“Reforesting” Glen Canyon with Bushes: What 163 trees?

San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SF RPD) has been claiming that it will plant 163 trees to replace the 58 trees it currently plans to fell for the Rec Center (2008 Bond) project that will move the existing tennis courts uphill and make way for a grand entrance to the park.

We have noted that most of those 163 “trees” are bushes and small trees.


They’ve been spreading the myth that we are making it up. Here’s what an article published in the Glen Park news blog says:

[SF Forest Alliance] statements have also said that much of what would be planted would not in fact be trees, but bushes. However Mauney-Brodek said that the species could include madrone, coast live oak, dogwood, evergreen elm, Islais cheery and cottonwood trees. “They range in size up to 100 feet at maturity.”

Except it’s not true. We obtained the Master Planting Plan dated May 2012, which according the SF RPD is the latest they have on that matter.

[Click here for a PDF of the Plan:  a 05-12 Round 1 – May 2012 – Master Planting List for Project ]

It only lists 116 “trees” to be planted. Of those, how many will be 100 feet at maturity?  Only 6.

Here’s what their Master Plan says they will plant:

  • 40 Bushes. Of those, 40 are actually bushes – flannel bush and gooseberry (35 of them), which grow about 6 feet tall, and five redtwig dogwoods, which are 5-20 feet tall.
  • 38 Small Trees. Another 38 are small trees (Hollyleaf Cherry, Madrone, Buckeye, and Coast Live oak), which would be about 25 feet tall at maturity. (We’re including the seven Coast Live Oak here, because they’re so slow-growing they take 20 years to reach that height. If they survive the epidemic of Sudden Oak Death that has already arrived in San Francisco, they could grow up to 80 feet.)
  • 31 Medium size trees. Some 31 trees  (Elm, Mayten, Tristania) that will actually be 40-60  feet in height at maturity. (Of these, 11 will be street trees,  presumably planted along Elk.)
  • 6 Tall trees. Then there are the cottonwoods, which can indeed exceed 100 feet in height. There are six of them.


Most of the Master Planting Plan, for those who don’t actually want to dig through the thing, is mostly about small plants and seeds – almost all Native Plants. They’re planning on lupine and California bluebells, coyote brush and coffeeberry,  Douglas iris, sticky monkey flower, manzanita and rosemary. Ceanothus and western sword fern. Purple needle grass, which is incidentally not so good for dogs – it can stick in their ears.

How much is this going to cost? We’re not sure, (the plants alone would be around $175,000 at retail) but we wonder if establishing a Native Garden is a higher priority than some of the other things they have not funded in this project.

What they have shared, besides the Master Planting Plan, is a map which shows “trees” to be planted as big green dots, and trees to be removed as small green dots and small red dots.

[Click on the link for a PDF:  October 2012 – RPD Diagram of Plan of Tree Removals and Planting ]

It’s confusing, not to say ironic, given that the trees being felled are mature and large, while most of those planted will be saplings and bushes.  So here are a couple of improved versions: We’ve put red dots for all the trees being removed, and put blue ones for the “trees” being planted. (Except, of course, we know that many of those are not actually “trees.”) [Edited to add: It was so confusing that even we got confused. Here is a corrected version of the map.]

It’s also confusing for another reason: It doesn’t match the Master Planting Plan. The forest of blue dots on the East Slope ? Mostly bushes, with 13 madrone, coastal live oak, and buckeye. It’s going Native, which is of course in keeping with the Natural Areas Program – it’s within the Natural Areas boundary.

This picture below is from the other side, near Bosworth. Here again, the red dots are trees being felled, and the blue dots are “trees” being planted.


Does SF RPD have a new planting plan with 163 actual trees in it? If so, they have not shared it with the public.

[Edited to Add: SF RPD published a new planting plan on Nov 1, 2012. Our analysis is HERE.]

Transparency and communication is essential to restoring trust. This is not achieved by communicating more misleading statements through allies like Glen Park Association (which often quotes SF RPD staff on its blog), but through providing transparent information and engaging with its critics.

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8 Responses to “Reforesting” Glen Canyon with Bushes: What 163 trees?

  1. Pingback: Glen Canyon Trees: Decoding the Arborist’s Reports « Save the Trees of Glen Canyon Park, San Francisco

  2. Pingback: Glen Canyon: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly « San Francisco Forest Alliance

  3. Viola Toniolo says:

    There is nothing wrong with replacing tall trees with small trees and bushes. In fact, good wildlife habitat has to have a lot of structural diversity and a dense understory, which most birds need as a nesting substrate and for cover from predators. The majority of bird species nest on or near the ground. In addition, eucalyptus trees are dangerous to some bird species, because the sap can clog the nostrils of nectar-eating birds. It sounds to me like the SF RPD has habitat restoration in mind, and that they are going about it in a reasonable way.

