Debate continues over eucalyptus grove in SF

March 15, 2013 6:30:02 PM PDT
A little known urban forest located right in the heart of San Francisco has been a popular gathering spot for locals to escape city life but now, a plan to thin the vegetation could actually jeopardize its serenity.

The eucalyptus grove is right behind the UC San Francisco campus just a couple of blocks south of the Stanyan Street entrance to Golden Gate Park. They have the distinction of being the most beloved and also perhaps the most reviled non-indigenous trees in San Francisco. "It's full of birds and wildlife and it's a forest. It's a wild forest," said neighbor Dr. Moreley Singer.

The Sutro grove behind UCSF Medical Center, thousands of eucalyptus trees owned by the university and shared with the community, has been debated now for 13 years and counting. "Oh no, we want a forest. We just want a forest that's going to last for many more generations," said UCSF spokesperson Barbara Bagot-Lopez.

Singer says, "They've issued a bunch of very misleading propaganda." The grove was planted 125 years ago by none other than Adolph Sutro. Its defenders describe it as an ecological mystery. While they're romantic about it, the university is more pragmatic. It worries about a fire hazard. "Yes, of course we're worried about wildfires and of course we're worried about the safety of campus buildings and our neighbors' homes," Bagot-Lopez told ABC7 News. They also worry about liability. "Absolutely... We don't want anyone to get hurt," she added.

So, UCSF wants to experiment in 7 of the 61 acres by thinning and cleaning. Residents who live directly adjacent to the forest like the idea. Alicia Noyola remembers a fire on the grove some 20 years ago. "These beautiful, beautiful trees have this kind of green nirvana ivy growing up them. That's a fire ladder It just goes right up there. And they're dry. Come here in October. It's tinder dry in October and November," she said.

Singer lives nearby and says that's an exaggeration. "It's wet in here all the time. It's a cloud forest," he told ABC7 News. So, if a clear view of the future of this issue seems a bit fuzzy, now you know why. This is what happens when people see a forest and the trees.


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