Restore Sharp Park News

SAN FRANCISCO GOLF PROGRAM
COVERS-UP
SHARP PARK GOLF COURSE LOSSES

New documents obtained through San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance show that the controversial Sharp Park Golf Course is predicted to lose money yet again this upcoming fiscal year: despite the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s presentation on April 1st to the Recreation and Parks Commission claiming otherwise.

Yet the Department is proposing to continue subsidizing suburban golf in San Mateo County while cutting nearly 4 million dollars from San Francisco’s urban recreation programs and services.

The new documents provide more support for creating a better public park at Sharp Park by transferring ownership to the National Park Service, which already owns adjacent lands.

Watch “The Restoration Vision” to learn more
about sustainable solutions at Sharp Park

“Transferring Sharp Park to the National Park Service will save San Francisco taxpayers money while providing recreational services modern Bay Area residents desperately need,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Sustainable solutions to the City’s environmental and budgetary problems exist: the question is whether the Department will find the courage and leadership to implement them.”

On April 1, 2010 the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department gave a presentation to the Recreation and Parks Commission about San Francisco’s Golf Fund, and claimed that Sharp Park Golf Course would earn $40,000 in the upcoming fiscal year.

But a careful analysis of the Department’s budget shows that San Francisco taxpayers are actually predicted to spend between $62,000 and $124,000 more on Sharp Park than the golf course earns next year.

Moreover, the Department is still pursuing plans that will result in tens of millions of dollars in capital expenditures to upgrade the substandard golf course, millions more to stabilize the golf course’s failing sea wall, and millions more to upgrade the golf course’s irrigation system: and this is before the Department addresses the multi-million dollar environmental permitting requirements for Sharp Park’s illegal pollution and take of endangered species.

The Department masked these losses by failing to apportion “general operations” revenues and expenditures to each golf course within the golf program. When these general revenues and expenditures are apportioned to each San Francisco golf course, Sharp Park Golf Course will suffer large operating loses this upcoming fiscal year. This is true whether the expenditures are allocated proportionately (based on size of the course) or equally to each golf course.

The error is confounding because after the Wild Equity Institute pointed out this accounting error to the Department last year, the Department subsequently apportioned these revenues and expenses to each course in documents presented to the Parks and Recreation Open Space Advisory Committee (“PROSAC”).

“Restoring Sharp Park is the best financial and environmental investment the Department can make with this land,” said Plater. “It is also the equitable thing to do for people and the animals on the brink of extinction at Sharp Park. We look forward to working with the Department and all stakeholders to make this new public park vision a reality.”

Recently students from San Francisco’s public high schools visited Mori Point and the controversial Sharp Park Golf Course. They learned about the impacts the course is having on the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog, and learned what they can do to help these species recover. You can join them: send a message to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and tell ’em to Restore Sharp Park!

Golf courses across the nation are suffering from a quintessential economic problem: too much supply and not enough demand. How the game responds to this problem may define its trajectory in American sport for decades to come.

As articles in the LA Times and the New York Times recently explained, golf developers expected Tiger Woods to drive golf demand to new heights when he joined the PGA tour. In anticipation, developers built additional golf courses. And then a few more, and a few more after that.

However, for a variety of reasons—the time-constrained nature of modern-day life, Lance Armstrong and the growth of cycling, the rise of self-directed activities like Yoga, and other unanticipated factors—the demand never materialized.

Suddenly the game had too many golf courses and not enough golfers to play them. The Bay Area golf market in particular is overbuilt: it supplies 6 million more rounds annually than golfers demand. Under these market conditions, golf courses will close: the only question is which ones. If we subsidize under-performing, low-quality courses, we will force better courses to close instead, and the future of golf will suffer as its best courses are lost.

This is why restoring Sharp Park is good for the game of golf. Sharp Park Golf Course is an under-performing golf course that gets failing grades from the National Golf Foundation in nearly every category it measures. And the golf course kills endangered species to boot, injuring the game’s already bruised environmental image. If we continue to subsidize Sharp Park Golf Course with taxpayer bailouts, other, better Bay Area golf courses will be forced to close, and the quality of golf we provide will be degraded.


The June Landscape Architecture Magazine highlights Sharp Park Golf Course
and the opportunities presented by the oversupply of golf courses.

As demand for golf declines, communities around the country are repurposing under-performing golf courses to create better public parks.

This June, Landscape Architecture Magazine featured Sharp Park as an opportunity to restore balance to the golf market while improving access to public parks in urban areas. It’s a sound idea who’s time has come: San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos is nearing completion on an ordinance to restore Sharp Park in partnership with the adjacent land owner, the National Park Service. The legislation will allow San Francisco to redirect the money it currently loses at Sharp Park to other parks and services facing deep cuts; it will provide recreation opportunities on the land that everyone can enjoy; and it will ensure endangered species habitats are protected from harmful activities and adapt to sea level rise and climate change.

In contrast, the City of Burbank recently bailed out its money-losing municipal golf course while imposing $8.7 million dollars in cuts to libraries and other city services. This is not only an inequitable approach, but also unsustainable. Golf courses simply must close if demand and supply are to reach equilibrium again, and bailing out low quality courses only ensures that better courses will close instead. That’s why we should thank Supervisor John Avalos for introducing legislation to restore Sharp Park: it’s not only good for our communities, it also ensures the game of golf will exit this market crisis in the best shape possible.


Finally, something frogs and snakes can agree on.

The California red-legged frogs and San Francisco garter snakes support Restoring Sharp Park! You can too by signing the petition!

The San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog need our help! Every year they are victim to poor management operations at Sharp Park Golf Course. Wild Equity has a plan to help save these endangered species and stop San Francisco from subsidizing a failing golf course. You can add your voice to our campaign by going to Change.org and signing the petition to restore Sharp Park!

In a major step towards restoring Sharp Park, yesterday San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos announced that he has asked San Francisco’s City Attorney to draft legislation that will close Sharp Park Golf Course and transfer management authority to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area!

Please send Supervisor Avalos a thank you message by using the Wild Equity Institute’s Action Alert system today! (Note: you must sign-up for a free wildequity.org account to use our alert system.)


Supervisor Avalos announces legislation to restore Sharp Park
at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors May 17, 2011 (video begins at 1:09:50)

In a media advisory filed simultaneously with his announcement, Supervisor Avalos stated “[w]e owe it to future generations to provide sustainable recreation that everyone, from San Mateo to San Francisco and beyond, has an opportunity to enjoy. Working together, San Francisco and the National Park Service can create a new model that will serve Bay Area residents for generations to come.”

