Restore Sharp Park News

Now is the time for San Francisco to decide the future of Sharp Park. The city has three options:

  1. Leave Sharp Park as is, and allow the course to continue losing money and killing imperiled species
  2. Close the golf course and restore Laguna Salada to its natural state
  3. Pay for expensive improvements to the course and the protective sea wall, which will necessitate privatizing the course

Partnering with the National Park Service to create a better public park for everyone is the best choice San Francisco can make at Sharp Park. But don’t take our word for it—compare the options for yourself.


Impact on: The Status Quo Restore Sharp Park Privatize Sharp Park
The Course Sharp Park remains a poorly maintained, underperforming golf course Sharp Park and the club house become the National Park Visitor Center for San Mateo County Sharp Park becomes a private course that costs over $120 for a round of golf
The Environment Sharp Park continues to illegally harm California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake Creates diverse habitat where California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake thrive Sharp Park receives permit to legally harm red-legged frogs during operation; garter snakes are still at risk
Pacifica Sharp Park golf course draws few tourists and does little to boost the Pacifica’s economy National Park Visitor Center draws tourists and becomes a cornerstone of redevelopment of downtown Pacifica Sharp Park golf course draws even fewer golfers and tourists because of high cost of a round of golf
San Francisco Sharp Park drains $30,000 to $300,000 a year from San Francisco city budget, City parks suffer budget cuts while the city subsidizes a San Mateo golf course Costs the city of San Francisco nothing. Frees up money for city parks and recreation Costs the city of San Francisco nothing
Recreation Provides recreation opportunities for a small number of San Francisco and Pacifica golfers Provide more hiking trails which are in high demand in the Bay Area. Also connects the 400-mile Bay Ridge Trail to the sea Accommodates an even smaller number of golfers, as high prices drive away casual golfers and school groups
The Beach The sea berm continues to cause beach erosion, which will likely destroy Pacifica’s beach within decades A restored tidal lagoon system at Sharp Park will absorb ocean waves, slowing beach erosion A $30 million reinforced sea wall will contribute to and possibly even accelerate beach erosion in Pacifica
Federal Taxpayers Costs federal taxpayers nothing Costs taxpayers only operating costs of the National Park Service Federal government pays more than $30 million for course improvements and sea wall
Flooding Course flooding threatens Pacifica homes Gradual phasing out of the sea berm and replacement of natural lagoon system will protect Pacifica homes from flooding Course flooding will continue to threaten Pacifica homes
Labor Union job opportunities stay the same Union job opportunities stay the same or increase, since the National Park System in unionized Union job opportunities disappear, because private course workers will not be unionized

The Wild Equity Institute is working with dozens of community, recreation, environmental, and social justice groups to build a better public park at Sharp Park. This is a partial list of our partner organizations:

Restore Sharp Park Video Channel

Watch Twain’s Frog & the Beautiful Serpent to Find Out More about the Endangered Species at Sharp Park!


Watch “The Restoration Vision” to Learn Why We Should Close Sharp Park Golf Course and Create a National Park!


Watch Restore Sharp Park Supporters Win the Debate on Pacifica Public Television!


Watch This 10 minute Video About Restoring Sharp Park


Watch This Bay Nature Video About the National Parks’ Restoration Work at Mori Point, Next Door to Sharp Park!


Watch Bob Battalio Explain How to Create a Sustainable System at Sharp Park


Watch Dr. Peter Baye Discuss the Natural Ecology of Sharp Park


Watch Supervisor Avalos and WEI ED Brent Plater Discuss Restoring Sharp Park

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 1, 2017

Contact: Arthur Feinstein, Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, 415-680-0643

As a result of a last-minute Agreement reached between environmental organizations and the SF Recreation and Park Department, the Department has agreed to withdraw its plans to raise golf fairways and fill wetlands at the Sharp Park golf course. This golf course redevelopment had been incorporated into the Department’s Natural Resource Areas Management Plan EIR over environmental groups’ opposition. As part of the Agreement, environmental organizations withdrew their appeal of the EIR. 

The Agreement reached between environmentalists and the SF Recreation and Parks Department will improve the chances for survival for two endangered species, the California red-legged frog (made famous in Mark Twain’s short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County) and the San Francisco Garter Snake from the impacts of the damaging golf course project. The species use the fairways and its wetlands as habitat.

“It is always hard to reach decisions at the very last moment but we believe that this Agreement goes far towards protecting these species on the brink of extinction. And by removing the elements of the project that constitute a golf course redevelopment, the Natural Areas program that we all support can now move forward,” said Arthur Feinstein of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter.

Sharp Park Golf Course, owned by San Francisco and located in Pacifica, is habitat for the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake and California Red-legged frog. Scientists at various institutions, including Cal Academy of Sciences and San Francisco State University, have criticized the golf course as threatening rare and dwindling habitat for the endangered species.

The coalition of environmental groups that signed the appeal included Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Wild Equity Institute,  Golden Gate Audubon, Sequoia Audubon, Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter, SAVE THE FROGS!

***

On January 17, 2017, Wild Equity and a coalition of other environmental groups filed an appeal of the City’s plan to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course.

San Francisco’s Significant Natural Resource Areas Program was to be one of the great urban conservation programs in America. But in 2016, San Francisco released a Final Environmental Impact Report (“FEIR”) for the Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan (“SNRAMP”) that will, if adopted, turn the program on its head.

The FEIR removes SNRAMP’s original plan for Sharp Park’s natural areas and replaces it with a project to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course within the “recovery” area for two imperiled species, the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red-Legged Frog.

Sharp Park Golf Course is arguably San Francisco’s greatest economic and ecological mistake. It loses hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, taking money away from San Francisco’s neighborhood parks and community centers. It kills two endangered species as it operates, and its location along California’s coast means that before long it will be flooded by sea level rise: already several links have been washed out to sea.

In February 2006 the Recreation and Parks Department and the Planning Department began a California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) process for the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (“SNRAMP”). The SNRAMP proposed projects in the City’s Natural Areas, including Sharp Park’s Natural Areas, but did not propose any changes to Sharp Park Golf Course.

2006 Natural Resources Management Plan for Sharp Park

The original plan’s management boundary (depicted by areas shaded in brown) was limited to the natural lagoon at Sharp Park. No modifications to the golf course were proposed. Environmental groups unanimously supported this plan.

Separately in 2009 the Recreation and Parks Department conceded to the demands of golf purists by releasing a controversial proposal to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course. Known as “A18,” the proposal was heavily criticized by environmentalists, budget hawks, and Bay Area scientists, who stated

It is our conclusion that the minimal habitat enhancement proposed by the Park Department in their preferred 18-hole alternative is inadequate to allow the recovery of the San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog at the site, and is set up to fail with climate change and sea-level rise.[source]

When this criticism became public A18 appeared dead on arrival at City Hall. Indeed, shortly after A18 was criticized, the Recreation and Parks Department publicly stated:

Because redesigning or eliminating the Sharp Park Golf Course is a separate proposal being studied by SFRPD, it will not be included or evaluated as part of the proposed [Significant Natural Areas Management Plan] project analyzed in the EIR. Should changes to the Sharp Park Golf Course be proposed, they would undergo a separate regulatory review, including CEQA environmental review.[source]

Yet in November 2016 the Department released a SNRAMP FEIR that removed the original plan for Sharp Park and replaced it with A18, the Golf Course redevelopment project. Moreover, the FEIR declares the Golf Course an Historic Resource that CEQA must protect—even though the original design was washed away by ocean storms decades ago—and therefore refused to consider alternatives that would protect Sharp Park’s environment from this controversial project.

Despite assurances that A18 (L) would never be inserted into the SNRAMP environmental review, the final EIR plan for Sharp Park (R) is indistinguishable from it.

Sharp Park, arguably San Francisco’s most ecologically and biologically important natural area, would be devastated by implementation of A18, and in the seven years since A18 was first announced, many of the SNRAMP proposals for San Francisco’s 31 other natural areas have moved forward or implemented, because they either didn’t require environmental review or because they were incorporated into other park projects.

Nonetheless, to ensure that SNRAMP’s good proposals for the City’s other natural areas wouldn’t be affected by the disastrous proposal for Sharp Park, Wild Equity and an array of environmental and community supporters demanded that the Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment plan be segregated out of SNRAMP and its environmental review process, so the golf course project could stand or more likely, fall on its own merits.

But these reasonable proposals have fallen on deaf ears. The Recreation and Parks Department has informed San Francisco’s environmental community that we must sacrifice our most precious biological resource if we desire modest conservation gains in San Francisco’s other natural landscapes.

Now Wild Equity, the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, S.F. League of Conservation Voters, National Parks Conservation Association, Sequoia Audubon and others all agree: the environmental benefits proposed by SNRAMP in other areas are far outweighed by the environmental destruction the golf course bailout would cause at Sharp Park. 

Our recent rains allowed Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetlands to drink deeply, and now an unusual visitor has made the wetland complex its temporary home.

An Emperor Goose, normally found near the Aleutian Islands and points north, has been observed feeding in and around the wetland areas restored by our recent rains.  Wild Equity digiscoped a few photos of the rare bird:

Unfortunately Sharp Park Golf Course is draining the wetlands as rapidly as possible, so it is unclear how long the wetland complex will be able to support this unusual visitor: or the endangered species that call the wetland complex home.
 
Despite the golf course’s attempt to destroy the wetland complex, the course conditions are saturated, and many areas are covered in standing water.  

Sharp Park Golf Course, Hole 10, January 26, 2017


Fortunately you can help fix this travesty. Write San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors today and tell them to get the golf course out of our natural areas!

For Immediate Release: January 17, 2017
Press Contact: Brent Plater, bplater@wildequity.org, 415-572-6989

Environmental Groups Appeal SF Plan to Redevelop Money-losing Sharp Park Golf Course

Endangered San Francisco Garter Snake and California Red-legged Frog threatened by development

SAN FRANCISCO, CA and PACIFICA, CA – Today a coalition of environmental groups filed an appeal of a plan to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course. The Recreation and Park and Planning Commissions recently approved the project as a  part of a citywide Natural Resources Management Plan.

“In 2009 the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department promised in writing that a controversial proposal to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course would never be inserted into the Natural Resources Management Plan,” said Brent Plater of Wild Equity. “The Department broke this promise, and in the process broke the law and any pretense of honest, open governance of our parks.”
2006 Natural Resources Management Plan for Sharp Park

2006 Natural Resources Management Plan for Sharp Park. The original plan’s management boundary (depicted by areas shaded in brown) was limited to the natural lagoon at Sharp Park. No modifications to the golf course were proposed. Environmental groups unanimously supported this plan.


Sharp Park Golf Course, owned by San Francisco and located in Pacifica, is habitat for the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake and California Red-legged frog. Scientists at various institutions, including Cal Academy of Sciences and San Francisco State University, have criticized the golf course as threatening rare and dwindling habitat for the endangered species.

2016 Natural Resources Management Plan for Sharp Park. After no public hearings, the plan significantly changed for Sharp Park. The boundary has been expanded to include the golf course. The plan now includes raising several fairways to “reduce flooding,” moving holes, and modifying hole lengths. Scientists warn this plan threatens one of the last remaining habitats for the endangered species.


“It’s a shame that the golf course redevelopment is part of an otherwise sound plan,” said Arthur Feinstein of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter. “We support other elements of the Natural Resources Management Plan, so we’re asking the Board of Supervisors to take out the golf course redevelopment, and let the rest of the plan go forward.”

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), which joined today’s appeal, issued the following statement: “We’re simply asking the City to make good on their promise to conduct a complete, separate environmental review of any changes to the Sharp Park golf course,” stated Neal Desai of NPCA. “Raising fairways and moving holes may improve playability but scientists warn it will harm species. San Francisco shouldn’t jam an unrelated golf course development into a natural areas plan.”

Back in 2011, the Board of Supervisors voted to turn Sharp Park Golf Course over to the National Park Service. However, Mayor Ed Lee, a golf enthusiast, vetoed the decision.

“New records show that Sharp Park Golf Course lost more than $600,000 in 2014/15 alone,“ says Plater. “At a time when the Mayor is asking departments to cut budgets, it’s irresponsible to pour millions of taxpayer dollars into a golf course that loses money year after year. We have five other public golf courses in San Francisco that are more popular and accessible to residents. And unlike Sharp Park Golf Course, they don’t harm endangered species.”

Many golf courses have closed in recent years because of the declining popularity of the sport.

Other groups that oppose the golf course redevelopment include Golden Gate Audubon, Sequoia Audubon, Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter, SAVE THE FROGS!, and SF League of Conservation Voters.
Our recent winter rains have allowed Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex to drink deeply, reclaiming areas that Sharp Park Golf Course drains and mows to create fairways and greens. But if the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s plan to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course is finalized, the fringing wetlands you see today will be filled with dredged spoils and lost forever.



Thursday, December 15, 1pm, San Francisco City Hall Room 400: Join us at a San Francisco Planning Commission and Recreation and Park Commission joint meeting where the commissioners will vote on a taxpayer funded bailout of the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course. This meeting will likely be a long one: we need you to come early, stay late, and demand that the commissioners oppose this terrible project.

A coalition of environmental, environmental justice, social service and neighborhood park groups have come together to oppose this golf course project, demanding that the City eliminate it from the environmental review of the Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan: and if they don’t demanding that they reject the environmental review process all together.

Golf industry groups have pressured San Francisco’s Mayor to bailout Sharp Park Golf Course for years, and the Recreation and Parks Department and in 2009 it drafted a controversial proposal to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course. This proposal was heavily criticized by environmentalists, budget hawks, and Bay Area scientists, and the proposal died on the vine.

But in an Orwellian move, seven years later the Recreation and Park Department inserted the golf course redevelopment project into the final environmental review for San Francisco’s Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (“SNRAMP”), a plan that many, including Wild Equity, once supported. This was done even though the Department promised the public in 2009 that the golf course redevelopment project would never be integrated with the SNRAMP plan:



Wild Equity, the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Tomorrow, S.F. League of Conservation Voters, National Parks Conservation Association, S.F. Green Party, Sequoia Audubon and others all agree: the environmental benefits proposed by SNRAMP in other areas are far outweighed by the environmental destruction the golf course bailout would cause at Sharp Park. We need to stop this proposal, and that’s why we are asking you to join us at 1pm on December 15 at City Hall Room 400 to demand that the golf course project be removed from SNRAMP’s environmental review process, and if the City refuses to remove it, demand that the entire environmental review document be rejected.

San Francisco’s Significant Natural Resource Areas Program was to be one of the great urban conservation programs in America. But in 2016, San Francisco released a Final Environmental Impact Report (“FEIR”) for the Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan (“SNRAMP”) that will, if adopted, turn the program on its head.

The FEIR removes SNRAMP’s original plan for Sharp Park’s natural areas and replaces it with a project to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course within the “recovery” area for two imperiled species, the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red-Legged Frog.

Sharp Park Golf Course is arguably San Francisco’s greatest economic and ecological mistake. It loses hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, taking money away from San Francisco’s neighborhood parks and community centers. It kills two endangered species as it operates, and its location along California’s coast means that before long it will be flooded by sea level rise: already several links have been washed out to sea.

Golf purists nonetheless demanded a taxpayer bailout for Sharp Park Golf Course, and in 2009 the Recreation and Parks Department conceded to their demands by releasing a controversial proposal to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course. Known as “A18,” the proposal was heavily criticized by environmentalists, budget hawks, and Bay Area scientists, who stated

It is our conclusion that the minimal habitat enhancement proposed by the Park Department in their preferred 18-hole alternative is inadequate to allow the recovery of the San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog at the site, and is set up to fail with climate change and sea-level rise.[source]

Map demonstrating changes to Sharp Park Golf Course under the A18 Proposal

When this criticism became public A18 appeared dead on arrival at City Hall. Indeed, shortly after A18 was criticized, the Recreation and Parks Department publicly stated:

Because redesigning or eliminating the Sharp Park Golf Course is a separate proposal being studied by SFRPD, it will not be included or evaluated as part of the proposed [Significant Natural Areas Management Plan] project analyzed in the EIR. Should changes to the Sharp Park Golf Course be proposed, they would undergo a separate regulatory review, including CEQA environmental review.[source]

Yet in November 2016 the Department released a SNRAMP FEIR that removed the original plan for Sharp Park and replaced it with A18, the Golf Course redevelopment project. Moreover, the FEIR declares the Golf Course a Historic Resource that CEQA must protect—even though the original design was washed away by ocean storms decades ago—and therefore refused to consider alternatives that would protect Sharp Park’s environment from this devastating and controversial project.

Sharp Park, inarguably San Francisco’s most ecologically and biologically important natural area, would be devastated by implementation of A18, and in the seven years since A18 was first announced, many of the SNRAMP proposals for San Francisco’s 31 other natural areas have moved forward or implemented, because they either didn’t require environmental review or because they were incorporated into other park projects.

Nonetheless, to ensure that SNRAMP’s good proposals for the City’s other natural areas wouldn’t be affected by the disasterous proposal for Sharp Park, Wild Equity and an array of environmental and community supporters demanded that the Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment plan be segregated out of SNRAMP and its environmental review process, so the golf course project could stand or more likely, fall on its own merits.

But these reasonable proposals have fallen on deaf ears. The Recreation and Parks Department has informed San Francisco’s environmental community that we must sacrifice our most precious biological resource if we desire modest conservation gains in San Francisco’s other natural landscapes.

Now Wild Equity, the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Tomorrow, S.F. League of Conservation Voters, National Parks Conservation Association, S.F. Green Party, Sequoia Audubon and others all agree: the environmental benefits proposed by SNRAMP in other areas are far outweighed by the environmental destruction the golf course bailout would cause at Sharp Park. We need to stop this proposal, and that’s why we are asking you to join us at noon on December 15 at City Hall Room 400 to demand that the golf course project be removed from SNRAMP’s environmental review process, and if the City refuses to remove it, demand that the entire environmental review document be rejected.

A new vision for one special place in Pacifica could help bring some desperately needed respite for imperiled wildlife, while helping protect the town’s homes and vital infrastructure.

A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

One of the rarest, and arguably most beautiful snakes in the world, and Mark Twain’s Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County once thrived together in Pacifica’s cool, fog-swept coastal wetlands. Here, the San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog played out the ancient dance of predator and prey among the town’s ponds and muddy rushes—protected from the salty battering of the sea by an extensive network of dunes, wetlands, and lagoons.

Centuries of development have reduced San Mateo’s natural coastal areas to just a fraction of what they once were. This has not only been bad news for the snake and the frog, which are now both on the Endangered Species List, but also for Pacifica residents whose property and roads are threatened by the resulting flooding and shoreline erosion.

One place that is no stranger to flooding is Sharp Park Golf Course, which sits in a low basin that was once a coastal lagoon at the point where the surrounding hillsides drain into the Pacific Ocean. The lagoon was filled to create the golf course, and the outlet of Sanchez Creek, which flows through the property, has been blocked by a seawall in the years since. The resulting changes in Sharp Park’s hydrology have wreaked havoc on both the golf course and the plants and animals that once lived there.

Sharp Park Golf Course floods during normal winter rains.

The proposed Sharp Park restoration will stop draining the lagoon and allow naturally rising water levels to reestablish a freshwater wetland. Rising seas will slowly erode the berm between the lagoon and the ocean, and in the process recreate the dune ecosystem that once existed there. These dunes will protect the new freshwater wetlands and lagoon from coastal storm surges and salt water tides. Any breaches caused by winter storms will make only the seaside portion of the lagoon brackish, while preserving ample freshwater areas for the snake and frog.

What was once a soggy and difficult to maintain golf course will become an essential part of a natural gradient among ocean, beach, dune, lagoon, wetland, and upland areas, which will help the landscape accommodate sea level rise over time. These newly reconnected habitats, combined with additional wildlife corridor enhancement, will also give the snake, frog, and other creatures access to Lake Arrowhead and the national park lands east and south, allowing them to once again become an integral part of Pacifica’s coastal landscapes.

A summary of the restoration plan, including estimated costs and benefits, is available here. Highlights include:

  • Remove pumping infrastructure and stop draining the filled lagoon to allow water levels to rise and create an open water marsh.
  • Daylight and remove culverted sections of Sanchez Creek to restore natural stream processes and wildlife habitat.
  • Create migration corridors, refuges, and nesting and breeding habitats for the San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frogs.
  • Allow the existing coastal seawall to erode and slowly migrate as ocean waves rise and push sand inland.
  • Construct small levees along the western and northern edges of the Fairway Park neighborhood and along Clarendon Road/Lakeside Avenue for flood protection.
  • Install new stormwater infrastructure to protect breeding frogs and collect runoff from adjacent neighborhoods.
  • Improve recreational opportunities, including a walking trail around the lagoon, a boardwalk over wetlands and uplands between the lagoon and the pond, and interpretive signs or kiosks.

Wetland restoration efforts in the South Bay have enabled the population rebound of Ridgway’s Rail, seen here. (Source: Wild Equity Institute)

Wild Equity’s vision for Sharp Park has called for restoring the wetlands and repurposing the lands as a new national park for the public to enjoy. This proposal has been passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors 5 times, and a huge community of partners from different areas have endorsed our restoration vision as well.

On June 7th, Bay Area residents will vote on Measure AA, a wetland restoration initiative that would do something similar for the Bay side of our region. If passed, Measure AA would raise $500 million over 20 years for wetland restoration projects around San Francisco Bay. The funding would come from a $12 annual parcel tax in the 9 Bay Area counties: San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and Solano.

Restoring wetlands is the best tool for mitigating sea level rise because wetlands break up wave energy. Furthermore, the restoration of wetlands provides many other benefits such as improved water quality, increased public access to shorelines, and ameliorated habitat conditions for wildlife. Wetland restoration projects in the South Bay, for instance, have enabled the return of wildlife such as Ridgway’s Rail and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. Climate models and recent scientific reports indicate that we can expect sea levels to rise 3 to 8 feet by the turn of the century, and that sea levels are now rising at the fastest rate in 28 centuries. If we don’t take action now, taxpayers can expect to shell out billions of dollars for new coastal infrastructure.

You can read more about Measure AA here.

Restoring Sharp Park would provide new hiking opportunities for all

This Saturday, June 4th is National Trails Day- a day to celebrate the 200,000 miles of trails in the United States which allow us to exercise, connect with the natural world, escape from the chaos of daily life, and much more.

Hiking is one of the most beloved recreational activities by San Francisco residents. In fact, the last user survey performed by San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department found that out of 19 options, hiking and biking trails were by far the most in-demand. Meanwhile, golf placed 16th in the survey results, indicating low desirability amongst people surveyed.

Survey results indicate that San Franciscans want more walking and biking trails

Closing down Sharp Park Golf Course, restoring the wetlands, and repurposing the lands as a new national park would increase local hiking opportunities, coinciding with local recreational demand. And given its proximity to the adjacent Mori Point, an already existing and well-admired park managed by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Sharp Park is in an ideal location for a new park.

The low demand for golf extends well beyond San Francisco; the golf market has now been plummeting for over a decade nationwide and there is no economic indication that it will rebound any time in the foreseeable future. Sharp Park Golf Course has lost San Francisco taxpayers millions of dollars, and killed endangered species in the process. The status quo at this golf course simply should not be maintained when we could instead have something profitable, that allows the California Red-Legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake to thrive in peace, mitigates sea level rise, and creates a space for all people to enjoy.

Click here to take action and tell Mayor Ed Lee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that you would rather see Sharp Park Golf Course as a publicly accessible park for all to enjoy!

