News & Events

Miraloma Life: October 2013

  • PDF Version – October Miraloma Life
  • Proposed Expansion of Critical Habitat for the Endangered Manzanita Plant to Include Areas Below Marietta Drive
  • The San Francisco Police Academy
  • SFPD A.L.E.R.T. Program: Department Kicks-off New Volunteer Disaster Preparedness Program
  • Letter from Prof. Joe R. McBride Regarding the Current SNRAMP
  • MPIC Position as Sumamrized to Bill Wyco, Environmental Review Officer
  • Summary of MPIC Board Meeting of September 5, 2013
  • Compiled from the Ingleside Station Newsletter

Proposed Expansion of Critical Habitat for the Endangered Manzanita Plant to Include Areas Below Marietta Drive

by Robert Gee

On September 5, 2012, the US Fish and Wildlife Agency issued their proposed designation of areas in San Francisco as critical habitat for the endangered Manzanita plant. That proposed designation would include part of Mt. Davidson. MPIC issued a comment letter stating that we were concerned that setting aside portions of Mt. Davidson for this purpose should be undertaken with the understanding and recognition that the park is a recreational resource for all who regularly hike and walk dogs on trails and enjoy its vistas. Up to 30 percent of Mt. Davidson’s 40 acres could be set aside for the Manzanita plant. The club wrote that setting aside any more than one or two acres of the park for this purpose would seriously impact recreational use.

On June 28, 2013 the US Fish and Wildlife issued a revised designation of critical habitat that expands the proposed endangered area for the Manzanita plant to include the area along Marietta Drive facing O’Shaughnessy Hollow all the way down along O’Shaughnessy Blvd to include all of the open space known as Reservoir Lands at Glen Park which has trails currently accessible on Marietta Drive. What is of most concern is that 3.2 acres of private property immediately below more than 22 houses on Marietta Drive are impacted (see map at!documentDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2012-0067-0079).

This additional 3.2 acres of private property (139,000 square feet) was identified by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department for the US Fish and Wildlife proposed designation. MPIC is not aware that RPD notified our impacted residents on Marietta Drive of this proposal, except by way of the revised designation being published in the Federal Register. I’m sure everyone reads the Federal Register! The comment period closed on July 28, 2013. We take special note of the lack of notification to Marietta Drive residents of plans to take portions of their property as critical habitat of the endangered Manzanita (not currently growing there). The MPIC is considering next steps in addressing this lack of open government.

The San Francisco Police Academy

by Captain David Lazar, Commanding Officer

The San Francisco Police Academy is located in Diamond Heights and has been the home for newly hired Police Recruits since 1986. The site was the home to the Diamond Heights Elementary School until acquired by the Police Department. Police Officers who have successfully passed a written, oral, physical agility, psychological, polygraph and medical exam along with a rigorous background check are always excited when they get word that they have been accepted to the San Francisco Police Academy.

Police Academy Sign

The Police Academy is a 30 week program, 1,130 hours. Although the State requires Police Officers receive 664 hours of training, the San Francisco Police Department almost doubles what is required and offers many courses such as extensive community policing, cultural awareness, language access and community engagement which is reflective of the work we perform in our neighborhoods and is unique to our world class City.

The goal of Academy Staff is to take a new Police Recruit and mold him or her into a well trained and prepared Police Officer. Most of the Instructors are from assignments all over the Police Department and bring in real world experience in criminal law, defensive tactics, physical fitness, emergency vehicle operations, firearms training, report writing, community policing, and technology.

Chief Greg Suhr has brought his vision in policing to Academy training in several areas, First, during the first hour of the first day he asks an entire class of 50 recruits why they want to be a Police Officers. After the Recruits give a long and sometimes complicated response, the Chief gets them on track by saying the role of a Police Officer is to simply “help people.” No matter what we are involved in, this is our goal and role as officers.

Next, the Chief has rolled out “Smart Phones,”—the first program of its kind in the State, with important criminal information which enables officers to do their job more efficiently. Last month, the 235th Academy Class was the first class to receive their phones and graduating classes moving forward will not know police work without this technology.

