Mount Sutro Vegetation Management Plan
January 23, 2017
Download the report to see the revised Mount Sutro Vegetation Management Plan. UCSF revised the draft based on feedback from its Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and the community. UCSF will begin the environmental review process in February.
KPIX 5: Plan To Save SF's Beloved Sutro Forest
September 10, 2016
Journalist Wilson Walker explains how many of Mount Sutro's trees are dead or dying, but there's a plan to make the forest healthy again. Watch the report »
UCSF Proposes New Management Plan for Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve
August 18, 2016
UCSF has released a draft management plan for the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve aimed at restoring the health of its trees following years of drought and pest infestation in order to protect the safety of its community and neighbors. The community was invited to share feedback on the draft management plan at two meetings in October 2016. Learn more about the plan »
UCSF Forms Technical Advisory Committee to Help Develop Plan for Mount Sutro
December 21, 2015
To ensure the long-term health, sustainability and safety of the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, UCSF is hiring a forest management consultant to develop a draft plan. UCSF has formed a Technical Advisory Committee comprised of experts with extensive experience in forestry, fire hazard-reduction, biology, and habitat restoration who are volunteering their time to assist in this important process. Learn more about the TAC »
Safety Work in Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve
November 23, 2015
UCSF’s top priority is to ensure the safety of the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve for our visitors, campus buildings and neighboring homes. As is the case across California, the severe, ongoing drought has caused widespread decline in the overall health of the Reserve. UCSF’s two in-house registered arborists have documented an uptick in the number of hazardous trees threatening visitors’ safety and adjacent property and an increased risk of brush and wild land fires. Based on the decline, we are taking immediate steps to mitigate hazardous conditions.
Maintaining Mount Sutro
UCSF is committed to maintaining the Reserve as an important natural resource for San Franciscans and takes seriously its responsibility to keep the site safe and accessible.
To preserve the beauty, safety and accessibility of Mount Sutro, UCSF Facilities Services performs ongoing general maintenance throughout the Reserve and its trails. UCSF has two certified arborists on staff who are dedicated to preserving the beauty of the natural environment.
Ongoing general maintenance of the Mount Sutro Summit, trails, roadways and areas adjacent to structures and neighboring homes includes:
- Removal of storm debris, downed trees or branches, hazardous trees, broom, trash, and campsites
- Management of overgrown vegetation
- Bi-annual removal of invasive sprouts
- Scheduled tree pruning
- Drain clearing
- Security patrol
In line with our commitment to a healthy and sustainable Reserve, we discontinued the use of herbicides in 2008. All work is performed using hand and mechanical tools or goats to control vegetation growth.
Our regular maintenance is independent of the Reserve management plan that is currently being developed and the fire mitigation and hazardous tree removal projects performed as necessary to respond to potentially dangerous conditions in the Reserve.
The Sutro Stewards is a non-profit stewardship program of the San Francisco Parks Alliance. In partnership with UCSF, the dedicated Stewards volunteers build and maintain the nearly 5 miles of trails, as well as perform conservation and habitat restoration work.
Craig Dawson, a native San Franciscan, founded the Stewards in 2006. Dawson has been active as an advocate for protecting and preserving Mount Sutro since he joined UCSF’s Community Advisory Group in 1992.
The Stewards work closely with UCSF’s Facilities Department and have logged thousands of hours building and maintaining the trails. They also helped to develop Rotary Meadow, the native plant demonstration area identified in the 2001 Sutro Plan and funded by the Rotary Club. The Stewards organize volunteer days and manage the supervision and training of the volunteers.
The Sutro Stewards were 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.
Reserve Management Plan and Public Process
UCSF’s top priority is to ensure the safety of the Reserve for our residents, patients, visitors, campus buildings and neighboring homes. Across California, the severe multi-year drought caused widespread decline in the overall health of trees, resulting in at least 66 million dead trees statewide. This decline is also evident in the Reserve. In response, UCSF began a process in 2015 to develop a management plan to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the Reserve.
Current Conditions of the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve
The last several years of drought, disease, and the age of the Mount Sutro’s stand of trees have led to a decline in the overall health of the forest. Overall, there are too many trees in the Reserve to support a healthy canopy. Under ideal conditions, the forest should have many more small-diameter trees than large-diameter. At present, this is true in only a third of the Reserve, but a large proportion of those trees are either dead or in poor health.
There is abundant evidence to suggest that the existing forest will not recover on its own. The data show a continuing trend of declining tree health. Recent years have seen below-average rain, which may continue into the future. For these reasons, we believe the only path to healthy diverse vegetation involves active management and regeneration.
To develop the proposed vegetation management plan for the Reserve, UCSF led an extensive public process involving expert, community, and environmental review and revisions. UCSF has published and approved its final plan to manage the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve over the next 20 years.
Community Process Archives
Access agendas, presentations and documents from past community meetings regarding Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.