Supervisor Avalos’ announcement follows several advances in our campaign to build a better public park at Sharp Park, including the release of a restoration study that shows restoring Sharp Park is the least costly and only sustainable solution for the land; the City’s adoption of many of the report’s findings; the initiation of a lawsuit to stop the ongoing killing of endangered species at Sharp Park; a front-page article in the San Francisco Chronicle about our campaign; and an Endangered Species/Endangered Communities Rally at City Hall on Save the Frogs Day.

This is the first step in what is shaping up to be a busy summer for the Wild Equity Institute and all our partners working to Restore Sharp Park. Make sure you sign-up for our website so you can stay abreast of the latest issues in the campaign, and of course send Supervisor Avalos a thank you message by using the Wild Equity Institute’s Action Alert system today!

Over 100 enthusiastic supporters joined the Wild Equity Institute, Save the Frogs!, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, H.O.M.E.Y., and Action for Animals at noon today in front of San Francisco’s City Hall for the Endangered Communities, Endangered Species Rally!

Wild Equity Institute’s Executive Director Brent Plater and San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos
discuss restoring Sharp Park at the Endangered Communities/Endangered Species Rally.

From k9sound on Vimeo.

In honor of Save the Frogs Day, the rally called on the City of San Francisco to close the failing Sharp Park Golf Course, quit killing endangered snakes and frogs, end the wasteful spending, and create a better public park at Sharp Park.

Alfredo Najera III of H.O.M.E.Y. talks about the monetary losses and wasteful spending associated with the unsustainable Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica while San Francisco community services are being cut.

Supervisor John Avalos announced he is about to submit legislation that would close the golf course and convey Sharp Park to the National Parks Service, which would restore the park to the native wetlands that it should be.

Casey Allen, a volunteer with the Sierra Club, exhorts the crowd to “take a hike” to compare Mori Point’s restored habitat to the critter-hostile setting across the property line at the golf course.

Rose Braz of the Center for Biological Diversity reviews the alarming rate of species extinction.

Two H.O.M.E.Y.sHomies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth.

Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute, inspiring the crowd.

Saturday, April 30, 2011, 12pm-2pm — In honor of Save the Frogs Day, join the Wild Equity Institute to search for two of the most imperiled vertebrate species on the San Francisco peninsula: the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake. This will be a leisurely walk to enjoy the restoration work being conducted at Mori Point and to learn about the bold steps being taken to save both species from the brink of extinction. We’ll also have an activity and information table for kids of all ages. RSVP Required: please use this website to RSVP. Rain or Shine. Meet at the Mori Point Entrance Gate, Pacifica, CA, 94044.

Saturday, April 30, 2011, 12pm-2pm — In honor of Save the Frogs Day, join the Wild Equity Institute to search for two of the most imperiled vertebrate species on the San Francisco peninsula: the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake. This will be a leisurely walk to enjoy the restoration work being conducted at Mori Point and to learn about the bold steps being taken to save both species from the brink of extinction. We’ll also have an activity and information table for kids of all ages. RSVP Required: please use this website to RSVP. Rain or Shine. Meet at the Mori Point Entrance Gate, Pacifica, CA, 94044.

San Francisco continues to subsidize an endangered species-killing golf course in Pacifica even though the City’s community services are being cut.

We deserve better!

In honor of Save the Frogs Day, please join the Wild Equity Institute, SAVE THE FROGS! and the Center for Biological Diversity for the Endangered Communities, Endangered Species Rally. The event is endorsed by Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth.

Join us and tell San Francisco to stop the wasteful spending, save the environment while helping our communities, and create a public park that everyone can enjoy by restoring Sharp Park! There will be speakers and informational tables.

The authors of the peer-reviewed report on Sharp Park, Bob Battalio, Peter Baye, and Dawn Reis, will present their findings and field questions from the community in Pacifica. The event will be held at the Pacifica Public Library at 104 Hilton Way, on Thursday, March 31st at 6:30 PM.

This is a public event, so bring as many people as you can!


Sharp Park Educational Forum

The authors of the Sharp Park restoration assessment report will be presenting their findings in a community forum at the Pacifica Library on Thursday, March 31, 2011, as a free educational service to Pacifica.

Their report is the first peer-reviewed scientific study of the area, presents a comprehensive picture of the past and present of Sharp Park, and lays out comparative plans for the parks future.

Independent authors Bob Battalio, environmental consultant of the firm ESA PWA; coastal ecologist Dr. Peter Baye; and herpetologist Dawn Reis, assembled the report after a careful year-long study of numerous facets of the park, ranging from the impacts of sea level rise to the management of the endangered species on site to the historical conditions of the area.

The educational forum will delve into the report’s findings and the science behind them. Residents stand not only to learn about Sharp Park, but the coastal environment as a whole, bringing greater understanding to the environment in which we live (and sometimes must contend with).

In addition, the report has been accepted by San Francisco Parks and Recreation as the primary scientific reference for Sharp Park, making education about their report essential to any one of the Park’s potential futures – restoration, development, or otherwise. In short, understanding the report is essential to any discussion of Pacifica’s future.

Join Bob Battalio, Dr. Peter Baye, and Dawn Reis for an educational presentation on the science of Sharp Park at Pacifica Public Library, 104 Hilton Way, at 6:30 PM on Thursday, March 31, 2011, for an informative and educational panel discussion.

The classic beauty, the troubled slugger, and the Wild Equity Institute’s campaign to restore Sharp Park were all on the front page of the San Francisco chronicle on Thursday, March 24, 2011.
Click here to see a .pdf of the article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

Now send a letter to the editor
thanking the paper for running this important story. Remind all San Franciscans that all the available evidence indicates that Sharp Park was once a backbarrier fresh to brackish lagoon, not a saline tidal lagoon as the proponents of the status quo allege in this article. That means we can restore the natural system while preserving endangered species at Sharp Park. In the process we’ll build a better public park with recreation opportunities everyone can enjoy.

 

San Francisco’s public Sharp Park Golf Course, located in Pacifica, is facing serious financial, environmental and recreational challenges. Potential solutions are constrained by the presence of two endangered species and a coastal location threatened by sea level rise. Yet Sharp Park provides unique opportunities to adapt the coast to climate change while preserving public access and benefits to neighboring communities. Join Bob Battalio of the environmental consulting firm ESA PWA, coastal ecologist Dr. Peter Baye, and coastal herpetologist Dawn Reis, as they discuss lessons learned in designing resilient and robust coastal landscapes.

Free for SPUR members; $5 for all others. OK to bring lunch.

Our friends at Change.org heard that Sharp Park Golf Course may be restored and turned into a National Park, and started a new petition to the Recreation and Parks Department to demand that San Francisco stop killing endanagered species on the property and restore the land.

The petition has resonated with people around the world, and it is getting just under 100 signatures a day. Add your signature to the petition so we can make sure San Francisco understands that restoring Sharp Park has broad public support.


