San Francisco’s immense trees put homes, cars at risk 

San Francisco police towed several cars safely away from potentially hazardous trees across the street from UC San Francisco property, on the south side of Clarendon Avenue near Christopher Street, earlier this month.

The property was under the jurisdiction of the Recreation and Parks Department, but UCSF spokeswoman Barbara Bagot-Lopez said the university tries to keep watch of all dangerous situations.

“Trees do fall,” she said. “We have folks keep an eye out there and rush over to assess the situation, if there is an issue. If need be, we take the tree down.”

The trees in the Sutro Forest have long been a subject of contention.

In 2001, the university created the Mount Sutro Open Space Preserve Management Plan to maintain and restore vegetation to improve access and hiking in the forest.

Recently, it turned to thinning out the non-native eucalyptus trees as short term fixes — including removing hazardous and replanting areas with native species.

University officials said clearing the trees would reduce the fire hazard there, but neighbors oppose any tree clearing, saying it would do more harm than good.

The Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve is roughly 61 acres and bounded by Clarendon, Christopher and Crestmont Drive on the south and UCSF medical center, Parnassus campus on the north.

Recreation and Parks Department spokeswoman Sarah Ballard said the department’s urban tree maintenance is “woefully underfunded.”

The department, however, is trying to change that by developing a plan and getting the work done.

Tatiana Nedvetsky has noticed limbs falling or some already on the ground around her UCSF apartment off Clarendon and Johnstone Drive at least two times in the last four months.

“It’s scary,” she said, adding that when she sees downed branches. “I just call the police.”

Police said heavy wind and rain this spring are the most likely culprits for trees to become weak and fall on cars or homes.

UCSF is working on an environmental impact report of six options that would thin the forest while maintaining and restoring vegetation.

Last week, UCSF officials said the release could be delayed past this fall because there has been trouble finding experts in at least one field being reviewed.

“We just want to dot our i’s and cross our t’s,” Bagot-Lopez said.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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