Last, our Chief emphasizes the importance of good role modeling between Police Officers and our Youth.
He has developed an innovative program where Police Recruits learn the importance of youth interaction. The class is taught by Retired Captain Rick Bruce (formerly of Ingleside Station). Recruits visit either the Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA five times during their time at the Academy, assisting with homework, playing sports or participating in other activities. The Youth also visit the Police Academy toward the end of their training and participate in a Jamboree where the Youth and Recruits interact, playing organized games. The recruits then make lunch for the Youth. The Jamboree happens on the Recruit’s own personal time which demonstrates the importance of volunteering.

Thanks to Mayor Lee, the Board of Supervisors and Chief Suhr, the Department is currently hiring 150 Police Officers a year. Those interested in serving as a San Francisco Police Officer should view the Department’s Website at

SFPD A.L.E.R.T. Program: Department Kicks-off New Volunteer Disaster Preparedness Program

by Retired Sergeant Mark Hernandez, Program Coordinator

In 2007, now retired Captain Stephen Tacchini developed the concept of a civilian disaster preparedness group, trained and prepared to assist law enforcement personnel after a disaster. Captain Tacchini cleverly chose the acronym “ALERT,” the Auxiliary Law Enforcement Response Team. The concept was not put into motion until Captain Tacchini brought it to the attention of Chief Greg Suhr. Chief Suhr recognized the potential value of having such a group of civilians at the ready, and gave his permission to move forward with the project.

Designed to work in partnership with, and modeled after the SFFD’s overwhelmingly successful Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT), our ALERT Program will recruit, train, uniform, and credential civilian volunteers in preparation for the aftermath of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Interested individuals must be at least 16 years of age and live, work, or attend high school in San Francisco. Volunteers will first receive NERT training as a prerequisite to receiving ALERT training. NERT training involves 20 hours of training which can be taken in (approx.) 3 hour blocks over the course of 6 weeks, or in an intensive two day training session. After completing the NERT training and receiving certification, the ALERT volunteer would be required to pass a basic SFPD volunteer background check, before registering for an 8 hour ALERT training course delivered by SFPD instructors. After successfully completing the course, volunteers will receive ALERT credentials identifying them as SFPD volunteers. They will also be provided with uniform items including a windbreaker, polo shirt, baseball cap, and flashlight. The ALERT Program will have Basic, Senior, and Supervisory level positions. Based upon the volunteer’s level of additional training, he/she may wish to obtain Senior or Supervisory level status.

While the SFFD NERT training provides an exceptionalfoundation for anyone interested in disaster response and preparedness, the SFPD ALERT training will provide instruction on how the volunteer can safely perform any of the numerous identified tasks which law enforcement may ask them to assist with. Some of the tasks identified are:

• Report criminal activity (observe and report violent crimes and serious vandalism)
• Report looting and property damage (observe and report), including damage to critical City infrastructure
• Assist with traffic control
• Work in partnership with NERT volunteers to provide well-being checks
• Assist with medical aid when required
• Assist with Command Post functions
• Assist in securing resource locations
• Deliver logistical supplies
• Direct individuals to mass casualty and shelter locations
• Assist at reunification centers
• Assist with Operation Return
• Assist with securing damaged buildings and property (Boarding broken windows, etc.)

On June 22nd, 2013, the ALERT Program trained its second group of volunteers in a one day class, held at
the Police Academy. The SFPD’s ALERT Program now has 35 members of the public, fully trained to assist law enforcement after a disaster. Details about the ALERT Program can be found at the ALERT web page, Interested individuals can also contact the ALERT Program Coordinator, (retired) Sgt. Mark Hernandez, at, or by telephone at 415-401-4615.

Letter from Prof. Joe R. McBride Regarding the Current SNRAMP

Editor’s.Note: The MLLife has presented several community viewpoints on the proposed Mt.Davidson Park
tree removal as envisioned in the current SNRAMP. What follows are the findings of Joe R. McBride, Professor of Urban Forestry,University of California, Berkeley. MLLife space limitations prevented our including Professor McBride’s letter in its entirety, including its list of sources consulted, but we’ll gladly email it to readers who request it via

A summary of MPIC’s stated position follows.