San Francisco Garter Snake

The peer-reviewed, scientific study of Sharp Park released last month has already impacted public policy: San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department has abandoned its plan to construct a sea wall at Sharp Park, and appears poised to adopt the rest of the reports findings as well.

You can find out why the report has been so influential by coming to a presentation by the report’s authors—Dr. Peter Baye, Bob Battalio, and Dawn Reis—at SPUR on Thursday, March 17, 2011, 12:30 p.m. Listen to the evidence and then decide for yourself what the future holds for Sharp Park.


Endangered species-killing pumping at Sharp Park Golf Course.

  • The Future of Sharp Park: Thursday, March 17, 2011, 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. — San Francisco’s public Sharp Park Golf Course, located in Pacifica, is facing serious financial, environmental and recreational challenges. Potential solutions are constrained by the presence of two endangered species and a coastal location threatened by sea level rise. Yet Sharp Park provides unique opportunities to adapt the coast to climate change while preserving public access and benefits to neighboring communities. Join Bob Battalio of the environmental consulting firm ESA PWA, coastal ecologist Dr. Peter Baye, and coastal herpetologist Dawn Reis, as they discuss lessons learned in designing resilient and robust coastal landscapes. Held at SPUR, 654 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105-4015. Free for SPUR members; $5 for all others. OK to bring lunch.

The Wild Equity Institute has filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department today for violating the Endangered Species Act at Sharp Park golf course, a financially troubled, city-owned course located within Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, Surfrider Foundation, Sequoia Audubon Society and Sierra Club joined the federal lawsuit. The Washington, D.C. public-interest law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal represents the coalition in the suit.

“We put San Francisco on notice that it was violating the Endangered Species Act in 2008. Three years later the City is still killing endangered species at Sharp Park,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Last week more California red-legged frogs were killed by the golf course. It’s time for San Francisco to stop subsidizing this endangered species-killing golf course in San Mateo County and start working towards a better, more sustainable future at Sharp Park.”


This California red-legged frog egg mass was stranded and left to die after Sharp Park Golf Course’s pumping operations drained the frog’s habitat. Wild Equity Institute sent a letter to authorities requesting that they take emergency steps to save the egg mass when it was first exposed to the air, but no action was taken.

Sharp Park is a wetland that San Francisco regularly drains so golf can be played on the land. But draining the land reduces the depth of the water in breeding and feeding areas for the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake. San Francisco has known about the problem since at least 1992, when the first biological surveys found dead California red-legged frog egg masses on the property. Yet the City still does not have any Endangered Species Act permits to kill endangered wildlife.

In recent years, the City’s management has resulted in several violations of the Endangered Species Act:

“Restoring the natural ecosystem at Sharp Park is not only the lowest-cost alternative, it will serve the recreation needs of the greatest number of people including hikers and birders while saving endangered endemic species. It’s a win-win-win,” said Nancy Arbuckle, conservation chair of the Sequoia Audubon Society.

“We feel strongly that an interconnected and protective coastal ecosystem (beach, dune and barrier lagoon) must be recognized as a dynamic, integrated unit; you can’t save just one part and expect it to work correctly,” said Michael Stewart, vice chair of the San Francisco chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “This would provide the most benefit to local endangered species, an expansion of desired recreational opportunities, and the best (and least expensive) flood protection for the community at Sharp Park – two, four or even zero legged.”

Background

A peer-reviewed scientific study by coastal restoration experts, released in February, concluded that restoration of the natural lagoon and beach processes at Laguna Salada wetlands in Sharp Park will provide the most public benefit and best protect endangered species, at much less expense than the Park Department plan for maintaining the status quo. The report makes several key findings:

  • Restoring Sharp Park is the cheapest public option, particularly compared to the San Francisco Park Department plan or the option of maintaining the status quo.
  • Restoring the natural processes of the lagoon and surrounding wetlands will provide the best flood protection for neighbors against sea-level rise and coastal storm events.
  • Removing the golf course to restore habitat to the east of the lagoon is essential for the long-term sustainability of endangered species found on the site.

The new restoration alternative would allow beneficial natural processes to reconfigure the Laguna Salada wetlands and beach to a natural dynamic, providing the most benefit to endangered species, protecting the beach from erosion, ensuring resilience and adaptivity for habitat to respond to sea-level rise, and improving flood protection for adjacent residential areas, all with lower long-term costs and maintenance requirements. The authors and peer reviewers of the report have unparalleled expertise in Bay Area coastal and aquatic ecology and wildlife, hydrology, coastal engineering and ecosystem restoration.

The report findings clear up some common misconceptions put forth by supporters of the golf course and the Park Department. Among the report findings:

  • Laguna Salada was historically a brackish-fresh water lagoon, not a saline tidal lagoon, and supported thriving populations of the garter snake and red-legged frog;
  • The golf course did not “create” freshwater habitat for the frog and snake;
  • The sea wall is not necessary for protecting endangered species habitat or preventing flooding of neighborhoods; it in fact contributes to flood risk and the unsustainable character of the existing land use.

The new restoration plan is estimated to cost about $5 million over a 50-year time frame. In contrast, the Park Department preferred plan would drain taxpayers of between $12 million and $18 million in short-term costs (including seawall construction) along with hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for infrastructure operations and maintenance, and continuing liability for fines for Endangered Species Act violations.

In response the Park Department abandoned plans to reinforce a beach-eroding seawall that protects the golf course; it also conceded that current golf operations are not compatible with protection of endangered species.

On February 21, 2011, a local Pacifica resident informed the Wild Equity Institute that a presumed California red-legged frog egg mass was at risk of desiccation at Sharp Park. The egg mass appeared to have been laid shortly after the previous week’s winter storms inundated Sharp Park Golf Course. Wild Equity was informed that the egg mass was attached to aquatic vegetation near the surface of the water on the south side of Horse Stable Pond.

Horse Stable Pond Water Level,
February 21, 2011, 2:37 p.m.
(approximately 2.9 meters)
California Red-legged Frog Egg Mass,
Southern Edge of Horse Stable Pond
February 21, 2011, 2:35 p.m.

The resident was concerned that San Francisco’s ongoing pumping of water from Horse Stable Pond might expose this egg mass to the air. The pumps appeared to have been on consistently since the heavy winter rains inundated the course.


Pumping at Sharp Park Golf Course Pump House,
After Heavy Rains in February, 2011.

On February 23, 2011, Wild Equity Institute staff and supporters visited Mori Point and Sharp Park, along with an expert in herpetology. Wild Equity Institute staff quickly located the egg mass, and the expert confirmed that it was in fact a California red-legged frog egg mass. At that time the egg mass was completely exposed to the air. Pumping operations were still occurring.

