Denuding Glen Canyon Park

Despite the concerns about tree-felling voiced at the 7 January 2013 meeting, the actual felling of trees started on Jan 10 with the line of century-old eucalyptus near the Elk entrance. The reports are HERE and HERE, including photographs and links to video. Go here for a video update six  months into the Glen Canyon Park Demolition.

This video at nine months shows the devastation around the Rec Center. All the gnarly acacia trees – including the children’s climbing tree – are gone.

The Trails project (cutting down 31 trees) started in September 2013. HERE is an example of what’s happening there.

UPDATE:  Over 100 trees are gone. Staircases have been embedded all over the hillside. But at least the Great Horned Owls, which didn’t breed there for two years, are back. Photographs HERE.


Major changes are coming to Glen Canyon Park, funded by San Francisco’s 2008 Parks Bond. Many of these are necessary improvements, such as safe and accessible restrooms. But these changes will cost the canyon between 300 and 500 trees, and alter its wild land character foreverThe tree-felling started on January 10th 2013, with the line of century-old eucalyptus trees at the Elk Street entrance to the Park.

[Edited to summarize the earlier information: An appeal filed by a neighbor suspended activity until a hearing before the Board of Appeals; which was denied. The denial was appealed, but then the appeal was withdrawn because another organization filed  a separate appeal to the Board of Supervisors, under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). That appeal was ruled Untimely, leaving legal action as the only other possibility.  The appellant decided against pursuing legal action, leaving the way open to SFRPD to continue.]


In reality, almost none of the trees slated for removal in Glen Canyon has been evaluated as hazardous. In fact, money is being wasted on healthy trees that pose no threat and most people enjoy their sheer size and beauty.
We recently discovered that the Rec Center Capital Project bid packet includes specifications to remove almost all trees around and behind the Rec Center, even though most have nothing to do with relocating the tennis courts.

San Francisco Forest Alliance is asking SF Recreations and Parks Department to modify the plans and save the trees.


There is a disturbing pattern wherein the historic Glen Canyon forest, like other city park forests, are being continually laid bare, bit by bit, in one project after another. For Glen Canyon, this is what we’ve seen and expect in the future:

  • Rec Center Capital Project – 2008 Bond (Fall 2012): 58 trees
  • Forestry Capital Project – 2008 Bond (Fall 2012):  59 trees
  • Trail Restoration Capital Project – 2008 Bond (Fall 2012): 35 trees
  • SNRAMP Large, Healthy Tree Removal Proposal (2013): 120 trees
  • SNRAMP Young Tree Thinning Proposal (already occurring): unknown number
  • Willows (native) for daylighting creek (already occurring): unknown number
  • Documented Past NAP Creek Projects (2008): 24 trees

That’s a total of nearly 300 trees!

In addition, there are reports of trees cut before 2012 (including evidence such as stumps) of around 100 trees.

Rec & Park has hired a contractor to begin the relocation of tennis courts and renovation of the playground, ball park and rec center. This will immediately involve cutting 68-70 trees 58 trees.

[Edited to add: SFRPD has changed the number of trees projected to be cut; in a new report dated Oct 1, the arborist substantially reduced the number of trees recommended for removal. You can read about that HERE- Glen Canyon Park: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.]


 Over the past year, Rec & Park and their consultant have given numerous public presentations about the “hazardous” tree assessment funded by the 2008 Parks Bond (which we support).

Through the process of the community meetings, neighbors were assured that only 10-11 trees would be cut down. This is the entire stand of eucalyptus in the picture below. The objective was to relocate the tennis courts to make way for a grand new entrance.

We are seeing a distressing pattern of communication about projects in San Francisco. Although preserving trees is extremely important to the public, they are seldom informed of how may trees the project will actually cost until it’s about to bid out – or later.

In the case of Glen Canyon,on 28 June 2012 – after the community input phase was over – Dennis Kern said that a total of 101 trees would be removed: 69 for the Recreation Center Project, and an additional 32 for the trails project.  At the August 16th Parks Commission hearing, he said that 70 trees would be cut down: 10 because they were in the way of the project, 60 because they were “hazardous.” But… were they?


We obtained, under the Sunshine Act, an evaluation made by SF RPD’s hired arborist, Hort Science. We mapped the trees in the bid contract papers to the Hort Science report. How many trees in the 70 were hazardous?

