Sharp Park FAQ

Everything you need to know about Restoring Sharp Park!

  1. What is Sharp Park? What is Sharp Park Golf Course?

  2. What are the problems at Sharp Park Golf Course?

  3. What are our options at Sharp Park?

  4. What’s the story of endangered wildlife at Sharp Park?

  5. Can Sharp Park Golf Course and endangered wildlife co-exist?

  6. Does Sharp Park Golf Course lose money?

  7. Could Sharp Park Golf Course be profitable if it were managed differently?

  8. Will significant expenditures be required to keep Sharp Park Golf Course operating?

  9. Does the National Park Service want to acquire Sharp Park Golf Course?

  10. Does the National Park Service have the expertise and funding to create a new public park while protecting endangered species?

  11. The San Francisco Historic Preservation Committee did not designate Sharp Park Golf Course as a historic site. Why?

  12. Why is the Golf Course unable to sell many of its saleable rounds?

  13. How do Pacificans feel about the Golf Course?

  14. What is the financial impact of closing the Golf Course?

  15. What is the recreational impact of closing the Golf Course?

  16. If it isn’t popular, profitable, or historic, why is Sharp Park Golf Course still open?


  1. What is Sharp Park? What is Sharp Park Golf Course?

    Sharp Park is a scenic and ecologically rich wetland and lagoon located in Pacifica. Sharp Park Golf Course is a money-losing, endangered species-killing golf course built on top of Sharp Park’s wetlands. Although owned and operated by the city of San Francisco but located outside of the city in Pacifica, California.

    How did this come about?

    A wealthy benefactor gave this biodiverse and scenic land to San Francisco on the condition that the city operate the land as a “public park, or a public playground.” At the time, Sharp Park’s lagoon provided flood protection to Pacificans, and habitat for unique species. It was rich with recreational opportunities.

    In 1931, however, San Francisco chose to dredge and fill this rare lagoon in order to build the money-losing, environmentally damaging Sharp Park Golf Course. This decision continues to harm San Francisco finances, deprive communities near the Golf Course of the flood protection that wetlands provide, and threaten Sharp Park’s rare local wildlife.

  2. What are the problems at Sharp Park Golf Course?

    Sharp Park Golf Course threatens endangered species. Golf course operations put both the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake and the threatened California Red-legged Frog at risk.

    In addition, Sharp Park Golf Course loses money. It lost more than $1 million over the last eight fiscal years. San Francisco’s other public golf courses are underfunded while taxpayer dollars subsidize San Francisco’s only public golf course located outside the city limits. Sharp Park Golf Course drains golf fund and general fund resources that should go to social services within the city.

    Sharp Park needs taxpayer bailouts in part because it floods every winter.

    Flooding at Sharp Park Golf Course: February 2011

    As sea levels rise and climate changes, flood prevention and mitigation will only become harder and more expensive. Sharp Park Golf Course cannot afford its current costs. The increased sea wall armoring and other flood prevention measures necessary to prevent increased future flooding could cost millions of dollars.

    Meanwhile, if we armor the Sharp Park seawall to protect this failing golf course, it may destroy Sharp Park beach, one of Pacifica’s tourist attractions. Maintaining a golf course at Sharp Park is neither economically nor ecologically sustainable.

  3. What are our options at Sharp Park?

    San Francisco faces two choices at Sharp Park. Either San Francisco can gamble and privatize Sharp Park Golf Course, or San Francisco can create a National Park that everyone can enjoy.

    To privatize the course, San Francisco must fire the existing workforce and provide a government bailout for the tens-of-millions it will take to build sea walls and dredge wetlands at Sharp Park. Then, to finance an expensive rerouting of the Golf Course, a private golf developer would raise golf rates up to $120 per round.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    As a National Park, Sharp Park Golf Course can become a recreation resource for everyone to enjoy. San Francisco can act in the best interests of all its residents, and partner with the National Park Service to restore Sharp Park at no cost to the city. A National Park in the restored wetlands and lagoon will provide natural flood control, environmental education, sustainable land use, and endangered species recovery.

    The Choice is Clear.

    Privatizing Sharp Park would fail. There aren’t enough golfers in the Sharp Park Golf Course market to make the elite course profitable. Golf in the Bay Area is already oversupplied by 6 million rounds per year.

    National Parks are proven to be better drivers of local economies than golf courses. Sharp Park’s restoration will help revitalize Pacifica’s Palmetto Avenue, and make the land more accessible to the surrounding community.

