December 9, 2016

Coastal Commission OKs Beach Chalet project

Beach Chalet proposed 60-foot light towers.

Beach Chalet proposed 60-foot light towers.

On May 9 the California Coastal Commission voted 11 – 0 to reject the appeal by the Sierra Club and over 200 other groups and individuals, challenging San Francisco’s approval of the Beach Chalet project. The plan is to install seven acres of artificial turf and bright sports lighting at the west end of Golden Gate Park (see February-March Yodeler, page 3).

The Sierra Club believes this is a bad decision, and we are hopeful that our legal challenge to the approval will still bear fruit (see April-May Yodeler, page 6).

The commission’s own staff had delivered a report affirming many of the concerns raised in the appeal, recommending that the project not be approved without significant modifications, and suggesting consideration of an alternative (see

One commissioner, Steve Blank, who had to leave before the vote, understood. The following are excerpts from his eloquent statement at the meeting.

“One of the reasons our coast looks like no other state is because of this commission. Our opening charter Section 30001 says the ‘California coastal zone is a distinct and valuable natural resource of vital and enduring interest to all the people and exists as a delicately balanced ecosystem. (b) That the permanent protection of the state’s natural and scenic resources is a paramount concern to present and future residents of the state and nation.’

“And this is the reason the coastal zone has stricter zoning than almost every part of state.

“As commissioners our decisions have to be guided by the Coastal Act and the city’s own LCP [Local Coastal Plan], as well as the coastal regulations. These are different from the criteria the city has. The LCP is pretty unambiguous in its description that says “emphasize the naturalistic landscape qualities of the western end of the of the park.”

  • “60-foot light poles and night lighting clearly doesn’t meet the definition of naturalistic landscape qualities.
  • “Artificial turf doesn’t meet the definition of naturalistic landscape qualities.
  • “Surrounding the artificial turf with new trees doesn’t meet the definition of naturalistic landscape qualities.

“The city and the speakers made a pretty good case why the current field needs maintenance and additional security. I urge the city to provide these services.

“But the city also made the unintended case that this project looks like an industrial sports facility–the antithesis of the naturalistic definition in the LCP.

“Our job as a state agency is to determine whether this project is consistent with the policies that protect the coast for all Californians.

“I think the staff recommendations do a great job in protecting the park and expanding playing times for kids.”

Unfortunately, most commissioners seemed to have their minds made up on arrival, and even the one who seconded Steve Blank’s motion to uphold the appeal waffled when she saw the other commissioners line up behind the city.

There is still time. Whether through the court proceedings or otherwise, we hope that the city will find a way to change its plans.


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