The public process included a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) comprised of local experts in forestry, hazard reduction, biology, and habitat restoration to provide guidance on best practices in forest management. UCSF held four TAC meetings, which were open to the public, followed by two community meetings and public tours of the Reserve, giving the public many opportunities to help shape the final plan, discuss their concerns and provide feedback.
This was followed by the launch of the environmental review process. UCSF held a scoping meeting in February 2017, followed by a public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Report in August 2017. During the extended public comment period, UCSF received and responded to more than 340 public comments. This interactive process ensures that the final plan incorporates not only the experts’ guidance, but also reflects community feedback.
Environmental Review Process
As required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Environmental Impact Report (1) assessed 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) identified 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.
The 20-year Management Plan addresses the short-term and long-term management of the Reserve to achieve its goals to protect the safety of residents and visitors, improve ecosystem health, regenerate the forest, and maintain and ensure public access to the Reserve. The plan will address the decline in tree and ecosystem health in three phases: In the first five years, the focus will be on removing hazardous dead and dying trees and replanting in some of the hardest hit areas. The next two phases will target additional areas of decline by clearing out dead and dying trees and replanting both trees and other vegetation in those areas. UCSF will replant eucalyptus to restore the eucalyptus groves and will also plant native trees and other native species to improve biodiversity and ecosystem health.
As a result of the extensive public review process, the environmental review determined that small variations of the original draft plan would mitigate some potential impacts and improve the health of the forest. These variations were outlined in Alternative 4, one of the alternatives studied in the EIR. Alternative 4’s variations included a change to the tree planting species mix in the first phase (five years) of the plan, from replanting only eucalyptus trees to a planting mix of 75% eucalyptus and 25% native species. Also, tree replanting areas will be smaller than in the original plan and located further from trails to lessen visual impacts and improve the overall experience for visitors to the Reserve.
The final plan adopts Alternative 4 as the project. It was approved by UCSF’s Chancellor on April 30, 2018. UCSF will begin the first phase of implementation after bird-nesting season in September 2018.
Support for the Plan
UCSF’s proposal to manage the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve is supported by many neighbors, open space advocates and community and environmental groups, including:
- California Native Plant Society
- Inner Sunset Park Neighbors
- Nature Conservancy
- Rotary Club of San Francisco
- San Francisco Department of the Environment
- San Francisco Urban Riders
- Sierra Club
- Sutro Stewards
“After a thoughtful and interactive process with experts and the community, UCSF has developed a much-needed plan to restore the health of the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.” --Sierra Club
“As an organization that works with dedicated volunteers every week to maintain and improve Mount Sutro, we are personally invested in the health and longevity of the Reserve. We see firsthand the need to manage the open space for long-term sustainability, and we support UCSF's plan to regenerate the Reserve to a healthy, diverse ecosystem for all to enjoy.” --Sutro Stewards
“In large part, the City’s Department of the Environment implements the sustainability vision for the City and County of San Francisco, including promoting local biodiversity, the conservation of our natural heritage and equitable access and experience of nature in the city. We were very pleased to participate in the Technical Advisory Committee, and we support the overall vision of the Vegetation Management Plan.” --Peter Brastow, Senior Environmental Specialist, Biodiversity, San Francisco Department of the Environment
“We are pleased to support UCSF’s Mount Sutro plan because of the extensive outreach and community support it has received. Inner Sunset neighbors frequently visit the Mount Sutro Open Space with their families to enjoy a respite from their busy urban lives, and the effects of the drought have become far more apparent during the past few years. We support the proposals to improve the conditions and safety of the Reserve so that it remains exceptional sanctuary we all know and love for generations to come.” --Inner Sunset Park Neighbors Board
“The ecological health of the Sutro Forest is declining rapidly and significant intervention is needed, quickly, to fulfill the vision of the plan and protect San Francisco’s natural heritage for this and future generations. We urge quick action – to approve the EIR, the Plan and to get to work." --Louis Blumberg, California Climate Change Director, The Nature Conservancy
In keeping with UCSF’s commitment to responsible stewardship of the Reserve and its wildlife, UCSF will delay implementation until September 2018, after bird-nesting season.
During implementation over the next 20 years, there will be an ongoing assessment of the plan’s efficacy in reducing hazardous conditions and enhancing the ecological diversity of the Reserve. Regular updates will be provided to the community throughout the implementation process.
For more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions.
Technical Advisory Committee
UCSF formed a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to discuss our Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Management Plan. In developing this plan, the University staff worked with consultants and a Technical Advisory Committee (“TAC”) comprised of experts with extensive experience in forestry, hazard reduction, biology and habitat restoration. All members are volunteered their time to assist in this important process. TAC members provided guidance on the scope, techniques and best practices for the management plan. TAC members included:
- Peter Brastow, Biodiversity Coordinator, San Francisco Department of the Environment
- Peter Erlich, Forester, Presidio Trust
- Joe McBride, Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, University of California Berkeley
- Lew Stringer, Restoration Ecologist, Presidio Trust
- Richard Sampson, Forester/Division Chief, CAL FIRE
Learn more about the management plan crafted with the assistance of the TAC.