An aerial view of Wayne Golf Course, soon to be a public park. (Source: Charlie Raines/Forterra)

As the golf market remains in the doldrums, courses across the United States continue to close. In 2015 alone, five courses were shut down in the Bay Area, including courses in Sunol, Livermore, & Pleasant Hill. Considering the size of a golf course and the volume of courses now closing annually, what will become of these closed courses?

Wayne Golf Course, located in the Seattle suburb of Bothell, Washington, was recently acquired by local environmental group Forterra in an effort to protect the wildlife habitat and turn the lands into a public park. Developers originally proposed to transform the course into housing, those plans fell through and Forterra was able to purchase the lands with a loan. In total, 89 acres will be preserved along the Sammamish River, which runs through Wayne Golf Course and provides habitat to Chinook Salmon, Lake Washington Kokanee, and Steelhead. Wayne Golf Course also sits adjacent to Blyth Park, a popular park for trail hiking, running, and other recreational activities, making the course a prime location for a new public park.

The initiative by Forterra is similar to Wild Equity’s plan for Sharp Park Golf Course. Both campaigns have been supported by the public, and have many other parallels as well. Like Wayne, Sharp Park Golf Course is the subject of poor decision making on the part of our local governments, and capital projects threaten the livelihood of wildlife residing on the course. Plus, Sharp Park Golf Course is also located adjacent to a popular park that is already part of the GGNRA (Mori Point). Due to economic realities, Sharp Park has no promising future as a golf course, and like Wayne Golf Course, can feasibly be restored and turned into a new public park.

It’s time to close Sharp Park Golf Course, restore Sharp Park’s wetlands, and let the Golden Gate National Recreation Area operate the lands as a national park- an idea which both the GGNRA and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have agreed to. Restoring Sharp Park would have numerous benefits: it would give the imperiled wildlife a chance to thrive, Pacifica would generate new tourism-based revenue, it would provide new recreational opportunities for all, and more.

To make our restoration vision a reality, we need your help. Click here to tell Mayor Lee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that you support the restoration of Sharp Park!


Sharp Park Golf Course has flooding issues as it is. Sea level rise will only make it worse.

New reports say that sea levels are now rising faster than they have at any point in the common era, and the clock is ticking on the opportunity to restore Sharp Park, which would protect the lands from flooding brought on by sea level rise.

According to Justin Gillis of the New York Times, a new report posted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that sea levels are now rising at the fastest rate in 28 centuries. Towns such as Annapolis, Maryland have experienced 394 days of flooding between 2005 and 2014, a stark contrast from the 32 days of flooding in the same area between 1955 and 1964. In just a matter of 50 years, the impacts of sea level rise have become increasingly observable and problematic, and will only get worse from here on out.

The science seems to fall on deaf ears, however, as Pacifica, San Mateo County, and San Francisco continue to authorize shortsighted seaside development projects. The last thing we should be doing is punting adaptation 30 years down the line, yet San Francisco continues to fight against the restoration of Sharp Park and has approved a number of large scale waterfront projects, such as the contentious new billion dollar stadium for the Golden State Warriors in the Mission Bay neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Pacifica has rubber-stamped the construction of both a new mobile home park and a library on the fragile coastline. Regular storm cycles such as El Nino have already caused significant damage to coastal infrastructure, and over time sea level rise will only substantially exacerbate the problem. In Pacifica, cliffs and sea walls have crumbled, people have been forced to vacate their homes, and cliffside apartment buildings have been demolished as a safety precaution- all on the taxpayers dime. $450 thousand dollars have been needed for emergency repairs to the sea wall alone. The town’s Sharp Park Golf Course has been subject to closures due to annual flooding caused by rain, and yet both San Francisco and San Mateo County are intent on keeping the golf course open and even partially redeveloped, despite environmental and economic conditions working against the course’s favor. As sea levels rise, the ocean will engulf Sharp Park Golf Course unless we let the seawall erode and the lands revert to a wetland, which would act as a natural buffer against elevating waters.

If Sharp Park Golf Course is closed and repurposed as a new national park, the restoration of the wetlands would decelerate the impact of sea level rise, since wetlands “break up” wave energy. Plus, having Sharp Park as a publicly accessible park operated by Golden Gate National Recreation Area (like the adjacent Mori Point) would allow the federally protected California Red-Legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake a chance to thrive, while also providing locals with more diverse recreational opportunities, saving taxpayers millions, and giving Pacifica an opportunity to make tourism-based revenue on land that is otherwise losing money. Moreover, the National Park Service, SF Board of Supervisors, residents of San Francisco and Pacifica, and even golfers have all supported the initiative to restore Sharp Park.

Bewilderingly, Mayor Ed Lee and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors want to keep the golf course open, despite the viable and fiscally responsible alternatives available, and thus continuing an era of questionable long-term decision making.

Tell your city and county administrators to start taking sea level rise seriously, and click here to tell Ed Lee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to close down and restore Sharp Park today.

Thursday, April 14, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Join the Wild Equity Institute for a screening of A Dangerous Game, an explosive documentary from filmmaker and investigative journalist Anthony Baxter (You’ve Been Trumped), which examines the eco-impact of luxury golf resorts around the world. Featuring exclusive interviews with Alec Baldwin, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Donald Trump, the film takes viewers on a globe-spanning journey to a World Heritage site in Croatia; the extravagant desert city of Dubai, the explosion of new but supposedly illegal courses in China and back to the filmmaker’s native Scotland, where Donald Trump continues his controversial building.

RSVP here

Saturday, April 30, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

On April 30 at 11 am, we’ll be joining forces with one of our favorite conservation groups Save the Frogs! We’ll be leading a hike at Mori Point. Join us to learn more about the endangered species living there (the California Red-legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake), and to find out what’s been going on at Sharp Park and Mori Point in the past several months.

Meet at the Mori Point Entrance Gate, at the intersection of Bradford Way and Mori Point Road, Pacifica, CA, 94044.

San Francisco has 32 pockets of undeveloped land set aside for the preservation of the natural world. These pockets hold the last remnants of wildness once found across the lands where we now live, but do we have room in our parks and our hearts for nature in this city?

Please join Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute, for a photographic exploration of the remaining wild areas in San Francisco, discuss the threats they face, and learn how you can help these areas thrive.

We will also be discussing San Francisco’s Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan, parts of which imminently threaten the species mentioned above.

Come find out how you can become more engaged with regional wildlife and ecosystems!


San Francisco’s 32 preserved natural areas


SFRPD has been knowingly violating the Coastal Act at this beach without consequence for years

The California Coastal Commission is and has been allowing San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department to lawlessly develop and maintain a seawall on the beach at Sharp Park Golf Course. Our allies at Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco and San Mateo County chapters, have written a letter to California Coastal Commission to bring attention to this issue.

“SFRPD is violating and has been violating the Coastal Act for several years, by constructing and maintaining a rock revetment on the property (which is ‘development’ under the Coastal Act), without a required [Coastal Development Permit]”, the letter reads.

On multiple occasions since 2013, Surfrider Foundation provided the CCC with notice of SFRPD’s violation. Following an investigation in 2013, the Commission concluded that SFRPD was indeed in violation of the Coastal Act. Subsequently, the Commission gave the Parks Department a deadline of March 11, 2013 “by which it was required to remedy the violation” i.e. either submit an application for an after-the-fact Coastal Development Permit, or entirely remove any development that had been placed on the beach.. When SFRPD failed to meet the deadline to apply for the permit, the CCC granted an extension to the deadline…and as SFRPD has continued to miss the deadline, and CCC has continued to grant extensions.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years, and SFRPD still has no permit to legally do any sort of construction on the beach, and nothing has been done about it- the CCC has repeatedly turned a blind eye to the Parks Department’s continued illegal activities on the beach. As of today, there is no indication that the CCC intends to crack down on SFRPD’s negligence, mismanagement of public resources, and destruction of our beach.

SFRPD has been illegally operating at the unsustainable, money-losing Sharp Park Golf Course for years, continuously killing the federally protected California Red Legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake along the way. It’s time that San Francisco shut this golf course down once and for all and hand over the lands to National Park Service for restoration and repurposement into a public park for all to enjoy.

You can read the entire letter from Surfrider Foundation here:

Pacifica is in a state of emergency after heavy El Nino storms have posed a significant risk to the safety of seaside residents. But this is no first: Pacifica residents have previously been evacuated as a precautionary measure when storms have jeopardized the safety of Pacificans and their homes. This time around, El Nino has caused sections of the cliffside to collapse (a video of which can be seen here) and temporary closures at Sharp Park Golf Course, as seasonal flooding and high winds created substantial safety hazards for golfers.

But the harsh weather may cause more trouble for the golf course than just wet fairways and falling trees: the California Coastal Commission has provided Sharp Park Golf Course with a condition that dictates that the golf infrastructure must be permanently removed should Sharp Park Golf Course be threatened by coastal surges. With several more months of El Nino to go, Sharp Park Golf Course’s days may be numbered.

In addition to all of the climate-related risks associated with operating the course, Sharp Park Golf Course has lost nearly 1.8 million dollars since 2004, and keeping it open is a sure way to further lose hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars that could be better invested in the best interest of the public.

Meanwhile, if Sharp Park Golf Course was closed down and the wetlands restored, it would help the city of Pacifica adapt to sea level rise (as wetlands “break up” wave energy), and improve habitat conditions for the federally protected California Red-Legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake. The lands could then ultimately be repurposed as a publicly accessible national park, providing locals with an abundance of recreational opportunities, and the city of Pacifica with an opportunity to increase tourism-based revenue. Restoring Sharp Park would have countless benefits, which you can read about here.

Keeping Sharp Park Golf Course open is an abominable idea- don’t let San Francisco keep pouring taxpayer dollars into this unprofitable and ecologically hostile golf course. Click here to take action and learn more about our mission to restore Sharp Park.

For Immediate Release – November 19, 2015
Contact: Brent Plater, Wild Equity (415) 572-6989 or bplater@wildequity.org


California Red-Legged Frog, Photo © Brent Plater

Environmental Groups Unite to Tell City: Remove Golf Course From Natural Areas Plan!

Nine leading local environmental groups have united to send a single message to the City of San Francisco: The controversial proposal to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course does not belong in the city’s proposed Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan.

Sierra Club, Golden Gate Audubon Society, Wild Equity Institute, Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Tomorrow, S.F. League of Conservation Voters, National Parks Conservation Association, S.F. Green Party, and Sequoia Audubon posted letters to the Board of Supervisors urging them to remove the controversial Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment project from the master management plan for the city’s natural areas.

“We are strong supporters of the Natural Areas Plan, but including Sharp Park Golf Course would undermine the integrity and goals of the plan,” said Cindy Margulis, Executive Director of Golden Gate Audubon Society.

The groups have been active in the development of the Natural Areas Management Plan for years, as a way to ensure thoughtful, responsible stewardship of the city’s natural areas over the next two decades. Yet the plan will face broad opposition from the environmental community if it includes the Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment.

Arthur Feinstein representing the Sierra Club, San Francisco Bay Chapter, said that, “including a golf course project in an Environmental Impact Report on Natural Areas is not only inappropriate and probably illegal, but insulting to the very purpose of the Natural Areas Program of preserving and restoring the natural habitats upon which the world ultimately depends.“

The groups cited numerous reasons, including:

· Redeveloping a golf course is not “natural area” restoration like the other projects in the plan.

· Unlike all the other natural areas, Sharp Park is located outside the City and County of San Francisco, in San Mateo County.

· The Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment project jeopardizes survival of two endangered species: The San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog.

· The Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment project was added to the Natural Areas Plan at the last minute. Planning for the Natural Areas as a whole began in 1995 and included input from multiple scientific panels and stakeholders, but Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment was inserted just before the draft environmental review document for the Natural Areas Plan was released in 2011.

· Including Sharp Park in the plan would allow the controversial and environmentally destructive golf course redevelopment project to move ahead without any further environmental review. “The redevelopment of the golf course could lead to major impacts to the beach,” said Bill McLaughlin of Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Chapter. “This project deserves full environmental review.”

The City’s own Scoping Report for the natural areas management plan expressly stated in 2009 that Sharp Park Golf Course changes “will not be included or evaluated as part of the SNRAMP (natural areas management plan) project.”

“Tossing Sharp Park into the natural areas plan looks like an attempt by the city to fast-track a controversial golf course renovation that would not stand up to independent environmental scrutiny,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of Wild Equity.

The City of San Francisco is scheduled to release the Final EIR for the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan late this year or in early 2016, after which it will go to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

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For more information on why the Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment would be disastrous for wildlife and the environment, and why it should not be included in the Natural Areas Plan, see http://wildequity.org/pages/3060.

To arrange interviews, contact Brent Plater of Wild Equity at (415) 572-6989 or bplater@wildequity.org. Photos available of the endangered SF Garter snake and California red-legged frog.


Why does San Mateo County want to manage this disaster of a golf course?

According to recent reports, San Mateo County is considering committing a financial boondoggle by acquiring Sharp Park Golf Course from San Francisco. Given environmental and economic realities, it would be reckless of San Mateo County to take on this golf course. The golf course has lost nearly 1.8 million taxpayer dollars since 2004, and the golf market has been steadily plummeting over the last decade. So who will be expected to pick up the tab for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the course loses annually? The taxpayers of San Mateo County, no less.

Sharp Park Golf Course, located in Pacifica, is known for its atrocious environmental record, lack of favorability amongst golfers, and ability to hemorrhage several hundred grand on a yearly basis. However, delusional San Mateo County District Supervisor Don Horsley believes that with the right changes, they could reverse the course’s decade-long trend of financial drain.

Despite all the financial data available, Horsley claimed that “[Sharp Park Golf Course] will draw a lot of people. We believe the course makes money.”

However, there is no evidence available to back Horsley’s assertion. One’s beliefs and opinions have no value when they contradict objective fact- sure, the course technically makes money, but it also loses money…and a lot more money than it brings in at that. And this is no new development- these trends have been consistent for over a decade now.

Sharp Park Golf Course’s lack of popularity can largely be attributed to the oversaturation of the golf market in the Bay Area (let alone a rapidly failing golf market in the rest of the United States)… more so than to its mediocrity as a golf course. A few changes in course design are not the changes that the golf course needs to start making money again.

San Mateo County has recognized that the course been poorly placed and designed, and on top of everything else poses a threat to endangered wildlife such as the California Red-Legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake, but why won’t they accept the fact that the course will never be profitable?

Don’t let San Mateo County make the impetuous mistake of taking over this financially unsustainable golf course. Click here to take action to restore Sharp Park.


Sharp Park Golf Course has little value proposition, especially during annual winter flooding

San Francisco’s money-losing, endangered species killing Sharp Park Golf Course once again left City taxpayers with a whopping bill at the close of this fiscal year, bringing the grand total of taxpayer subsidy to 1.8 million dollars over the past decade- losing $160,467.16 per year, on average.

Fiscal Year RPD Sharp Park Golf Course Losses
04/05 – $110,299.00
05/06 – $338,025.60
06/07 – $64,685.80
07/08 – $119,758.00
08/09 $29,446.40
09/10 – $134,699.80
10/11 – $161,217.20
11/12 – $245,007.40
12/13 – $111,289.20
13/14 – $151,269.80
14/15 – $358,333.40
TOTALS – $1,765,138.80

Sharp Park Golf Course cost the city over $350,000 in fiscal year 2014-2015 alone– if losses continue at this rate, San Francisco taxpayers can expect to have to cough up another $1.6 million over the next 10 years in order to subsidize further operations at SPGC.

In addition, we should acknowledge that the costs associated with Sharp Park Golf Course are expected to increase in the coming years. As Wild Equity has noted in the past, the cost of operating Sharp Park Golf Course in the coming years is expected to be nearly $48.8 million, costs including: the $1.6 million noted above, $12-14 million for a full renovation, $32 million to restore the seawall for protection from storms, erosion, and sea level rise, and $1.2 million in permitting, habitat restoration, and construction relating to the Sharp Park Safety, Infrastructure Improvement, and Habitat Enhancement Project.

Sharp Park Golf Course should be able to cover its operating costs with the money that it brings in each year, but has consistently failed to do so. This financial burden to taxpayers is unacceptable.

Why spend all this money in a failing golf course when we can instead restore Sharp Park at no cost to the city? Don’t let San Francisco keep pouring taxpayer dollars into this unprofitable golf course. Click here to find out how you can take action and help our campaign to restore Sharp Park.


A San Francisco Garter Snake, one of the residents of the wetlands at Sharp Park

A new report suggests that San Francisco cannot wait any longer to restore Sharp Park. The report, completed by over 100 scientists and 17 government agencies, states that at least 54,000 acres of wetlands surrounding the bay must be restored in the next 15-20 years in order to protect coastlines from sea level rise.

Sharp Park is one area that can and should be restored. Located on the shore of Pacifica, Sharp Park is filled with wetlands and endangered wildlife, making it both a feasible and ideal location for restoration, as has been proposed by Wild Equity and other groups. But alas, the golf course has turned a blind-eye to the sensitivity of the habitat by draining the wetlands and slaughtering the wildlife on the regular.

To add to the damage, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department wants to not only keep draining wetlands at Sharp Park Golf Course, but in addition spend millions of taxpayer dollars on redevelopment that would put the area at higher risk of inundation due to sea level rise, ultimately putting the golf course on a path to an even more unsustainable future.

Given the urgent 15 year deadline highlighted in the report, San Francisco must take the advice Wild Equity has proposed for years, and shut down the money-draining golf course immediately to begin restoration. Closing the golf course and restoring Sharp Park would not only prepare the area better for the sea level rise anticipated by the end of the century, but would provide locals with countless recreational opportunities, provide the city of Pacifica with increased tourism-based revenue, and allow for the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake and California Red-Legged Frog to thrive in peace.

Why wetlands?
Wetlands “break up wave energy”, making them a useful tool for mitigating flooding and sea level rise. Furthermore, wetlands clean water by filtering pollutants, act as a carbon sink, and provide habitat and migratory hotspots for birds, fish, and other wildlife- including the federally protected San Francisco Garter Snake and California Red-Legged Frog.

Moreover, wetland restoration is practical- major efforts in the South Bay have already enabled the return of wildlife such as Ridgway’s Rail and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, and it is by far less costly than building levees and seawalls to protect against sea level rise.

Don’t let San Francisco keep pouring taxpayer dollars into this unsustainable golf course. Click here to find out how you can take action and help our campaign to restore Sharp Park.

San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program was to be one of the great urban conservation programs in America. But in 2011, San Francisco released a Draft Environmental Impact Report (“DEIR”) that will, if adopted, turn the program on its head.

The DEIR radically altered the management plan, particularly at Sharp Park: the new Sharp Park plan calls for redeveloping an 18-hole golf course within the “recovery” area for the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red-Legged Frog—even though the golf course is the primary threat to both species’ existence at Sharp Park.

In order to ensure that the good isn’t thrown out with the bad, the Wild Equity Institute and an array of environmental and community supporters are demanding that the Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment plan be segregated out of the Significant Natural Resource Areas Program Management Plan, and considered separately through its own environmental review process.

Contact the SF Board of Supervisors and SF Recreation and Parks Department today and let them know that you oppose the inclusion of the Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment proposal in the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan.


The San Francisco Garter Snake: one of the endangered species that inhabits Sharp Park

Additional Background on SNRAMP

• In February 2006 the Recreation and Parks Department and the Planning Department began a California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) process for the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (“SNRAMP”). The SNRAMP proposed projects in the City’s Natural Areas, including Sharp Park’s Natural Areas, but did not propose any changes to Sharp Park Golf Course.

• In November 2009 the Departments separately released a controversial proposal to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course called “Conceptual Alternative A18 (“A18”). Scientists from San Francisco State University, the California Academy of Sciences, and other prominent institutions heavily criticized the proposal. San Francisco’s entire environmental community also opposed A18.


Letter from experts expresses concerns with Conceptual Alternative A18

• Until recently, the Departments consistently maintained that A18 was entirely separate from SNRAMP, and the two projects could not be considered in a single CEQA review process. For example, the SNRAMP Scoping Report states:

“Because redesigning or eliminating the Sharp Park Golf Course is a separate proposal being studied by SFRPD, it will not be included or evaluated as part of the proposed [Significant Natural Areas Management Plan] project analyzed in the EIR. Should changes to the Sharp Park Golf Course be proposed, they would undergo a separate regulatory review, including CEQA environmental review.”


Excerpt from the Scoping Report indicating that proposed changes to Sharp Park Golf Course would have to undergo a separate CEQA review

• Yet in 2011 the Departments released a SNRAMP Draft Environmental Impact Report (“DEIR”) that removed the original plan for Sharp Park and replaced it with A18, the Golf Course redevelopment project. Moreover, the DEIR declares the Golf Course a Historic Resource that CEQA must protect—even though the original design was washed away by ocean storms decades ago—and therefore refused to consider alternatives that would protect Sharp Park’s environment from this devastating and controversial project.


Map demonstrating proposed changes to Sharp Park Golf Course under Conceptual Alternative A18

• Even worse, the Golf Course project is analyzed at the “project” level, which means if the EIR is adopted the Golf Course project can move forward immediately, while the conservation projects at the City’s 31 other natural areas are all analyzed at the “program” level, which means none of those 31 projects can move forward until additional environmental review is conducted.

• Meanwhile, the Recreation and Parks Department Natural Areas program staff implemented many proposed SNRAMP projects by incorporating them into other capital projects. Adoption of SNRAMP today will therefore provide very few environmental benefits above and beyond what the Natural Areas program is already authorized to do.

• In contrast, Sharp Park, inarguably San Francisco’s most ecologically and biologically important natural area, would be devastated by implementation of A18.


Ridgway’s Rail, one of the endangered species to return to South Bay Salt Ponds
(Source: Golden Gate Audubon Society)

Over the last several years, Wild Equity has been working on a campaign to close down Sharp Park Golf Course and hand over the lands to the National Park Service for restoration, as to allow the federally-protected California Red-Legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake to thrive peacefully. Recently, another major restoration effort in the South Bay has enabled the populations of two endangered species to rebound, according to an article published by San Jose’s Mercury News.

After 15,100 acres of salt ponds were acquired from Cargill Incorporated in 2003, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, and the California Coastal Conservancy began a 30-year project to restore the wetland habitats, which were practically devoid of life upon implementation of the project in 2008. The restoration process has progressed rather quickly, and as of this past summer, two endangered species had returned to inhabit the South Bay Salt Ponds at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Ridgway’s Rail (formerly known as the Clapper Rail), and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. The return of these species is a major milestone for the restoration project, and more progress is yet to be made. Other goals of the project include establishing wildlife-based recreational opportunities, and to create a flood management system for the vicinity. You can read more about the project here.

The Salt Pond project was initially met with some doubt, and even opposition. They were able to do it, and we too can succeed at Sharp Park. Restoring Sharp Park would benefit everyone: beyond providing the CRLF and SFGS with a sustainable home, it will provide local communities with new recreation opportunities, increase tourism-based revenue for the city of Pacifica, and San Francisco will finally stop losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on an annual basis at Sharp Park Golf Course.

Don’t let San Francisco keep pouring taxpayer dollars into this unprofitable golf course. Click here to find out how you can take action and help our campaign to restore Sharp Park.


This figure demonstrates the location of a wildlife corridor at Sharp Park that would allow for passage across Highway 1

Given the massive impact human civilization has on Earth, an equitable relationship between people and the other species of the planet can seem like a challenge. But like the community plan for a new public park at Sharp Park, projects around California are trying to address this by creating habitat corridors so wildlife can cross busy highways safely.

