Plant Trees SF Events 2008 Archive: 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024


1.   SF Rec-Park Commission meeting Dec 2:  Central Subway, Stow Lake lease, HANC Recycle Center
2.   The pope and "disordered sexuality"/Somali pirate ransom
3.   Climate forecast:  Severe impacts on Lake Tahoe
4.   Humpback whales, Steller Sea Lions, Southern Sea Otter - you otter see them December 4
5.   Milton the Millipede requests your help in saving him
6.   California State Parks Foundation cited for leadership in state budget crisis
7.   Feedback:  HANC Recycle Center/good article about SF marshlands
8.   Piano concert to raise funds for SF Rec-Park Azure Program - for autism - Saturday 27 Nov
9.   New study links overpopulation, warming
10. Choices:  a mathematician, Mae West
11. Balboa High School touching student poem
12. Hetch Hetchy Film Festival December 1 in Berkeley
13. Wonder Stories:  Short stories about events between people and members of our wildlife.  Submit your story
14. How to cuddle with an elephant seal
15. A plant now emerging from summer dormancy:  wild cucumber, or manroot
16. How Chicago got started/chihuahuas attack cops
17. What are banks supposed to do?  Not what they used to do/mutiny over the bounty
18. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable - a prophetic view on the financial crisis/fractals and scaling in finance
19. Notes & Queries:  Why are almost all old buildings beautiful, while most modern buildings are boring or ugly?

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2010, 2:00 P.M. 

Discussion and possible action to support the Municipal Transportation Agency’s proposal to reconfigure the Central Subway’s station entrance at Union Square and to locate the emergency ventilation shaft within the terraces along Stockton Street. (ACTION ITEM) 
Discussion and possible action to: 1) create a temporary parking lot for approximately 23 parking spaces at the triangular lot located at Palace Drive and Lyon Street, 2) allow Yacht Drive parallel parking on west side for 18 spaces, 3) restripe Yacht East and West parking lots, dedicating the eastern portion to Yacht Club users and 4) approve Exploratorium wayfinding signs. (ACTION ITEM) 
Discussion and possible action to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve a Lease with Ortega Family Enterprises, doing business as Stow Lake Boathouse, LLC. for the Operation of the Stow Lake Boathouse Concession in Golden Gate Park. (ACTION ITEM) 
The lease is available for review on the Department's website: 

To review the Department's Presentation from recent Community Meetings regarding Stow Lake: 

Discussion and possible action to approve a preliminary concept design that would make available new community garden plots at 780 Frederick Street (Golden Gate Park), the current site of the HANC Recycling Center. (ACTION ITEM) 

For SF Chronicle article on the HANC Recycle Center issue:

EMERGENCY COMMUNITY FORUM on SF Rec & Park Department's proposal to shut down the HANC Recycling Center

The SF Rec & Parks Department (RPD) proposes to evict the recycling center operated by the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) for the last 36 years from its location on the southwest corner of the Kezar triangle in Golden Gate Park.  The proposal is set for hearing before the Rec Park Commission on December 2, 2010.

There has been no community-wide discussion of the eviction.  The proposal has become very divisive in our neighborhoods.

In the interest of a broader discussion of this proposal, a number of local residents organized this forum for a full public debate and discussion prior to the Dec. 2 Commission meeting.  Representatives from both sides including the Rec & Park Dept. have been invited to speak.

COMMUNITY FORUM at St. John Of God. 5th Avenue & Irving St. San Francisco,
7:00 PM- 9:00 PM Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sponsored by the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, Jake Sigg, and Keep Arboretum Free
(See item 7 (Feedback) below for more information)


2.  Quote of the week: "The pope does not morally justify the exercise of disordered sexuality."

Fact of the week: The average ransom paid to Somali pirates is now about $3 million. Some companies consider it the cost of doing business in the Gulf of Aden.

Guardian Weekly 



New report predicts severe climate impacts on Lake Tahoe area – New York Times


4.  Saturday, December 4, 2010, 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.— Join Wild Equity Institute Executive Director Brent Plater for a relaxing sea watch at Fort Funston, which has some of the wildest coastal views in San Francisco. We’ll be searching for some of the more elusive sea creatures that call the GGNRA home: Humpback Whale, Steller Sea Lion, and Southern Sea Otters! You never know: might throw in a Marbled Murrelet while we are there. RSVP required: RSVP within in the trip info on the website calendar to let us know you’ll attend. Bring spotting scopes and binoculars if you have them; also bring water and snacks to munch on. Meet at the Fort Funston Observation Deck, Fort Funston, Skyline Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94101. Part of the Golden Gate National Parks Endangered Species Big Year, a competitive event to see and help save the Parks’ endangered species. For more info:


5.  A promo for

Milton the Millipede 

Milton might be snoozing here, but once he gets cruising, he'll be choosing three ways to help protect his habitat with SaveNature.Org!