Only one.

Another ten – the trees in the picture above – were being felled because they were impacted by the project. Around 14 were dead or dying (but not considered hazardous – and dead trees are important for wildlife, including one of Glen Canyon’s natural bee-hives).

(Click HERE for an article about wildlife impact.)

The remainder were being removed because of “poor suitability” – a grab-bag of reasons including being too big, of the wrong species, or “invasive.”

(Click HERE for the details of the Hort Science report.)

In this Rec Center project map, we have  attempted  to consolidate the Bid document map with the arborist’s report to show how many trees are actually being removed and the reasons why — which have very little to do with safety.


1) Write or email the Parks Commission through the Secretary to Park Commissioners, Margaret McArthur.

  • Email:,
  • Phone: (415) 831-2750

The Commissioners: Mark Buell, President; Tom Harrison, Vice President; Paige Arata; Gloria Bonilla; David E. Lee; Meagan Levitan; Larry Martin.

2) Write to Supervisor Scott Wiener. (Glen Canyon is in his District 8.)

  • (415) 554-6968 – Voice;
  • (415) 554-6909 – Fax;
  • email:

3) Write to Mayor Ed Lee (who incidentally lives near Glen Canyon).

  • Mayor’s Office, City Hall, Room 200; 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place; San Francisco, CA 94102
  • Telephone: (415) 554-6141
  • Fax: (415) 554-6160
  • Email:

4)  Write to Dawn Kamalanathan and Karen Mauney-Brodek of the SFRPD’s Capital & Planning Division regarding the trees to be felled for the Capital projects (recreation areas, trails).

  • Telephone: (415) 575-5601.


Clicking on the button below will take you to the petition. Please read it and sign it!

Red sign button

[Edited to Add:  Confusingly, there are two nearly-identical petitions out there – we had an administrative glitch. One had over 2,000 signatures as of 6 October 2012, the other over 650. This link is to the one with the smaller number.]

22 Responses to Denuding Glen Canyon Park

  1. Joel Schipper says:

    We love the wild character of the park and walk there daily for almost 20 years
    And Sup Scott Weiner says City and Park&rec is broke and has ZERO dollars to maintain street trees. Put the money there!
    This is Crazy.

  2. Josh E says:

    I absolutely disagree with this petition.

    SF rec & parks is doing the right thing. Eucalyptus chokes off the beautiful native species of the San Francisco peninsula. Rec&parks is working hard to keep the Canyon beautiful for generations to come. If left alone in its current state, Eucalyptus and other invasive plants would create such a bramble that no one would enjoy the canyon very much.

    Keep up the good work parks & rec.

    Webmaster: Josh, thanks for your comment. In fact, most of San Francisco is green and lovely – including Glen Canyon – because of non-native trees. In its current state, most people do enjoy and love the park. So does the wildlife – birds, animals, and insects. We don’t oppose native species. We do oppose destroying trees and existing habitats and eco-systems to make way for them; and restricting recreation in the process. We oppose the use of toxic pesticides in the continuing battle with Mother Nature to try to plant things that no longer grow naturally in our city.

  3. Jamie Clinton says:

    Why are you calling these “healthy trees?” In the tree assessment report on your own Web sites, 333 of these trees (mostly eucalyptus) were rated in “poor” condition, meaning:

    1 – Tree in severe decline, dieback of scaffold branches and/or trunk; most of
    foliage from epicormic shoots (secondary shoots that arise along the
    trunk and branches); extensive structural defects that cannot be abated.

    Personally, I think Glen Canyon Park would be greatly improved by the removal of many of these unsightly, unhealthy eucalyptus trees. It would allow more sunlight into the park, more open space and trails for the public to enjoy, and improve the health of the other trees currently being crowded out by the eucalyptus.

    Webmaster: Thanks for commenting, Jamie. We were also dismayed when we read that 333 out of 627 trees had been assessed with poor suitability, and initially thought that meant “hazardous.” It doesn’t. The “severe decline” is only one of a bunch of criteria used to decide “poor suitability” – others include things like the size or the species of tree. If you check the map of the trees immediately threatened, we’ve analyzed which trees are dead or dying. They’re the yellow circles. The green circles are the ones that are in the way of the project. One tree is actually rated as “hazardous.”