For example, Caltrans, the state agency in charge of road and highway maintenance, planning, and infrastructure, has proposed building a wildlife bridge over Highway 101 in Aurora Hills, a Los Angeles suburb. This wildlife bridge would provide passage for bobcats, mountain lions, and other wildlife, in an effort to reduce instances of roadkill on the 101. At 200 feet in length, and 165 feet wide, this wildlife bridge would become the largest in the United States, if built. Other wildlife bridges (some quite impressive) already exist around the world- including a few in national parks in Montana, Canada, and Australia.

Projects that enhance coexistence in areas that are dominated by human presence, are not only feasible, they are inspirational- and San Francisco has an opportunity to be part of this effort. Sharp Park is home to two federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act- the California Red-Legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake, but the City has been operating a golf course on the land that kills both species. In fact, Wild Equity has had to file multiple lawsuits against SFRPD for their failure to comply with measures put in place to protect the two species, resulting in large legal fees to the city and mandates to do more to protect endangered wildlife.

Rather than endless litigation and increased budget deficits from subsidizing this golf course, a coalition of environmental, recreation, and community organizations have proposed restoring Sharp Park. This would not only save taxpayers money, but also generate economic benefits to Pacifica’s local economy, and provide new recreation opportunities that meet the demands of modern Bay Area residents. It would also provide the California Red-Legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake with a safe passage across Highway 1 that would be adjacent to, and inclusive of, Sanchez Creek. This would connect wildlife populations between Sharp Park, Lake Arrowhead, and areas beyond the park, enhancing their chance of survival. This is essential for the long-term recovery for the species.

While our restoration plan aims to provide safer habitats for wildlife, San Francisco wants to invest millions to redevelop parts of Sharp Park Golf Course: an enormous ecological and economic mistake. If CalTrans has the foresight to provide safe passage for wildlife, it’s time we demand it from the City of St. Francis too.

Don’t let San Francisco keep pouring taxpayer dollars into this unprofitable and ecologically hostile golf course. Click here to find out how you can take action and help our campaign to restore Sharp Park.


As sea levels rise, flooding at Sharp Park Golf Course will gradually worsen

Despite San Francisco’s progressive reputation, the city is doing a subpar job of preparing for the impacts of climate change. According to a Summer 2015 report on sea level rise in the San Francisco Public Press, San Francisco is rubber-stamping new waterfront development projects without taking into consideration the threat of future flooding.

One project highlighted by the report is a plan to build a new $1 billion arena for the Golden State Warriors near the Mission Bay neighborhood, in a location which is subject to flooding by the end of the century. Mayor Ed Lee has vowed that the arena will be constructed, despite opposition to the project. Unless Lee knows something about the future that we don’t, such projects are ludicrous, feeding into the paradigm of letting future generations deal with the consequences of whatever benefits us today.

Similarly, Mayor Ed Lee and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department want to keep Sharp Park Golf Course around at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars, without properly planning for future sea level rise, leaving the park vulnerable to flooding by the end of the century.

The plan to restore Sharp Park into a publicly accessible national park, as proposed by Wild Equity, and backed by the National Park Service and San Francisco Board of Supervisors, would implement in phases the precautions necessary to protect Sharp Park from inundation. This plan not only accounts for climate change, but for the needs of local communities and sensitive habitats as well. But this apparently isn’t good enough for Mayor Lee, who vetoed the bill to restore Sharp Park in 2011.

It’s time city leaders got their act together- sea level rise is inevitable, and as average global temperatures rise and glacial ice melts, we can expect water levels to rise 3 to 8 feet by the year 2100, according to climate models. What does this mean for San Francisco? Beaches, piers, and even the runways at San Francisco International airport are anticipated to end up inundated by the turn of the century. The proposed waterfront development projects effectively burden the city to pay millions, possibly billions, of dollars in the future to build the appropriate infrastructure necessary to protect the areas that are susceptible to flooding. City leaders know exactly the consequences of their actions, as opposition groups to the development projects at hand have made themselves heard.

Don’t let San Francisco keep pouring taxpayer dollars into this unprofitable golf course. Click here to find out how you can take action and help our campaign to restore Sharp Park.


Annual flooding reduces golf activity at Sharp Park Golf Course

Sharp Park Golf Course has a lot going against it these days. Since 2005, the course has lost San Francisco nearly 1.4 million dollars (see table below). Take a look at player-written reviews of the course, and you’ll find that many consider golf at Sharp Park to be a less-than-pleasant experience, in regards to both the game and interactions with staff. To top it off, Sharp Park Golf Course drains wetlands and kills two endangered species when it operates, giving an environmental black-eye to the entire industry.

Fiscal Year RPD Sharp Park Golf Course Losses
04/05 – $110,299
05/06 – $338,025
06/07 – $64,685
07/08 – $119,758
08/09 $29,446
09/10 – $134,699
10/11 – $161,217
11/12 – $245,007
12/13 – $248,786
TOTALS – $1,389,253

At most, what people like about Sharp Park is its sentimental worth to those that have been playing there for years (granted, they also enjoy how inexpensive it is to play at, compared to your average course). Is that enough reason to justify the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department plan to gamble with $20 million of your taxpayer dollars on redeveloping this controversial golf course?

Not according to new statistics published in a Men’s Journal article, The Death of Golf, by Karl Taro Greenfield. According to Greenfield, golf courses in the United States are closing much faster than the new ones are opening- in 2014, there were approximately 16 course closures for every new course that had opened (and even though new courses are opening, there is no indication that they are faring well economically). Today, there are 19% fewer players now than there were in 2003, with players under age 34 losing the highest percentage of players when compared to other age groups. Even television viewership of golf is diminishing.

The Bay Area could be Exhibit A for this trend, where there are 6 million more golf rounds supplied than demanded. Sharp Park Golf Course alone has been losing money on the scale of hundreds of thousands of dollars, annually.

San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s plan to spend millions on Sharp Park Golf Course is simply devoid of sound reasoning. Market conditions indicate that Sharp Park is highly unlikely to succeed as a golf course, that it will continue to lose money, and that the city will be down another $20 million dollars in capital that could be otherwise invested to benefit San Francisco residents.

Don’t let San Francisco keep pouring taxpayer dollars into this unprofitable golf course. Click here to find out how you can take action and help our campaign to restore Sharp Park.

Click here to download a brochure that outlines our vision to restore Sharp Park!

Tomorrow morning you step out onto the edge of 400 acres of natural wetland, just as the sunlight breaks through the sea-breezed clouds overhead. You breathe deep the ocean-sprayed air and admire the rustling of wildlife as it awakens beneath the surface of the marsh.

Between the rows of natural grasses and bayous stretch dozens of miles of trails enjoyed by hikers, bikers and tourists. Families stroll through the wild landscape, pointing out native plants and animals.

You and your family spy one of the few remaining San Francisco Garter Snakes—now finally protected at Sharp Park. Its orange head and red and black stripes make it positively one of the most beautiful serpents in the world.

Almost 80 years after Sharp Park became a golf course, our community home is restored.

Imagine Sharp Park. We are.

For many years, we at the Wild Equity Institute have worked to make Sharp Park a public park everyone can enjoy, including the endangered species that call the park home.

Not only do we want to protect the endangered species that call Sharp Park their home, we want residents and tourists worldwide to enjoy these 400 acres of natural wetland.

Whether you like to bike, hike, learn, or simply watch nature run its course, we can recreate Sharp Park into a refuge for everyone. A place where communities can:

● Build and maintain trails
● Grow native plants
● Monitor environmental quality
● Preserve endangered natural communities
● Promote local economies by partnering with the National Park Service- by building a visitors center at Sharp Park, Pacifica would have a competitive advantage over other coastal towns in terms of drawing tourism. Studies show that National Park Service gateways not only help local towns generate revenue from tourism, but contribute to job growth as well.


A rendering of what may be if Sharp Park is restored

It’s a battle we can win. With your help.

Our goal is to close the golf course at Sharp Park and connect the wetlands to the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. We’ve written extensively about the failure to close the course at our site, WildEquity.org. To recap:

● The course decimates endangered species like the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red-legged Frog—for whom Sharp Park is one of their last remaining homes. Both species are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
● Sharp Park loses money every year, yet is still being subsidized by the taxpayers of San Francisco.
● Total minimum operating costs for keeping Sharp Park open “will range from at least $17 million to $23.4 million or higher.
● Other costs include $6 million for seawall repairs at Sharp Park, PLUS legal fees on renovations from state and federal regulatory agencies.
Sharp Park leaks 50,000 gallons of water per day! That’s equivalent to 2.6% of the city of Pacifica’s daily household water use.
● Golfers who play at Sharp Park give it failing grades, and closing the course will allow us to improve affordable access to all five of San Francisco’s better rated golf courses.
● We cannot adequately protect our coastline while the course is intact.

What you can do to help

Do you want to see Sharp Park restored and gifted to the local community? Would you like to see endangered species flourish again?

Then we need your help.

Here is a simple, measurable action we can all take to pressure the city to close Sharp Park and donate it to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Contact Mayor Ed Lee today at (415) 554-6141 and tell him you support closing down the Sharp Park Golf Course for the following reasons:

1. You DO want to save the lives of the California Red-legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake, which are entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act.
2. You DON’T support the millions of dollars in taxpayer costs to keep the park open.
3. You DON’T agree with their inefficient methods of protecting our coastline.
4. You DON’T support wasting 50,000 gallons of water per day in a drought-stricken state.
5. You DO support reinvesting scarce recreation dollars in a community-filled natural wildlife park.

The mayor must know how we feel if we are to protect our community spaces.

Click here for more information on how to help the Sharp Park restoration effort!

About Wild Equity Institute

The Wild Equity Institute is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that builds a more sustainable and just world, both for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth. Our work protects local endangered species and defends underserved communities through innovative education programs, science-based administrative petitions, and vigorous enforcement of environmental laws.

Join the Wild Equity Institute today!


Massive water draining at Sharp Park Golf Course

The allegations of Wayne Kappelman, a former supervisor at Sharp Park Golf Course, need to be put into perspective. Kappelman was showered with awards while he towed the party line as the course slaughtered endangered species, was recently forced out of course management after blowing the whistle on persistent water wastage.

Let’s start with a basic metric. The average person uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. This includes flushing toilets, showering, washing clothes, running dishwashers, cooking and drinking water, and other uses.

Kappelman alleges that the course leaks 50,000 gallons of water a day — a number equivalent to the daily water requirements of 1,000 people. That’s equivalent to 2.6% of the city of Pacifica’s daily household water use.

The wastage reported amounts to the equivalent 18,250,000 gallons a year. Kappelman alleges that the leak has existed since 2011, meaning that up to 73 million gallons of water have been wasted.

That’s an astonishing 1.46 million days of water for local households, enough to supply the people of Pacifica for more than a month.

California is now in its fourth year of drought — coincidentally, the year the water wastage started. The presence of the drought did nothing to prompt Park and Rec officials to stem the leak.

Kappelman’s ousting illustrates the extent to which his superiors at San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department are willing to hide environmental destruction in order to keep the golf course in operation.

Sharp Park’s pernicious water wastage in a time of drought only highlights mismanagement and deception by those operating the golf course, to the benefit of a relative few.

In 2011 the Board of Supervisors passed legislation that enables San Francisco to partner with the National Park Service at Sharp Park to transition land management from an unsustainable golf course into a new National Park that everyone can enjoy.

Under the ordinance, the City must negotiate a long-term management agreement with the National Park Service, and then review that agreement as a proposed project under the California Environmental Quality Act. The City will be able to consider all feasible alternatives to the National Park Service agreement during this process. It will then select a future for Sharp Park that provides the best public policy outcomes for the land.

The ordinance is necessary because the Recreation and Parks Department has refused to even look at restoration options at Sharp Park—even though scientists have explained that restoration is not just environmentally preferable, but cheaper to implement.

That’s why the ordinance passed by the Board appealed to stalwart progressives and moderate politicians alike. The City deserves to have all available options presented in the light of day before long-term decisions are made for Sharp Park. The Sharp Park ordinance insures that the general public and public officials will be able to evaluate restoration proposals side-by-side with other options—so that we can make the best possible choice for Sharp Park.

We’re confident that when the evidence supporting Sharp Park restoration is finally shown the light of day, there will be only one sensible choice for us all to make: building a better, more sustainable, and more accessible public park at Sharp Park that everyone can enjoy.


A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

But Mayor Ed Lee sided with golf purists and Chambers of Commerce would rather not let you have that choice. He vetoed the ordinance without even meeting with the champions of this cause.

We need you to contact the Mayor today and chastise him for the veto and tell him you support restoring Sharp Park. The future of Sharp Park should be based on the merits—not what the golf lobby and developers are able to extract behind closed doors. Call Mayor Ed Lee now at 415-554-6141 or email him and his spokespeople using the form below and tell him you support restoring Sharp Park: it’s just good government and common sense.

Happy World Snake Day!

At Wild Equity we love snakes of all shapes and sizes, but of course there’s one that’s out and away our favorite. The San Francisco Garter Snake is possibly the most imperiled vertebrate in the state, yet it is also one of the most alluring species on the continent.

So, in honor of all the world’s snakes – endangered or otherwise – here are some of our favorite photos of this charismatic serpent.

Learn more about the beautiful serpent and about our campaign to save and expand its dwindling habitat.

WildEquity_logo_large 3
 For Immediate Release: June 18, 2015

Contact: Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Wild Equity Lawsuit Challenges Sharp Park Golf Course’s Destruction of Coastal Wetlands 

 Redwood City, Calif. — The Wild Equity Institute has sued the Coastal Commission and the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department in San Mateo Superior Court over a project that will destroy and drain Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex, arguably the most ecologically important portion of the Department’s most biologically rich land.


Sharp Park Golf Course Drains Laguna Salada Wetlands, December 11, 2014.

“This senseless project will destroy critical wetlands, harm endangered species, and cost taxpayers over $1,000,000 to implement,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute.  “The Coastal Act prohibits development in coastal wetlands with few exceptions, and none of the exceptions apply to this wasteful project.  But the Coastal Commission rubber-stamped the project without considering thousands of comments submitted by scientists and conservation groups. We expect the court to rectify this illegal act.”

San Francisco’s Recreation & Park Department is proposing to destroy aquatic vegetation in Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex—arguably the most ecologically important part of the Department’s most biologically important land—so it can drain the wetland during winter rains. 

Among other things, the project will fill a portion of Laguna Salada’s wetlands with concrete to expand the foundation footprint for a shed that houses wetland draining pumps. This permanent loss of wetlands is illegal, because expanding a shed does not fit within any of the limited exceptions to the prohibition against destroying coastal wetlands. Nonetheless, the Coastal Commission deemed that expanding the shed qualified for the exception that applies to “expansion of roadbeds and bridges necessary to maintain existing traffic capacity,” and permitted the project under the Coastal Act.

“The Coastal Commission’s action defies the plain language of the Coastal Act, its interpretive policies, and court precedent,” said Plater. “We expect the court to reverse this illegal permit in short order.”

The Wild Equity Institute builds a healthy and sustainable global community for people

and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.
 

Thursday, April 16th, 12:30pm-2:00:pm: Your attendance is requested for a critical public meeting in San Rafael (Marin County). That afternoon, the California Coastal Commission will be responding to the City of San Francisco’s request for a permit to dredge and continue draining Sharp Park wetlands. Your voice is needed to inform the Commission why the wetlands should not be dredged and why the City needs to end its ongoing degradation to the wetlands and the wildlife that depend on it. This will be the first and ONLY time an agency with a mission to protect wetlands will review the project!!

Join the members of the Restore Sharp Park Coalition! Please contact jcrofton@wildequity.org for more information or to RSVP. We can answer questions and provide you with talking points, too. Details of the meeting below!

WHAT: Coastal Commission meeting where Sharp Park dredging and wetlands draining will be considered, and either denied or permitted.
WHEN: Thursday April 16th at 12:30pm. The Sharp Park agenda item is likely to come up right after lunch. Please arrive at 12:30pm and join fellow supporters for lunch at the cafeteria within the building.
WHERE: Marin County Board of Supervisor’s meeting room. Marin Civic Center. 3501 Civic Center Drive, Suite 329, San Rafael, CA 94903.
WHY: This is our best opportunity to stop this misguided project. Please lend your voice at this important meeting!

**** Talking Points ****

• The Sharp Park Pumphouse Project proposes to dredge sediment and aquatic vegetation from the Laguna Salada wetland complex so water flows more rapidly to the pumphouse, allowing the pumphouse to drain the wetland complex at a faster rate.

• Experts such as Greg Kamman—the hydrologist retained by SFRPD to analyze Sharp Park’s hydrology—have explained that increasing the pumping rate will harm the threatened California red-legged frog and the Laguna Salada wetland complex in at least two ways:

o Increasing the pumping rate will cause additional harm to the California red-legged frog by draining more of the frog’s breeding habitat before the frog can reproduce.

o Increasing the pumping rate will cause the complex’s water level to remain shallow for a longer period of time. Because aquatic vegetation grows rapidly in shallow water, the project’s purpose cannot be sustained unless the wetland system is dredged regularly. Dredging releases harmful sulfur-based sediments into the water column, and regular releases of these compounds can disrupt the wetland complex’s ecology.

• These experts have proposed a feasible to the pumphouse project: allowing the wetland complex’s water levels to rise higher than the aquatic vegetation can tolerate.* This would reduce the amount of aquatic vegetation in the wetland complex without harming the frog, and would not require regular dredging.

• The Laguna Salada wetland complex and the adjacent Mori Point National Park are one of the most prolific California red-legged frog breeding areas in the state. Yet the California red-legged frog population is declining at Sharp Park because existing pumping protocols cause egg masses to be killed when the wetland system is drained.

Draining existing or future breeding areas at faster rates will not enhance the California red-legged frog population. To enhance the population pumping rates must be reduced so that eggs can hatch and tadpoles can become adults before the wetlands are drained.


Sharp Park wetland

Dear Protectors of Sharp Park wetlands!

Your attendance is requested for a critical public meeting on Thursday April 16th in San Rafael (Marin County). That afternoon, the California Coastal Commission will be responding to the City of San Francisco’s request for a permit to dredge and continue draining Sharp Park wetlands. Your voice is needed to inform the Commission why the wetlands should not be dredged and why the City needs to end its ongoing degradation to the wetlands and the wildlife that depend on it. This will be the first and ONLY time an agency with a mission to protect wetlands will review the project!!

Will you join members of the Restore Sharp Park Coalition? Please contact jcrofton@wildequity.org for more information or to RSVP. We can answer questions and provide you with talking points, too. Details of the meeting below!

WHAT: Coastal Commission meeting where Sharp Park dredging and wetlands draining will be considered, and either denied or permitted.
WHEN: Thursday April 16th at 12:30pm. The Sharp Park agenda item is likely to come up right after lunch. Please arrive at 12:30pm and join fellow supporters for lunch at the cafeteria within the building.
WHERE: Marin County Board of Supervisor’s meeting room. Marin Civic Center. 3501 Civic Center Drive, Suite 329, San Rafael, CA 94903.
WHY: This is our best opportunity to stop this misguided project. Please lend your voice at this important meeting!

**** Talking Points ****

• The Sharp Park Pumphouse Project proposes to dredge sediment and aquatic vegetation from the Laguna Salada wetland complex so water flows more rapidly to the pumphouse, allowing the pumphouse to drain the wetland complex at a faster rate.

• Experts such as Greg Kamman—the hydrologist retained by SFRPD to analyze Sharp Park’s hydrology—have explained that increasing the pumping rate will harm the threatened California red-legged frog and the Laguna Salada wetland complex in at least two ways:

o Increasing the pumping rate will cause additional harm to the California red-legged frog by draining more of the frog’s breeding habitat before the frog can reproduce.

o Increasing the pumping rate will cause the complex’s water level to remain shallow for a longer period of time. Because aquatic vegetation grows rapidly in shallow water, the project’s purpose cannot be sustained unless the wetland system is dredged regularly. Dredging releases harmful sulfur-based sediments into the water column, and regular releases of these compounds can disrupt the wetland complex’s ecology.

• These experts have proposed a feasible to the pumphouse project: allowing the wetland complex’s water levels to rise higher than the aquatic vegetation can tolerate.* This would reduce the amount of aquatic vegetation in the wetland complex without harming the frog, and would not require regular dredging.

• The Laguna Salada wetland complex and the adjacent Mori Point National Park are one of the most prolific California red-legged frog breeding areas in the state. Yet the California red-legged frog population is declining at Sharp Park because existing pumping protocols cause egg masses to be killed when the wetland system is drained.

Draining existing or future breeding areas at faster rates will not enhance the California red-legged frog population. To enhance the population pumping rates must be reduced so that eggs can hatch and tadpoles can become adults before the wetlands are drained.


Sharp Park wetland and pumphouse.

At 10:00am on Friday April 3rd, Wild Equity, Sequoia Audubon Society, and Save the Frogs will present oral arguments at San Francisco Superior Court over a project that will destroy and drain Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex, arguably the most ecologically important portion of the Department’s most biologically rich land.

“This senseless project will destroy critical wetlands, harm endangered species, and waste taxpayer money,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Experts have demonstrated that a feasible alternative to this project exists that will not harm wetlands and will save taxpayers money. But San Francisco has refused to consider this alternative, so we will ask the court to bring common sense back to the Recreation & Park Department.”

You can attend the hearing to show solidarity with our movement, but of course court proceedings do not permit public testimony. Contact jcrofton@wildequity.org for details if you’d like to attend the hearing: we’d love to have you there!

On March 11, 2015 Wild Equity appeared at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in our ongoing legal challenged to the money-losing, endangered species killing Sharp Park Golf Course. A few days later the court issued a short opinion that clears the way for Wild Equity to “vacate” a mistaken element of a district court decision issued in 2012.

Specifically, the Ninth Circuit agreed with Wild Equity that our challenge became “moot” due to intervening events. Wild Equity proposed that the court therefore must either (1) declare the case moot so that the lower court opinion could be vacated, or (2) wield an exception to the mootness doctrine and rule that the lower court opinion was wrong on the merits. The court chose the former option, and now Wild Equity can move forward with vacating the mistaken element of the lower court’s position.

This ruling upholds Wild Equity’s lower court victories finding the Golf Course illegally killed endangered species for years, harming their populations, and ordering the Golf Course to pay nearly $400,000 in court costs for its illegal actions. It also paves the way for new legal challenges against the Golf Course for its actions that harm taxpayers and the environment. Stay tuned for the latest updates in our campaign to Restore Sharp Park.

Wild Equity has been calling for new National Parks for a long time — especially at the notorious Sharp Park in Pacifica — and as it turns out, we’re not the only ones! Numerous organizations and constituencies have banded together in different areas of the country to expand the U.S. National Parks system. One of these organizations, RESTORE, has recently put together a campaign called New National Parks that is dedicated to celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in an extraorindary and creative way.

From their website:

In 2016, Americans will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. There could be no better time for a bold campaign to expand the National Park System for the next century. Why not 100 new parks — or more — to mark the centennial? Such a campaign can inspire conservationists, rally public support, and convince Congress and the president to take positive action. Future generations will thank us for having the foresight to save our unprotected natural and historic treasures as their priceless national park legacy.

This is the vision of the New National Parks (NNP) campaign.

And wouldn’t you know it? The New National Parks campaign has elected to highlight Sharp Park as one of their potential candidates! Sharp Park is the perfect location for a National Parks expansion, for both environmental, economic, and recreational reasons. We’re honored to have our concept for a newly restored Sharp Park featured as a candidate for this delightful and timely project. Best of luck in getting those 100 parks established! We certainly need them!