Horse Stable Pond Water Level,
February 23, 2011, 11:04 a.m.
(approximately 2.6 meters)
California Red-legged Frog Egg Mass,
Southern Edge of Horse Stable Pond
February 23, 2011, 10:54 a.m.

On February 24, 2011, the Wild Equity Institute informed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via e-mail and certified mail that a California red-legged frog egg mass had been exposed to the air by ongoing pumping operations at Sharp Park Golf Course, and requested that the agency take emergency action to save the egg mass.

On March 1, 2011, Wild Equity Institute supporters returned to Sharp Park to determine if the egg mass had been saved. Unfortunately, it had not: the egg mass was still located in the same area and appeared desiccated and partially frozen.

Earlier this season the golf course also moved at least 107 California red-legged frog egg masses because its endangered species compliance plan had failed, putting a record number of egg masses at risk of harm.

Sharp Park Golf Course is a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act. It has been killing California red-legged frogs for several years, and still does not have any permits from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to do so. It’s actions this year represent the largest threat to the species documented by regulatory agencies, and if these actions are not halted we could lose the California red-legged frog from Sharp Park forever: along with its extremely imperiled predator, the San Francisco garter snake.

Statements by Conservation Groups on San Francisco’s Change of Position on Sharp Park Golf Course Management

Background
Sharp Park golf course, owned and operated by the city of San Francisco and located in Pacifica within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, faces significant problems with flooding, achieving environmental compliance and financial losses. The coastal wetland is home to two endangered species, the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog. A recently released, peer-reviewed scientific study by coastal restoration experts concluded that restoration of the natural lagoon and beach processes provides the most public benefit and best protects endangered species, and is much less expensive than a San Francisco Park Department plan or maintaining the status quo.

In a change of position Wednesday, the Park Department abandoned plans to reinforce a beach-eroding seawall that is needed to support golf operations; it has also concluded that current golf operations are not compatible with protection of endangered species at the site. A working group of land managers convened by the Park Department issued a puzzlingly brief two-page policy findings report on Sharp Park that agreed with the conclusions of the peer-reviewed study on the impacts of sea-level rise and coastal erosion and the futility of armoring, maintaining or further raising a seawall that protects the golf course and recommended a transition to a naturally managed “barrier lagoon” at Sharp Park. Below are statements on the position change from conservation groups involved in the issue.

Statements
Statement by Neal Desai, Pacific Region associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association: “The Park Department now appears to acknowledge the conclusions of the recent scientific study by coastal experts at ESAPWA that preserving the current golf operations is not financially sustainable and is damaging to the recovery of the endangered San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. San Francisco policymakers should seriously consider the science-based ESAPWA study as a blueprint for how to solve the various problems plaguing Sharp Park so our national treasure is preserved and protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”

Statement by Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute: “We agree that recreation can coexist with endangered species protection at Sharp Park; however, recreation that relies on dredging, pumping and mowing operations is not compatible with endangered species. Bay Area residents want our parks more sustainable and expect our scarce parks funding to improve recreational services within San Francisco communities, not subsidize suburban golf in Pacifica. Restoring Sharp Park in partnership with the National Park Service can build a better public park that everyone can enjoy.”

Statement by Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity: “The Park Department’s working group seems to be embracing a more sensible approach to restoring this important wetland and concurs that reviving the natural barrier beach and lagoon system is the only viable option for Sharp Park. However, some of the working group’s two-page ‘findings’ are unexplained assumptions and unsubstantiated assertions that lack the scientific foundation of the peer-reviewed 212-page scientific study. The best science shows, first, that restoring Sharp Park is the cheapest option, particularly compared to the San Francisco Park Department plan or maintaining the status quo; second, that restoring natural processes of the lagoon and surrounding wetlands will provide the best flood protection for neighbors against sea-level rise and coastal storm events; and third, that removing the golf course to restore habitat to the east of the lagoon is essential for the long-term sustainability of endangered species found on the site.”

Additional Information
Some of the assertions in the Park Department policy statement are unsupported and contrary to the conclusions of the peer-reviewed scientific report by coastal restoration experts. The claim that short-term habitat enhancements and golf “could be compatible” is unexplained, and the ESAPWA report shows maintaining the golf course is not compatible with protecting the endangered species at the site, since the Park Department “restoration” plan would squeeze endangered species habitats between the golf course and the seawall in the area most vulnerable to salinity intrusion. The working group adopts the misguided Park Department recommendation to dredge the lagoon to reduce sediment, ignoring the fact that loss of open-water habitat is caused by artificial pumping down of the lagoon to maintain the golf course, not sedimentation. Dredging is extremely expensive, damaging to endangered species habitat, and unnecessary; the preferred solution is to raise the lagoon water levels and allow the wetlands to expand and spread eastward where the golf course is currently located.

The working group statement cites a new pumping protocol for the lagoon, initiated due to illegal pumping and drawdown of water levels killing endangered red-legged frog egg masses after the Park Department received a notice of violation from the Fish and Wildlife Service and a notice of intent to sue by conservation groups. The statement disingenuously and falsely implies the pumping problem is solved, yet conservation groups documented dewatering by pumping this month and illegal stranding of red-legged egg masses this week, in violation of federal law.

A public briefing, titled “The Future of Sharp Park,” on the ESAPWA report will take place March 17 at 12:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Planning Urban Research Association (SPUR), 654 Mission Street, San Francisco. Click here for more information about the event.

To read the ESAPWA peer-reviewed scientific report, go to wildequity.org.

February 22, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

Sharp Park Compliance Plan Fails; Imperiled Frogs Jeopardized by Golf Course

San Francisco — Documents obtained from the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department show that at least 107 California red-legged frog egg masses were jeopardized this winter when ongoing pumping operations at Sharp Park Golf Course drained areas where the egg masses were laid, requiring emergency action to relocate the egg masses to deeper waters. This record number of egg mass strandings occurred despite the implementation of a compliance plan specifically designed to keep endangered species safe from the golf course’s activities.


California red-legged frog egg masses placed at risk by pumping operations at Sharp Park Golf Course.
(L): Egg-mass partially exposed to the air. (R): Egg mass stranded in unsustainable area.

“Sharp Park Golf Course will continue to harm endangered species until the golf course areas east of Laguna Salada are restored,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Fortunately the peer-reviewed Sharp Park restoration feasibility assessment provides a sustainable plan for the City to restore these areas while saving money, saving endangered species, and building a better public park in the process.”

