Eucalyptus Trees Removed From Bernal Hill

Neighbor Fiid graciously shared photos of several eucalyptus trees being removed from the western side of Bernal Hill yesterday, near the area where the Esmeralda stairway connects with the pedestrian segment of Bernal Heights Boulevard.

Observers in the La Lengua flatlands also noticed the tree removal taking place, but from their vantage point, the process appeared to be the work of either an angry Tiki god or an avant-garde landscape artist — or both:

Suffice to say, it was no such thing.

In recent years, the San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks has removed several trees on Bernal Hill that were deemed to pose a potential hazard. Back in 2015, Rec and Park told Bernalwood to expect that some trees on the western slope of Bernal Hill would eventually be removed as part that effort.

Citywide, there are several initiatives underway to remove old Eucalyptus trees, as they are a non-native species that may pose a fire hazard.

42 thoughts on “Eucalyptus Trees Removed From Bernal Hill

  1. Any information on whether they intend to replace the eucalyptus trees with something else? It would be nice if they planted something else there rather than leave it a barren hill

  2. Was this necessary? A fire hazard? Stripping the hill of what little green we have. Does the city plan to re-plant?

  3. good riddance! God knows if there’s one thing this city has too many of it’s trees!
    maybe someone will construct an outhouse on that site and rent it out as (what else?) “affordable housing”.
    that’s right: you can get your brains blown away while sitting in a church pew (redundant) but it’s eucalyptus trees that “pose a potential hazard”.
    why not take a survey to find out how many non-natives are inhabiting Bernal Heights residences?

  4. Google “Kathleen Bolton” who was killed by a falling branch in Stern Grove in 2008, or “Emma Zhou” who was made paraplegic by a falling branch in Washington Square in 2016. Between the drought and the City’s years of inadequate tree inspection and pruning, it’s a GOOD THING that problem trees are identified and removed.

      • Quite so. Ms Bolton was killed by a redwood tree. And Ms Zhou was injured by a Canary Island Pine. Both those events were very tragic. But unless we’re going to have no trees at all, the answer is not to cut down every tree in our parks.

    • Seriously – compare it to gun deaths, death from alcohol, pollution or even traffic deaths – and there is no comparison.

  5. The city, in all its great wisdom, is now planting…
    Eucalyptus trees(!)
    in the Potrero median!

  6. Maybe while they are at it they can remove that long-dead pine tree on the north side of the hill near where Alabama turns into Esmeralda, near Waltham.

    And I am in favor of removing the eucalyptus trees…they are indeed a huge fire hazard as the oil in the trees is super flammable. It’s not just that they are non-native. They are not the best tree to have in a densely populated neighborhood. But I do hope they replant with something more appriopriate.

    • That’s just not true. Propaganda anti – euc was invented at a 2004 IPC symposium. Eucs, bay trees, native oaks are all about the same. That stand eucs that was just removed actually stopped a grass fire on the hill a few years back. Tough to light wet wood on fire – especially when the branches are high off the ground. By the way – bet the eucs have been here longer than you! And if left alone they live 400+ years. Did you know that the “native plant movement” started in Pre-maxi Germany and gave rise to all sorts of discriminatory practices that did not end well.

      • “Blue gum eucalyptus is one of the most fire-intensive plants,” says Klatt. Trees not only put a lot of fuel on the ground as they shed bark, leaves and twigs, but in intense fires, volatile compounds in foliage cause explosive burning.Jun 12, 2013
        Eucalyptus: California Icon, Fire Hazard and Invasive Species | KQED ……/06/…/eucalyptus-california-icon-fire-hazard-and-invasive-specie…

  7. FIRE HAZARD? Yes. One has only to remember (or look at old videos) of the 1991 fire that burned about 1/3 of the land in the Oakland hills. Eucalyptus trees. They were first planted in the 1920s I believe, because they were quick growing and though to provide usable wood. The wood is poor, but yes, they are extremely quick-growing. But when they get dry with our late summer heat, the oil in those trees can catch fire easily. Ever see a Christmas tree go up in flames instantly? Eucalyptus trees act the same way.

    • I don’t often race to agree with Mr Kaye, but in this instance he’s absolutely correct about Eucalyptus.

    • Nope. Talk to someone who was there. The trees were the last thing to catch on fire. First the native grasses then the native shrubs and bushes then the houses (dry wood boxes full of oxygen) then finally the wet wood of the trees. All else is pure propaganda. Some tried to make a video showing how flammable eucs are – but they wouldn’t catch on fire – so they had to do an animation instead. Save the trees and they will save you. The climate is changing drastically – we need trees that can flourish without being coddled – like the eucs.

    • Did you notice how well the “native” trees burned in this year tragic North Bay fires?

      • EVERYTHING burned!

        Don’t warp this discussion any further. There are zero available facts about which trees fared better in the fires but we do know that people died and lost their homes – including friends and colleagues of mine, and I’m sure many other Bernal residents.