Golf needs millennials — but attracting them is proving to be difficult. The industry wants insight, and the Pro Golf Association (PGA) has created a task force aiming to redefine the golf experience. The sport’s popularity has been waning, and efforts to orient the game toward the values of young people have never been more important. The youth prioritize social and environmental consciousness, and in this regard golf has an unfortunate reputation. With black marks like Sharp Park Golf Course on record, the game too often presents itself as socially and environmentally reckless. The industry must repair this image if it is to meet the millennial challenge.

Since its peak around the year 2000, golf has lost nearly 5 million players across all age groups. Among young people these unfavorable rates have been even higher. Participation of players under 18 has dropped 40% since 2005, and among players aged 18-35 it has dropped 30% . It’s a problem that negatively affects projections regarding the future of the sport, and one study has found that golf participation could further drop a startling “40% to 60%” by mid-century. This tenuous long-term outlook needs improvement; it is crucial to reinvent the game in ways that engage young people.

Groups like the PGA’s task force need to understand what it is that turns millennials off about golf. One undeniably significant factor is social and environmental consciousness. Millennials have a strikingly different set of values from previous generations, and they prioritize wider ethical considerations even in their most personally significant choices. They’ll take a pay cut to work for companies that create positive social impacts, and they identify with brands that reflect their values and actively support social causes. They emphasize environmentalism, and will go to great lengths to demonstrate their ideological commitment to sustainability. At the recent People’s Climate March in NYC, over 50,000 young people filled up ten city blocks to protest human-made climate change. Even those who do not consider themselves environmentalists value sustainability.

To have any hope of engaging millennials, golf must repair its unsustainable image. The simplest, most effective way of doing so is to restore the most environmentally damaging courses to their natural states. When young people hear about locations like Sharp Park Golf Course killing endangered species and pumping fresh water into the sea, their opinion of the entire sport deteriorates. When they hear about municipalities like the City of San Francisco diverting funds to keep locations like Sharp Park Golf Course from closing, the notion that golf is a socially and environmentally reckless sport is reinforced. If millennials were to instead hear that Sharp Park Golf Course is being transformed into wildlife habitat, they would understand that golfers as a whole care about the environment and are willing to make to sacrifices in the name of ethically responsible values. By advocating for the rewilding of courses that are out and away the most damaging, golf enthusiasts can defy the image of golf as a socially and environmentally irresponsible sport.

Millennials are a demographic group that can be hard to reach. By incorporating values of social and environmental responsibility into recreational enterprises, athletic associations can find ways to engage the youth that benefit us all. Encouraging investors and municipalities to close golf’s most damaging courses will open the way to engaging millennials in the sport. Only then can the younger generation feel free to explore this classic American passtime.

Thanks to Dr Kerry Kriger and friends of SaveTheFrogs.com – and everyone who helped – the California Red-Legged Frog is now California’s State Frog.
Read more

March 21, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Bill McLaughlin, Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Chapter, (415) 225-4083

San Francisco Recreation and Parks Caught Illegally Armoring Sharp Park Beach

Surfrider Foundation Letter Triggers the California Coastal Commission to Act
on Unpermitted Armoring at Sharp Park in Pacifica

SAN FRANCISCO— In response to notification by The Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter, the California Coastal Commission determined that San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD) illegally expanded the seawall in front of the controversial Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, in violation of California’s Coastal Act.

This armoring was unexpected because SFRPD’s Sharp Park Working Group announced in 2011 that “the seawall should not be further armored or heightened,” and because SFRPD’s public notice for the project stated that it would only grade the path on the seawall’s crown.


Unpermitted armoring of Sharp Park Beach by San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department, February 24, 2013.

“Much of the public’s beach in Pacifica is already buried under piles of boulders. Adding new armor to protect a nearby golf course is just not appropriate,” says Bill McLaughlin, who chairs the Erosion Committee of the Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter. “Sea level rise and long term coastal erosion patterns are a looming threat to all our regional coastlines. If beaches like Pacifica’s are to survive, shorelines need to be able to migrate landward.”

“Either SFRPD’s internal environmental review procedures failed, or SFRPD’s description of the project was misleading,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “In either case, we expect the Coastal Commission to ensure that the beach is preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

The Coastal Commission has now demanded that the City apply for an after-the-fact permit, which will come before the Coastal Commission at a future public hearing. Surfrider will work to ensure that the illegally dumped rip-rap is removed, and any future construction on the site is limited to grading the path at the top of the berm, and not an incremental armoring project of berm.

Background

In late February, Surfrider learned that the seawall fronting Sharp Park Golf Course would be closed for “renovation” from February 23-25. Surfrider was told by SFRPD that the renovation work would consist of re-grading a path on the crown of the berm. However, observations made at the site showed that additional boulders were placed on the beach. This new armoring was done without proper permitting or environmental review, which precluded the public from weighing in on the project.

The Surfrider Foundation is concerned about the cumulative impacts of coastal armoring on beaches throughout the region. Placing large boulders on a beach covers otherwise usable beach with rock, and the armoring tends to result in the loss of the beach due to erosion. The shoreline of Pacifica has already experienced extensive beach loss due to the effects of armoring.

This is not the first instance of unpermitted armoring by San Francisco. Back in July 2011, Surfrider went before the California Coastal Commission to argue against after-the-fact permitting of a rock wall at Ocean Beach. The powerful state agency unanimously rejected the project, in part because Commissioners believed an alternative to armoring known as managed retreat warranted serious consideration. Managed retreat is the landward relocation of development so that beaches have the space to migrate inland and to respond naturally to coastal processes.

Despite the predominance of coastal armoring in Pacifica, managed retreat has been successfully implemented here before. The San Pedro Creek area at Linda Mar State Beach is the site of such a project, which included restoration of beach, wetlands, and the estuary, as well as the relocation of commercial and residential infrastructure to more sustainable locations. Managed retreat is also part of the restoration vision advocated by Surfrider and others for Sharp Park Beach. The lack of critical infrastructure or development near the ocean make this site an ideal location to implement managed retreat.

For more information on shoreline armoring, please visit the Surfrider Foundation’s Beachapedia page.

For more information about the campaign for a better public park at Sharp Park, please visit wildequity.org.

About Surfrider Foundation

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 250,000 supporters, activists and members worldwide. For more information on the Surfrider Foundation, visit www.surfrider.org.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.


http://wildequity.org


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For Immediate Release, July 24, 2014

Contact:  Laura Horton, lhorton@wildequity.org, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 235-0492

Wild Equity Institute Challenges Harmful Sharp Park Water Quality Decision

San Francisco, Calif.—Wild Equity Institute is challenging the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board’s approval of a controversial dredging project led by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department at Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex. The decision to approve the project was made despite clear harm to water quality and local species including the California Red Legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake. The challenge will go before the State Water Resources Control Board.

“Rec and Park’s Sharp Park dredging project will cause devastating impacts to the water quality and imperiled species that depend on the area for survival,” said Laura Horton, Staff Attorney at the Wild Equity Institute. “We gave fair warning of these impacts to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, but our concerns were ignored and now the State Board needs to step in.”

metalmark8-25-11_large_medium 2
California Red-Legged Frog, Photo © Brent Plater



Rec and Park is proposing to dredge and remove aquatic vegetation in Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex—arguably the most ecologically important part of Rec and Park’s most biologically important land—so it can drain the wetland more rapidly during winter rains that cause flooding on the Sharp Park Golf Course. The project is called the Sharp Park Safety, Infrastructure Improvement and Habitat Enhancement Project and it has long been criticized by the environmental community. Rec and Park applied for a Clean Water Act Section 401 “Water Quality Certification” for the project, and in a shocking move, the Regional Board recently issued the certification even after acknowledging the potential harmful impacts of the dredging project to water quality and species at Sharp Park.

The dredging will cause the resuspension of sulfide in the water, which causes harm to wildlife, and Wild Equity requested that further testing be done on the site in comments to the Regional Board. Moreover, experts have explained that the aquatic vegetation to be removed can only grow in shallow water. If Rec and Park destroys the vegetation while draining the wetland to shallow levels, the vegetation will grow back, creating an ongoing, expensive, and harmful cycle of dredging and draining.

Despite the clear scientific evidence and likelihood of future harm, the Regional Board is allowing the project to move forward, citing poor data as a basis for its decision. Wild Equity is challenging the Regional Board’s decision at the State Board level in hopes that the decision will be overturned and further testing will be conducted to fully assess the potential impact of the dredging project.


The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

Thursday, July 10, 7:30pm, at the Randall Museum: San Francisco has 32 pockets of undeveloped land set aside for the preservation of the natural world. These pockets hold the last remnants of wildness once found across the lands where we now live, but do we have room in our parks and our hearts for nature in this city?

The San Francisco Natural History Lecture Series hosted by the San Francisco Naturalist Society welcomes Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute, for a photographic exploration of the remaining wild areas in San Francisco. Brent went on a three day quest to see each of these natural areas for himself, understand what’s proposed for these lands, and identify a plan to save these areas from the City’s mismanagement. Join Brent for a slideshow of his quest, add your thoughts to the conversation, and discover how we can help these areas thrive.

Please RSVP here or on our Meetup group page.


Lakeview/Ashton Mini Park Natural Area.

WildEquity_logo_large 3
 For Immediate Release: April 22, 2014

Contact: Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Conservation Groups Sue San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department
Over Controversial Sharp Park Golf Course Wetland Destruction Project 

 SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The Wild Equity Institute, Sequoia Audubon Society, and Save the Frogs sued Mayor Edwin Lee and the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department in San Francisco Superior Court today over a project that will destroy and drain Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex, arguably the most ecologically important portion of the Department’s most biologically rich land.

“This senseless project will destroy critical wetlands, harm endangered species, and cost taxpayers over $1,000,000 to implement,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute.  “Experts have demonstrated that a feasible alternative to this project exists that will not harm wetlands and will save taxpayers money.  But San Francisco has refused to consider this alternative, so on Earth Day we ask the court to bring common sense back to the Recreation & Park Department.”

“The wetlands at Sharp Park are critical to the survival of the endangered California red-legged frogs that live on the property, so it is essential that the City of San Francisco conducts a thorough environmental review before continuing to pump the wetlands out to sea,” said Kerry Kriger, executive director of Save the Frogs.

“Sequoia Audubon’s mission is to protect native birds and other wildlife and their ecosystems,” said Edwin Geer, conservation committee chair for Sequoia Audubon Society. “We remain vigilant in guarding our coastline through effective conservation measures and legal protections.”

San Francisco’s Recreation & Park Department is proposing to destroy aquatic vegetation in Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex—arguably the most ecologically important part of the Department’s most biologically important land—so it can drain the wetland more rapidly during winter rains. 

To mitigate the environmental impacts of this project, the Department proposed a series of complex mitigation measures that required another agency—the federal Fish and Wildlife Service—to review, approve, and enforce a series of actions contemporaneous with the project’s construction.

But During a March 19 meeting with wetland experts from around the Bay Area, the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that it had not heard about these measures, and further explained that it would not be possible for the agency to implement them: all of its resources are consumed meeting its own mandates under federal endangered species law, and it could not spare resources to help local jurisdictions meet state law environmental requirements.  The agency confirmed this sentiment in follow-up emails.

Nonetheless, the City approved the project a few days later, based on assurances from Recreation & Park Department staff that the proposed mitigation measure did not actually require Fish and Wildlife Service actions and approvals—a position that is flatly inconsistent with the mitigation measure itself.

Moreover, experts have explained that the aquatic vegetation Recreation & Parks wishes to remove can only grow in shallow water.  If it destroys the vegetation while draining the wetland to shallow levels, the vegetation will grow back, creating an ongoing, expensive, and harmful cycle of dredging and draining if the Department wishes to maintain open waters in the wetland complex.

These same experts have explained that if the Department simply allowed enough water to remain in the complex during the spring and summer months the vegetation would die off naturally and would not grow back: because the water would be too deep for the vegetation to survive.  Moreover, this proposal would not increase winter flooding events at Sharp Park Golf Course, because the higher water levels need only be maintained in the spring and summer—and the golf course does not flood during these seasons.

“Before we spend a million dollars of taxpayer funds destroying wetlands, we deserve an honest assessment of environmental impacts, as well as a consideration of alternatives,” said Plater.  “To date the Recreation & Park Department has failed to honestly assess the environmental impacts of this project, and refused to consider any alternatives to it.  We expect the court to rectify that mistake.”

The Wild Equity Institute builds a healthy and sustainable global community for people

and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.
 

Tuesday, March 25, 3:00pm – Please join the Wild Equity Institute at San Francisco City Hall to speak up and demand a full environmental review of the Sharp Park Pumphouse Project. We need to pack the chamber with supporters!!!

A full environmental review is needed because:

• Experts have stated even a mitigated Pumphouse Project will have significant impacts on the California Red-legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake populations at Sharp Park.

• After reviewing the mitigation proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated, in writing, that it does not have the resources to implement the measures listed by Recreation and Park Department.

• The Pumphouse Project will have significant environmental effects on the water quality and hydrology at Sharp Park.

• Experts have proposed a feasible alternative to the current Pumphouse Project: allow the wetland complex’s water levels rise in spring and summer to drowned the aquatic vegetation that grows only in shallow water.

• Sharp Park is suffering from a piecemeal approach to planning.

• The Pumphouse Project conflicts with the Coastal Act.

• The impact on the recovery plan for the California Red-legged Frog is not addressed in the Pumphouse Project.

RPD staff refuse to analyze alternatives.

• The Board deserves to at least have a less harmful alternative reviewed before it approves such a controversial project in RPD’s most ecologically important asset.

Download a summary of the appeal here. The full appeal is available in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Please RSVP above or through our Meetup group San Francisco Wildlife Enthusiasts


Building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth

March 24, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Michelle Meyers, Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, (415) 646-6930

Environmental Groups Will Ask Board of Supervisors to Reject Misleading Environmental Report on Sharp Park

Tuesday, March 25—3 pm San Francisco Board of Supervisors, City Hall, Room 250

SAN FRANCISCO— The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s environmental review document for a controversial wetland draining project at Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex is under fire for falsely claiming that the project’s proposed mitigations were approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The Recreation and Park Department has repeatedly stated that this project had the express approval of a federal wildlife agency, and we all presumed this was true,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “But last week the Fish and Wildlife Service informed us that it had never seen a crucial and controversial mitigation provision for the project—let alone approved it. For too long the Department has played fast and loose with the facts, and tomorrow we’ll ask the Board of Supervisors to put an end to the department’s duplicity.”

“Sharp Park is home for two species protected under the Environmental Protection Act. These species deserve a careful and complete Environmental Impact Report,” said Michelle Myers, director of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter.

The Department is proposing to destroy aquatic vegetation in Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex—arguably the most ecologically important part of the Department’s most biologically important land—so it can drain the wetland more rapidly during winter rains. To mitigate the environmental impacts of this project, the Department proposed a series of complex mitigation measures that required another agency—the federal Fish and Wildlife Service—to review, approve, and enforce a series of actions contemporaneous with the project’s construction.

But during a March 19 meeting with wetland experts from around the Bay Area, the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that it had not heard about these measures, and further explained that it would not be possible for the agency to implement them: all of its resources are consumed meeting its own mandates under federal endangered species law, and it could not spare resources to help local jurisdictions meet state law environmental requirements. The agency confirmed this sentiment in follow-up emails.

Experts have explained to the Department that the aquatic vegetation it wishes to remove can only grow in shallow water. If it destroys the vegetation while draining the wetland to shallow levels, the vegetation will grow back, creating an ongoing, expensive, and harmful cycle of dredging and draining, if it wishes to maintain open waters in the wetland complex.

These same experts have explained that if the Department simply allowed enough water to remain in the complex during the spring and summer months, the vegetation would die off naturally, and would not grow back: because the water would be too deep for the vegetation to survive. Moreover, this proposal would not increase winter flooding events at Sharp Park Golf Course, because the higher water levels need only be maintained in the spring and summer—and the golf course does not flood during these seasons.

“Before increasing the amount and rate of water drained from our wetlands, we deserve an honest assessment of environmental impacts, as well as a consideration of alternatives,” said Plater. “To date the Department has failed to honestly assess the environmental impacts of this project, and refused to consider any alternatives to it. We expect the Board of Supervisors to right the course tomorrow.”


The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.


http://wildequity.org/



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The Wild Equity Institute along with our partners: Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, Save the Frogs!, and Golden Gate Audubon have appealed the Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration released for the Sharp Park Pumphouse Safety and Infrastructure Improvement Project, a project led by San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department (RPD). The appeal will go before the full Board of Supervisors on Tuesday March 25, 3:00pm at City Hall Room 250. We need you to join us at the Board of Supervisors meeting!

If the Pumphouse Project is approved in its current form it will be disastrous for the federally protected California Red-legged Frog population of the Laguna Salada Wetland Complex. The only way to get a full assessment of the significant environmental damage of the Pumphouse Project and to have an environmentally superior alternative considered is to have a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) completed for the project.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has the power to order a full EIR. Our coalition has never lost a vote on this issue at the Board—so far. But we need you to attend this hearing and raise your voice for: the California Red-legged Frog, the San Francisco Garter Snake, this rare wetland complex and all of us who want a more environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible RPD. Please join us on March 25 at 3:00pm at San Francisco City Hall Room 250!

Here are some talking points to include in your comment to the Board of Supervisors on March 25:

• The Recreation and Park Department’s (RPD) Pumphouse Project proposes an invasive dredging project in a wetland complex that is the most biologically important part of RPD’s property.

• The Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration did not consider any alternatives to the Pumphouse Project; a full EIR is needed to adequately consider environmentally superior alternatives.

• After reviewing the mitigation proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated, in writing, that it does not have the resources to implement the measures listed by RPD.

• The remediation plan for the acids that the dredging project will release into the water column has not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

• Experts have proposed a feasible alternative to the current Pumphouse Project: allow the wetland complex’s water levels rise in spring and summer to drowned the aquatic vegetation that grows only in shallow water.

• Higher water levels will prevent the vegetation from growing back permanently.

• This alternative is the environmentally and economically sustainable plan. It would reduce the amount of aquatic vegetation in the wetland complex without harming the frog, would not require regular intensive dredging, and would cost taxpayers less money.

• This alternative will meet the project objective of eliminating aquatic vegetation and will not increase flood risks for the golf course because it will not affect winter rainy season water levels.

RPD staff refuse to analyze this alternative, and has not presented it to the Commission or the Board of Supervisors for consideration.

• The Board deserves to at least have this less harmful alternative reviewed before it approves such a controversial project in RPD’s most ecologically important asset.

• RPD’s proposal will establish a vicious cycle of dredging and vegetation regrowth: intensive dredging to remove vegetation and increase wetland drainage rate, increased drainage rate lowers water levels in spring and summer, aquatic vegetation grows back during spring and summer in low water levels, vegetation regrowth slows drainage rate, intensive dredging to remove aquatic vegetation and increase drainage rate, and the cycle repeats over and over. The repetition of this cycle will have significant negative cumulative effects.

• Experts have stated that even a mitigated Pumphouse Project will have significant negative effects on the local California Red-legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake populations.

• Experts have stated that the Pumphouse Project will have significant environmental effects on the water quality and hydrology at Sharp Park.

• The overgrowth of vegetation in the wetland that the Pumphouse Project proposes to remove was itself caused by mismanagement of the wetland.

• Sharp Park is suffering from a piecemeal approach to planning.

• The Pumphouse Project is inconsistent with several laws and plans:
o California Coastal Act
o 1995 and 2006 Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plans
o San Francisco Bay Basin Water Control Plan
o California Red-Legged Frog Recovery Plan

Download a summary of the appeal here. The full appeal is available in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Today in San Francisco people are more interested in growing salad greens than golf greens. In a survey commissioned by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, city residents ranked the kinds of recreation they want to see more of in the City. Community gardens came in 3rd place, while golf facilities ranked a distant 16th.

Demand for community gardens is much greater than San Francisco’s supply. According to the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), San Francisco’s approximately 100 garden plots don’t have enough space for the 500+ residents eagerly waiting for space. Most garden waitlists are at least two years long, and some are close to 20.

In contrast, San Francisco’s six municipal golf courses are under used, because there aren’t enough golfers in the Bay Area to support them. Data collected by the National Golf Foundation show that golf’s popularity peaked in 2004. Today the Bay Area supplies 6 million more rounds of golf annually than golfers actually demand, and so San Francisco’s Sharp Park and Lincoln Golf Courses can only sell about 45% of their golf rounds. According to golf industry expert Jay Miller, golf’s popularity is not going to recover.

It’s time for San Francisco to rethink its recreation supply. We need a better balance between golf greens and community gardens. But if we provide more community gardens, the Recreation and Park Department will need to invest more money in their maintenance: and San Francisco’s budget is already stretched thin.

But there’s a simple answer to this dilemma: if San Francisco closes the money-losing Sharp Park Golf Course and allows the National Park Service to transform the land into a new National Park, the City could reinvest the savings into community gardens and other recreation opportunities that San Franciscan’s actually demand.

For example, RPD only spent $370,560 to maintain community gardens between 2006-2011, a woefully inadequate amount given resident’s high demand for these facilities. During the same time period RPD lost $450,913 operating Sharp Park Golf Course.

Fiscal Year RPD Community Garden Spending RPD Sharp Park Golf Course Losses
06/07 $98,821 – $64,685
07/08 $58,947 – $119,758
08/09 $51,809 $29,446
09/10 $96,432 – $134,699
10/11 $64,551 – $161,217
TOTALS $370,560 – $450,913

RPD could have increased funding for community gardens by 222%—without charging San Francisco taxpayers an additional cent—by closing Sharp Park Golf Course and reinvesting the money RPD saved in community gardens. And while San Francisco makes more community gardens in its neighborhoods, the National Park Service will create more hiking and biking trails—San Francisco’s #1 recreational demand—at the new Sharp Park National Park.

So, next time you hear the tired tune about lack of funding for urban gardening, dig deeper. Ask the Recreation and Park Department to stop subsidizing Sharp Park Golf Course, and reinvest the money in recreation opportunities modern San Franciscans demand. Please contact Mayor Lee at (415) 554-6141 and the RPD at (415) 831-2700 today. Ask them to reassess Sharp Park Golf Course’s wilted greens to make way for fresh garden greens.

Thursday, January 16, Noon: Please join the Wild Equity Institute at San Francisco City Hall to speak up and demand a full environmental review of the Sharp Park Pumphouse Project. We need to pack the chamber with supporters!!!

A full environmental review is needed because:

• Experts have stated even a mitigated Pumphouse Project will have significant impacts on the California Red-legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake populations at Sharp Park.

• The Pumphouse Project will have significant environmental effects on the water quality and hydrology at Sharp Park.

• There are alternatives to the Pumphouse Project and an EIR is needed to adequately consider these alternatives.

• Sharp Park is suffering from a piecemeal approach to planning.

• The Pumphouse Project conflicts with the Coastal Act.

• The impact on the recovery plan for the California Red-legged Frog is not addressed in the Pumphouse Project.

Please RSVP above or through our Meetup group San Francisco Wildlife Enthusiasts

After many continuances, the Sharp Park Pumphouse Project CEQA Appeal Hearing is finally confirmed for Thursday, January 16 at Noon, San Francisco City Hall, Room 400. We need to fill the room!!! Show your support for our appeal by attending and giving public comment.

Here are some talking points for your comment.