Milton will make every step count by using his iPhone to download the mobile pedometer at and choosing SaveNature.Org as his charity.  The pedometer will count each step he makes while cleaning the forest floor, and donate funds back to SaveNature.   Let's hope GreenBoot is ready for a walker with 240 legs! But for you bipeds out there, GreenBoot is ready to walk with you as you shop, jog or stroll!


6.  Planning & Conservation League salutes Environmental Heroes of the Year at its 2011 Symposium

California State Parks Foundation for its leadership during the State Budget crisis, fighting back significant budget cuts, and for activating tens of thousands of state park supporters throughout California. The Foundation creatively worked to design Proposition 21, a permanent funding source to keep our state parks open and funded.  Although the measure did not pass in the November elections, it continues to advocate the protection of our state’s most precious and unique areas.

(This foundation is headed by Elizabeth Goldstein, fondly remembered as the very professional former General Manager of the San Francisco Recreation & Park Dept.)


7.  Feedback

Mary Lou Van Deventer:
> Without community recycling centers such as HANC, the nation and especially San Francisco might not have recyclers at all.  HANC was developed so early it can be considered a founder of the recycling industry, and it has been serving faithfully ever since.  It has had to fight for existence, as have many recyclers.  This is only the latest scuffle.  My company has also had its scuffles and has been targeted by well-heeled people who think we're untidy and in the way of developing strip malls or car dealerships.  Meanwhile, the citizens vote with their feet by coming through our door and thanking us for existing.  
> Any community that allows both curbside collection and buybacks builds in a niche for people willing to, or desperate enough to, poach from curbside and sell to a buyback.  It's structural.  Eliminating one buyback in particular doesn't fix the structural incentive, it simply closes one neighborhood's niche.  It also removes the buyback option for neighborhood residents who want their deposits back without having to travel very far.  A reasonable desire.  Whatever its other advantages, curbside trucks are the highest-cost option for collecting recyclables, and they generate the most greenhouse gases.  They're the last resort, not the first.  If they don't have as many stops as the truckers would like, too bad.  
> HANC needs the site; the community needs HANC; and, for the most part, the neighbors think HANC is fine where it is.  I"ve read a bunch of documents and don't find much solid fare from the buyback's opposition.  The arguments against it - untidy, attractive nuisance, and most egregiously a target for serious crime - are frothy.  
> As soon as I get past tomorrow's turkey I'll work with Arthur Boone on drafting a position paper for NCRA about this turkey idea of sacrificing HANC.  Let a thousand recycling centers bloom.  
> Mary Lou Van Deventer
> Urban Ore 
> To End the Age of Waste 
> 900 Murray St.
> Berkeley, CA 94710 

Jessica Hahn:
> thanks for the Nature News! It's really interesting to me about the potential oyster come-back. 
> I just printed this article about marshlands in SF on   (I don't know why my article got stuck under "fashion trends," it's a mistake!) You might like it. 


8.  Enjoy a great concert, support a great cause for children with autism!

Before taking this program to Lincoln Center in New York City, world-renowned pianist and San Francisco resident Stephen Prutsman will perform "Bach and Forth", a joyous musical voyage across the centuries and four corners of the globe celebrating the music of J.S. Bach, Jazz, Rock, Gospel and World Music.  Stephen has presented this solo program to great acclaim in the US and abroad; Bay Area residents will have a unique opportunity to help children on the autism spectrum while enjoying this wonderful musical adventure.

When and where?
Saturday November 27, 8pm - Herbst Theater in San Francisco

$40 and $50 

The goal:
Raise funds for the 2011 Azure Program, San Francisco Recreation and Parks' 4 week summer camp at GlenCanyon for children with autism aged 6 to 12.
100% of concert ticket sales will go to the Azure Program.