Re: Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan for Mt. Davidson Park

Dear Mr. Ginsburg,

I am writing to express my concern over the plan for removal of trees on Mt. Davidson. This concern is
based on the historical importance of the trees, their contribution to San Francisco landscape, and several specific aspects of the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan for San Francisco. As a Professor of Urban Forestry at the University of California I have for many years studied plantations of trees in the city and compiled several reports for the U.S. Army, National Park Service, Presidio Trusts, and the Golden Gate Conservancy concerning the condition and management of eucalyptus, Monterey pine, and Monterey cypress stands. My concern over the proposed management plan for Mt. Davidson is based both on my experience in urban forestry and on my experience as a citizen of the Bay Area who has enjoyed the urban forests of San Francisco for many years. These concerns are elaborated in the following paragraphs.

The eucalyptus and Monterey cypress on Mt. Davidson were planted under the direction of the former Mayor
of San Francisco, Adolph Sutro. He was also responsible for planting other areas in the city that have subsequently become city parks. The plantations he established have served to protect park users from the wind, provide wildlife habitat, and in some cases define the visual character of the San Francisco landscape. They present an important historical heritage that I think should not be discarded lightly. I found no mention of the historical significance of the Mt. Davidson forest in justification for the proposed management in the Plan for San Francisco…

…Eucalyptus plantations are as much a part of the California landscape as the coastal grassland, chaparral, and oak woodland plant communities for many people growing up in the Bay Area. I did not find the visual value of the eucalyptus and Monterey cypress plantations on Mt. Davidson addressed in the plan. I was, however, alarmed by the use of the term, “invasive forest,” in reference to eucalyptus plantations. This is a pejorative term that should not be applied to eucalyptus plantations. I have found little evidence of eucalyptus invading adjacent areas of grassland or other native vegetation types in the San Francisco Bay areas in studies I conducted in open space areas (McBride, Sugihara, and Amme, 1987; McBride, Cheng, and Chorover, 1989; Cheng and McBride, 1992; Russell and McBride, 2003). Comparison of photographs of Mt Davidson taken in the 1920s and 1950s show no evidence of the eucalyptus invading the adjacent grassland area. These photographs indicate that a stable boundary exists between the eucalyptus plantation and the adjacent grassland…

…The primary justification for tree removal in the documents is the restoration of native habitat. Various statements are made concerning the minimal amount of habitat within the eucalyptus urban forest. This assumption is not supported by any data or reference to publications on this topic. Stebbins (1976) concluded that eucalyptus plantations in the East Bay were far richer habitats for vertebrates than either redwood or Monterrey forest and that they vie with “dry” chaparral and grasslands in species diversity and “attractiveness” to vertebrate species.

The general recommendation to maintain a basal area between 200 and 600 square feet per acre is appropriate. However, a conflict exists at Mt. Davidson where some stands (MA-1c) within the plantation currently have basal areas less than 200 square feet yet the plan proposes the removal of 82% of the trees…a major shortcoming of the Plan is that lack of stand-specific tree density data…

The Plan states that the proposed forest management will not result in long-term changes in recreational use of the natural areas. I cannot agree with this conclusion. The proposed cutting of trees will increase the windthrow and wind breakage of the remaining trees. Trees that have grown up together in a plantation have buffeted each other from the wind. When individuals are exposed by the removal of surrounding trees they are very vulnerable to the wind. This is well documented in studies of native forests and forests which have been thinned or opened for subdivision development (Franklin and Forman, 1987; McBride, 1999, 2002, 2003; Sinton et al, 2000). The tree fall and wind breakage hazard to walkers using the Mt. Davidson area after the proposed tree removal and thinning would, I believe, seriously compromise the use of the area for recreational purposes… Forest plantations studied at the Presidio and at Lands End significantly reduce wind velocity and protect people walking from uncomfortable wind chill effects (McBride, 2002; McBride and Leffingwell, 2003)…

There is an assumption in the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan that minimal impact
will occur to species such as hawks and owls as a result of tree removal because the overall acreage of the forest will remain high. This is not a valid assumption for two reasons. First, hawks and owls choose specific trees for nesting and perching. These trees are chosen on the basis of their position in a forest stand and the structure of the tree. Nests are used by some species year after year so that the removal of a nesting tree can present a major problem for the specific bird using the tree. Avoiding the cutting of nest trees during the nesting season, but felling of these trees after the nesting season is a major impact that should not be part of the management plan. It is also important to not remove trees surrounding nesting trees. Most recovery plans for rare and threatened tree nesting birds require a protected area with a minimum radius of 300’ around a nesting tree. No trees can be removed within this zone.