    Complete with a visitor and education center, accessible recreation trails, a group campground, and other recreation facilities, restoration of Sharp Park will create a valuable community resource. Combined with ongoing recovery efforts at the adjacent Mori Point, Sharp Park’s restoration will ensure that future generations will get a chance to see the California Red-legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake. Restoration will also mitigate the increased flood risks caused by predicted sea level rise.

    A Restoration Vision for Sharp Park

  4. What’s the story of endangered wildlife at Sharp Park?

    The San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red-legged Frog’s recent histories at Sharp Park are tragic ones. This local wildlife thrived in Laguna Salada in the years before Sharp Park Golf Course’s construction. Then, golf course building activities and day-to-day operations made snake and frog habitats unsafe; snakes and frogs were killed.

    Today, these frogs and snakes are rare, their populations endangered. If Sharp Park doesn’t become a National Park and Golf Course activities continue, these local animals will disappear from the area.

    Laguna Salada: Historically Healthy Habitat

    Sharp Park’s historic role as a home for local frogs and snakes is obvious. The first biological survey of the Sharp Park area, conducted in the 1940’s, found thriving populations of the San Francisco Garter Snake. For populations of that size to exist, the Snake must have lived there long before the man-made golf course and sea wall were built.

    As shown in the picture below, Laguna Salada was a freshwater lagoon (with freshwater plants like cattails growing around its rim) before golf course construction began. It was a perfect habitat for the Frog and the Snake. The presence of threatened local frogs and snakes continues today only in spite of destructive human intervention.

    Old pictures Laguna Salada surrounded by freshwater vegetation prove its status as a freshwater lagoon ideal for snakes and frogs. Golf course construction, filling the lagoon, occurs in the background.

    Sharp Park Golf Course: Endangered Species Killer

    The location, operation, and maintenance of the Golf Course harms both the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake and the threatened California Red-legged Frog. The Golf Course has been destructive since it was constructed.

    Early biological surveys of Sharp Park found a dead San Francisco Garter Snake, and concluded it was likely killed by golfers. Later surveys for the Snake found declines in population during the 1970s and 1980s.

    In 2005, a San Francisco Garter Snake was found dead on a Sharp Park Golf Course green. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the Snake was killed by a lawn mower, a Golf Course casualty.

    California Red-legged Frogs are killed at Sharp Park Golf Course even more often. Every year when the winter rains come, California Red-legged Frogs breed and lay eggs which they attach to aquatic vegetation in Sharp Park ponds. When the Golf Course floods, however, the Golf Course management drain the waters, pumping the ponds dry. This leaves the Frogs’ egg masses exposed to the air, to dry out and die. An entire generation of new California Red-legged Frogs can be killed.

  5. Can Sharp Park Golf Course and endangered wildlife co-exist?

    No. From day one, golf course construction and maintenance have degraded habitat and harmed endangered wildlife.

    As sea levels rise, frogs and snakes will need a safe upland corridor to retreat from the rising sea. If Sharp Park Golf Course continues to build higher and higher sea walls to keep the ocean from the Golf Course, it will increase the risk of catastrophic flooding and prevent the Frogs and Snakes from adapting to sea level rise.

    Sharp Park Golf Course not only prevents Sharp Park’s wildlife from thriving today, it also threatens their ability to survive tomorrow.

  6. Does Sharp Park Golf Course lose money?

    Sharp Park has lost between $30,000 and $300,000 each year for the past seven fiscal years. It has lost more than $1 million over the past eight fiscal years.

    San Francisco’s other golf courses suffer for it, because they must subsidize Sharp Park’s losses, robbing other courses of needed maintenance.

    But that isn’t all it costs San Francisco to operate Sharp Park: Sharp Park also draws down the capital fund, the open space fund, and general fund. In 2007, the Recreation and Parks Department concluded that these expenses will not be offset by revenue from Sharp Park, collectively resulting in millions of dollars in losses by 2013.

    Pacifica earns no direct revenue from Sharp Park at all, and none of the studies conducted to date have shown any indirect revenues from Sharp Park flowing to Pacifica’s city coffers or the surrounding communities.

  7. Could Sharp Park Golf Course be profitable if it were managed differently?

    No, Sharp Park Golf Course cannot earn money by changing its management practices.

    The only possible route to profitability is to privatize the Golf Course, transforming Sharp Park Golf Course into an elite course. But all golf analysts believe that investments in expensive golf courses will fail, because the Bay Area golf market is over built and there is no longer a viable market for expensive courses.