Sharp Park, a San Francisco-owned wetland in Pacifica that the City drains regularly so a golf course can be operated on the property, has flooded on several occasions this winter. When the golf course floods a pump house drains the water out to sea, reducing the depth of the water in breeding and feeding areas for the threatened California red-legged frog and the endangered San Francisco garter snake. This puts California red-legged frog egg masses at risk by creating shallow swales that may not retain enough water to keep the eggs wet during their gestation period, and by separating these areas from deeper waters where tadpoles can retreat and hide from predators.


Flooding at Sharp Park Golf Course, February 21, 2011.

Despite many years of endangered species compliance issues at Sharp Park, the City still does not have federal permits to modify endangered species habitats. In the City’s most recent emergency communications with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wildlife agents specifically stated that the agency will not issue ongoing emergency authorization to move egg masses, and the City instead should go through Endangered Species Act permitting processes if it wishes to keep putting endangered species at risk of harm.

“Restoring Sharp Park is a win-win for the environment and for recreation,” said Plater. “We can supply recreation that modern Bay Area residents demand while saving some of the Bay Area’s most imperiled species, all while saving the City’s scarce recreation dollars. We look forward to ensuring the City makes this change before it is too late for the endangered species that call Sharp Park home.”

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/

###

February 10, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
  Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185

First Peer-reviewed Scientific Study of Sharp Park:
Removing Golf Course, Creating New Public Park Is Least Costly, Best Option

San Francisco — A new scientific report by independent scientists and engineers says that the most cost-effective option for Pacifica’s 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. Experts on coastal lagoon ecosystems have prepared the first ever peer-reviewed restoration study for Sharp Park, an 18-month assessment of Laguna Salada and Sanchez Creek. The report makes several key findings:

  • Restoring Sharp Park is the cheapest public option, particularly compared to the San Francisco Park Department plan or the option of maintaining the status quo.
  • Restoring the natural processes of the lagoon and surrounding wetlands will provide the best flood protection for neighbors against sea-level rise and coastal storm events.
  • Removing the golf course to restore habitat to the east of the lagoon is essential for the long-term sustainability of endangered species found on the site.

“This report lays out how we can create a better public park at Sharp Park that everyone can enjoy, while saving taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Brent Plater, director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Restoring Sharp Park is the sensible decision for our pocketbooks and our hiking boots.”

The new restoration alternative would allow beneficial natural processes to reconfigure the Laguna Salada wetlands and beach to a natural dynamic, providing the most benefit to endangered species, protecting the beach from erosion, ensuring resilience and adaptivity for habitat to respond to sea-level rise, and improving flood protection for adjacent residential areas, all with lower long-term costs and maintenance requirements. The authors of the report and peer-reviewers have unparalleled expertise in Bay Area coastal and aquatic ecology and wildlife, hydrology, coastal engineering and ecosystem restoration.

“This is the first credible scientific evaluation of how to revive the Laguna Salada wetlands and nearby habitat for the long-term survival of the San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s clear the best option for Sharp Park in terms of economy, environment and recreation is removing the golf course and restoring a functioning natural ecosystem. Adding the park to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is the most common-sense approach for wildlife and taxpayers.”

The report findings clear up some common misconceptions put forth by supporters of the golf course and the Park Department, among them:

  • Laguna Salada was historically a brackish-fresh water lagoon, not a saline tidal lagoon, and it supported thriving populations of the San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog;
  • The golf course did not “create” freshwater habitat for the frog and snake;
  • The sea wall is not necessary for protecting endangered species habitat or to prevent flooding of neighborhoods; it is, in fact, contributing to flood risk and the unsustainable character of the existing land use.

The new restoration plan is estimated to cost about $5 million over a 50-year time frame. In contrast, the Park Department preferred plan would drain taxpayers of between $12 million and $18 million in short-term costs (including seawall construction) along with hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for infrastructure operations and maintenance, and continuing liability for fines for Endangered Species Act violations.

“The restoration proposed by these experts is the most responsive to modern recreational demands and meets the restoration directive by the city’s board of supervisors,” said Miller. “The Park Department’s 2009 golf enhancement plan would squeeze endangered species between the uninhabitable golf course and the seawall, limiting suitable habitat and forcing freshwater species into the areas most impacted by rising sea levels and salinity. It would also bleed taxpayers indefinitely to pay for expensive and futile infrastructure and cause erosion that would destroy the beach.”

A conceptual public park model for Sharp Park,  emphasizing sustainable flood management,  adaptation to sea level rise, modern recreation opportunities,  and endangered species protection.

A conceptual public park model for Sharp Park, emphasizing sustainable flood management, adaptation to sea level rise, modern recreation opportunities, and endangered species protection.

The report was prepared by engineers and aquatic ecologists with expertise in coastal restoration from the consulting firms ESAPWA and Ecological Studies, along with coastal ecologist Dr. Peter Baye. It was peer-reviewed by experts in historical and coastal ecology at the San Francisco Estuary Institute and San Jose State University.

Read the report
and a summary of its key findings and recommendations along with the relevant experience of the report authors and reviewers. For more information on Sharp Park visit the Wild Equity Institute’s Restore Sharp Park web page.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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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A new survey released by the Neighborhood Parks Council shows that San Franciscans want more sustainability in their park system and fewer expenditures on golf: which is precisely why restoring Sharp Park is great public policy for San Francisco.

“Restoring Sharp Park is a sensible solution that helps the Recreation and Parks Department supply what park users demand,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “We can reduce wasteful spending on regional golf in San Mateo County while providing a sustainable solution to the myriad problems the golf course faces. It isn’t often you get win-win solutions in park management: the City should seize this one immediately.”

The Neighborhood Parks Council surveyed 1,443 San Francisco residents in October and November of 2010, asking dozens of questions about San Francisco’s parks. In one question, respondents were asked to list three priorities for park funding. Of the nearly 100 different responses, sustainability came in 5th, behind only general park maintenance, better athletic fields, more programming, and improved safety. In a second question, respondents were asked to list three expenses they’d like to see cut. Of the over 80 different responses to this question, cutting golf expenses came in 5th, behind only salaries and overtime pay, construction projects, regional attractions, and wasteful spending.

Sharp Park Golf Course is a wetland that San Francisco drains regularly so golfers can play there for about $30 a round. The course loses money every year, siphoning scarce recreation dollars from San Francisco’s community centers and city services. A broad coalition has been working to transfer Sharp Park to the National Park Service and redirect the money San Francisco saves back to neighborhood parks, where the money belongs.


Flooding is a chronic problem at Sharp Park Golf Course.

Restore Sharp Park!

Folks,

Thank you for your interest in creating a new National Park at Sharp Park! We’ve got three important actions for you to take ASAP in this message: two from your chair, and one very much out of it.