Why this matters:

"This is a cause very near and dear to my heart. I have a 9 year-old son with autism. Children like A.J. have very limited options for summer fun and recreation. The few programs that are available in San Francisco tend to be privately run, expensive and very limited in scope and time. Our children deserve a chance to explore the great outdoors, socialize and thrive, just like the thousands of children who have so greatly benefited from the Recreation and Parks summer camps over the years."    -Stephen Prutsman

More about Stephen: 

For live video clips of Stephen: 
J.S. Bach:


9.  New Study Links Overpopulation, Warming -- Get New Pop X Newsletter

It's increasingly clear that human-caused global warming stands to push more and more plants and animals toward extinction. A new report by the Worldwatch Institute says curbing human population growth is essential for limiting climate change's potentially catastrophic effects. In "Population, Climate Change, and Women's Lives," author Robert Engelman says overpopulation makes it more difficult to adapt to the effects of global climate disruption. He includes a reliable prescription for stabilizing population: stressing the empowerment, education and equal rights of women; access to family planning; and a reduction in the vast number of unintended pregnancies.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been working too to raise awareness about overpopulation and its impacts on endangered species and wild lands. Now it's easier than ever for people to stay on top of this critical environmental issue with the launch of Pop X, our new monthly e-newsletter tracking the scientific and social connections between overpopulation and species extinction.

Get more on Engelman's study from Time. Then sign up to subscribe to Pop X and get a monthly dose of exciting news and activist opportunities to help slow overpopulation and overconsumption and stop the global extinction crisis.

“When I have to choose between the true and the beautiful, I choose the beautiful.”
            Mathematician Hermann Weyl

"When I have to choose between two evils, I always choose the one I've never tried before."
Mae West

“Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees.”            David Letterman


11.  From Wilderness Arts and Literary Collaborative (Balboa High School)

Accepting a Gift
Marisa Miranda

For once in my life
I did something great
believing in myself
as I walked
my first challenging hike
through endless painted trails
allowing a path to nature
blossom in me

Seeing and learning
what this world creates
gave me new family members
to thank
    redwood trees
    for showing bravery
    crystal clear streams
    for humming peace in my ears
    tall rocky mountains                                  
    for giving me courage

Caring and loving
for things that can't communicate
    sacred wildlife
    hiding to stay safe
    colorful butterflies
    brightening my days
    shameless flowers
    bringing a lovely smell to the air
made me respect and take care of me

I prepare my future
with happy memories
as I take each faithful step
in mother nature's heart
ready to let this world
that changed my life
carry me upstream
Join us for an evening of wine, film & discussion

Two Yosemites (1955)
Directed by: David Brower
Produced by: The Sierra Club
An 11 minute film made by David Brower while the Sierra Club was in the throes of protecting Dinosaur National Monument.  A great example of the power and importance of film in environmental advocacy.

Restore the Hetch Hetchy! (2009)
Directed by: Gabriel Vasquez & Dylan Norris
Produced by: Marquez Charter School, LAUSD
The four minute film made by two 3rd graders is both informative and hilarious.  We've definitely not seen the last of these two young Spielbergs. 

Discover Hetch Hetchy with Harrison Ford (2010)
Directed by: David Vassar
Produced by: Sally Kaplan, David Vassar & Backcountry Pictures.
Originally produced by Environmental Defense Fund, this 20 minute, award winning film has been expertly re-edited and now is a powerful advocacy tool.

Wednesday, December 1
The David Brower Center
2150 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

6:00 PM Reception
7:00 PM Films & Discussion
$25 per person / 5 tickets for $100

to purchase click on links below

Single Tickets for Berkeley at $25 each

Package of 5 tickets for Berkeley at $100

Please note:  All tickets will be held at will call under the name of the purchaser.


From Louise Lacey:
I am writing a book called WONDER STORIES, a collection of really short stories about events between people and members of our wildlife where there is a moment or two of real communication. About half are my own, and half are others'. I'd like to hear from you about any stories you can tell me about your communicating with someone who is any size from a spider to a whale. (No pets or domesticated animals.) Write to me and I will send you a sample. If your story is what I am looking for, you will be in the book under your own name. (If you used to read the newsletter Growing Native, you will understand how that works.) Do you want to be part of this? The story must be interesting and must be true.  Louise Lacey

(And here is a sample):

When I first took over the old house in Wildcat Canyon, it was a big mess. Actually it was a shack. There was no foundation, the windows only apparently kept the rain out, and because the inside walls and the outside walls were directly nailed to one another (with no space between) you could lean on the walls and see them bulge. There was certainly no insulation. If the gas heater wasn’t on, the temperature differential between inside and outside was one degree.

