SF without trees is like Starbucks without coffee

The thought of San Francisco without trees is quite disturbing; it is one of the reasons I moved here (oodles of green space). The park department’s Natural Areas Program is interested in cutting down all of the non-native trees in the city. What is even more twisted is the Park and Rec department actually approved a plan that will require an 18-month environmental review to determine the impacts of cutting down all those trees – why consider it in the first place!?

In an ideal world, native Northern California trees would have been the only ones planted, but hey, that didn’t happen. Whether you are comfortable being called a treehugger or not, nearly everyone in the city is one to a certain extent. It is nothing to be ashamed of; San Francisco is one of the best eco-friendly cities in the country. No matter the species, we should take care of our varied foliage, native or not. The world is not a perfect place – McDonald’s is all over the world, and something tells me that cheeseburgers are not native to China, so having non-native trees in SF isn’t worth spending government money to rip them out of the ground.

7 Comments so far

  1. Liz Henry (unregistered) on August 26th, 2006 @ 10:12 am

    I understand having patrols to rip out non-native weeds from parks, but let’s draw the line at trees! At this point, especially in a city, “native” doesn’t mean much. We need all the trees we’ve got.


  2. cd (unregistered) on August 26th, 2006 @ 11:07 am

    Have you seen old footage of Bay to Breakers races? There simply weren’t trees of the sort you’d like to see in GGPark (the first place I think of when I think “Tree” in SF). Based on where the city is and the kind of fresh water sources it had pre-engineering, your idealized SF didn’t exist.

    Along with this kind of chop-it-back-to-nature logic, I also find recent discussion to un-flood Hetch-Hetchy stupid and exceedingly short-sighted. There is absolutely no way that humans can turn back the clock: sound environmental management of course means doing the least amount of harm, but it also requires trading-off harms in order to protect human life and development.

    If you don’t mind losing us, though, then you can get serious with restoring things to the “rightful” order. Whatever that is.


  3. Victoria E (unregistered) on August 26th, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

    Well put CD – all of GGPark used to be sand dunes, so the fact that folks got ANYthing to grow there is an accomplishment. Trying to “turn back the clock” is pointless. Yes, the planet is screwed up, but we don’t have to let it keep deteriorating. Still, making a difference doesn’t mean making the planet what it was 200 years ago – that just isn’t possible.


  4. Matt R. (unregistered) on August 26th, 2006 @ 2:20 pm

    There go the ubiquitous eucalyptus (from Australia). That’s sure a lot of beautiful trees to axe, trees that most native Californians, including myself, feel have been here long enough to be considered native. These NAP-sters illegally chainsawed thousands of trees without a permit before.

    Now I’ve got an axe to grind!


  5. anna (unregistered) on August 26th, 2006 @ 11:45 pm

    I like eucalyptus like the next person, but it does completely destroy everything in its path. Has anyone seen bamboo do the same? Or mondo grass? I think the overgrowth issue, and letting invasive species run wild, does have to be tamed. As for those that are purists and want to go all native, there are some valid points:

    Native plants don’t require the irrigation that many non-native require. If you landscape using native, you’d be amazed at how hardy, aromatic, and generally thriving, they can be with little management. I was told one of the ways to curb eucalyptus growth is pandas. Hmm…

    To me, growing up where eucalyptus was the norm, it would be strange to turn back the clock, I admit that. Also, the hills we see covered in mustard grass: also non-native. I think it would be very radical to try, but I don’t dismiss it out of hand. I think putting some smart people on this to determine the best path is a good choice.

    Also, before people get upset about the non-natives they will lose, think of the great natives they will get! Beautiful salvias, yew, etc. From the native plant society web site, on why non-natives take over: “They can do this because the natural pests, diseases or weather conditions which kept the plants in check in their homeland are absent here.” http://www.cnps.org/activities/natives.htm


  6. cd (unregistered) on August 27th, 2006 @ 9:48 pm

    I would pay good money to see the following:

    The day the Supes approve closing the park traffic for good for all the families and kids and joggers to run and play safely – they all show up, picnic blankets in hand .. .

    To find nary a tree left in sight.

    I think at least several people’s minds would literally explode trying to balance the politically and ecologically appropriate response to that situation.


  7. Charlie (unregistered) on August 28th, 2006 @ 1:25 am

    This initiative is totally idiotic. I first read about this in the Examiner while I was walking in the Panhandle. I looked up and realized that the entire area is lined with giant Eucalyptus. They’d have to decimate the place.

    I’m all for a law that says only native trees can be planted in our parks from now on. But to cut down these older ones is ridiculous…just a total waste of time and resources.

    Furthermore, the entire Western half of the city was once covered in sand dunes. By the logic of this initiative maybe we should pull up the parks all together and replace them with huge shifting dunes.



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