  1. E-mail the Recreation and Parks Commission and demand that they reject the Recreation and Parks Department’s Proposal to move forward with an all-golf alternative at Sharp Park. Send an E-mail now to recpark.commission@sfgov.org.
  2. Call Congresswoman Jackie Speier and tell her Sharp Park isn’t too big to fail: no federal bailout for an endangered species-killing golf course! If we are going to get federal dollars involved, we deserve to gain an asset in return, and the best asset would be a new National Park at Sharp Park! Call 650-342-0300.
  3. Attend the Recreation and Parks Commission hearing on November 19, 2pm at San Francisco’s City Hall, Room 416, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, in San Francisco. Tell the Commission we deserve better than the all-golf alternative proposed by the Recreation and Parks Department!

Read on:

Last week San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department released its long-delayed report on alternative visions for a future Sharp Park. But rather than use the best scientific evidence to create a new vision for Sharp Park, the Recreation and Parks Department’s General Manager Phil Ginsburg recommended selecting an all-golf alternative at Sharp Park, and relegating the endangered species on the site to the portions of Sharp Park we know will be underwater as climate change occurs and sea levels rise.

If this alternative is selected by San Francisco, the endangered species on the property will be lost forever, as will the opportunity to build a better public park with recreational amenities everyone can enjoy. You can hear Restore Sharp Park supporters debate this issue on KQED’s Forum.

The report contains many surreal statements to help the General Manager reach this conclusion. For example, the report claims that picnicking is the “most significant and widest scale” impact on both species at Sharp Park. You read that right: picnicking—not habitat destruction, not lawn mowers, not even the pumping operations that caused the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue an enforcement letter to the City—is the activity we conservationists should be truly worried about, according to the RPD report.

You don’t need to be an expert to know that lawnmowers and pumping operations have killed more endangered species on the site than your throw rug and bottle of Chianti. But if you had any doubt, check out the evidence yourself at our YouTube site by viewing Twain’s Frog and the Beautiful Serpent.

With absurd statements like this, we were glad to see that a peer review team had been established to critique the report. But now Phil Ginsburg is trying to bypass the peer review and is planning on presenting his recommendation as an action item to the Recreation and Parks Commission next Thursday, November 19, at 2pm.

And in the meantime, Congresswoman Jackie Speier wants to offer a federal bailout for the golf course: she is proposing an earmark of federal money to subsidize the golf course if San Francisco decides it doesn’t want to spend anymore money on the course.

This has gone too far. It’s time for us all to stand up for the “underfrog”: Please take these three actions and help create a better public park at Sharp Park!

  1. E-mail the Recreation and Parks Commission and demand that they reject Ginsburg’s rush to judgment about Sharp Park. Send an E-mail now to recpark.commission@sfgov.org.
  2. Call Congresswoman Jackie Speier and tell her Sharp Park isn’t too big to fail: no federal bailout for an endangered species-killing golf course! If we are going to get federal dollars involved, we deserve to gain an asset in return, and the best asset would be a new National Park at Sharp Park! Call 650-342-0300.
  3. Attend the Recreation and Parks Commission hearing on November 19, 2pm at San Francisco’s City Hall, Room 416, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, in San Francisco. Tell the Commission we deserve better than the all-golf alternative proposed by Phil Ginsburg!

Thank you,

Brent Plater

Two new media articles indicate that the Bay Area’s golf market continues to collapse, adding more pressure on San Mateo and San Francisco Counties to close the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course and replace it with a park everyone can enjoy.

“The Bay Area golf market is violating a fundamental law: the law of supply and demand,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “There are too many golf courses and not enough golfers, and that’s why it’s time to restore Sharp Park: we can build a better, more sustainable park that everyone can enjoy while stabilizing the golf market before better golf courses are forced to close.”

A Restoration Vision for Sharp Park

An article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat explains that the recession, an oversupply of golf courses, and the ongoing decline in golf’s popularity has forced several courses into bankruptcy, and highlights one course where a $3.1 million dollar investment failed to attract additional players, resulting in ongoing deficits.

A second article in the San Mateo County Times reports that the City of San Mateo is raising prices to overcome deficits in the city’s golf fund, which has been in the red since 2004. A similar fee hike in 2006 failed to eliminate the deficit, in part because rounds played at the golf course have been declining by 9% per year.

Golf analysts who have studied the Bay Area market have concluded that the market is overbuilt, and therefore golf revenues cannot be increased simply by raising prices: golfers will take their game to a competing course, and the marginal gains in revenue will be offset by a reduction in rounds played. The failure of San Mateo’s 2006 fee hike to erase the golf fund deficit seems to support this conclusion.

Yet Congresswoman Jacki Speier has requested a $5,000,000 federal taxpayer bailout for Sharp Park Golf Course’s environmental problems, and the Congresswoman has also been leading discussions that would cause San Mateo County taxpayers to subsidize the San Francisco-owned Sharp Park, even as San Mateo’s own golf fund continues to post deficits.

“This is the wrong thing to do for outdoor recreation in the Bay Area,” said Plater. “Throwing good money after bad at Sharp Park will not make golf more attractive to those leaving the sport, but it will jeopardize our ability to provide basic recreational services like trail maintenance and outdoor education for our kids. Both our conscience and the market are telling us that we need to do a better job managing outdoor recreation and not just reflexively bailout the status quo.”

Thanks to your support, Congresswoman Jackie Speier sent this constituent letter to Wild Equity Institute members and supporters on December 4, 2009, announcing that there is “no federal money available” to bailout Sharp Park Golf Course, and stating that Sharp Park’s “frog and snake habitat could eventually become federal property and/or be managed by the National Park Service.” We were proud to see our Congresswoman make such a profound commitment to restore Sharp Park.

A Restoration Vision for Sharp Park.

But recently released documents paint a different picture of the Congresswoman’s position. The documents show that on December 1, 2009, the Congresswoman submitted a $5,000,000 funding request for a federal financial bailout of the golf course. The request, presented to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, would fund the controversial and fatally flawed all-golf alternative at Sharp Park. The request’s purposes include protecting “recreational golfing in a scenic setting” and “protecting the golf course [to] increase revenue generated on site due to reduced flooding.”

So how can the bailout request and the constituent letter be reconciled? Through the use of doublespeak. The Congresswoman calls the all-golf alternative the “Sharp Park San Francisco Garter Snake Recovery Effort,” ignoring the heavy criticism of the plan by ecologists, biologists, and coastal engineers who have explained that the all-golf alternative will actually harm endangered species recovery efforts. Even the National Park Service has raised concerns about the all-golf alternative, stating that the alternative may have negative impacts on endangered species at both Sharp Park and the federally-owned adjacent land, Mori Point. But if the Congresswoman re-frames the all-golf alternative as a recovery action for endangered species, she can give her constituents cake and eat it too.