    Privatization would throw good money after bad by funding continued endangered species killing, and busting the Sharp Park Golf Course’s labor union. After investing tens-of-millions of dollars into course improvements, Sharp Park Golf Course would charge at least $120 per round of golf.

    Today’s wary investors won’t provide that level of investment in an endangered species killing, money-losing golf course. Investors know that there aren’t enough golfers in the oversupplied Bay Area golf market to purchase these $120+ rounds of golf. Sharp Park Golf Course has run out of options.

  8. Will significant expenditures be required to keep Sharp Park Golf Course operating?

    Yes. The status quo at Sharp Park cannot be maintained. Not only does the Golf Course lose too much money, it causes too much environmental damage and imposes too much risk on the surrounding communities when the Golf Course floods each year.

    Sharp Park Golf Course already requires taxpayer subsidies in order to balance its books. San Francisco’s other public golf courses suffer because of it. In 2007, the Recreation and Parks Department (RPD) concluded that Sharp Park Golf Course’s expenses will not be offset by its revenue.

    Collectively it has resulted in over $1 million in losses since 2004. The RPD budgeted another $2.5 million subsidy from San Francisco taxpayers for the coming fiscal year. This cannot be allowed to continue.

    In addition to losing money, Sharp Park Golf Course faces environmental problems and is threatened by sea level rise. To fix the problems while retaining an 18-hole golf course on the property would require massive capital expenditures.

    At minimum, Sharp Park Golf Course will require:

    • $12-14 million in course improvements (PROS Consulting, 2008 Estimate)
    • $32 million in sea wall repair and construction (Bob Batallio, Philip Williams & Associates Environmental Hydrology, 2009 Estimate)
    • $4-8 million in environmental permitting costs (Average Costs for Habitat Conservation Planning Permits)

    This is money that San Francisco doesn’t have and that shouldn’t be spent to subsidize golf in San Mateo County. At a time when the City is cutting basic neighborhood and community services, it cannot subsidize suburban golf.

  9. Does the National Park Service want to acquire Sharp Park Golf Course?

    Yes, the National Park Service stated in writing three times that it wants to acquire Sharp Park. But it does not want to manage a golf course.

    If the Golf Course closes, the National Park Service will partner with San Francisco and other agencies to find funding to restore Sharp Park. The National Park at Sharp Park would include habitat restoration, hiking trails, a park center at the current clubhouse, and plans for adapting to predicted climate change and sea level rise.

    The National Park Service would go through the steps to create an ecologically sound, open access public park that meets community and wildlife needs.

  10. Does the National Park Service have the expertise and funding to create a new public park while protecting endangered species?

    Yes, the Park Service has a 95 year track record of preserving and protecting America’s premier natural, historic, and cultural sites while making them available for a wide range of recreational activities. The National Park Service are recognized leaders in protecting endangered species, creating trail-based recreation opportunities, engaging the community through education and volunteer programs, and undertaking large-scale restoration projects.

    The Crissy Field and Mori Point restoration projects demonstrate the Park Service’s ability to create locally meaningful restoration projects. They have successfully attracted community support and various sources of funding not available to other land-management agencies.

    In fact, the National Park Service is the most consistently funded federal land-management agency. Working with the National Park Service makes financial planning for projects much more reliable on a year-to-year basis.

    To find out more about the National Park Service’s successful track record building and funding public parks, download this summary of the National Park Service’s park making and funding activities.

  11. The San Francisco Historic Preservation Committee did not designate Sharp Park Golf Course as a historic site. Why?

    The City of San Francisco stated in a 2009 letter to the City of Pacifica that it is “inappropriate and unnecessary” to designate Sharp Park Golf Course as a historical landmark.

    In 2011 the City’s Historic Preservation Commission failed to reach consensus on the historic integrity of Sharp Park Golf Course.

    San Francisco’s decisions reflect the reality at Sharp Park: much of it’s history was washed away by coastal floods. According to Historic Landscape Architect Chris Pattillo’s public comment on the Sharp Park Golf Course’s historic value, only one of Sharp Park’s holes remains similar to the original design.

    What happened to the original design?

    Seven beach-side holes were destroyed by a massive coastal flood; another hole was destroyed when Highway 1 was constructed, and annual flooding and poor maintenance has destroyed what remained of Alister MacKenzie’s signature design.