    We don’t want to stop the project. We want the tree-felling to be put on hold until there’s been a proper discussion about them and the public can see and decide how much of it is essential.

    • Jamie Clinton says:

      Thanks for taking the time to reply to my comment. However, I think you are confusing terms. I want to clarify that the 333 trees I am referring to are not defined as “hazardous” nor as “poor suitability,” but defined as “poor condition.” Please refer to Table 1 of the Tree Assessment & Preservation Plan from March 28, 2012. This table is only referring to the health and structural integrity of the trees, not the “suitability” of them. I agree that the final decision on which trees to cut is based on additional criteria, but it appears that the vast majority of the trees they plan to cut are in poor or fair condition. So your characterization that they are planning on cutting hundreds of “healthy trees” is very misleading.

      • Hi Jamie, thanks for coming back to comment.

        In answer to your question: The arborist’s report rated tree condition from 0 (dead) to 5 (excellent) for the 627 trees it evaluated. The 333 represents the lumping of 60 trees rated as “1 – in severe decline” with 273 trees rated as “2 – in decline”.

        The trees in category “2 – in decline” are not perfect, but it may not be necessary to remove them. It’s a confusing category. At the Oct 6th meeting, our arborist pointed out that like people, trees can live half their lives “in decline.” They may be retained so long as they aren’t hazardous. Meanwhile, they provide habitat and add to the grace of the urban forest.

  4. A Glen Park homeowner says:

    As someone who lives across from the park, we support the current plan and would like to see it go forward with no changes.

  5. Michael Roberts says:

    There has been a lengthy process with many opportunities for public input to arrive at this plan for improving the park. The changes to the park will benefit all of us who live in the neighborhood and everyone who uses the park. It’s a shame that a handful of activists may delay this work and increase the cost of the project.

    Webmaster: Michael, thanks for your comment. With signatures on the petitions to save the trees numbering now over 500 on one version, and over 2000 on another, we wouldn’t consider those opposed to tree-felling be a handful.

    We still find most people don’t (and did not) know how many trees would be cut in Glen Canyon; until the end of the community process, the discussion was confined to 10-11 trees. (See Glen Canyon Trees: Who Knew?)

    SFForest actually supports the Rec Center improvements. We would like the tree-felling part of the project separated from the rest of it, and put through a proper public process. We are trying to let the public know how many trees are threatened, and about the longer-term plan for the park.

  6. Mike says:

    The plan from Rec & Park that the forest needs to be “managed”, meaning non-native trees need to be cut down, doesn’t make sense. One only has to walk through the forest on Mt Davidson, which has not been “managed” for a hundred years. Cutting down Eucalyptus trees will not benefit the Glenn Park clubhouse/rec-center. I’d rather see Rec & Park use the money they’d spend cutting down trees on the clubhouse. My guess is that cutting down 300 trees would cost over half a million dollars. That doesn’t seem to be a very smart use of money to me. The need is to fix the gym so that one doesn’t get splinters playing basketball. We need places for our children to play, to recreate. We don’t need so called native plants. Rec & Park doesn’t seem to believe in evolution.

  7. magnus says:

    Fight the good fight Forest Alliance, but don’t expect any reform from the bloated bureaucratic carcass that is RPD. Dennis Kern who seems OK with what appears to be serious misconduct in the park ranger overtime scandal is also managing the NAP program.

    Quote from SF Weekly:
    “Santiago’s favored officers also received plum overtime assignments, often doubling their salaries — even when they reportedly didn’t show up for work, or worked second jobs. Santiago’s supervisor, Dennis Kern, has long shielded the head patrol officer, as Santiago has turned his corner of the Recreation and Park Department into a revenue generator for the city. “

  8. Harvey says:

    After listening to the main presentation at the meeting this afternoon, it seems to me that the main problem is communication. Those managing this project need to better explain what they’re doing. We shouldn’t have to guess what “suitability” means, they should define it for us. If a significant number of trees outside the developed area of the park are to be impacted, beyond what’s necessary to clear the trails, we should know about it. I am all in favor of holding their feet to the fire to clarify such issues. Then, if I object to the answers and it really is very different from what we were told before, I’ll be on your side. So far, I don’t see it.