We believe a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is necessary because:

  • Experts have stated even a mitigated Pumphouse Project will have significant impacts on the California Red-legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake populations at Sharp Park.
  • The Pumphouse Project will have significant environmental effects on the water quality and hydrology at Sharp Park.
  • There are alternatives to the Pumphouse Project and an EIR is needed to adequately consider these alternatives.
  • Sharp Park is suffering from a piecemeal approach to planning.
  • The Pumphouse Project conflicts with the Coastal Act.
  • The impact on the recovery plan for the California Red-legged Frog is not addressed in the Pumphouse Project.

In October 2013, the Wild Equity Institute appealed the Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration released for Sharp Park Pumphouse Project, arguing that the city should do a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR). When this pump is used to drain Sharp Park Golf Course, it drains so much water that the California Red-legged frog egg masses are left out to dry and this kills future generations of frogs. The appeal document is attached in 3 parts. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

After reviewing our appeal, the San Francisco Planning Department’s recommendation remains unchanged. The Planning Department wants to see the Preliminary Negative Declaration approved because it is more expedient. If we are going to save the federally protected wildlife living at Sharp Park, the time needed to conduct a full EIR for the Sharp Park Pumphouse Project is essential. The Planning Department’s response can be found here.

The wildlife that calls Sharp Park home needs us to speak up for them! Thursday, January 16 at Noon, San Francisco City Hall, Room 400, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place.

Wild Equity appealed the Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration released for the Sharp Park Pumphouse Project, arguing that the city should do a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR). We will be going before the San Francisco Planning Commission to make our case for a full EIR as soon as it the item is placed on the agenda.

We believe a full EIR is necessary because:

  • Experts have stated even a mitigated Pumphouse Project will have significant impacts on the California Red-legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake populations at Sharp Park.
  • The Pumphouse Project will have significant environmental effects on the water quality and hydrology at Sharp Park.
  • There are alternatives to the Pumphouse Project and an EIR is needed to adequately consider these alternatives.
  • Sharp Park is suffering from a piecemeal approach to planning.
  • The Pumphouse Project conflicts with the Coastal Act.
  • The impact on the recovery plan for the California Red-legged Frog is not addressed in the Pumphouse Project.

For more information, Wild Equity’s appeal document is available for download. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

On September 25, 2013, Wild Equity Executive Director Brent Plater teamed-up with SAVE THE FROGS!’ Kerry Kriger to tell the world about our campaign to create a new public park at Sharp Park. The discussion was the latest installment of the SAVE THE FROGS! Academy, the world’s greatest free resource for amphibian conservation knowledge.

Watch our webinar below. The first 1/2 hour focuses on our work at Sharp Park, and the second 1/2 hour discusses SAVE THE FROGS! work to ban the importation of bullfrogs into California, a campaign Wild Equity heartily endorses. If you like what you see, you can view past SAVE THE FROGS! Academy webinars on the Academy’s archive page.

For Immediate Release, July 31, 2013

Contacts:
Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Mike Lynes, Golden Gate Audubon Society, (510) 843-9912

Fish And Wildlife Service Caught Rubber-Stamping
Permits To Kill Endangered Species

Lawsuit launched to end back-room deals for industry consultants


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.— Conservation groups today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for quietly rubber-stamping permits for industry consultants to kill endangered species.  The practice has been going on for years, but was only recently discovered because the Service had avoided public notice and comment procedures that typically apply to endangered species permitting processes. 

“What is the Fish and Wildlife Service afraid of?” asked Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “If the activities of the industry consultants can’t withstand the light of day, then the Service shouldn’t be permitting them.”

The Wild Equity Institute discovered the practice when it attempted to submit comments on a permit for Swaim Biological Inc., a private, for-profit firm that was issued an endangered species permit for work at Sharp Park Golf Course.

In 2011, biologists from San Francisco State University observed Sharp Park Golf Course’s wetlands being pumped out and drained in a project overseen by Swaim Biological. Disastrously, this draining exposed dozens of California red-legged frog egg masses to the air, killing them and jeopardizing an entire generation of this protected species. The biologists witnessed several of these dead egg masses and identified their location.

The SFSU biologists immediately informed Swaim Biological’s staff of the wanton destruction of this protected species.  When the SFSU biologists returned to the site in the next days, the dead egg masses were gone.


Desiccated California Red-legged Frog Egg Mass
A desiccated California Red-legged Frog egg mass at Sharp Park.

The same location showing the egg mass removed.
The identical location showing egg mass was removed.

The Wild Equity Institute was attempting to report the incident to the Service when it learned that Swaim Biological’s permit to manage endangered species needed renewal. Wild Equity asked that the Service investigate that matter further, but the organization was told that the Service had already reissued the permit without any oversight or public notice and comment. Wild Equity was further told that the agency routinely renewed permits for industry consultants without any public oversight, and had been doing so for years.

Swaim Biological had a limited permit to harm endangered species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, Section 10(a)(1)(A).  Under Section 10(c), all permits to harm endangered species must go through a public notice and comment period before they are issued or are renewed, and the Service must determine if permit terms and conditions are complied with before renewing permits under these provisions. The Service failed to follow this procedure thus allowing a consultant to receive a permit without first conducting an investigation into whether the applicable permit standards were met.

“Public review of endangered species take permits is essential, especially where there is a history of questionable management that has resulted in direct take of protected species,” said Mike Lynes, executive director of Golden Gate Audubon Society. “But, instead, the Service appears to be rubber-stamping permits for industry consultants to kill endangered wildlife without public oversight. The Service’s process should be open and transparent before another generation of endangered species is lost.”

Background

The California red-legged frog, Rana draytonii, is the largest frog native to the western United States. It has been lost from over 70% of its historic range, and has suffered a 90% population decline. It is currently only found in select coastal drainages from Marin County south to Baja California, with a few isolated populations near the Sierra Nevadas and the Transverse ranges. In 1996, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the California red-legged frog as a threatened species under the ESA.

Under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA, agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service may issue permits to industry consultants if they claim that their work will “enhance the propagation or survival of species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA.” These permits allow the permit holder to harass, harm, pursue, kill, trap, capture, or collect endangered species.  In part because of the breadth of these permits, applications for such permits, whether new, amended, or renewals without changes, must be published in the Federal Register and the public must be given an opportunity to submit comments, as required under 16 USC § 1539(c), 50 C.F.R. § 17.22, and the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own Director’s Order 143.  But the Fish and Wildlife Service in several regions has adopted a policy to avoid all public oversight for permit renewals so long as the permittee did not request any changes to its original permit.  This policy allowed permits to industry consultants to be renewed indefinitely and without any public oversight in perpetuity, and precluded the Service from receiving new information about the permittee’s qualifications or activities.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.


http://wildequity.org/

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Sharp Park offers us an exciting opportunity to expand National Parks along the California coast and capitalize upon the economic benefits described in a recent DOI report. A new National Park at Sharp Park, complete with a visitors’ center, will act as the Southern Gateway into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It will be a powerful driver of the local economy. Restoring Sharp Park will protect endangered wildlife, revitalize local economies, and create a park that everyone can enjoy.

Creating a National Park at Sharp Park will drive job production and economic activity on the coast. The DOI revealed that, on average, one taxpayer dollar invested in the National Parks Service earns ten dollars in return. California’s 26 National Parks alone contributed $1.192 billion to the economy in 2011. Not only that, but transferring Sharp Park to the National Park Service will relieve San Francisco taxpayers of the current burden posed by Sharp Park Golf Course’s environmental costs.

A 21st century park at Sharp Park will benefit endangered wildlife as well as the economy, providing them with a healthy wetland habitat. These thriving wetlands will then offer San Francisco and San Mateo County students opportunities for desperately needed outdoor environmental education.

A National Park at Sharp Park will also meet San Francisco’s biggest recreation needs, creating the new hiking and biking trails that are in highest demand. It will connect the Bay Area Ridge Trail to the coast, opening California’s diverse topography of sheer cliffs and bluffs, beaches, lagoons, creeks, canyons, grasslands, scrublands, forests, and hills to exploration.

Restoring Sharp Park will harness National Parks’ proven economic power to benefit our local communities, while creating better outdoor education and recreation opportunities for everyone.

July 2, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989


Conservationists Win Lawsuit
Sharp Park Golf Course Must Pay $386,000
for Illegally Killing Endangered Species

San Francisco— U.S. District Judge Susan Illston today found that six conservation organizations “prevailed” in a lawsuit against the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s (SFRPD) Sharp Park Golf Course, and ordered the golf course to pay $386,000 for illegally killing endangered species.

“Sharp Park Golf Course illegally kills endangered species, and San Francisco taxpayers continue to foot the bill for this environmental crime,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “We look forward to working with the City to implement today’s order and craft a new public park at Sharp Park everyone can enjoy—including endangered wildlife.”

In the order, Judge Illston wrote that “defendants denied they were causing any take of the [threatened California red-legged frogs] or [endangered San Francisco garter snakes] at Sharp Park,” but expressly rejected this defense, noting that “as a result of construction activities and golf course maintenance operations, all Frogs, all Snakes, and 130 egg masses will be subject to incidental take.” Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the definition of “take” includes acts that kill, injure, and harass protected species.

Judge Illston went on to state that “plaintiffs’ litigation goal was the halt [SIC] defendants’ taking of the Frogs and Snakes without first obtaining authorization pursuant to the ESA. . . . The Court also finds that this objective was met.”

Although Judge Illston did not award all of the fees requested by the conservation groups, the $386,000 award adds to the financial losses facing Sharp Park Golf Course, which is bleeding San Francisco’s recreation budgets dry. In its most recent budget, SFRPD has proposed to increase the General Fund subsidy to golf courses by $2.5 million, a 47% increase over last year (p. 5). RPD claims that this massive shortfall is caused by low demand for golf and environmental problems at Sharp Park Golf Course (p. 2).

None of these expenditures would be necessary if SFRPD would consider creating a 21st Century public park at Sharp Park in partnership with the National Park Service. Congress has preapproved this new public park, the National Park Service has stated on several occasions that it would be willing to manage the property as a new National Park, and a majority of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has voted to implement this plan on five different occasions.

The Washington, D.C. public-interest law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal represents the coalition of conservation groups in the lawsuit.

Background

Sharp Park is a wetland owned by San Francisco but located in San Mateo County. The City drains Sharp Park year-round to operate a golf course on the land. The golf course loses money, harms two endangered species, and puts the surrounding community at risk when the course floods. The Wild Equity Institute is working to build a better public park at Sharp Park, a park that saves San Francisco money, protects the environment, sustainably adapts to sea level rise and climate change, and provides recreational opportunities that everyone can enjoy.

More than 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. This request was supported by a 2011 peer-reviewed scientific study by independent scientists and coastal experts which concluded that the most cost-effective option for Sharp Park is to remove the golf course and restore the functions of the original natural ecosystem, which will also provide the most benefit to endangered species.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors most recently passed legislation in December 2011 to create this 21st Century public park, but Mayor Ed Lee, an avid golfer, vetoed the legislation.

Under the Mayor’s direction, SFRPD is instead pursuing a plan to invest millions into recreating Sharp Park Golf Course’s original design, a design so poorly conceived that it was destroyed by coastal storms and flooding within a few years of the course’s opening date.

If the Mayor’s plan succeeds, Sharp Park’s endangered species will be lost, prices at Sharp Park Golf Course will likely rise to between $80 and $120 per round, and millions of dollars in general fund monies will be diverted annually from San Francisco’s neighborhood parks and community services to subsidize a suburban golf course.

To find out more about Wild Equity’s campaign to build a new National Park at Sharp Park visit http://wildequity.org/.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people

and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

Last year the Wild Equity Institute helped pass legislation to restore Sharp Park, only to see it vetoed by the Mayor. But the veto only made the campaign stronger as evidence continues to mount against the money losing, endangered species-killing golf course.

Indeed, in her first vote after being appointed to the Board of Supervisors by the Mayor, Supervisor Christina Olague sided with a majority of the Board to overturn the Mayor’s veto, solidifying our majority at the Board.

And conservation organizations from around the country have rallied to our cause, from the National Wildlife Federation to Change.org, petitioning the Mayor to reverse his veto. We were enjoying a sample of the eloquent responses from our supporters when Save the Frogs! announced it would make restoring Sharp Park the centerpiece of Save the Frogs Day 2012!

And this was before Sharp Park closed another fiscal year in the red draining over $126,000 from declining recreation budgets, and was caught killing California red-legged frogs—again—this winter.

Dead California red-legged frog egg masses at Sharp Park.

Meanwhile in San Mateo County, the golf market continues to collapse, making golf development deals unlikely. Golf’s popularity in the county continues to wane, forcing general fund dollars to cover golf’s operating losses. And while San Francisco and San Mateo County seem intent on subsidizing golf at the expense of community centers and social services, President Obama proposed ending charitable easements for golf courses, saving the government nearly $600 million dollars in the process.

The Wild Equity Institute will continue to lead the campaign to restore Sharp Park in court, City Hall, in the press, and in the scientific literature. Thank you for inspiring us to keep working on this campaign—stick with us and we will soon enjoy a new national park at Sharp Park!

There is going to be a special session of the Budget and Finance Committee tomorrow, Friday, 21 June at 10:00 am, City Hall, Room 250. This your opportunity to give public comment on the Mayor’s proposed budget. We need you to let the Supervisors know that the money allocated for golf, specifically for the Sharp Park Golf Course, could be spent more efficiently.

Here are the facts:

  • The Mayor’s Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013-14 presumes that revenue from the City’s golf courses will decline by $1.4 million compared to last year.
  • This makes sense, because the Golf Fund will fall almost $1 million short of its projected revenue for FY2012-13.
  • The City’s own budget updates explain that the shortfall was caused by low demand for golf and the environmental problems at Sharp Park Golf Course.
  • Nonetheless the Mayor’s Proposed Budget for FY2013-14 authorizes the Golf Fund to spend approximately $2.5 million more than the Golf Fund earned during FY2012-13.
  • To make up this difference the Mayor is proposing to increase the general fund subsidy to the Golf Fund by approximately $2.5 million.
  • That’s $2.5 million that the City could spend on just about anything: HIV prevention, maintenance of neighborhood parks and community centers, reducing fees at the Arboretum, after school programs, legal services to the poor….or anything else that might reflect our priorities.
  • Instead, the Mayor is proposing to throw this money at a suburban golf course in San Mateo County that consistently has lower than projected demand, floods every winter, and kills two endangered species as it operates.
  • San Franciscan’s deserve better.

Please join Wild Equity at City Hall, Room 250 on Friday, 21 June at 10:00 am and ask the Board of Supervisors to stop the bailout for Sharp Park Golf Course, and redirect the money the City saves toward San Francisco’s true priorities.

The Wild Equity Institute has engaged dozens of allies in our campaign to build a better public park at Sharp Park, and our list of allies keeps growing. This weekend we had a fantastic tour of Mori Point and Sharp Park to give people the facts about restoration opportunities at Sharp Park, and to search for Twain’s Frog and the Beautiful Serpent.

Wild Equity Institute Outreach at Mori Point

If your organization would like to partner with us, drop us a line at 415-349-5787 or email us at info@wildequity.org.

If you would like to provide individual support, check out our Restore Sharp Park website to find out who to write, how to volunteer, and where to donate to the campaign.

San Francisco’s endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course cost San Francisco taxpayers $177,000 more than it earned during the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to a new analysis by the Wild Equity Institute.

The analysis also demonstrates that the Recreation and Park Department will save money if it closes the course even if RPD is incapable of reducing its overhead costs. If only 20% of current Sharp Park golfers, 70% of which are San Francisco residents, reinvest their golf rounds into one of the City’s five other municipal courses, any legacy overhead costs would be completely offset by the increase in revenue at San Francisco’s other courses.

Golf industry developers—seeking a government bailout for Sharp Park Golf Course—and the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce—seeking “a new hotel and restaurant right on the ocean, right next door to Sharp Park Golf Course”—have denied that Sharp Park Golf Course loses money, hoping to convince public officials to pour more taxpayer dollars into their development proposals.

But their analyses counts taxpayer monies from San Francisco’s General Fund as part of the golf course’s revenue stream. This money is, of course, not income from the golf course’s operation: it is a taxpayer bailout. Wild Equity’s calculations remove this taxpayer bailout from the revenue stream for Sharp Park Golf Course to get a more accurate picture of how the course’s finances impact San Francisco’s limited recreation funding.


Find SF Weekly’s Bleeding Green Article here.

Yet Wild Equity’s analysis is very conservative: it presumes that costs applicable to the Department’s entire golf program were disproportionately born by the Department’s five other golf courses. If these costs were distributed evenly, Sharp Park Golf Course’s losses climb to over $245,000 for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Unfortunately the losses are not likely to end anytime soon. The City Controller and the Recreation and Park Department have cited environmental issues at Sharp Park as a cause of an expected revenue shortfall for the upcoming 2012-13 fiscal year.

Sharp Park continues to be a burden on the city’s taxpayers and the land’s endangered species: the San Francisco Garter Snake and the Red-legged Frog. Contact the Wild Equity Institute today and find out how you can help us build a better public park at Sharp Park.

March 5, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 669-7357
Arthur Feinstein, Sierra Club, (415) 680-0643

Sharp Park Golf Course Caught Killing Endangered Frogs, Tampering With Evidence
Coalition Seeks Quick Legal Action
Over Violations of Law and Permits

San Francisco— Conservation groups asked for a court order on Friday that will hold the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department accountable for illegal activities at Sharp Park Golf Course, just weeks after the Department was caught killing threatened California red-legged frogs there for a second year in a row. The recent killings were extensively documented by San Francisco State University biology students over several weeks of observation during this year’s short, exceptionally dry winter frog-breeding season.

“Interfering with an endangered species’ breeding activities is not only illegal, it is unethical,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “We intend to see that this conduct is fully prosecuted, and have asked wildlife agencies to ensure the entities responsible never play god with endangered wildlife again.”


Pumping
Pumping removes massive amounts of water from Sharp Park in January, 2012.

Horse Stable Pond Egg Mass
Dead California red-legged frog egg mass at Sharp Park.

Laguna Saldada Egg Mass 1
Exposed California red-legged frog egg mass at Sharp Park.

Laguna Salada Egg Mass 2
Exposed California red-legged frog egg mass at Sharp Park.

To make matters worse, the golf course’s employees or contractors appear to have tampered with evidence of Endangered Species Act violations by moving stranded frog eggs to another pond, even though federal wildlife officials had expressly warned them not to do so.


Missing Egg Mass
Egg mass, depictied above, removed from Laguna Salada.


This is the sixth winter over the past decade the Department has killed protected frogs by draining Sharp Park’s wetlands in a failed attempt to prevent frogs from breeding in their historic ponds. Friday’s filing asks for an immediate court order holding all responsible parties liable for this illegal activity.

“The golf course’s so-called “compliance plan” for endangered species has failed yet again—and more imperiled frogs are dead because of it,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s clear the Department has no intention of complying with the law or permits unless it’s punished. Friday’s motion should ensure this happens.”

“These actions of the San Francisco Parks Department at Sharp Park are really outrageous. They are already being sued in court for violations of the Endangered Species Act, and were told by the Fish and Wildlife Service that they may not move frog eggs and yet that’s just what they’ve done. We’d expect more compliance with the law from our City agencies,” said Arthur Feinstein, Chair of the Local Sierra Club.

Background

After conservation groups provided evidence of the Department’s unlawful activity, the Fish and Wildlife Service last year notified the golf course that it was specifically prohibited from handling or moving frog egg masses at Sharp Park. The Service also denied the Department’s request to drain wetlands and dredge lagoons at Sharp Park, which the Department euphemistically referred to as “habitat management and scientific studies.” Water pumping, dredging and other activities harmful to frogs can only occur if the Department obtains an Endangered Species Act “incidental take” permit, which it has failed to obtain to date.

While the Service did authorize the Department to conduct surveys for frogs and egg masses, the permit for the Department’s biological consultant expired before the work began.  Even when valid, the permit expressly prohibited “harassing” or moving frog eggs.

The San Francisco-owned golf course at 400-acre Sharp Park in Pacifica is plagued by crumbling infrastructure, annual flooding problems and ongoing environmental violations. More than 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. A 2011 peer-reviewed scientific study by independent scientists and coastal experts concluded that the most cost-effective option for Sharp Park is to remove the golf course and restore the functions of the original natural ecosystem, which will also provide the most benefit to endangered species.

The Department has refused to consider this option, and is instead pursuing a plan that would evict endangered species from the site, bail out the golf course’s financial problems with tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, and continue San Francisco’s liability for fines for Endangered Species Act violations. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation in December of 2011 to prevent this from happening, but Mayor Ed Lee, an avid golfer, vetoed the legislation. Further action by the Board of Supervisors is expected this year.

 The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

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Need proof that golf courses can be closed and restored to wildlife habitat? The Trust for Public Land just did it at the Ocean Meadows Golf Course in Goleta, CA.

40 years after wetlands were destroyed to create Ocean Meadows Golf Course, the wetlands are being restored. Under the leadership of the Trust for Public Land and many supporters, the golf course in Santa Barbara County will soon return to its unique natural habitat.

The restored wetland will provide habitat for wildlife; recreational opportunities for adults and children; and educational programs for students in the surrounding area.


The soon-to-be-restored Ocean Meadows Golf Course.

Are we going to let Southern California reap all the benefits of wetland restoration? Write to Mayor Ed Lee today and urge him to invest in San Francisco city parks and protect endangered species by closing Sharp Park Golf Course and turning it into a national park for all to enjoy!


A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

Some of you may have read an article recently saying that Wild Equity’s lawsuit over Sharp Park Golf Course was dismissed, case closed. This article was spawned by a misleading press release by a golf industry front group. Here’s what really happened:

After our lawsuit was filed claiming that the golf course was killing endangered species without a permit, the golf course applied for the very permits our lawsuit claimed it needed.

In October a permit was issued: and it is a doozy. It contains over 50 pages of terms and conditions that burden the golf course with hiring biological monitors to walk in front of mowers, building new breeding and feeding ponds for endangered species, and restoring habitat to create a biological corridor connecting Laguna Salada to the national park next door, Mori Point.

Since a permit was issued, the legal issue we raised was over or “moot,” and Wild Equity is in the process of recovering fees and costs from the City for catalyzing this legal change.

While the permit didn’t order the creation of a new National Park at Sharp Park, we never asked the Court or the permitting agency to do that: because we know that move will have to come from San Francisco and nowhere else.

And we are very close: on five different occasions the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have voted to move forward with restoration planning at Sharp Park in partnership with the National Park Service. While the last vote was vetoed by new Mayor who never met with us, we have a new Board of Supervisors next year.

There will be more legal challenges and legislative work on this campaign in 2013, so stay tuned as we restore Sharp Park!

January 7, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Neal Desai, National Parks Conservation Association, (415) 989-9925
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 669-7357

Protections Sought for Endangered Frogs, Snakes at Pacifica’s Sharp Park

San Francisco — Conservation groups filed a legal appeal today to secure essential protections for endangered frogs and snakes that live at Pacifica’s Sharp Park. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently found that pumping water from wetlands, habitat alteration, mowing, gopher control, and other activities at the Sharp Park golf course, run by the city of San Francisco, are hurting and killing threatened California red-legged frogs and highly endangered San Francisco garter snakes.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected San Francisco’s baseless position that its golf-course activities do not harm federally protected species,” said Neal Desai of the National Parks Conservation Association. “It’s clear our lawsuit was needed to bring professional oversight of the city’s operations. This is a step forward in the campaign to safeguard the precious biodiversity in the Bay Area. The appeal we are pursuing will guarantee that San Francisco abides by the same rules as every other city when it comes to protecting endangered species.”

