Environment

Letter to the Editor: Sinkhole Threatens Environmental Efforts at 15th and Quintara

Open letter to District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar:

Dear Supervisor Melgar, 

Nature in the City (NTC), on behalf of our members, volunteers, supporters and staff, wish to bring to your attention our habitat restoration work in the Golden Gate Heights neighborhood, the Green Hairstreak Corridor. We have worked every month with neighborhood volunteers to restore upland dune habitat at 11 public sites and ensure that the green hairstreak butterfly and more than 850 other distinct species can thrive in this neighborhood.

If it weren’t for NTC’s efforts, this butterfly would likely become locally extinct in this neighborhood. Insects and pollinators, crucial to healthy ecosystems, are in trouble the world over and need our help. They are major contributors to the web of life: pollinating flowers, aerating soils, breaking down fallen leaves and decay, eating other insects to control pests, recycling nutrients back into the soil with their droppings, and transforming plants into proteins (their bodies) that feed baby birds and other animals. 

The richest habitat site in the Corridor is a large stairway garden at 15th Avenue and Quintara Street, which neighbors and NTC have cared for since 2008. Over the last few years, a sinkhole has developed, pulling down sand and plants at this site. After 1.5 years of advocacy, we have now heard from SFPUC that their crew plans to repair the sewage line, and in the process, we anticipate that much of our work will be destroyed. We have asked SFPUC if there are mitigation funds to help us rescue plants, stabilize steep sandy soils, replant, water during the drought, and repair overall site damages, and they have let us know no such funds exist. 

In District 5, where Nature in the City cares for another public jewel of a garden, Adah’s Stairway, SFPUC repaired a sinkhole in 2019, and the damages to this site were massive. We were able to utilize City funds from the San Francisco Carbon Fund grant to replant at Adah’s Stairway with volunteer labor, at a cost to the City of $17,000 for plants alone. We have seen the extensive damage that comes with sewage system repairs. 

We are appealing to you, as a San Francisco resident and representative of District 7, to advocate for this diverse garden that over the last 13 years, has benefitted from approximately 2,500 volunteer hours and 1,500 plants. At the current volunteer rate of $28.54 per hour and plants costing $10 each, this habitat site is worth $86,530 to the City and its residents, not to mention the ecosystem services it provides, such as: erosion control, beautification, pollination, water filtration, carbon sequestration, and as a biodiverse ecosystem, it is home to thousands of tiny plants and animals. 

Together, let’s rescue, stabilize, replant, water, and repair as much of this site as possible to its current state during July and August, the only time that SFPUC has let us know they can make these repairs. Can your office allocate $10,000 toward this important and urgent work? 

We thank you for your immediate attention to this matter, we look forward to speaking with you during office hours on July 16th at 2:50p.m., and are happy to answer any questions you may have. 

Sincerely,

Amber Hasselbring, Nature in the City Executive Director

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