        The efforts to twist this small tree removal situation into a praise of eucalyptus/assault on native trees by tying it to the north bay fires – which are barely even out! – is really unnecessary.

  8. Those tree were planted right up against the foundation of a structure and certainly posed a hazard to the structure. On my walk this morning, I noticed that the city left about fifteen’- twenty’ high “stumps” that I hope they are going to remove. I also hope they will replant that slope with native species, toyon, coyote brush, garrya would all do well there.

  9. I know they aren’t native to California, but neither were my parents! I love eucalyptus trees for their appearance but even more for the fragrance. Especially after a rain. Oh well, we still have them in Fresno so will enjoy them while I can.

  10. For people concerned about Bernal trees, I’d suggest you folks volunteer with Friends of the Urban Forest, a group that is extremely well-versed in the kinds of trees suitable for various neighborhoods. They’ve planted over half the trees in existence today in SF (more than 60,000). I’m not sure if FUF would be the group to contact regarding Bernal Hill Park or whether SF’s Department of Urban Forestry would be appropriate, but contact FUF first and they’ll let you know what they can and cannot do.

  11. I’d like to offer some facts about our eucalypts. While non-native – like most of the 7 million Bay Area human residents, and our cars – they offer a good deal in terms of carbon sequestration, drought tolerance, general cooling and shade, and they are the critically endangered Monarch butterfly’s favorite overwintering choice. They are tall enough to reach up into to fog cover and act as wicks to draw down that moisture, as much as 18 inches per year in some areas. Also, having been established for about 130 years now, they offer a home to all manner of wildlife that most of us want to continue to call “neighbor” – foxes, raptors, etc. And re: flammability – healthy eucalyptus is much better at withstanding fire than seasonal grasses which will fill in and carry fire right up to our houses. Commenters on this thread citing the danger of eucs in fire are ill-informed and probably not making the connection that our North Bay fires traveled through grassland. The 1991 Oakland fire started as a result of human activity on private property, in grassland. Any tree – native oak (now dying due to Oak Death, unlike eucalyptus) – Monterey Pine and Cypress, redwood – will burn in the right conditions. But grass burns faster and spreads faster, while smoldering underground. Check out the excellent blog: for more information abput the Bay Area’s forests.

  12. These old eucalyptus are not being removed because they are a fire danger they are being removed because once blue gums reach about 80 years old they start to shed tree sized limbs. The tree can be perfectly healthy and the limb can appear sound and then “Pop!” Sudden limb drop, that’s even the technical name for it.

  13. This looks like a maintenance action. The tree was likely hazardous. If you’re out there, take a look at where those trees are located: They appear to be immediately adjacent to a home. I was up there this weekend walking my dog, and noticed the work when she took to jumping on the downed trunks by the benches. Looks like they left at least two of the trees, giving them a hard prune rather than removal. I don’t really understand why this has turned into such a caustic thread…

    • Hi Betty, emotions run high because trees, even if replanted, won’t really be replaced in maturity, canopy, ability to host wildlife, or many other ways, at least during our lifetime, and that’s only if the planting “takes” and the area not developed or compromised in other ways. And we have seen so many beloved San Francisco trees cut down for so many bad reasons as well as “good”.

      • I’ve lived here for nearly 20 years and don’t agree with you that we’ve seen too many trees cut. I love trees, but when a tree is hazardous it has to go. I don’t understand why the City took so long to remove the dead pines at the top of the hill or why this blog, at the time, was alarmed by the removal of DEAD trees in a very popular park. It is telling that folks don’t even recognize what a dead tree looks like… I’m not convinced that the folks commenting here are the keepers of arboricultural wisdom in our community.

        My friend was killed in 2008 by a known hazardous tree in Stern Grove. No, it wasn’t a euc, but it was known to be in danger of failing (ranked 8 out of 10) and was adjacent to a parking facility designed for visitor use.

        The shrill alarm calls about every single tree, even when it is hazardous deeply discredits your cause, as does the pseudoscience website being pushed here by the most prolific commenters in this thread.

  14. Camp Mather and Julie Long have the only factually accurate comments on the situation.

    We, as a species, are terrible at statistics, especially risk assesment. Calculate a trillion person-under-tree hours vs. 2 tragic tree incidents. Almost anything else you do is infinitely more risky, including long airplane flights, skiing, driving, eating, and sex.

    But no! Let’s chop down an entire genus of trees which are PERFECTLY adapted to our region. Like Neighbor Jon, people substitute non-relevant examples to argue against Eucalypts.

    People are “frantic” (me: sad and frustrated) because the rare and amazing cloud forest ecosystems of Mt. Sutro and Mt. Davidson are in the process of being destroyed by UCSF and SFParks and Rec, under the influence of nativist ideologues– the same ones responsible for the Bernal tree removals.

    These beautiful 200 year old urban forests can not be replaced in our lifetimes. “Foolish” just doesn’t seem strong enough… and neither will “I told you so” when two of the most beautirul places in the City are gone.

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