“Sharp Park ought to be a safe place for red-legged frogs and San Francisco garter snakes, two of the rarest animals in the region,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s unfortunate and frustrating that the city’s management of the golf course has continues to put these species in danger. We’re taking action to make sure these animals finally get the protection they deserve.”

Sharp Park is an important wildlife habitat adjoining National Park Service properties in Pacifica. Today’s appeal, filed in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, seeks to ensure that appropriate and legally binding protections are implemented to prevent and reduce the ongoing killing and harming of endangered species by the golf course’s operations.

Background

In March 2011 the Center for Biological Diversity, Wild Equity Institute, National Parks Conservation Association, Surfrider Foundation, Sequoia Audubon Society and other organizations sued San Francisco under the Endangered Species Act for illegally killing and harming — “taking” is the legal word — protected species through operation of the golf course. San Francisco was manipulating water levels in wetlands and stranding frog eggs during the breeding season, as well as mowing habitat areas occupied by endangered species, without any federal permit.

San Francisco maintained that its golf-course activities were not harming either species, but shortly after the lawsuit was filed the city initiated a formal consultation process under the Endangered Species Act — a step that sought approval to harm and kill protected wildlife. The Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the golf course’s impacts and has issued conservation measures that both San Francisco and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the federal agency that issues a permit for wetlands degradation on the site) must adopt.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s October 2012 “biological opinion” vindicates the position of conservation groups: that golf-course operations adversely affect both the frog and the snake. The Service prescribed dozens of protection measures that the city and the Corps of Engineers must adopt to address impacts, including the construction of new habitats to compensate for wetlands the city is destroying or degrading.

In light of the Service’s biological opinion, the lower court recently dismissed the conservation groups’ pending lawsuit, ruling that the Endangered Species Act claims have now been adequately addressed, although the Corps has yet to issue its permit adopting the conservation measures prescribed by the Service. In their filing today, conservation groups are appealing the ruling to press for further assurances that the habitat needs of endangered species will be addressed.

The city-owned golf course at 400-acre Sharp Park is plagued by crumbling infrastructure, annual flooding problems and ongoing environmental violations. More than 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. A 2011 peer-reviewed scientific study by independent scientists and coastal experts concluded that the most cost-effective option for Sharp Park is to end golf-course operations and restore the functions of the original natural ecosystem, which will also provide the most benefit to endangered species.

But the Park Department has refused to consider this option, and is instead pursuing a plan that would harm endangered species at the site and bail out the golf course’s financial problems with millions of dollars of taxpayer money. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation in December 2011 to prevent this from happening, but Mayor Ed Lee vetoed the legislation.

 The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

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July 17, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Golf Industry Front-group, San Mateo County Politicians
Caught Forging Senator’s Signature on Official State Resolution

San Francisco — A controversial California Assembly Resolution requested by the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, authored by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, and presented to the public by San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom states that the Resolution was endorsed by State Senator Leland Yee. But a letter from the Senator’s office says his office never cleared or approved the resolution’s language.


The Controversial California Assembly Resolution and Senator Leland Yee’s Written Response.

“The misrepresentations by the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance—and the politicians it gives money to—must end,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “We call on the Golf Alliance, Supervisor Groom, and Assemblyman Hill to endorse honest, informed public debate by retracting the resolution immediately.”

In May of 2012, the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance—a front group for golf privatization advocates and an active opponent of affordable municipal golf in San Francisco—and San Mateo County Supervisor Carol Groom released a controversial California Assembly Resolution authored by Assemblyman Jerry Hill and purportedly endorsed by Senator Leland Yee. The resolution contained several false statements about the historic value of Sharp Park Golf Course—statements that San Francisco’s own Historic Preservation Commission did not concur with when it evaluated Sharp Park Golf Course in 2011.

But a new letter from Senator Leland Yee denies that he approved of or endorsed the resolution, explaining that “[t]he language was not cleared by my office, nor does it accurately represent my position on Sharp Park. While my signature was on the resolution, it was electronically generated and not approved by my office.”

“The public needs to know the truth about Assemblyman Hill’s and Supervisor Groom’s support for the Golf Alliance’s multi-million dollar government bailout plan for Sharp Park Golf Course, and their steadfast opposition to affordable golf in San Francisco,” said Plater. “But false endorsements obfuscate the facts and are a disservice to our democratic process. We look forward to an immediate retraction of the resolution and an honest debate as the campaign to restore Sharp Park advances.”

The endangered species-killing, money-losing Sharp Park Golf Course is owned by San Francisco but located in Pacifica, California. It is plagued by crumbling infrastructure, annual flooding problems and ongoing environmental violations. More than three dozen San Francisco-based community, recreation, environmental and justice groups have called for closing the golf course and creating a more sustainable public park at Sharp Park. A 2011 peer-reviewed scientific study by independent scientists and coastal experts concluded that the most cost-effective option for Sharp Park is to remove the golf course and restore the functions of the original natural ecosystem, which will also provide the most benefit to endangered species.

The Department has refused to consider this option, and is instead pursuing a plan that would evict endangered species from the site, bail out the golf course’s financial problems with tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, and continue San Francisco’s liability for fines for Endangered Species Act violations. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation in December of 2011 to prevent this from happening while improving access to affordable golf, but Mayor Ed Lee, at the behest of Supervisor Groom, Assemblyman Hill, and other Golf Alliance-supported politicians, vetoed the legislation. Further action by the Board of Supervisors is expected this year.

 The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

On Monday, November 19, at 1:00 p.m. in San Francisco’s City Hall Room 250, the Board of Supervisors will vote to remove a plan to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course from the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan, so that these two different projects with very different purposes can stand or fall on their own merits.

We need you to be there to support this resolution: attend the hearing and tell the supervisors to vote YES on the resolution!

Background.

Sharp Park is a wetland owned by San Francisco but located in San Mateo County. The City drains Sharp Park year-round so people can play golf on the land. The golf course loses money, harms two endangered species, and puts the surrounding community at risk when the course floods. The Wild Equity Institute is working to build a better public park at Sharp Park, a park that saves San Francisco money, protects the environment, sustainably adapts to sea level rise and climate change, and provides recreational opportunities that everyone can enjoy.


A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

The Promise.

In 2005, San Francisco submitted its Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan for environmental review. The Plan included some modest restoration activities at Sharp Park, but left the golf course in tact. At the time, Wild Equity staff and others requested that the City consider a more ambitious restoration opportunity: closing the golf course and creating a new National Park at Sharp Park. San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department responded in writing, stating ‘should changes to the Sharp Park Golf Course be proposed, they would undergo a separate regulatory review, including CEQA environmental review.’

A Promise Broken.

But in 2011, the Recreation and Park Department went back on its written word. It jammed a multi‐million dollar golf course redevelopment plan into a chapter of the environmental review document for the Natural Areas Program: a completely different project with completely different purposes. Adding injury to this insult, they refused to consider any restoration alternatives to its golf course redevelopment plan for Sharp Park, claiming that the golf course was an ‘historic landmark,’ even though the City’s own Historic Preservation Commission disagreed with this conclusion.

The Solution.

Now the Supervisors are considering a resolution that would undo this duplicitous act by the Recreation and Park Department: a resolution that orders the Department to separate out its plan to redevelop the golf course and put that plan through “a separate regulatory review, including CEQA environmental review,” as the Department promised the public from the start.

What You Can Do.

Please attend this critical hearing and tell the Supervisors to vote YES on the resolution. Meet us at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, at the Land Use Committee, Room 250, 1:00 pm. RSVP using the form above right away!

Talking Points.

  • I support the resolution to segregate out the Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment plan from the Natural Areas Program Management Plan Environmental Impact Report, and I ask the Supervisors to support this resolution too.
  • The Recreation and Park Department must make good on its commitment to conduct separate reviews of these two different projects, and that is what this resolution makes the Department to do.
  • The resolution orders the Department to stay true to its word by removing the Sharp Park Golf Course project from the Natural Areas Plan and allowing these two different projects to be considered by the public and policymakers through their own environmental review processes.
  • The resolution was introduced in July of this year, and no comments in opposition have been submitted by the Department to date. Now is the time to finally put the Department back on track with these projects.
  • The resolution does not change the status quo at Sharp Park Golf Course and does not plan for or modify any land activity at Sharp Park. This is a procedural resolution to ensure the Department make good on its word to the public and policymakers.
  • This resolution does not attempt to control the future of Sharp Park Golf Course in any way, and therefore a vote supporting the resolution does not mean the Supervisor is taking a position on Sharp Park’s future.
  • The resolution does not affect the City’s discretion to propose alternatives or select a preferred alternative for either project in any way.

On Monday, November 19, at 1:00 p.m. in San Francisco’s City Hall Room 250, the Board of Supervisors will vote to remove a plan to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course from the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan, so that these two different projects with very different purposes can stand or fall on their own merits.

We need you to be there to support this resolution: attend the hearing and tell the supervisors to vote YES on the resolution!

Background.

Sharp Park is a wetland owned by San Francisco but located in San Mateo County. The City drains Sharp Park year-round so people can play golf on the land. The golf course loses money, harms two endangered species, and puts the surrounding community at risk when the course floods. The Wild Equity Institute is working to build a better public park at Sharp Park, a park that saves San Francisco money, protects the environment, sustainably adapts to sea level rise and climate change, and provides recreational opportunities that everyone can enjoy.


A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

The Promise.

In 2005, San Francisco submitted its Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan for environmental review. The Plan included some modest restoration activities at Sharp Park, but left the golf course intact. At the time, Wild Equity staff and others requested that the City consider a more ambitious restoration opportunity: closing the golf course and creating a new National Park at Sharp Park. San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department responded in writing, stating ‘should changes to the Sharp Park Golf Course be proposed, they would undergo a separate regulatory review, including CEQA environmental review.’

A Promise Broken.

But in 2011, the Recreation and Park Department went back on its written word. It jammed a multi‐million dollar golf course redevelopment plan into a chapter of the environmental review document for the Natural Areas Program: a completely different project with completely different purposes. Adding injury to this insult, they refused to consider a single alternative to its golf course redevelopment plan for Sharp Park, claiming that the golf course was an ‘historic landmark,’ even though the City’s own Historic Preservation Commission disagreed with this conclusion.

The Solution.

Now the Supervisors are considering a resolution that would undo this duplicitous act by the Recreation and Park Department: a resolution that orders the Department to separate out its plan to redevelop the golf course and put that plan through “a separate regulatory review, including CEQA environmental review,” as the Department promised the public from the start.

What You Can Do.

Please attend this critical hearing and tell the Supervisors to vote YES on the resolution. Meet us at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, at the Land Use Committee, Room 250, 1:00 pm. RSVP now!

Talking Points.

  • I support the resolution to segregate out the Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment plan from the Natural Areas Program Management Plan Environmental Impact Report, and I ask the Supervisors to support this resolution too.
  • The Recreation and Park Department must make good on its commitment to conduct separate reviews of these two different projects, and that is what this resolution makes the Department to do.
  • The resolution orders the Department to stay true to its word by removing the Sharp Park Golf Course project from the Natural Areas Plan and allowing these two different projects to be considered by the public and policymakers through their own environmental review processes.
  • The resolution was introduced in July of this year, and no comments in opposition have been submitted by the Department to date. Now is the time to finally put the Department back on track with these projects.
  • The resolution does not change the status quo at Sharp Park Golf Course and does not plan for or modify any land activity at Sharp Park. This is a procedural resolution to ensure the Department makes good on its word to the public and policymakers.
  • This resolution does not attempt to control the future of Sharp Park Golf Course in any way, and therefore a vote supporting the resolution does not mean the Supervisor is taking a position on Sharp Park’s future.
  • The resolution does not affect the City’s discretion to propose alternatives or select a preferred alternative for either project in any way.

Our work always seems to heat up in the Fall, and this year is no different. Supervisor Christina Olague has brought new legislation to City Hall, legislation that will defend San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program from anti-wild forces in San Francisco.

In 2005, San Francisco submitted its Significant Natural Resource Areas Management plan for environmental review—a plan that contains modest restoration goals for lands at Sharp Park managed by the City’s Natural Areas Program, but left all other Sharp Park lands, including the endangered species-killing and money-losing golf course found there, unchanged.

At the time, Wild Equity staff and others requested that the City consider a more ambitious restoration opportunity: to restore Sharp Park Golf Course, the money-losing, endangered species-killing golf course in suburban San Mateo County that San Francisco has been subsidizing with taxpayer dollars for years.

But San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department responded—in writing—in no uncertain terms: any changes to Sharp Park Golf Course proper could only be considered through a separate planning process.

But in 2011 the Recreation and Park Department, under the duplicitous leadership of Phil Ginsburg, went back on its written word. It jammed a multi-million dollar golf course redevelopment plan into a chapter of the environmental review document for the Natural Areas Program.

We think Phil Ginsburg is jamming this unrelated, indefensible project into a separate environmental review document for one reason only: he knows that standing on its own no reasonable legislator would ever condone it.

Supervisor Olague agrees, and that’s why she’s introduced legislation that will order the Recreation and Park Department to segregate the golf course plan out of the Natural Areas environmental review document, so that each project can stand or fall on their own merits.

Hearing details are still forthcoming, but we’ll need you to show your support for this critical legislation soon—so keep your Monday afternoons free for the next few weeks!

An extraordinary victory for people and the environment was won this week when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to begin restoration planning with the National Park Service for Sharp Park, a City-owned wetland in Pacifica.


A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

For many years the City has been operationg a money-losing, endangered species-killing golf course on the property. The new ordinance requires the City to pursue a new vision for the land—a national park vision that provides recreation everyone can enjoy while saving San Francisco money.

How the Campaign Was Won: Subcommittee Turnout

The victory was won this week, but involved years of grassroots campaigning. It culminated on December 5 when we delivered a massive turnout to a subcommittee hearing on the ordinance. Our supporters filled the hearing, spilled into the hallway, and filled the overflow rooms with turquoise T-shirts—the emblematic color of the San Francisco Garter Snake.

The turnout was not only large, but diverse. Our campaign was built on grassroots partnerships between environmental, park, justice, and social service organizations, and it was reflected in the turnout that we were able to generate.


Our coalition showed its strength last April for Save the Frogs Day
Endangered Species/Endangered Communities Rally.

The turnout clearly influenced the subcommittee, which moved the ordinance on to the full board. But perhaps more importantly, it also inspired our supporters. Mike Lynes of Golden Gate Audubon stated “I was impressed by the turn out that you guys managed to produce. I haven’t seen turn out like that for the environmental community on any issue in the past 3 years.” Arthur Feinstein of the Sierra Club explained that the turnout was “one of the largest the environmental community has ever generated in San Francisco. The diversity of speakers, both in age and ethnicity, was also extremely encouraging and impressive.” A long-time Pacifica resident stated “the subcommittee hearing was truly inspiring . . . extremely welcome and needed, and an accomplishment in itself.”

Who Opposes Restoring Sharp Park? Chamber of Commerce, Wealthy Law Partners, and the One Percent

The diverse groups supporting our campaign stood in stark contrast to the opponents of a new National Park at Sharp Park: elite golfers and development interests from coastal San Mateo County. “Golf purist” Sandy Tatum was there, demanding that Sharp Park Golf Course’s drain on neighborhood parks and city services continue. This wasn’t much of a surprise: the wealthy, Palo Alto-based retired lawyer once convinced San Francisco to take more than $16 million from a state program to build playgrounds for poor children and invest the money in Harding Park Golf Course, San Francisco’s most expensive and exclusive course. To date, the money has not been paid back in full, and San Francisco’s playgrounds and ballfields remain underfunded.

Even more alarming were the coastal development interests intent on using the subsidized golf course as a lure for more development. Courtney Conlon, CEO of Pacifica’s Chamber of Commerce, made this express in her comments, claiming that “Sharp Park Golf Course is the cornerstone of Pacifica’s economic development [including] a proposed plan for a new hotel and restaurant right on the ocean, right next door to Sharp Park Golf Course.”

Yet on the same day, 100 Economists released a report explaining something the New York Times first reported in 2006: that national parks are far better drivers of the local economy than golf courses.

The Full Board Vote

The next day the entire Board of Supervisors weighed-in on the ordinance. The Board of Supervisors is quite different than the Board that existed even two years ago—it is more moderate, and therefore legislation must appeal to the center to have any chance of passing.

This is why we knew that our common-sense, data-driven campaign would be appealing to this Board. Study after study has shown that Sharp Park Golf Course is draining hundreds of thousands of dollars from the City’s coffers annually, while killing two endangered species in the process. Fixing these environmental and financial problems while retaining 18-holes of golf on the land will require massive capital investments—on land that scientists have explained will be lost to climate change-induced sea level rise. A far better plan is to work with Sharp Park’s natural features and create a park everyone can enjoy.


The Board of Supervisors took the Ordinance up in the late afternoon. Supervisor John Avalos first offered some small amendments to the ordinance—all of which were approved. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who has been carrying water for San Mateo County on this issue for years, argued that the ordinance violated the California Environmental Quality Act, but the City’s Environmental Review Officer did not support his claim.

In perhaps the most disingenuous argument, Supervisor Scott Weiner claimed he would not vote for the ordinance because of a policy disagreement with the National Park Service over pet management. But the Supervisor is smart enough to know that walking dogs at Sharp Park is currently illegal, on-leash or off. When a National Park is created on the land, dogs will have much better legal access than they do now. He was clearly trying to avoid debating the measure on the merits, while appealing to Supervisor David Campos—an avowed dog lover—in hopes of peeling away critical votes.

But in the end, Supervisor Eric Mar made a well-reasoned statement about why he supports the ordinance, and referenced the ability of the ordinance to improve golf conditions at City courses; Supervisor David Chiu said he shared our vision and made a small amendment to allow the City to continue to negotiate—but not sign—alternative agreements with other agencies; and Supervisor Jane Kim also expressed her support for our plan. Combined with the votes of Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, David Campos, and our champion John Avalos, the ordinance passed the full board!

A Team Effort

None of this could have occurred without all our partners helping advance the cause. Michelle Myers of the Sierra Club was particularly crucial in the last few weeks, and the extraordinary commitment of Neal Desai of the National Parks Conservation Association was essential to the success of the campaign. Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity aided with media work, and dozens of volunteers, led by Barbara Beth of the Wild Equity Institute, came through at critical moments. And of course, crucial financial support was also essential, and foundations like the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, and the Fund for Wild Nature played a large role in our success.

What’s Next?

Of course, “it ain’t over ‘till it’s over,” and there are always things that need to be tended. On December 13, the Board will have its required second reading of the ordinance. We do not anticipate any changes at this hearing. From there, the ordinance will be moved to the Mayor for his signature. If he doesn’t act within 10 days, the ordinance becomes law.

Will the Mayor bow to pressure from development interests and wealthy golf extremists who think this game is more valuable than playgrounds for kids, and services for children and seniors? The mayor has yet to meet with us, and we do know he loves his golf. Stay tuned for more information about the Mayor—and make sure you contact him to express your support for restoring Sharp Park!

San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program was to be one of the great urban conservation programs in America. But after years of misguided political beatings, the program has lost integrity. The program recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Report for its program management plan—but the plan has been radically altered, particularly at Sharp Park.

The new Sharp Park plan incorporates an 18-hole golf course into the “recovery” area for the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog—even though the golf course is the primary threat to both species’ existence at Sharp Park. The plan also suggests that Sharp Park Golf Course is an historic resource—even though the City’s own Historic Preservation Commission could not concur that the golf course retains historic integrity. Based on these misguided beliefs, the Draft Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan Environmental Impact Report refused to consider a full restoration alternative at Sharp Park.


Watch this annotated audio excerpt of the Historic Preservation Commission hearing.

The Wild Equity Institute submitted comments opposing the Sharp Park portion of the Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan, as did the Sierra Club, Golden Gate Audubon Society, Nature in the City, and many other conservation organizations.

In order to ensure that the good isn’t thrown out with the bad, the Wild Equity Institute has proposed that the Sharp Park Golf Course plan be segregated out of the Significant Natural Resource Areas Program Management Plan, and considered separately through its own environmental review process. After hearing about the misguided attempts to make Sharp Park Golf Course an historic landmark, Supervisor Scott Weiner agreed that the Department’s all-golf plan for Sharp Park should stand or fall on its own, not be cobbled together with the larger natural areas program.

The City will now consider the comments and will eventually publish a final plan, possibly in 2012. Keep abreast of the updates by signing-up for wildequity.org.

Tatzoo’s Bar ‘slither’ in the Mission brought dozens of San Francisco residents together to save the San Francisco Garter Snake.


The Tatzoo team pauses at the last stop of the night.

Chanting “Restore Sharp Park!” and answering trivia questions about the financial and ecological problems posed by Sharp Park Golf Course, over 60 participants spread good cheer and showed great support for closing the course and creating a new national park on the land. Dozens of others signed postcards to the Mayor demanding he transform the land post haste.


Tatzoo’s postcards went straight to the Mayor’s office.


Participants strategize to save the San Francisco Garter Snake.

Check out all our upcoming events at our calendar and make sure you take action to help us Restore Sharp Park!

The Wild Equity Institute has filed a formal legal petition and submitted supporting comments to add the San Francisco gartersnake to the list of species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”). The request could be implemented as soon as March 3, 2013, when the CITES Conference of the Parties will be convened in Bangkok, Thailand.


Formal legal petition to add the San Francsico gartersnake to the list of species protected by CITES.

Although the Endangered Species Act has protected the San Francisco gartersnake since 1973, it has never been protected under treaties that prohibit international trade in endangered species and/or their parts. This has been the case even though poaching has been documented to adversely impact the San Francisco gartersnake, often referred to as “the most beautiful serpent in North America.”

Strangely enough, Northern Europe—not Northern California—is the global hotspot for San Francisco gartersnake fanciers and breeders. The snakes used in Northern Europe were originally taken from the wild, either before the Endangered Species Act was passed or illegally after the snake was protected. In either case, unregulated breeding—often solely to enhance the color and pattern of the species’ beautiful stripes—has in most instances made these specimens unsuitable for reintroduction to the wild.

Unregulated breeding and trade is not only impacting the stock of captive animals, it is also encouraging poaching. The Wild Equity Institute has obtained information about possible poaching events in 2005 and 2006, and an ongoing desire for breeders to obtain “fresh stock” from the wild to address inbreeding and other problems associated with the captive San Francisco gartersnake populations in Northern Europe.

With Sharp Park Golf Course killing individual animals in the wild, poaching of wild animals cannot be countenanced. But because the Endangered Species Act only regulates trade to and from the United States, only CITES can regulate the trade happening across Northern Europe and other non-U.S. locations.

The Wild Equity Institute expects a response to its petition in the coming months. In the meantime, you can support our work to conserve the San Francisco gartersnake by becoming a Wild Equity Institute member on-line today.

In May, tailgaters from Save the Frogs! and Wild Equity Institute made a big impact drumming for frogs at Sharp Park Golf Course while golfers held an anti-endangered species event at the golf course clubhouse.

Protesters occupying Sharp Park(ing lot) prevailed in numbers. While drumbeats echoed throughout the golf course, the key message did too: In order to protect endangered species, Sharp Park Golf Course must be closed and transformed into a new national park. See pictures from the successful turnout.

Interested in organizing your own event for the frogs? Click here for tips from Save the Frogs! on how to make it happen.


Michael Starkey of Save the Frogs! leads the tailgate drumming.

