Update (Dec. 20, 2011): on Dec. 20 Mayor Ed Lee vetoed this ordinance.
On Dec. 6 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 6 – 5 to initiate negotiations for a long-term management agreement with the National Park Service for controversial city-owned Sharp Park in Pacifica and its endangered species (see November-December Yodeler, page 6).
Unless Mayor Ed Lee vetoes the ordinance, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department will begin discussions with the Park Service toward drafting a joint-management proposal for the Supervisors to review. The ordinance would likely result in an alternative to remove the golf course and restore the original wetlands at Sharp Park, to supplement the Park Department’s existing golf-only proposals and ensure that policy-makers can pick the best alternative to address key concerns such as recreation and public access, costs, and protecting endangered species.
The golf course at 400-acre Sharp Park is plagued by crumbling infrastructure, annual flooding problems, and ongoing environmental violations. The site is home to two federally protected species, the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake. Conservation groups including the Sierra Club have sued the Park Department for continuing to kill and harm endangered species by pumping water from wetlands where frogs lay eggs and by mowing vegetation used by garter snakes. Three dozen San Francisco community, recreation, environmental, and social-justice groups have called for closing the golf course and creating a more sustainable public park at Sharp Park.
The approval of the ordinance is a preliminary step to an agreement with the Park Service for long-term management of Sharp Park. Any management plan would go through an environmental review, public review, and hearings, and come back to the Board of Supervisors for final approval. The ordinance allows the city to negotiate with other parties to manage the park, such as San Mateo County or Pacifica, but ensures that city decision-making considers the potential Park Service partnership as well.
The Park Service is expected to propose closing the golf course and restoring the site to coastal habitat with a trail network and other public-serving amenities. Sharp Park is within the legislative boundary of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and adjacent to the Park Service’s Mori Point, where a successful multimillion-dollar wildlife-habitat and trail-restoration project accommodates neighbors, school groups, and families in a community-based model of park creation. Coastal restoration experts have released a scientific study and restoration proposal for Sharp Park showing that removing the golf course and restoring the natural lagoon, wetlands, and beach processes is the least-costly and only sustainable solution for the land. Restoration will provide the most public benefit and best protect endangered species, at much less expense than the Park Department’s costly plan to dredge wetlands and physically alter golf holes.
We expect to post updated information about Mayor Lee’s action on the ordinance early in the new year at www.TheYodeler.org.
Jeff Miller, conservation advocate, Center for Biological Diversity