I had nineteen friends help me get it into habitable shape: wiring, a subfloor in the kitchen, plumbing, basic carpentry, floor sanding and finishing in the livingroom and bedroom, painting and linoleum in the kitchen and bath and five coats of lacquer removed from the walls. When that was done, it was terrific. There still was no foundation, the windows still leaked and there was no insulation....It was still a shack, but I loved it. All I had to do was move my furniture in. But in the meantime I had to go out of town for a week and it sat there, pristine (in my mind’s eye), until I returned.

But then, I could scarcely get through the door for the spider webs. I had never seen such an accumulation, even under the home I grew up in, which was pretty bad. Nobody ever went down there for years at a time, and this was just a week’s collection. I really had to think about this.

What I thought was that I was going to have spider bites all the time, including Black Widows, Violin spiders and others. Somebody was giving me a message. I waded through the collection of webs to the last room and stood there thinking some more. I remembered some stories I’d read and heard, Native American lore, about spiders and Grandmother Spider. I didn’t have anything to lose, so I called out:

“Hello, Grandmother Spider. I notice you’ve got this place wrapped up here. I acknowledge that. But I’m going to be living here too. So I’d like to make a deal with you. I suggest: I won’t kill any spider in this house. Your job will be to keep them mostly outside, and not biting anybody here in this house.”

I stood back and looked around. That was stupid, I thought. How’s she going to answer? Just then I saw, out of the corner of my eye, the swift travel of a Wolf spider across the floor. I watched it reach me, climb to the top of my foot and bite me! It then quickly ran away and disappeared while I stared at my instantly burning foot.

“What kind of a deal is that?!” But the modest pain went away overnight, and I realized that rather than getting even with me, Grandmother Spider used this method to seal our deal. As the months went on, and the cobwebs were reduced to a tolerable level — and neither I nor anybody who visited received any bites — I was convinced that I had made a good choice. I hired a woman to vacuum the spider webs (I didn't want to be the one to do it); she didn’t vacuum the spiders. She said that was her philosophy; I approved.

Occasionally when the Barn spiders accumulated in larger numbers than I could handle, I would throw them out the window, one at a time. You understand that the cracks in the floors, the walls and the windows made all that an unreliable method, but it did seem to work in that they were lowered for a while.

The biggest effect of my deal with Grandmother Spider was not that the webs were reduced or that I didn’t get bitten -- which was true. Much more importantly, I was made to see things about spiders that no one else ever saw before. (An entomologist with a specialty in spiders told me this.) Here are two examples:

While I was reading, a Wolf spider crawled up on my chair and then up on my hand. That was a little too close for me. I said, “I am not Little Miss Muffett,” and flicked him off — too vigorously, it appeared. He lay on the floor, dead. While I thought about the consequences of that, I heard the soft sound of a nearby cardboard box lid opening. Another Wolf spider came out, ran swiftly to the dead one, dragged it back to the box and they both disappeared.

“Oh, boy. I am in big trouble now,” I thought. But nothing ever came of it. Grandmother Spider apparently forgave me. And my entomologist friend said that Wolf spiders were not known to take their dead compatriots home. The second:

During an enormous rainstorm the wind was just right to cause a quarter-inch-wide flow of water to come pouring into the top of a window and jet down like a miniature waterfall to the floor below. While I sat there, enthralled, a spider ran out behind a bookshelf, positioned itself around the flow of water and started doing pushups. Or something more intimate. It went on for three or four minutes until the wind changed and the water quit running. Then, sated, the spider slowly returned to the back of the bookshelf.  Louise Lacey


14.  How to cuddle with an elephant seal - video:

15.  Wild cucumber, or manroot

With advent of rain, manroot, or wild cucumber, is now sending up its snaky shoots in our natural areas.  In favorable sites the shoots can elongate several inches a day.  Like so many of its cucumber cousins, it has long tendrils that will grab onto any object that can support its ascent to maximum light.  Here is an article I wrote for the California Native Plant Society local chapter several years ago.