On May 19 over 35 tailgaters for endangered species converged on Sharp Park Golf Course’s parking lot to protest an outrageous ‘celebration’ of the endangered species-killing, money losing Sharp Park Golf Course. With their message of drumming for frogs and occupying Sharp Park(ing lot), the tailgaters ate good food, played some interesting beats, and enjoyed good company, all while explaining to the media and the public why Sharp Park Golf Course should be closed and the land transformed into a new national park everyone can enjoy.

Below are a few photos of the event. Thanks to Save the Frogs! for organizing!






Join Us May 19, 4:30pm, Sharp Park Golf Course:
Tailgate & Drum for Frogs, Occupy Sharp Park(ing lot)!

Golf purists have announced they’ll celebrate the endangered species-killing, money-losing Sharp Park Golf Course with a $150 golf tournament on May 19th.

That’s right: they intend to celebrate a golf course that robs resources from San Francisco’s neighborhood parks and has brought two endangered species to the brink of localized extinction.

If that’s the most absurd celebration you’ve ever heard of, you aren’t alone: and that’s why we want you to join Save the Frogs! on May 19 at 4:30 p.m. at Sharp Park Golf Course’s parking lot for a fun, free tailgate for endangered species. Save the Frogs! will have food and drink, drums to play, and outdoor education activities for you and your family to enjoy at the nearby Mori Point National Park: which will one day expand to include Sharp Park, creating a more accessible and sustainable public park that everyone can enjoy!


A San Francisco garter snake killed by golf course mowers; California red-legged frog egg mass killed by golf course wetland draining.

And we’ll all stand-up for the “underfrog” during this high-priced golf tournament to make sure everyone there knows that killing endangered species to play a game is the wrong way to spend our limited recreation dollars.

But we can’t do this with out you. Please join Save the Frogs on May 19, 4:30pm at Sharp Park Golf Course for a tailgate and drumming event that occupies Sharp Park! Bring food and drink to spare, and all your frog-loving friends so everyone knows that we stand for the under frog!

RSVP today using Save the Frogs! Google Document or at the Tailgate’s Facebook page. And if you can get there early or would like to help organize, contact us and we’ll get you started.

The Wall Street Journal covered the Wild Equity Institute in a new article about the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course.

Titled Big Wedge Over Sharp Park’s Future, the article describes how Sharp Park is run-down and in ill repair, and the opportunities to transform it into a better public park everyone can enjoy.

Check out the article yourself today, then add your comments here at wildequity.org or at the Wall Street Journal’s website.

April 26, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 669-7357
Arthur Feinstein, Sierra Club, (415) 680-0643

Judge Cites Evidence Sharp Park Golf Course Is Harming Endangered Frogs, Awaits U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Input
Order Discusses Harm, Population Impacts to Red-legged Frogs

San Francisco— U.S. District Judge Susan Illston today rejected the City of San Francisco’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by six conservation organizations over the ongoing killing of red-legged frogs at Sharp Park Golf Course. Explaining that new evidence and recent Fish and Wildlife Service restrictions have called into question San Francisco Park Department claims that the frog population at Sharp Park is growing, the court ordered the city to obtain authorization from the Fish and Wildlife Service for golf course activities that could harm endangered species. The judge ruled conservation groups have legal standing to bring the case, but stayed the lawsuit until October, when San Francisco could face a court trial over Endangered Species Act violations if it does not obtain a federal permit.

“The court’s ruling lays bare the damage golf course activities such as draining water from wetlands exacts on two of the Bay Area’s most imperiled animals,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “We expect the Fish and Wildlife Service to require that the golf course cease killing endangered species and propose a comprehensive mitigation and restoration plan as part of any permit.”

The Park Department argued that draining aquatic feeding and breeding habitats for the California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake at Sharp Park Golf Course somehow benefits the species. In rejecting these assertions, the court cited contradictory testimony from the city’s own experts and staff that the golf course activities harm and kill protected wildlife.

“The endangered species permit process will weigh the biological impacts of excessive water pumping and habitat destruction to protect one golf course,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The permit should force the Park Department to change golf course operations to actually protect imperiled frogs and snakes.”

The Park Department has killed endangered frogs six of the past 10 winters, and its so-called “compliance plan” for endangered species has been a complete failure. In February, the department was caught again killing threatened red-legged frogs at the course, draining Sharp Park’s wetlands in a failed attempt to prevent frogs from breeding in their historic ponds.

The Washington, D.C. public-interest law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal represents the coalition of conservation groups in the lawsuit.

Background

The Fish and Wildlife Service last year notified the golf course that it was specifically prohibited from handling or moving frog egg masses at Sharp Park and must obtain a permit for any golf course activities affecting protected species. The Service also denied the Park Department’s request to drain wetlands and dredge lagoons at Sharp Park, cynically referred to by the city as “habitat management and scientific studies.” Water pumping, dredging and other activities harmful to frogs can only occur if the department obtains a federal “incidental take” permit with an accompanying conservation plan.

The city-owned golf course at 400-acre Sharp Park in Pacifica is plagued by crumbling infrastructure, annual flooding problems and ongoing environmental violations. More than 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. A 2011 peer-reviewed scientific study by independent scientists and coastal experts concluded that the most cost-effective option for Sharp Park is to remove the golf course and restore the functions of the original natural ecosystem, which will also provide the most benefit to endangered species.

The Park Department has refused to consider this option, and is instead pursuing a plan that would evict endangered species from the site and bail out the golf course’s financial problems with tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation in December 2011 to prevent this from happening, but Mayor Ed Lee, an avid golfer, vetoed the legislation. Further action by the board is expected this year.

 The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

Stalwart Wild Equity Institute member Eric Mixon created this new infographic to cut through the hype and tell the true story of the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course. Download a high-resolution copy and share it with everyone you know—and even those you don’t!

Thank you for your help creating a new national park at Sharp Park!

If you do one thing this month to build a new national park at Sharp Park, make it this: attend the Recreation and Parks Commission hearing tomorrow, Thursday November 19, 2pm, at San Francisco’s City Hall, Room 416.

At this hearing, the Recreation and Parks Department’s General Manager Phil Ginsburg will recommend that San Francisco move forward with an all-golf alternative at Sharp Park. This alternative would reduce recreational access to the site, divert millions of taxpayer dollars from our neighborhood parks and the recreational activities Bay Area residents actually demand, and ensure that the endangered species on the property are lost forever. We can stop this proposal from being adopted, but only if you stand up for the “underfrog” by attending this hearing and telling the Commission that we deserve a better, more sustainable future at Sharp Park.

And we can do better: if we restore Sharp Park in partnership with the National Park Service, we can provide recreational opportunities everyone can enjoy, protect the environment, defend our coastal communities from the impacts of climate change, and ensure that San Francisco’s neighborhood parks no longer face cutbacks because the City subsidizes golf in San Mateo County.


A restoration vision for Sharp Park

So please attend the Recreation and Parks Commission hearing tomorrow, Thursday November 19, 2pm at San Francisco’s City Hall, Room 416. Sharp Park is the fifth item on the general calendar, so plan your afternoon accordingly!

Thanks for all you do,

Brent Plater
http://www.restoresharppark.org

ps—If you cannot attend the hearing, you can click here to send in your comments by email or phone.

Last week the Board of Supervisors passed legislation that enables San Francisco to partner with the National Park Service at Sharp Park to transition land management from an unsustainable golf course into a new National Park that everyone can enjoy.

Under the ordinance, the City must negotiate a long-term management agreement with the National Park Service, and then review that agreement as a proposed project under the California Environmental Quality Act. The City will be able to consider all feasible alternatives to the National Park Service agreement during this process. It will then select a future for Sharp Park that provides the best public policy outcomes for the land.

The ordinance is necessary because the Recreation and Parks Department has refused to even look at restoration options at Sharp Park—even though scientists have explained that restoration is not just environmentally preferable, but cheaper to implement.

That’s why the ordinance passed by the Board appealed to stalwart progressives and moderate politicians alike. The City deserves to have all available options presented in the light of day before long-term decisions are made for Sharp Park. The Sharp Park ordinance insures that the general public and public officials will be able to evaluate restoration proposals side-by-side with other options—so that we can make the best possible choice for Sharp Park.

We’re confident that when the evidence supporting Sharp Park restoration is finally shown the light of day, there will be only one sensible choice for us all to make: building a better, more sustainable, and more accessible public park at Sharp Park that everyone can enjoy.


A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

But the golf purists and Chambers of Commerce would rather not let you have that choice. What are the golf purists and developers afraid of? And will they be able to subvert popular political will and convince the Mayor to sanction their back room golf bailout with his veto pen?

Not if you call the Mayor today and demand that he support this reasonable ordinance. The future of Sharp Park should be based on the merits—not what the golf lobby and developers are able to extract behind closed doors. Call Mayor Ed Lee now at 415-554-6141 and ask him to support the Sharp Park ordinance: it’s just good government and common sense.

December 20, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Kerry Kriger, Save the Frogs, (831) 600-5442
Arthur Feinstein, Sierra Club, (415) 680-0643

Mayor Lee Vetoes National Park Partnership Option at Sharp Park

Mayor ignores popular opinion, environmental constraints to push back-room golf development deal

San Francisco— San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee snubbed San Francisco’s political center today by vetoing legislation put forth by environmental and social service organizations. By doing so, he refused to give City policymakers and residents an opportunity to consider a partnership between the City and the National Park Service for long-term management of Sharp Park before a multi-million dollar bailout of the Bay Area’s most controversial golf course is consummated.

The Mayor refused to speak with the organizations that supported the ordinance before acting.

“Mayor Lee’s veto will cost San Francisco millions of dollars, union jobs, and its credibility on environmental issues,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Our coalition will continue to press on all fronts to ensure Sharp Park becomes a public park everyone can enjoy.”

Until now the City has been pursuing a back-room deal with San Mateo County to socialize Sharp Park Golf Course’s costs and privatize the revenue stream so an elite golf development can be constructed on California’s coast. The legislation the Mayor vetoed would have allowed these negotiations to continue, but required the City to also review a partnership option with the National Parks Service, which already manages several properties near Sharp Park. Working with NPS would have allowed the City to consider other feasible options for the land before investing tens of millions into a golf course that will be under water, financially and physically, in the next 50 years.

“Today was an unfortunate day for the democratic process in San Francisco,” said Dr. Kerry Kriger, founder of Save the Frogs, whose supporters sent over 4,000 letters to the City in support of the legislation. “Mayor Lee refused to meet with any environmental group to discuss the issue. His veto extends the death sentence that endangered California red-legged frogs receive every time the City uses taxpayer money to pump Sharp Park’s wetlands out to sea.”

The veto comes days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a central element of San Francisco’s plan to continue golf operations at Sharp Park Golf Course. In a December 8, 2011 letter to the City the Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the City’s application for a “recovery permit” to clear vegetation from wetlands and lagoons that the golf course uses as its drainage system. Instead, the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that the City must either create a habitat conservation plan for Sharp Park or obtain a permit through a formal consultation process for projects that adversely affect endangered species. The letter effectively put the City on notice for civil and criminal penalties should frog egg masses be harmed or moved as a result of golf course operations.

“Mayor Lee and the golf lobby he represents know that their back-room golf development deal for Sharp Park is politically unpopular and will not withstand scrutiny,” said Plater. “So they are trying to prevent the public from having a choice at Sharp Park. We will make sure that the public is given an opportunity to make that choice in 2012.”

“The City is making a poor investment choice for its Recreation and Parks dollars. We will need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to make this golf course operational, and more to make it compliant with Fish and Wildlife standards,” said Arthur Feinstein of the Sierra Club. “In the next 50 years Sharp Park will have to address sea level rise; the properties behind Sharp Park’s sea wall are already experiencing flooding due to a poorly managed water system. Why the City would increase expenditures at Sharp Park when City parks are suffering is beyond me.”

Visit wildequity.org for more information about our campaign to restore Sharp Park.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

December 16, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Arthur Feinstein, Sierra Club, 415-680-0643
Neal Desai, National Parks Conservation Association, (510) 368-0845

Federal Agency Rejects San Francisco’s Sharp Park Plans

Groups call on Mayor to Support Sharp Park Legislation, Address Mounting Problems

SAN FRANCISCO— A central element of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s plan to continue golf operations at Sharp Park Golf Course was rejected by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service last week. The move strengthens the need for San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee to sign legislation approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that would allow City policymakers to consider a new park partnership option with the National Park Service.

For years, the Recreation and Parks Department has tried to convince regulators, the public, and public officials that Sharp Park Golf Course’s operations encourage the recovery of endangered species in the area. But a December 8, 2011 letter from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) denied the Department’s formal attempt to classify golf course activities as a “recovery action.”

In particular, the FWS rejected the Department’s application for a “recovery permit” to clear vegetation from wetlands and lagoons that the golf course uses as its drainage system. Instead, the FWS stated that the Department must either create a habitat conservation plan for Sharp Park or obtain a permit through a formal consultation process for projects that adversely affect endangered species.

“The City is now on notice that its activities are harming endangered species, and that they do not have permits to cause this harm,” said Brent Plater, executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “If the City nonetheless moves forward with its existing golf plans, City employees could be subject to civil and criminal penalties.”

“The City must change management activities at Sharp Park Golf Course to comply with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s directive,” said Neal Desai of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Mayor Lee’s approval of legislation that will allow for a potential partnership with the National Park Service, America’s leading expert in endangered species recovery, will provide opportunities and benefits for the City, including evaluations of feasible options that reduce fines, save San Francisco money, and allow it to sustain park services in San Francisco.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service letter also expressly rejected the Department’s contention that the golf course’s water management activities are beneficial for the California red-legged frog. For years, the City has been pumping water from Sharp Park’s wetlands to prevent flooding on the golf course. This exposes California red-legged frog egg masses to the air, causing the eggs to dry-out and die. Rather than obtain a permit for its pumping operations, the City received emergency authorization to move over 100 egg masses that were stranded at Sharp Park Golf Course during last year’s peak breeding season. The City intended to continue this practice this winter, but the Fish and Wildlife Service letter states that the City will no longer provide this authorization, and the City “must obtain incidental take coverage prior to seeking the movement of any egg masses that may be stranded this winter.”

“If San Francisco is going to retain any credibility in its commitment to protect our endangered wildlife, Mayor Lee needs to support the Sharp Park legislation,” said Arthur Feinstein of the Sierra Club, referencing legislation that would allow San Francisco policymakers the opportunity to review a potential partnership proposal with the National Park Service alongside proposals from San Mateo County.

Environmental groups are currently suing the City for violations of federal endangered species laws. On November 8, Judge Susan Illston decided to withold on-the-ground relief for endangered species until after the lawsuit reaches trial. The Judge’s opinion relied on the City’s assertion that it would move any stranded egg masses this winter pursuant to Fish and Wildlife Service authorization. Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected this request, the City must change its golf course operations. Extensive evidence of harm to red-legged frogs at the golf course last winter shows that the Park Department’s endangered species “compliance plan” has failed.

More information on the Sharp Park legislation:

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 San Francisco garter snake. 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.

This month the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation that would begin a restoration planning process for Sharp Park. The legislation is a preliminary step to an agreement with the Park Service for long-term managament of Sharp Park. If the legislation is not vetoed by Mayor Ed Lee, the Park Service is expected to work in partnership with the City to develope a management agreement with Sharp Park. Any management plan would go through an environmental review process, public review and hearings, and come back to the Board of Supervisors for final approval. The legislation allows the City to negotiate with other parties to manage the park, such as San Mateo County or Pacifica, but ensures city decision-making considers the potential Park Service partnership proposal as well.

The Park Service is expected to propose 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 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.

If a long-term management plan is reached that closes the golf course, a transition plan would allow for continuation of golf during the planning phase under certain conditions that safeguard endangered species. Pacifica residents would be allowed to pay San Francisco resident rates at San Francisco’s five other golf courses and jobs held at Sharp Park golf course would be redeployed from Pacifica to San Francisco, to help improve neighborhood recreation and park facilities within San Francisco. Lincoln Golf Course, a potential beneficiary of these new staff resources, was identified in a 2007 National Golf Foundation study as needing increased maintenance staff to improve course conditions to attract more players and revenue.

Visit wildequity.org for more information about our campaign to Restore Sharp Park.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

Last week San Francisco took an important step towards a healthy and sustainable future for Sharp Park. The Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that directs the City to negotiate a long-term management agreement for Sharp Park with the National Park Service, and then review that agreement as a proposed project under the California Environmental Quality Act. The City will be able to consider all feasible alternatives to the National Park Service agreement during this process. It will then select a future for Sharp Park that provides the best public policy outcomes for the land.

But golf purists and the Chamber of Commerce would rather you not have a say about Sharp Park’s future. They are lobbying Mayor Ed Lee right now, demanding that he veto this common-sense ordinance.

What are these golf development interests afraid of? And will they be able to subvert popular political will and convince the Mayor to sanction their back room golf bailout with his veto pen?

Not if you call the Mayor today and demand that he support this reasonable ordinance. The future of Sharp Park should be based on the merits—not what the golf lobby and developers are able to extract behind closed doors.

Call Mayor Ed Lee now at 415-554-6141 and ask him to support the Sharp Park ordinance: it’s good government and common sense.

Here are a few points you can make:

  • Sharp Park’s future should be decided on the merits in the light of day: not by lobbyists for elite golfers and developers in back-room deals.
  • With the money San Francisco saves by closing Sharp Park, the City can reinvest scarce recreation dollars in our other municipal golf courses, improving the quality of affordable golf for everyone.

You may also send an email message with this action alert: but calls are most important because time is of the essence! Be sure to thank our champions at the Board: Supervisors John Avalos, David Chiu, Eric Mar, Jane Kim, David Campos, and Ross Mirkarimi.

San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation on September 6 to transition management of city-owned Sharp Park to the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in order to improve recreation and public access, protect endangered wildlife and save San Francisco taxpayers’ money.

We need you to write the Board of Supervisors and tell them you support restoring Sharp Park: please write today!

Plagued by crumbling infrastructure and annual flooding problems, 400-acre Sharp Park in Pacifica is home to two federally protected species, the California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake. Declining conditions and ongoing Endangered Species Act violations at the golf course require changing how the site is managed, but such changes are not financially feasible for San Francisco’s strained budget. The proposed partnership will end the city’s legal and financial liabilities and put the Park Service in charge of protecting endangered species and providing public recreation, allowing the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to reinvest its scarce resources back into San Francisco-based parks, recreation centers and golf courses.


A restoration vision for Sharp Park

The legislation calls for the Recreation and Park Department to work with the National Park Service to initiate reasonable steps to address the budgetary, recreational and environmental challenges at the controversial golf course and transition long-term management to the Park Service for restoring the site to coastal habitat with a trail network and other public-serving amenities.

A transition plan would allow for continuation of golf during the planning phase under certain conditions that safeguard the endangered species at Sharp Park. The legislation improves access to affordable golf by allowing Pacifica residents to pay San Francisco resident rates at San Francisco’s five other golf courses. Currently, Pacifica residents are only granted San Francisco resident rates at Sharp Park golf course. The legislation also retains jobs held at Sharp Park Golf Course by redeploying them from Pacifica to San Francisco, to help improve neighborhood recreation and park facilities within San Francisco. Lincoln Golf Course, a potential beneficiary of these new staff resources, was identified in a 2007 National Golf Foundation study as needing increased maintenance staff to improve course conditions to attract more players and revenue.

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. In February 2011 coastal restoration experts released a peer-reviewed scientific study and restoration proposal for Sharp Park, showing that restoring the natural lagoon, wetlands and beach processes at Sharp Park is the least costly and only sustainable solution for the land. Such restoration will provide the most public benefit and best protect endangered species, at much less expense than the Park Department’s plan to dredge the wetlands and physically alter the configuration of golf holes.

Unfortunately the Park Department has continued to operate the golf course in ways that put endangered species at risk, such as pumping water from wetlands without permits. Six conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the Park Department in March 2011 to stop golf course activities that kill and harm San Francisco garter snakes and California red-legged frogs.

That’s why it’s crucial that we act now: by acting swiftly we can save two endangered species, save San Francisco money, and transform Sharp Park into a model for coastal communities around the nation that are struggling with sea level rise adaptation. Add your voice to the growing movement to restore Sharp Park: send in this action alert today!

December 6, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Michelle Myers, Sierra Club, (415) 646-6930
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 669-7357

San Francisco Supervisors Vote to Consider Partnership with National Park Service for Sharp Park
Amended Ordinance Increases Collaboration, Improves Access to Golf

SAN FRANCISCO— The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today voted 6-5 to consider a management agreement with the National Park Service for city-owned Sharp Park in Pacifica. The ordinance requires the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to begin discussions towards developing a long-term management agreement proposal for Sharp Park with the National Park Service, and to submit that proposal for subsequent review by the Board of Supervisors. The ordinance will complement existing golf-only proposals being reviewed by the Park Department and ensures policy-makers can review diverse proposals for best addressing key city and resident concerns, such as recreation supply and public access, environmental protection and strategic financial investments.

“The status quo is not sustainable at Sharp Park,” said Supervisor John Avalos. “A partnership with the National Park Service will make Sharp Park more accessible while allowing the City to reinvest resources into our neighborhood golf courses, parks, and recreation centers.”

“This ordinance gives us all an opportunity to review all available options to address the complex problems facing Sharp Park,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. “It is an important first step, and I look forward to reviewing the proposals when they become available and hope to find a solution that is ecologically sound and financially sustainable.”

“This measure provides us an opportunity to work with the National Park Service and create solutions that balance sustainability, the recreation priorities of our residents and minimizing fiscal cost,” said Supervisor Jane Kim.

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 San Francisco garter snake. Conservation groups have sued the Recreation and Park Department for continuing to kill and harm endangered species by pumping of water from wetlands where frogs lay eggs and 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 managament of Sharp Park. If the legislation is not vetoed by Mayor Ed Lee, the Park Service is expected to work in partnership with the city. Any management plan would go through an environmental review processes, 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 city decision-making considers the potential Park Service partnership proposal as well.

The Park Service is expected to propose 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 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.

If a long-term management plan is reached that closes the golf course, a transition plan would allow for continuation of golf during the planning phase under certain conditions that safeguard endangered species. Pacifica residents would be allowed to pay San Francisco resident rates at San Francisco’s five other golf courses and jobs held at Sharp Park golf course would be redeployed from Pacifica to San Francisco, to help improve neighborhood recreation and park facilities within San Francisco. Lincoln Golf Course, a potential beneficiary of these new staff resources, was identified in a 2007 National Golf Foundation study as needing increased maintenance staff to improve course conditions to attract more players and revenue.

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After a lengthy public hearing today, the Community Operations and Neighborhood Services subcommittee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors forwarded Avalos’ Sharp Park Ordinance for a full board vote tomorrow, Dec. 6. The vote will likely happen around 4:30pm.

Dozens of supporters from community organizations, neighborhood park groups, environmental advocates, and people from San Mateo County and Pacifica attended to support the ordinance. The ordinance would initiate a negotiation between the National Park Service and the City and County of San Francisco to transfer land management and build a new national park on the land.

There’s still time to contact your supervisors. Supervisor David Chiu [(415) 554-7450], Supervisor Jane Kim [(415) 554-7970], Supervisor Scott Wiener [(415) 554-6968], and Supervisor Malia Cohen [(415) 554-7670] all need to hear from you. Feel free to contact them right away!

November 30, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 669-7357
Michelle Myers, Sierra Club, San Francisco Bay Chapter, (415)-646-6930

Lawsuit Over Sharp Park Golf Course Harm to Endangered Species Will Continue to Trial
Judge Denies Temporary Emergency Protections for Endangered Species

SAN FRANCISCO— A federal district court judge has denied a request for an immediate injunction against golf-course operations documented to kill and harm endangered species at Sharp Park in Pacifica. The court referred to a temporary injunction as “extraordinary relief,” and will wait until the scheduled trial next summer to consider measures to address the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s pumping of water from wetlands where California red-legged frogs lay eggs and mowing of vegetation used by critically endangered San Francisco garter snakes.