    • The story about eucalyptus killing birds is a myth: http://sutroforest.com/2010/04/12/another-eucalyptus-myth-bird-death/

      (Other myths about eucalyptus can be found here: http://sutroforest.com/eucalyptus-myths/ )

      While it’s also untrue that the majority of birds species in San Francisco nest on or near the ground (most of them are tree-nesters and cavity-nesters), we do agree on the value of a dense understory. However, the Natural Areas Progam and its supporters started hacking it out – even during the breeding season.

      (Read about that here: http://sfforest.net/2012/05/18/writing-cal-fish-game-about-glen-canyons-breeding-season/)

      If the SFRPD is indeed doing a Native Plant habitat restoration, that’s not what they are calling it. They say they they are planting 163 trees.

      • Viola Toniolo says:

        The link about eucalyptus myths is full of misguided, misleading, and oversimplified information. For example, calla lilies growing under eucalyptus trees are hardly an example that eucalyptus aren’t toxic to other plants. Some species of eucalyptus are widely known to be allelopathic: “The leaf litter and root exudates of some Eucalyptus [21] species are allelopathic for certain soil microbes and plant species” (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allelopathy#Examples_of_allelopathy) – but they are not toxic to ALL plants. And calla lilies themselves do not exactly provide good habitat. Eucalyptus are only invasive in areas where they grow well: they outcompete other species and grow quickly into tall, gangly stands in which few other tree species can survive, especially natives. This is true of any invasive plant: arundo, cape ivy, ice plant, and vinca don’t grow everywhere, but where they do grow they often do so at the expense of other, more wildlife-friendly plants.

        Webmaster: Calla lilies are just an example of a plant that is often found under eucalypts. For a more varied understory in a eucalyptus forest, we suggest you visit Mt. Sutro where you would find many shrubs in the understory, including native elderberry.

        Allelopathy is a common strategy used by all plants—both native and non-native—to reduce competition. This is one of many examples of accusations made about eucalypts that are in fact common characteristics found in all plants, including those that are native.

        Plants also share many of the same chemical components. For example, eucalyptol is the dominant oil in the leaves of both the Blue Gum eucalyptus and the native California Bay Laurel tree. Native oaks and eucalypts also have in common tannins in their leaves which prevent their leaves from decomposing rapidly when they fall. This creates a physical barrier to germination of competing plants and is another defense mechanism used by plants to survive.

        Another factor in the suppression of understory growth is the shade cast by all trees. This is an important factor in San Francisco where most plants native locally require full sun. And that is the biggest reason why the eucalypts in San Francisco are being destroyed…because they cast shade where full sun is needed to grow native plants preferred by some people. It is also one of the reasons why native trees will not be planted where eucalypts are removed.

        In my visits to Glen Canyon I have seen and heard Song Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, Wilson’s Warblers, Winter Wrens, Bewick’s Wrens, Spotted Towhees, Anna’s Hummingbirds, and kinglets – with the exception of kinglets, all of them are here during the breeding season and nest within a few meters of the ground, either in low dense shrubs or small trees. They mostly occupy the thin riparian strip along the creek that is devoid of eucalyptus. I have also seen and heard Fox Sparrows and Golden-Crowned Sparrows, which don’t nest here but stay close to the ground when they forage, and need thick cover from predators such as hawks and owls. Hawks and owls do very well in Glen Canyon, partly because there are so many large trees, and a good selection of prey to choose from.

        Webmaster: We agree that birds occupy many different habitats. However, most of the examples you give make good use of non-native vegetation in Glen Canyon and other parks in San Francisco. The Anna’s, for example, was not historically seen year-around in San Francisco. But now that it has access to winter nectar provided by eucalypts and other non-native vegetation, it is seen here year-around. We also posted a lovely photograph of a Bewick’s Wren that was nesting in the ivy climbing up a tree this past breeding season.

        The idea that most birds native to SF are cavity and tree nesters is just not true. Virtually all the coastal scrub and dune grassland birds that are native to this area are ground or shrub nesters. There are definitely some cavity and tree-nesting species like hawks, owls, flickers, and chickadees, but that is a tiny fraction of the total list of birds that used to nest along the peninsula. Healthy riparian habitat supports a dense understory as well as some tall and some dead trees, which are important for those species. If the park wants to remove any understory I definitely agree that it’s not a good idea to do it during the breeding season, March-July.

        Webmaster: Nor do we claim that all birds in San Francisco are cavity nesters. Our interest in birds is not limited to native birds, just as our interest in plants is not limited to native plants. All are welcome, as far as we are concerned and we firmly believe that it is neither necessary nor desirable to limit the city’s wildlife on the basis of nativity

        To learn more about riparian ecology and restoration you can refer to this Riparian Bird Conservation Plan: http://www.prbo.org/calpif/pdfs/riparian_v-2.pdf.

  4. Pingback: Natural Areas Program – Under the Radar with the 2008 Bond in Glen Canyon « San Francisco Forest Alliance

  5. Pingback: Glen Canyon’s Updated Planting Plan – Nov 1, 2012 « Save the Trees of Glen Canyon Park, San Francisco

  6. Pingback: A New Planting Plan for Glen Canyon « San Francisco Forest Alliance

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