We all deserve better than a federal bailout of an endangered species-killing golf course: we don’t pay polluters to not pollute, and similarly the golf course, not federal taxpayers, should pay for the golf course’s compliance with environmental laws. If federal dollars are going to be part of the solution at Sharp Park, we deserve a federal asset in return, and there would be no better asset than a National Park property that everyone can enjoy, not just golfers. Contact Congresswoman Jackie Speier today at (202) 225-3531 and ask her to support a better public park at Sharp Park, and contact the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at (202) 225-4472 and ask them to fund a true restoration option at Sharp Park, not the all-golf alternative.

Despite thousands of letters and 60% of the public testimony in favor of restoring Sharp Park, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission rubber-stamped the Recreation and Park Department’s all-golf vision of the future for Sharp Park last week. The vote wasn’t unexpected, and now the campaign really begins: San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will have an opportunity to weigh-in on Sharp Park. In fact, the day before the Commission’s vote the Board of Supervisors’ Government Audit and Oversight Committee heard testimony about Sharp Park, and at the close of public comment the Committee expressed reservations about the sustainability of golf at Sharp Park and the controversial nature of the Department’s proposed plan. Expect to hear more from the Board of Supervisors in the coming months, and keep an eye on wildequity.org for updates on our legal claims against the golf course & for opportunities to participate in our ultimate trump-card: a formal, science-based environmental review of the Department’s fatally flawed plan.

Folks,

Mark your calendars! The 2010 Golden Gate National Parks Endangered Species Big Year kick-off celebration will begin January 9, 2010, 1pm at the Sports Basement in the Presidio, San Francisco. The GGNP has more endangered species than any other National Park in continental North America. The Endangered Species Big Year is a race against time to see and save each of these endangered species, with guided recovery expeditions and park explorations all year long! At the kick-off celebration, we’ll have free prizes, drinks and snacks, a short presentation about the GGNP’s endangered species, and then we’ll head outside to search for the Western Snowy Plover, an imperiled shorebird clinging to existence at Crissy Field. At the end of 2010, the person who has seen and helped save the most endangered species will win the Big Year and a cash prize!

Victory for Sharp Park! Thank you to everyone who wrote messages and attended the Recreation and Park Commission hearing last Thursday. About 60% of the numerous speakers came to support a new national park at Sharp Park, and we convinced the Commission to table Phil Ginsburg’s preposterous and unjust all-golf alternative: for now. We also successfully demanded that a scientific peer review be conducted on Ginsburg’s alternative. This was a major step forward in creating a better public park at Sharp Park, a park that protects the environment, protects our communities from climate change, and provides recreational opportunities everyone can enjoy. If you haven’t taken action yet, you can do so here.

Thanks and see you outside,

Brent Plater
Executive Director
Wild Equity Institute

The Cascadia Research Collective reports that a dead Gray Whale stranded in Puget Sound this week contained a large amount of ocean debris in its stomach when it died: including a golf ball.

This is the fifth Gray Whale stranding in Puget Sound this season. Although the whale’s cause of death can’t be declared definitively, researchers called the debris in the whale’s stomach a sign of our poor ocean stewardship.

Gray Whales are no longer protected under the Endangered Species Act, but still face many threats. The Wild Equity Institute’s staff and board have partnered with the Cascadia Research Collective’s scientists to protect whales on many occasions in the past.

As San Francisco proposes massive cuts to city services, more and more residents are demanding that San Francisco close the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course.

WEI Allies: Bring Our Money Back

San Francisco is proposing massive cuts to youth services while privatizing our parks and open spaces. These cuts will disproportionately impact poor, disenfranchised communities in San Francisco, precisely when services are needed to offset the impacts of the financial crisis.

Yet at Sharp Park, San Francisco continues to subsidize suburban golf in San Mateo County by up to $300,000 each year, and is planning to spend tens-of-millions more to try and build an elite golf course on the property.

This gamble on golf is not only environmentally unsound, but fundamentally unfair when San Francisco taxpayers are facing cuts in services they desperately need.

This is why residents throughout San Francisco are demanding that San Francisco close Sharp Park Golf Course and give the property to the National Park Service. by dumping this money-losing golf course, San Francisco can free-up funds for neighborhood services, services that would otherwise face further cuts.

You can be part of the solution by demanding a more equitable budget on Wednesday, May 26, at 2:00pm. Join us at Civic Center Plaza to ask public officials for a budget that protects people and our environment, not suburban golf in San Mateo County.

In another Orwellian move, the Recreation and Parks Department has installed a fence along Sharp Park to keep birders and hikers from accessing the property. WEI supports the enforcement of strong ethical principles to ensure outdoor recreation has no impact on the natural world. But birders and hikers have never harmed endangered species at Sharp Park. Yet just behind the fence the Department continues to drain aquatic habitats and run lawn mowers on the land, activities that do kill endangered species.

The exclusion of other recreation users from Sharp Park is about the Department’s skewed priorities, not protecting the environment. This is particularly disturbing because the Department’s own survey shows that the #1 recreational demand is for more hiking trails; golf comes 16th out of 19 options in the same survey. It’s time for the Department to restore Sharp Park and get its priorities in-line with the public’s.

The SF Recreation and Parks Commission is supposed to be an oversight agency, a check against bad calls made by the Recreation and Parks Department’s political appointees. But today it is notorious for rubber-stamping the Department’s often ill-planed and inequitable decisions. It acts like an agency captured by the very entity it is suppose to oversee.

For example, the Commission rubber-stamped the Department’s flawed all-golf alternative for Sharp Park Golf Course, ignoring the expert testimony—not to mention the vast majority of public comments—which favored creating a National Park at Sharp Park. Subsequently both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the SF Weekly exposed flaws in the biological and financial reasoning the Department made, completely undermining the all-golf alternative.

But this is precisely what the Commission is supposed to do: scrutinize proposals to ensure they aren’t flawed or based on unsound assumptions. We can’t expect the Feds or journalists to do the Commission’s job for them every time.

So Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has introduced a charter amendment to revamp the Recreation and Parks Commission. Under the proposal, commission appointments would be shared between the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, ensuring that no one political agenda can stack the deck against sound decision-making.

Public park supporters are rallying around this charter amendment at a hearing on Friday, June 18, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee at San Francisco City Hall. Help our government get better: support an improved check-and-balance system at the Recreation and Parks Department and ask your Supervisor to vote for Mirkarimi’s charter amendment.

We need you to tell the SF Board of Supervisors to break out the “green scissors”: eliminate the environmentally destructive Sharp Park Golf Course from the City budget and redirect the money saved back to San Francisco’s neighborhood parks and community services, where the money belongs.