Wild cucumbers (Marah)         

by Jake Sigg for the Yerba Buena News 

"So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea...and when they came to Marah,they could not drink the waters of Marah,for they were bitter; and therefore the name of it was called Marah."  Exodus XV: 22

Many people refer to plants of the genus Marah as manroot, a suitable name.  I have always preferred the name wild cucumber because of its obvious relationship to the family that gives us our cucumbers, melons, squashes, pumpkins, gourds, and chayotes.  There are five species of Marah in California, the most widespread being California cucumber or manroot, M. fabaceus.  California cucumber is one of the earliest plants to start growth after the first rains.  Its survival depends on this early start while water is available.  Growth is exceedingly rapid and you can measure it day-to-day--you can almost see it grow.  It needs to do this so that it can climb (by sensitive tendrils) to overtop shrubs and other plants and spread out its blanket of foliage to absorb the sun's rays.  The plant is 99%+ water; break a growing stem and watch the water leak out.  Water seems to be its only limiting factor; after the rains stop it goes dormant.  Summer drought is seemingly what keeps it in balance in nature.  In copiously-watered Golden Gate Park, for example, it can be an evergreen pest, smothering shrubs and small trees under blankets of foliage.

This blanket of foliage traps a lot of energy from the sun.  Where does the energy go?  Into the root, which in this case is a large tuber, a very large tuber.  The tuber on older plants can exceed a large man's size.  Sometimes the tuber will divide, appearing to have legs.  A specimen tuber of M. macrocarpus of unknown age dug at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden stood for many years at the entrance to the Administration Building there.  It had been transported on a flatbed truck, was several feet in diameter, and weighed 467 pounds, excluding several basal tubers left in the ground.

While I was a gardener in Golden Gate Park, there was an unwanted plant growing beside my toolbox.  I continually pulled up its new shoots, attempting to starve the root.  It showed no signs of giving up after five-and-a-half years so I decided to dig it up.  Although not a rival for the RSABG tuber, it was big enough--about three feet long and one foot diameter.  Being deprived of ability to photosynthesize during that period had had no apparent effect on it.  It was firm of flesh and sound in every fiber.  Good thing I decided to take that shortcut, otherwise it would have outlasted me.

Plants in San Francisco are California manroot, Marah fabaceus, except for a single plant of the coast manroot, M. oreganus, off Sunnydale Avenue in McLaren Park. (It is the one pictured.)  Coast manroot is plentiful on San Bruno Mountain and Montara Mountain.  The name Marah suits it; all parts are exceedingly bitter; touch your tongue to a cut root and your jaw will lock.    This strong a chemical defense indicates potential medicinal use.  The cucumber family in California, which includes five species of Marah and the desert members Brandegea and the gourds, coyote melon, and calabazilla, were a pharmacopoeia, a veritable drugstore for native people.  Roots were used as a purgative, as were seeds.  Stroughton's Bitters, a laxative, was made from California manroot.  Natives threw crushed root into waterbodies to stun fish and used its seed oil for a variety of purposes.  I am unsure what wildlife make use of this plant (we know the Green Hairstreak butterfly uses it), except that rodents and scrub jays cache its seed.  You can be sure that there are creatures which have found a use for this common and widespread a plant.
A note on the derivation of its scientific name:  Munz in his Flora of California incorrectly states that Marah was from an aboriginal name.  Another biblical citation is Ruth 1:20:  "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me."  Other sources say it is Latin, but perhaps the Romans used the biblical reference for the origin of their word for bitter?


"I think that's how Chicago got started. Bunch of people in New York said, 'Gee, I'm enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn't cold enough. Let's go west.'"  
     --Richard Jeni

Fascinating headline in Chron:  Chihuahuas attack Fremont cop/Pack of five attack officer as he escorts a teenager home from a traffic stop 12/14/05


17.  What are banks supposed to do?  New Yorker author John Cassidy, interviewed on NPR's Marketplace Nov 23 (slightly condensed)

Vigeland: So I'd like to ask you a question that will seem oh so obvious, but I think perhaps isn't anymore, which is: What is a bank supposed to be?
CASSIDY: Well that's a very good question. I mean, in the old days, banks were supposed to be places where people placed their deposits and then the banker took that money and lent it to a local firm somewhere to invest in factory, or a new building or whatever. The bank was basically a financial intermediary; they'd take money from some people and lend it to other people.

Vigeland: But yet you talk at length here about how banks aren't just lending money anymore; they're basically huge trading operations. And the question is whether that helps anyone but them, right?

CASSIDY: You see what's happened over the last 20 or 30 years is Wall Street and the banking system have morphed together, so giant banks like Citigroup and Bank of America and Wells Fargo -- they're banks in the old sense but they're also banks in the new sense: they're investment banks, they do a lot of trading. In fact the vast majority of the money they make comes from trading securities, which is more to do with shuffling around assets that already exist, rather than financing the building of new factories and the creation of new firms.
For updates and info, contact scott at planttrees dot org.