    Webmaster: Harvey, thanks for attending the meeting, and for coming here to comment. Communication is indeed an issue. We still don’t know exactly how many trees are being felled for what projects. We’re trying to get the information, and pass it to the public; outreach and informing people what’s going on is central to our activities. It is not a simple process. For instance, “suitability” was only in the hired arborist’s report which was not made public; what SF RPD has been saying is that the trees are hazardous.

    But there’s an additional issue that was raised by some who went through the community meetings. They felt that it was not a bottom-up process to understand what people really wanted for Glen Canyon, but rather a top-down process to for a project whose main elements had already been defined. We want transparency and accountability.

    • Tony Holiday says:

      Exactly. I have not heard anything but vague, general “suitability” remarks from those who would deforest the canyon and Mt. Davidson. WHY is their idea a good one with all the comments to the contrary from others? They hiding something? Some political or bribe thing? Well, what ELSE are we to think with so little explanation? They do not listen to people who use the parks or live in the area, it looks like. They can still plant plenty of natives and extend the trails without destroying all those trees, the dog park, etc. We don’t need anymore “nicely groomed” parks. Some of us love our “wild” midcity oases.

  9. Glen Park Homeowner 2 says:

    Consider how much wind protection the existing trees provide. Trees are a natural and often overlooked wind break. Living behind the natural shield of the Glen Canyon Eucalyptus provides a LOT of wind break for Glen Park and several degrees of warmth and comfort. I’m for preserving the existing TALL trees. I would take years before any new planting reach adequate height to provide same.

    • Tony Holiday says:

      You got it right. And they’re going to plant all those tiny trees in the place of the existing beauty that is our Canyon so it’s bare and drab in many places with NO good reason that I can see.

  10. Harvey says:

    The tall trees around the developed area serve as a windbreak for that immediate area, but the major windbreak for the neighborhood comes from the trees a few feet farther away on the slopes that rise much higher and will remain. Frankly, I am more concerned with the devastation already wreaked on the slope next to Elk St. from the ropes course. There’s nothing left up there but stumps.

  11. Barbara Riccardi says:

    This is an appalling use of taxpayers’ money. I have not heard of anything so wrong-headed in the name of improvement since moving to Glen Park from the East Coast 40 years ago. I remember falling in love with San Francisco but wondering where the tall trees were until discovering the canyon. I feel as much a native now as I hope the great-horned owls do as they make their nest in that great eucalyptus tree.

  12. t says:

    Do the people who sign the hard copy petition have to be a registered voter?

    Webmaster: No, anyone can sign it.

  13. Ray Watts says:

    Is there a group that is overseeing the replanting? Can individuals ‘buy’ a memorial tree? My Family lived in Glen Park beginning in 1918. My Grandmother & Father & all his brothers played in those trees. They would be sick to see them go.

    Webmaster: It’s being done by SFRPD, but many of the “trees” they plant are actually shrubs. We’re sorry you will lose your family’s historic relationship with this Canyon. Please join our fight to save these trees!

  14. A Glen Canyon regular says:

    What makes this worse is the funds for this are not coming out of the city’s current operating revenues (hence why there are no funds for maintenance and sprucing up much of the well-used club house) but because of a capital bond deal. Not only are we blighting the canyon, leaving behind a very tired clubhouse, but also making future generations pick up the tab through debt!
    This is a sad, misguided venture.

    • Tony Holiday says:

      You got it, “regular.” (previous post). I just got thru sending a long email protest to “Cynthia,” email provided this a.m. by SF Forest. Look at the Presidio and Mount Sutro. They improved their forests but didn’t go way overboard and try to deforest the areas. The Presidio removed buried landfill and built gorgeous overlooks and new bike trails, but there’s plenty of forest to enjoy there. Mount Sutro discovered old, buried trails and are always working in the area, but that beautiful forest is still there for us to enjoy without greatly overdoing this “native plants” thing like these people want to do. I cannot begin to imagine a totally bald Mount Davidson either. Jeez. Why do some people get TOO carried away – let’s think of the animal habitats too and not make our parks into deserts! Again, they can still plant their natives without destroying all those trees. What really bugs me too is all that pesticide they want to use and for no good reason. Not to mention Global Warming. Have they not heard of that?!

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