“The judge did not think that immediate restrictions on the golf course are necessary and intends to address these matters at trial,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute and legal counsel on the suit. “We are excited to go to trial and expect the judge to craft appropriate relief once she has heard the merits of the case.”

“It’s shameful that San Francisco intends to continue draining and mowing sensitive wetlands for another winter — you’d think the ‘green city’ would do right by its namesake endangered species,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Because San Francisco garter snake numbers are so dangerously low, golf-course mismanagement that kills a single snake threatens the species as a whole.”

The interim ruling does not affect the ongoing lawsuit filed by conservation groups over the Parks Department’s documented killing of endangered species. Although the court declined immediate relief, it is reserving judgment on the merits of the lawsuit until trial, which begins in July 2012. The Parks Department has no viable plan to comply with the Endangered Species Act or adequately protect endangered species.

“Though we are saddened there will be another season where harm will fall on these fragile creatures, we are confident in our ability to make a strong case for protection of both species in trial,” said Michelle Myers of the Sierra Club.

The judge ruled conservation groups did not show irreparable harm would occur before the case is resolved at trial. Although San Francisco does not deny golf-course operations harm endangered species and the city lacks required permits, the judge relied on assertions by Parks Department staff and hired biologists that ongoing stranding and killing of frog eggs is not hurting the overall frog population and the department’s “compliance plan” can adequately protect frogs and snakes in the short term.

Background

Ongoing killing of endangered frogs at the golf course and a Parks Department “restoration” plan that would actually evict endangered frogs and garter snakes from Sharp Park led to conservation groups filing suit under the Endangered Species Act and asking for an injunction on certain golf-course activities hurting endangered wildlife. Leading experts submitted declarations supporting the temporary injunction.

The city’s Parks Department cited increased observations of frog eggs last winter as evidence of an improving population trend for red-legged frogs in Sharp Park, yet restored habitat conditions at adjacent Mori Point, managed by the National Park Service, a wet winter, and increased surveys and scrutiny by biologists are more likely explanations. Leading scientific experts, with collective experience of more than seven decades of research and study of California amphibians and reptiles, have explained that the golf course is a “population sink” that kills more frogs than are bred and alters suitable habitat, threatening the long-term survival and recovery of both frogs and snakes. The experts also objected to the Parks Department’s alleged compliance plan, which is not being followed, as “unworkable.”

Sharp Park Golf Course faces crumbling infrastructure, annual flooding problems and ongoing environmental violations. Dozens of San Francisco community, recreation, environmental and social-justice groups are calling for a more sustainable public park at the site. A San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee will vote Dec. 5 on legislation introduced by Supervisor John Avalos that would create a long-term solution for Sharp Park by transitioning management to the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This change would not only protect endangered wildlife but also improve recreation and public access and save San Francisco taxpayers’ money. The proposed partnership would end the city’s legal and financial liabilities for Sharp Park and put the National Park Service in charge of protecting endangered species and providing public recreation, allowing San Francisco to reinvest its scarce resources in city-based parks, recreation centers and golf courses.

At long last, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is set to vote on an ordinance that will build a new national park at Sharp Park! Please stand up for the “underfrog” by attending the hearing on Monday, Dec. 5, 10am at San Francisco City Hall, Room 250, and tell the Supervisors your support restoring Sharp Park!


On Dec. 5, San Francisco will vote to save it’s namesake serpent.

At this hearing the Board’s City Operations and Neighborhood Services subcommittee (“CONS”) will vote on an ordinance introduced by Supervisor John Avalos—who also chairs CONS—and improved with feedback from planners, city attorneys, and neighborhood and community groups who support restoring Sharp Park.

Sharp Park Golf Course loses hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, kills two endangered species, and is eroding away as our climate warms and sea level rises. Despite all these constraints, some golfers are demanding a taxpayer bailout for the golf course so they can continue to play subsidized golf on unsustainable land.

The Avalos Ordinance ends this practice by directing the City’s Recreation and Parks Department to offer to close Sharp Park Golf Course and negotiate a long-term management agreement for Sharp Park with the National Park Service. The agreement must be consistent with National Park Service management directives and policies, and must take into account modern recreation preferences, adaptation to sea level rise and climate change, and the protection of endangered species on the site. Once the agreement is negotiated, it would be subject to all applicable environmental review processes before it is implemented. To improve access to affordable golf, the Ordinance provides Pacifican golfers with San Francisco resident rates at the City’s five other municipal courses.

Once this process is completed, the public will finally have access to a land that was long ago deeded for use as a “public park, or public playground.” The land will be integrated into existing national park properties east and south of Sharp Park, provide connections between the Coastal Trail and the Bay Trail, and provide the National Park Service with its first visitor center in San Mateo County. All of this can be accomplished while adapting the coast to sea level rise and climate change and helping the two endangered species on the site recover.


A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

This is the public’s only opportunity to weigh-in on the ordinance. We can win this vote—but only if all our supporters attend the hearing and tell the Supes that you want a better public park at Sharp Park!

Please attend the hearing on December 5, 2011, starting at 10am at San Francisco City Hall Room 250. When you arrive, you can fill-out a public comment card, hand it to the clerk, and then when your name is called you’ll be given three minutes (or less) to tell the Supervisors why you believe restoring Sharp Park is the best option we have available for the land.

To find out more about the ordinance, you can read a summary and download the text here. And if you just can’t make it to the hearing, you can always send a message to the Board expressing your support of the campaign using our action alert system.

A new report issued by SPUR (the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association) makes several recommendations that support building a new national park at Sharp Park. It also provides helpful suggestions that have improved legislation pending before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

“SPUR’s report makes clear that the City of San Francisco must immediately cease all activities that harm endangered species at Sharp Park, and begin a process that builds a better public park on the land,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “SPUR’s comments have also been incorporated into Supervisor Avalos’ Sharp Park Ordinance: substitute language now ensures restoration planning occurs in a collaborative and deliberative process, and we thank SPUR for helping make these processes possible.”

Among other things, SPUR’s report recommends that:

  • Over the next 1-3 years “the city should proceed as quickly as possible to implement a legally sound plan to restore and protect frog and snake populations”
  • Over the next 3-10 years “SFRPD should evaluate the feasibility of partnership with another entity to manage and/or operate the site, including the GGNRA
  • Over the next 5-50 years “SFRPD should consider a change of land use for the entire Sharp Park site. A more naturalistic setting, including an enlarged lake with an outlet to the ocean, may provide better habitat conditions and recreational opportunities, and be less expensive to manage on a day-to-day basis than a frequently flooded golf course”

SPUR also made suggestions to help improve legislation pending at the Board of Supervisors. Recognizing that changes at Sharp Park deserve to be made through a deliberative process, Supervisor John Avalos’ Sharp Park Ordinance makes clear that San Francisco must only move forward with a new management agreement at Sharp Park if the National Park Service agrees to partner with the City, and only after scrupulously complying with the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). If either CEQA compliance or partnerships with the National Park Service are not possible, the City’s obligations under the ordinance end.

“The Avalos legislation provides the missing piece to the Sharp Park puzzle—an environmentally preferable, financially sound project the City can actually adopt,” said Plater. “As amended, the legislation will allow all risks, costs, and liabilities to be assessed in the light of day, ensuring that the best public policy outcome at Sharp Park is reached.”

On November 18, 2011, the Honorable Susan Illston will hear oral argument in the Wild Equity Institute’s lawsuit against the money-losing and endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course. All supporters of our campaign to restore Sharp Park are welcome to attend the hearing. The hearing will begin no earlier than 9:00am, and will occur at the United States District Court in San Francisco. E-mail us if you think you will attend so we can help you prepare for security clearance at the court house.

At the hearing, Judge Illston may finally provide relief to the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake, both of whom have been illegally killed by Sharp Park Golf Course for several years. Our coalition, which includes Surfrider, the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, & Sequoia Audubon, will be represented by Wild Equity Institute Executive Director Brent Plater and the the environmental law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal.


Dead California red-legged frog egg masses and chopped San Francisco garter snakes
have been all too common at Sharp Park Golf Course.

Judge Illston will review our request for preliminary injunctive relief, relief that will keep both endangered species safe from harm until a full trial can be conducted. If granted, our request will halt pumping activities that harm the California red-legged frog’s egg masses, and stop mowing and golf cart activities that have killed San Francisco garter snakes on holes 9-18 at Sharp Park.

Before the hearing you can review our opening and reply briefs, as well as the opening statements submitted by our scientific experts and their reply declarations. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us and we’ll answer them.


Watch this short video to learn about the problems facing Sharp Park,
and Supervisor Avalos’ bold legislative solution.

Supervisor John Avalos recently introduced legislation to repurpose Sharp Park Golf Course into a new public park in partnership with the National Park Service. Repurposing Sharp Park is a sustainable and common sense solution to the economic, ecological, and recreational troubles facing this golf course. Through this legislation, Sharp Park will become a new National Park that provides more public access for recreation, saves San Francisco money, sustainably addresses sea-level rise, and helps two endangered species recover.

The legislation has been endorsed by the following groups and individuals:

In addition, two-dozen Bay Area golfers have expressed their support for repurposing Sharp Park! Sharp Park Golf Course is San Francisco’s worst performing municipal golf course, and it contributes to the financial problems facing the oversupplied golf market in the Bay Area. Closing Sharp Park Golf Course will allow the City to redirect funds to its better golf courses, improving the golf experience in San Francisco. Moreover, the Avalos legislation grants Pacifica residents the same rates that San Francisco residents receive at San Francisco’s five other public golf courses, dramatically increasing access to affordable golf for existing Sharp Park Golf Course patrons.

Are you a San Francisco Golfer? Download and send in this letter expressing your support for building a new National Park at Sharp Park!

And as always, anyone can support our campaign by asking the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to pass legislation restoring Sharp Park! Send in your message using the Wild Equity Institute’s action alert system: a free wildequity.org account is all you need to tell the Supervisors you support restoring Sharp Park!

In a stunning rebuke to golfers grasping to keep San Francisco subsidizing suburban golf in San Mateo County, on September 21, 2011 San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission stated that it does not concur that Sharp Park Golf Course is an historic resource.


Watch this annotated audio excerpt of the Historic Preservation Commission hearing.

Sharp Park Golf Course has been losing money and killing endangered species for many years. In September Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation to transform Sharp Park into a new national park, while providing Sharp Park’s current golfers with additional access to affordable golf courses in San Francisco.

But golf privatization groups who oppose national parks convinced San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department to make-up a case that Sharp Park Golf Course should be protected as an historic resource under the California Environmental Quality Act. As part of this process, the Department asked the Historic Preservation Commission to rubber-stamp its proposal.

However, the Commissioners reviewed the proposal and raised several objections to the Recreation and Parks Department proposal. Led by Commissioner Alan Martinez—who explained that the existing golf course is “a fragment of what it once was”—the Commission could not reach consensus on the golf course’s integrity, and unanimously voted that “the commission did not concur on the integrity of the golf course.”

The Wild Equity Institute is working with dozens of community, environmental, and history organizations to ensure that the California Environmental Quality Act and San Francisco’s historic preservation laws aren’t abused by golf privatization groups. The next step in this process is to ensure that the Planning Commission evaluates Sharp Park separately from other natural areas in San Francisco that are undergoing environmental review. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for more updates in the coming weeks.

September 26, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 669-7357
Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Arthur Feinstein, Sierra Club, San Francisco Bay Chapter, (415) 680-0643

Court Motion Filed to Restrict Illegal Sharp Park Golf Course Activities, Protect Endangered Species

SAN FRANCISCO— Six San Francisco conservation groups are seeking a preliminary injunction in federal court against the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department to stop illegal pumping of water from wetlands and prohibit harmful mowing and motorized golf-cart use on ten golf course holes near wetlands at the Sharp Park golf course in Pacifica. The injunction will help protect endangered San Francisco garter snakes and California red-legged frogs from these harmful activities.

“No more business as usual at Sharp Park — illegal pumping and mowing of wetlands stops now,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The best scientific experts on endangered species are calling for a moratorium on harmful golf course activities in and near wetlands habitat, and we hope the court agrees.”

The Wild Equity Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, Surfrider Foundation, Sequoia Audubon and Sierra Club filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on Friday on golf-course activities that are hurting endangered species. The injunction would last until a pending lawsuit is heard or the Recreation and Parks Department adopts an approved “habitat conservation plan” and obtains legal permits under the Endangered Species Act. The plaintiffs are represented by the environmental law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal.

“These science-based restrictions will protect our most imperiled wildlife from harm while allowing golf on many of the course areas,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Their duration will provide us all an opportunity to evaluate proper permitting options and restoration activities at Sharp Park.”


A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

Leading scientific experts on the red-legged frog and gartersnake, with collective experience of more than seven decades of research and study of California amphibians and reptiles, submitted declarations in support of the requested injunction. These experts contend that golf course activities impair the long-term survival and recovery of the species and that the Parks Department’s alleged compliance plan is not being followed and is unworkable. See quotes below from these experts explaining why the injunction is justified.

Crumbling infrastructure, annual flooding problems, declining conditions and ongoing Endangered Species Act violations at the golf course require changing how Sharp Park is managed, but such changes are not financially feasible for San Francisco’s strained budget. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote next month on legislation introduced by Supervisor John Avalos to repurpose the golf course and transition management of Sharp Park to the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area to improve recreation and public access, protect endangered wildlife and save San Francisco taxpayers money. The proposed partnership will end the city’s legal and financial liabilities and put the National Park Service in charge of protecting endangered species and providing public recreation, allowing San Francisco to reinvest its scarce resources back into city-based parks, recreation centers and golf courses.

For more information and background, visit wildequity.org.

Quotes From Scientific Experts:

  • Dr. Vance Vredenburg is an assistant professor in biology at San Francisco State University, research associate at the California Academy of Sciences and U.C. Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and an expert on California amphibians and the red-legged frog.

“Sharp Park must have successful recovery actions implemented, or it will one day lose its red-legged frog population, and potentially jeopardize populations at nearby properties as well.”

“The city is not, and cannot, actually implement the Compliance Plan…making it virtually certain that California red-legged frogs will be taken unless the relief requested by the plaintiffs here is granted…San Francisco must be ordered to cease all pumping at Sharp Park.”

  • Dr. Marc Hayes is a biologist with four decades of experience studying reptiles and amphibians in California. He wrote the Department of Fish and Game’s “Amphibians and Reptiles of Special Concern in California” and submitted the petition that led to listing the red-legged frog as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

“Unless golf-course operations that cause ongoing take of these species are halted, both populations at Sharp Park may be lost, and the San Francisco garter snake’s entire species will be in jeopardy.”

“The Recreation and Parks Department should be prohibited from operating the pumps at Sharp Park until a decision is rendered in this matter…the court should grant plaintiffs’ request to prohibit all mowing and golf-cart use within roughly 200 meters of the delineated wetland.”

  • Wendy Dexter is the principal biologist at Condor Country Consulting, with 20 years of experience in herpetology, particularly regarding the San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog, and specializes in endangered species compliance and permits.

“The San Francisco garter snake’s habitat at Sharp Park has not been secured, and the subspecies has been taken, and will continue to be taken in the foreseeable future, by the continued operations and management of Sharp Park Golf Course…I am certain that undocumented deaths of snakes occur annually if not more frequently.”

“Unless the golf-course operations that cause take of the San Francisco garter snake are halted in areas where the snake is likely to be found, the Sharp Park/Mori Point population will continue to decline, increasing the potential for the population to become extirpated.”

Supervisor John Avalos advanced the campaign to restore Sharp Park by announcing his intent to introduce legislation to restore the land at the Board of Supervisors on May 17. The legislation will ensure that the two endangered species found on the property are protected from harm; allow San Francisco to redirect its scarce recreation dollars from the money-losing suburban golf course and back to our neighborhood parks; and create a new recreation area that everyone can enjoy. And all of this will be done in partnership with our nation’s best steward of history and the environment, the National Park Service. Please send Supervisor Avalos a thank you note today for taking this important step!


Supervisor Avalos Speaks at the Endangered Communities/Endangered Species Rally

On September 6, 2011, Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation at San Francisco City Hall to restore Sharp Park in partnership with the National Park Service! Now the Board of Supervisors needs to hear from you: tell them to support this legislation and restoring Sharp Park!


Watch this short video to learn about the problems facing Sharp Park,
and Supervisor Avalos’ bold legislative solution.

San Francisco is renowned for its thoughtful-yet-impactful environmental policies, and Supervisor Avalos’ legislation is one of the City’s most important ideas yet. The legislation will enable San Francisco to partner with the National Park Service to transition land management at Sharp Park from an unsustainable golf course into a new National Park that everyone can enjoy. In the process, we can sustainably adapt the land to sea level rise and climate change; help save two endangered species; and provide recreational opportunities that match modern recreation demands. The legislation also gives Pacifica residents access to San Francisco-resident rates at San Francisco’s remaining five public golf courses, ensuring that affordable golf is made more accessible than ever.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will pass this ordinance: but only if they hear from you. Please write the supervisors using this Action Alert, and then call your member of the Board regularly to let him know you want Sharp Park restored!

September 6, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Neal Desai, National Parks Conservation Association, (415) 989-9921 × 20
Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Meredith Thomas, Neighborhood Parks Council, (415) 621-3260
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 669-7357
Arthur Feinstein, Sierra Club, San Francisco Bay Chapter, (415) 680-0643
Mike Lynes, Golden Gate Audubon Society, (510) 843-6551

Groups Applaud Legislation to Restore Sharp Park
and Partner With National Park Service

Proposal Would Improve Recreation, Save Money, Protect Endangered Species

SAN FRANCISCO— San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation today to transition management of city-owned Sharp Park to the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in order to improve recreation and public access, protect endangered wildlife and save San Francisco taxpayers’ money.

Plagued by crumbling infrastructure and annual flooding problems, 400-acre Sharp Park in Pacifica is home to two federally protected species, the California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake. Declining conditions and ongoing Endangered Species Act violations at the golf course require changing how the site is managed, but such changes are not financially feasible for San Francisco’s strained budget. The proposed partnership will end the city’s legal and financial liabilities and put the Park Service in charge of protecting endangered species and providing public recreation, allowing the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to reinvest its scarce resources back into San Francisco-based parks, recreation centers and golf courses.


A restoration vision for Sharp Park

“City recreation and park resources are already hugely strained, and the impacts are being felt in our neighborhood parks,” said Meredith Thomas, executive director of the Neighborhood Parks Council. “Partnership with the National Park Service at Sharp Park will address critical infrastructure and environmental issues without drawing against funds that support parks in San Francisco County.”

“Restoring Sharp Park will save San Francisco money, provide more diverse recreation opportunities everyone can enjoy and showcase a cost-effective and sustainable model for coastal communities adapting to sea-level rise and climate change,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute.

“Partnership with the National Park Service is our best opportunity to commit to our kids and grandkids that the endangered wildlife at Sharp Park will recover,” said Neal Desai, Pacific Region associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association.

The legislation calls for the Recreation and Park Department to work with the National Park Service to initiate reasonable steps to address the budgetary, recreational and environmental challenges at the controversial golf course and transition long-term management to the Park Service for restoring the site to coastal habitat with a trail network and other public-serving amenities. A 2004 survey by the Park Department found that trails are the primary recreation priority for San Francisco residents.

A transition plan would allow for continuation of golf during the planning phase under certain conditions that safeguard the endangered species at Sharp Park. The legislation improves access to affordable golf by allowing Pacifica residents to pay San Francisco resident rates at San Francisco’s five other golf courses. Currently, Pacifica residents are only granted San Francisco resident rates at Sharp Park golf course. The legislation also retains jobs held at Sharp Park Golf Course by redeploying them from Pacifica to San Francisco, to help improve neighborhood recreation and park facilities within San Francisco. Lincoln Golf Course, a potential beneficiary of these new staff resources, was identified in a 2007 National Golf Foundation study as needing increased maintenance staff to improve course conditions to attract more players and revenue.

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. In February 2011 coastal restoration experts released a peer-reviewed scientific study and restoration proposal for Sharp Park, showing that restoring the natural lagoon, wetlands and beach processes at Sharp Park is the least costly and only sustainable solution for the land. Such restoration will provide the most public benefit and best protect endangered species, at much less expense than the Park Department’s plan to dredge the wetlands and physically alter the configuration of golf holes.

Unfortunately the Park Department has continued to operate the golf course in ways that put endangered species at risk, such as pumping water from wetlands without permits. Six conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the Park Department in March 2011 to stop golf course activities that kill and harm San Francisco garter snakes and California red-legged frogs.

For more information about restoring Sharp Park, please visit our website at wildequity.org.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

In a meeting organized by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who continues to pursue a public bailout of the money-losing and endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course, federal agencies delivered a serious blow to the controversial all-golf alternative for Sharp Park promoted by San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department.

Calling the City’s all-golf proposal a mitigation plan for the golf course’s killing of endangered species rather than a species recovery plan, federal officials stated that San Francisco could not pursue the all-golf alternative unless it invested millions in trust to pay for maintenance of restored areas and obtained ownership of adjacent private lands where the City intends to relegate future generations of California red-legged frogs and San Francisco garter snakes.

We all deserve better than the City’s myopic plan for Sharp Park, and with continued support from federal agencies we will build a better public park for all. Please call Congresswoman Speier and e-mail San Francisco officials and ask them to stop the golf bailout and start building a better public park at Sharp Park!

Watch “Twain’s Frog & the Beautiful Serpent” and learn more about the endangered species at Sharp Park! Watch “The Restoration Vision” to learn why we should create a national park at Sharp Park!

The San Mateo County Times reports that the privately-owned Pacifica quarry, located just south of the Golden Gate National Parks’ Mori Point, has been sold to a real estate investment affiliate.

Plans for the quarry are unclear, but the threat of development will remain until the lands are protected and incorporated into the Golden Gate National Parks.

Restoring Sharp Park, which is located just north of Mori Point, has therefore never been more urgent: as the surrounding private lands are developed and degraded, the long-term survival of the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog may depend upon Sharp Park restoration.

This is why the Wild Equity Institute has advocated for managing Sharp Park, Mori Point, and the Pacifica quarry as a single conservation unit under the National Park Service’s direction. This would allow the Park Service to open the first San Mateo County visitor center for the Golden Gate National Parks. Such a plan would preserve endangered species while stimulating the local economy, and allow us to replace an under-used, money-losing golf course with recreational opportunities modern Bay Area residents actually demand.

Watch “Twain’s Frog & the Beautiful Serpent” and learn more about the endangered species at Sharp Park! Watch “The Restoration Vision” to learn why we should create a national park at Sharp Park!

The ongoing development threat at the Pacifica quarry has also been one of the largest criticisms of San Francisco’s alternative plan for Sharp Park. The cornerstone of the plan is evicting both endangered species from the controversial Sharp Park golf course and forcing them to move to Mori Point and the Pacifica quarry lands.

But in February federal officials informed San Francisco that unless it acquires development rights over the quarry, the City cannot obtain permits to implement this flawed plan. the sale of the quarry to real estate development entities reduces the probability that these rights could be purchased at a price the City, beset by budget problems, can afford.

We all deserve better than the City’s expensive eviction plan for Sharp Park. Please call Congresswoman Speier and e-mail San Francisco officials and ask them to start building a better public park at Sharp Park!