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McClaren Park Notice

More Trees To Be Felled – McLaren Park

• • • • • • • • April 23, 2024 • • • • • • • •

San Francisco Forest Alliance recently received this email:

“I wanted to bring to your attention some new signs that went up around the Jerry Garcia amphitheater in McLaren Park announcing the removal of more than 50 mature trees as part of its “trail improvements project.”


“This project does not have a lot of public support, but SFRPD [San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department] is moving forward with it. The trees being removed include many towering Monterey Cypress trees, which were among the first to be planted in the park when it was developed last century.

McClaren Park Trail Notice

“I am very involved in park events and park issues, and I believe these trees are being removed without adequate public discussion and public involvement. The signs that went up suggest it’s a foregone conclusion that the trees will be removed.

Is there anything the Forest Alliance can do to help to stop the massacre?”

An SF Forest Alliance supporter added:  “I just drove by and saw this.  The area just below the Vis. Valley Middle School along Visitacion Avenue has been clear cut.  This used to be covered with large trees.  The cutting continues all the way down to Hahn Avenue. I guess I missed the project announcements and meeting notices where the NRD [Natural Resources Department, the renamed NAP or Natural Areas Program] let us know all of these trees were hazardous.”

McClaren Park Trail Notice
Clearcut slope where there used to be trees – McLaren Park


This is all happening during the nesting season for birds and other wildlife. According to WildCare, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization, the nesting season is March through October in the Bay area. (See this article at

Robin Nesting

An experienced observer with 7500-8000 hours in the field points out:

“They need to do thorough nesting surveys by a qualified biologist who will reveal all details of their survey in notes.

“I’ve done these surveys. Raptors and other birds protected under MBTA [Migratory Bird Treaty Act] don’t fly around advertising their nests. So it’s not easy – someone needs to be qualified and understand bird behavior. For example, if a bird is flitting from perch to perch carrying food in its beak without consuming it, that’s a sure sign that bird is saving the item. In this season, it’s likely saving the food for chicks in a nest but reluctant to go there with someone watching.

“It’s that type of observation that separates qualified biologists from ones who are interested in signing the dotted line without doing the real work.

This observer further notes the relevant questions to which we should get answers if harm to birds is to be avoided:


According to the SF RPD’s plan that we have been opposing for many years, at least 809 trees were planned to be cut down in McLaren Park.”

  • How long before tree removal will you do a nesting bird survey?
  • Are you taking a look at snags (standing dead trees – literally the best nesting habitat for nuthatches, woodpeckers, chickadees).
  • What buffer distances are you leaving if birds are nesting?
  • What buffer distances are you leaving if raptors are nesting?
  • Why have you already taken down trees during the nesting season?
  • Are you placing flagging at appropriate distances from nests so crews will not enter sensitive zones?
  • What system are you using if birds are found nesting – how many weeks till the chicks fledge?
  • Have you talked to CDFW (CA Dept. Fish & Wildlife) to discuss if those buffer distances are appropriate?
  • May we see your communications with resource agencies?
  • May we see the names/ firms of biologists doing the surveys?
  • Will the biologist be present throughout, monitoring these crews?
  • How are you mitigating for losses?
  • What is the reporting system you have?
  • What will you do if you find stranded chicks?

Unfortunately, it appears that SFRPD’s interest in protecting wildlife is perfunctory at best. In Glen Canyon, they removed trees that were known to be used by bats.
Now they are cutting down trees during the bird nesting season.

McClaren Park Trail Notice


An observer also wrote to Lauren Chavez, the city employee who spoke at a meeting of the McLaren Park Collaborative.


“You made some worrisome statements at the McLaren Park Collaborative
meeting yesterday evening.  Based on them, it appears the NRD is
disregarding its obligations under the SNRAMP [Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Program]

“The SNRAMP calls for 1:1 tree replacements for trees removed.  You said
you did not know if RPD has a database to track tree removals and
replacements.  Such a database is fundamental to meeting RPD’s tree
replacement commitments, especially considering that replacements are
made at a later time, possibly in different parks and not necessarily in
Natural Areas.  If there is not a well tended database, then there is no
way RPD can be meeting the 1:1 commitment.

“No one in the NRD seems to have told you the correct definition of a
“tree” for the purpose of counting removals. You indicated that you used
a standard of either 6″ or 8″ diameter at breast height. Neither of
those is correct.  “For accounting purposes, the SNRAMP defines a tree
as any plant having a dominant vertical trunk that is over 15 feet
tall.”  I suspect the entire NRD is using 6″ or 8″ DBH as the reporting
cutoff.  Most trees that are 6″ to 8″ DBH are much taller than 15 feet,
especially eucalyptus and pines.  This means that San Francisco is
losing many Trees that are not counted and or replaced.

“We didn’t discuss it last night, but clearly you are unaware that
massive tree removals in localized areas are not allowed under the
SNRAMP.  The Plan puts limits on concentrated tree removals to moderate
the shock to the environment, control erosion, etc.  Your planned
removals in the Gray Fox Creek area certainly exceed the 20-tree limit,
especially if you count “Trees” correctly.

“The clearcutting the NRD performed along Visitacion is a serious
violation of this proscription.

“I refer you to the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Significant
Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (Volume I).  You can find it on
the SF Planning website cataloged under case number 2005.0912E.  In
reference to the current subject of tree removals, see pages 95-96.  A
copy of those pages is attached.

Extracted pages from FEIR Vol. 1

“I just noticed that the area East of Visitacion between the middle
school and Hahn Avenue is not included in the SNRAMP/NRAMP.  It seems a
separate EIR should have been required for the scale of transformation
the NRD is implementing there.”


According to the SF RPD’s plan that we have been opposing for many years, at least 809 trees were planned to be cut down in McLaren Park.  (See this article from 2012 – The “Natural” Areas Program Fells Trees. and this one from 2015  McLaren Park Walk: Looking at the Future with 800 Fewer Trees)

And the destruction has been continuous, probably tied to funding availability. Monies for trail work seem to be one important source of funds for tree-felling.

In 2022, we posted a report from another park-goer, Lance Mellon: McLaren Park Loses More Trees.
In 2020, we reported Surprise Tree Removals for McLaren Park Native Plant Garden
In 2017, we wrote Trees Cut Down in McLaren Park with no Warning.

We very likely have not seen the last of it, unless public opposition can stem the tree-massacre

April 23, 2024

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