In the “Site Improvements” section of the Plan it is suggested that the management proposals will improve the health of the eucalyptus forest… [and]…that tree thinning will promote a more healthy forest. This certainly is true in densely stocked forest stands, but I did not observe conditions in the eucalyptus plantations where tree density required thinning. Several standing dead eucalyptus trees are present at Mt. Davidson, but the standing dead trees I examined had all been girdled. It was evident that some individual or individuals have had a vendetta against eucalyptus trees and had girdled trees in the past. I did not see any indication of natural mortality in the overstory of the plantations… Removal of the exotic understory species at this time would reduce the habitat quality of the plantation, especially the removal of Himalayan blackberry that provides a valuable food source for many species.

I conclude that the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan for the removal and thinning of
different portions of the eucalyptus plantation on Mt. Davidson is not justified. The plantation serves an important role in the history and visual characteristics of the city. Trees and the existing understory provide habitat for wildlife and wind protection for walkers. The justifications for the management prescriptions have not been properly developed. Furthermore, the cost of removal of the trees seems unjustified in view of other priorities in the San Francisco budget.


Joe R. McBride, Professor

MPIC Position as Sumamrized to Bill Wyco, Environmental Review Officer

The following summarizes MPIC’s position stated in a May 16, 2009 letter to Bill Wyco, Environmental Review Officer of the SF Planning Department The Miraloma Park Improvement Club supports creation
of a Natural Areas Management Plan (NAMP) for Mt. Davidson Park to preserve the natural area on the east
slope of the Park, but we are concerned about the environmental impact of the planned tree removal and trail closures in the historic forest area. We support the finding of the initial study that the proposed Plan may significantly negatively impact Mt. Davidson Park, and we ask that a full environmental impact report be completed and that it address the following potential impacts:

Clearing of the trees to the great extent proposed in the current NAMP would
1) significantly reduce the quality of human experience of this unique forest and viewpoint atop San Francisco’s highest hill;
2) eliminate a buffer from noise pollution from the 280 freeway, BART, and Portola Drive;
3) remove protection provided by trees from the prevailing westerly wind and fog;
4) promote growth of poison oak along trails, as this plant fills in the areas where the trees are cut down and makes the trails unsafe for public use; and
5) promote erosion and landslides onto adjoining homes and trails, environmental damage prevented by the existing trees.
6) harm birds and other wildlife by impairing their current habitat;
7) degrade the public’s experience of the Park by diverting significant funds from RPD’s limited fiscal resources needed for basic maintenance of Mt. Davidson Park (including litter and graffiti removal, trail maintenance, and signage).

The NAMP should be assessed for the appropriateness of its proposals with respect to the status of both the Park and the Mt. Davidson Cross as important historical assets. Protection of the forest results from a 1929 3-year community effort to protect this scenic resource for enjoyment by the public: if not for this community achievement protecting the forest from destruction to make way for housing, there would be no natural area left undeveloped on the east side of Mt. Davidson. Existing Park resources should be documented in preparation for future listing on the California Register of Historical Resources.

Trails created under the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression and proposed for closure by the NAMP should be maintained and should remain open to the public. Mitigation measures for any approved NAMP tree removal and trail closure should include documentation of all trees removed or downed by storm in the park, advanced public notice of any further tree removal, removal of any downed trees to maintain the aesthetic quality of the forest and park, and quarterly removal of all poison oak within 10 feet of trails; and maintenance and protection of WPA trails and retaining walls. Activity for implementation of the NAMP should not restrict public use of the park or access to the historic area or viewpoints for more than 30 days at a time.