    In his book “Missing Links,” Golf historian Daniel Wexler supports Patillo’s conclusions. He states that the MacKenzie design has “washed into oblivion” and that “no appreciable trace of [MacKenzie’s] strategy remains in play.”

    Even if MacKenzie’s design remained, it might not pass the historic committee. The City of Sacramento recently redesigned its MacKenzie course because the original design didn’t meet the demands of the modern golf game. There are 26 golf courses on the national register of historic places. None are MacKenzie-designed courses.

    Sharp Park Golf Course’s legacy is its impact on the wetlands it was built upon, not the design that washed out to sea.

  12. Why is the Golf Course unable to sell many of its saleable rounds?

    Golfers give Sharp Park Golf Course failing grades in nearly every category that the National Golf Foundation uses to rank golf courses.

    Sharp Park Golf Course only sells an average 45% of its saleable golf rounds each year. It’s not alone. Better golf courses are also struggling.

    As a low quality course in the over-supplied Bay Area golf market, Sharp Park Golf Course cannot compete. The oversupplied market conditions demand that some Bay Area golf courses close; Sharp Park Golf Course is the obvious choice.

  13. How do Pacificans feel about the Golf Course?

    Many Pacificans support Restoring Sharp Park, and nearly all oppose plans to turn Sharp Park into a privatized, elite golf course.

    Some Pacifica residents hope to develop the former Pacifica Quarry on the South side of Mori Point, and therefore support retaining Sharp Park Golf Course. They plan to use the Quarry’s proximity to the Golf Course to attract a developer, who can then market the development’s location close to a golf course.

    These development plans, however, are destined to fail. Pacificans have voted down this development project every time it has gone to the polls. And recent studies show that National Parks are better drivers of local economies than golf courses.

    Pacifica earns no direct revenue from Sharp Park Golf Course, and no study has shown any indirect revenues flowing into Pacifica’s city coffers. Restoring Sharp Park will allow Pacificans to access revenues from recreational activities occurring on Sharp Park land.

    Bumper sticker for Pacificans who support Sharp Park National Park.

  14. What is the financial impact of closing the Golf Course?

    Closing the Golf Course and replacing it with a National Park will earn money for Pacifica, and save San Francisco millions of dollars.

    Pacifica sees no direct revenues from the Golf Course and no study has demonstrated any indirect revenues.

    San Francisco suffers direct losses while operating the Golf Course, more than $1 million over the past 8 fiscal years. The City of San Francisco stands to lose millions more if they continue to fight freshwater and seawater flooding, poor golf markets, and endangered species in order to maintain a failing golf course.

  15. What is the recreational impact of closing the Golf Course?

    Shutting down Sharp Park Golf Course will be good for golf. The Bay Area golf market supplies over 6 million more golf rounds per year than golfers demand. Under these conditions, some Bay Area golf courses must close. The only question is which ones.

    As San Francisco’s worst performing golf asset, selling on average only 45% of its saleable golf rounds each year, Sharp Park Golf Course is the obvious course to close. Closing Sharp Park Golf Course will allow San Francisco to invest in its other affordable golf courses, while helping the Bay Area golf market stabilize.

    Shutting down the Golf Course will also better meet San Franciscans recreational needs. Surveys of San Francisco residents show that their #1 recreational demand is more hiking trails. Golf ranks 16th out of 19 recreational options. The imbalance between demand and supply offers an opportunity to reconsider our use of Sharp Park land, and to request that restoration be pursued so that Sharp Park becomes a park that everyone can enjoy.

  16. If it isn’t popular, profitable, or historic, why is Sharp Park Golf Course still open?

    Despite public support for a National Park at Sharp Park, Mayor Ed Lee has repeatedly sided with golf purists and coastal developers and vetoed legislation to consider Restoring Sharp Park.

    Call the Mayor Today! Call Mayor Ed Lee now at 415-554-6141 and tell him to support Restoring Sharp Park because restoring Sharp Park is good government and common sense.

    Join us! Volunteer with the Wild Equity Institute. You can help us raise awareness and support for a new National Park at Sharp Park. Join us at fun events and attend critical public hearings with the Wild Equity team! Sign-up by calling 415-349-5787 or sending a message to info@wildequity.org.


Comments

  1. Mare Bear — 10 December 2011 - 17:43

    US Fish and Wildlife found the science lacking in the report paid for by SF Rec and Park. As a result they require an endowment to be maintained “in perpetuity” to protect the CLRF and SFGS. How much additional money is that? Will we taxpayers have to fund that also?


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