Summary of MPIC Board Meeting of September 5, 2013

Treasurer’s Report. MPIC Net worth: $30,748.18. Rental Income: $3725 (mostly from recurring rentals). Other Income: no ML advertising income or membership dues received during August. Expenses: no ML costs, nor were there any additional expenses over and above our normal utilities, Clubhouse cleaning, and rental agent fees. Reserve Account: $15,341.84.

Correspondence. Email opposed to Sept. MLLife article on dog-walking “best practices.” New Cornerstone Church Illegal Parking signs in their parking lot installed to protect the Church from liability, theft, and vandalism. Events. The SFPD-sponsored National Night Out event at the Clubhouse was well attended by residents and cops. Thanks to Joanne Whitney for her work on this event.

Events Chair Shannon Chu summarized the tasks planning for 9/21 Fall Fiesta. Robert and Brian Stone to set up an MPIC Events Google Group.

Safety. Re-implementation of the Miraloma Elementary Traffic Congestion Mitigation Plan with support from Principal Machado. 200 informational flyers delivered to neighbors re: the start of the school year with contact information in case of blocked driveways. Ingleside officers are providing ongoing monitoring and enforcement in Mt.Davidson Park. MPIC requested targeted enforcement re: youth-related problems at the Stanford Heights Reservoir Agua Way/ La Bica path and in Dog Alley (pedestrian walkway adjacent to 801 Portola).

Clubhouse Maintenance. Discussion: proposed new yearly janitorial service contract; installation of an overhead projector to be considered.

Membership. As of 8-31-2013: 529 members, reflecting some August expirations; email renewal reminders sent.

Newsletter. Karen W. is Acting Editor for the October MLLife. Robert thanked Caitlin Hong, former MLLife delivery carrier, for her article.

Zoning and Planning (ZAP). 795 Foerster: no permits issued for demolition. [Ed’s Note: permits issued only for interior remodeling.] Discussed: vacant property adjacent to Portola Walgreens.

Streets and Transportation. Daniel Homsey obtained SFMTA plans with target dates to install 10 stop signs on streets feeding into Teresita and to paint crosswalks and some red zones. Public hearings in October, plans presented to SFMTA Board in November, and installation in December. No change in long term traffic calming plans for Teresita. Proposed: an MPIC community meeting to obtain feedback on traffic issues.

36 Teresita. The draft EIR for the Transportation Effectiveness Project: no change in the 36 Teresita route in Miraloma Park, but van service recommended; timeline TBA. MPIC will follow up with SFMTA re: possible blended use of buses in peak hours and van service at off-hours.

Delegate Reports. No WOTPCC meeting in August. CSFN: discussion of AT&T Uverse cabinets being installed throughout SF. Locations in Miraloma Park: 843 and 809 Foerster,120 Juanita, 350 Melrose, 2 Miraloma Drive. No additional MP locations planned.

Old Business. Miraloma Playground: D. Homsey is following up with RPD on our 7/11/2013 letter re: Miraloma Playground needing upgrades. RPD: there may still be some bond funds available to repair the playgrounds with the lowest ratings. Robert will follow up with Supervisor Yee’s office.

Special Advisory: June 28, 2013 US Fish and Wildlife proposed revised designation that expands the proposed protected area for the endangered Manzanita plant to include 3.2 acres of private property immediately below houses on Marietta and above O’Shaughnessy Blvd. No community input prior to publishing in the Federal Register.

Discussed: MPIC issuing a letter to RPD re: lack of transparency and lack of notification to Marietta neighbors that a portion of their private property will be designated as a protected area for the Manzanita plant.

Advanced Community Disaster Resilience Program.
Overview by D. Homsey. Focus of October Board meeting. Robert distributed to the Board the 6/29/2013 letter written by UC Berkeley Professor of Urban Forestry Joseph McBride to RPD General Manager Phil Ginsburg and cc’ing elected officials regarding the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan for Mt Davidson. MPIC is considering future actions.

Compiled from the Ingleside Station Newsletter

by Jacob Koff