On Monday, June 21 at 4pm in San Francisco’s City Hall, Room 250, the Board of Supervisors will have a hearing on San Francisco’s budget. Come to the hearing early, around 3:30pm, to get a speaker card and find out when you’ll get a chance to speak. This could be a long one, so if you can’t stay please send an email to info@wildequity.org with your comments and we’ll hand them in for you.

The SF Weekly recently exposed that Sharp Park Golf Course is a much larger liability to SF’s budget than the Parks Department had previously disclosed (read the article here).

The Board of Supervisors can draft a more environmentally sustainable and equitable budget by simply stopping the subsidy for suburban golf in San Mateo County and redirecting the money saved to our communities and neighborhood parks that are struggling the most during the financial crisis.

See you there, but if you can’t make it please send your comments to info@wildequity.org and we’ll make sure the Supervisors get them. Thanks for all you do!

Rediscovered historic photos of Sharp Park, along with field notes stored at UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, indicate that Sharp Park was once excellent habitat for the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog: and that Sharp Park Golf Course is the primary threat to both species at the site.

This undated photo of Sharp Park shows Laguna Salada before the golf course was built, with Mori Point Ridge in the background.

In this photo, the lagoon is clearly fringed with cattails, vegetation that can’t grow in saline environments. This indicates that Laguna Salada was not a “salt lake” as golf privatization advocates have argued, but a fresh lagoon where the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog could thrive.

At least until Sharp Park Golf Course was built. The earliest systematic biological surveys of San Mateo County were conducted by Dr. Wade Fox—the man who would eventually scientifically describe the San Francisco garter snake—when he was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Although he died in his prime, Dr. Fox’s field notes have been preserved at the UC Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. These notes have finally been digitized, and they show that in 1946 Dr. Fox found a dead San Francisco garter snake at Sharp Park, which he concluded was “probably killed by golfers—they probably die frequently in this manner.” Presaging the species precipitous decline, Dr. Fox also noted that the only secure area remaining for the species at Sharp Park was in the wet grasses near the lagoon: the surrounding golf links were deadly to the species.

The San Francisco garter snake is now on the brink of extinction, and is probably the most imperiled vertebrate species on the San Francisco Peninsula. Yet since the 1940s Sharp Park Golf Course has been killing this species, and more recently the Golf Course has been found killing both the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog. We can do better: let’s restore Sharp Park and build a better public park on the property. Find out how you can help restore Sharp Park here.

We had great luck searching for the California red-legged frog at Mori Point this past weekend. But they aren’t always easy to see.

Can you find four frogs in this photo? If you can, it’s about time you got started on your GGNP Endangered Species Big Year: you’ve got what it takes to compete for the $1,000 grand prize!

Come hear Pacifican, coastal engineer, & surfer Bob Battalio of Philip Williams and Associates Environmental Hydrology give a presentation on the opportunities and constraints placed on coastal development and conservation by climate change, sea level rise, and coastal erosion. This talk will focus on how we can protect our homes and beaches in a cost-effective manner as sea level rises and storm frequency and intensity increases. The event will be held at the Sharp Park Library Community Room, 104 Hilton Way, in Pacifica, CA from 6:30pm-8:00pm. For event information and a link to a map and driving directions, click here.


Bob Battalio

On Monday in Pacifica, Bob Battalio, PE, gave a fascinating presentation about the constraints and opportunities placed on coastal communities as sea level rises and erosion processes reshape California’s coast.

Mr. Battalio explained that Pacifica’s beaches are eroding, and that sea walls tend to exacerbate this erosion on the ocean-side of the wall, often resulting in the loss or reduction of beaches. He also emphasized that planned adaptation strategies can be more sustainable and less costly than responding to sea level rise by armoring the coastline, with the added benefit of preserving public access and coastal resources for future generations to enjoy.

The slides from the presentation are now available for download at the Wild Equity Institute’s website here.

Pacifica’s Economic Development Committee reignited a controversial development proposal by resolving to develop an area known as the Pacifica Quarry, which is adjacent to the National Park Service’s Mori Point. The resolution urges the City of Pacifica to plan and entitle a “village type” development on the property: even though the area has been designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area by the Coastal Commission.

If the development moves forward it will jeopardize the continued existence of two species listed under the Endangered Species Act: the area is occupied habitat for the California red-legged frog and provides suitable habitat for the San Francisco garter snake. The development could also negatively impact the adjacent National Park lands.

The development proposal highlights the critical importance of restoring Sharp Park, which is on the other side of Mori Point from the Pacifica Quarry. At Sharp Park we can build a better public park free of “takings” claims made by private developers; adapt our coast to rising sea levels without building sea walls that destroy beaches; and provide restored habitats for Twain’s Frog and the beautiful serpent.

Although previous development proposals have all been defeated at the polls, the quarry property is currently for sale by private interests, and this resolution may help the sellers find a new developer for the land. Check back here for updates as the situation develops, as it were.

A new article in the Pacifica Tribune highlights the significant financial and legal risks Sharp Park Golf Course places on the City and County of San Francisco, and given San Mateo County’s own $150 million dollar budget deficit, urges San Mateo County to support building a better, restored landscape on Sharp Park.

The article notes that Pacifica City Manager Steve Rhodes went to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors’ budget hearings to urge the City to continue funding Sharp Park. Yet efforts to protect the threatened Western Snowy Plover in Pacifica have been stymied because city officials have claimed there aren’t sufficient public resources to implement processes to protect the bird.

It’s time for Pacifica to get its priorities straight. read the article here and then submit a letter to the editor of the Pacifica Tribune supporting a restored Sharp Park. Send your letter to Editor & Publisher Elaine Larson today.

A 2010 study released by UC Berkeley Environmental Science, Policy, & Management students concludes that Sharp Park Golf Course should be closed and the land restored in partnership with the Golden Gate National Parks.

A Restoration Vision for Sharp Park

The independent study, based on Recreation and Park Department data and interviews with environmental and golf advocates in the Bay Area, reviewed the fiscal, recreational, and environmental impacts of Sharp Park Golf Course. The study made a number of important findings:

  • Sharp Park Golf Course is not financially self-sustaining and loses thousands of taxpayer dollars every year.
  • Millions of capital improvement dollars are required to make the golf course competitive, but there is no guarantee that the investment would improve profitability of the course.
  • The golf course is harming two endangered species, the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake.
  • The golf course serves a small community of golfers that is declining, while demand for other outdoor recreation is increasing.

The study concludes that restoring Sharp Park in partnership with the National Park Service is the best alternative for Sharp Park, because it will resolve environmental problems at the site while matching public recreation supply with modern recreation demand.

Find out more about the Wild Equity Institute’s campaign to restore Sharp Park and take action today to make our restoration vision a reality!

An election is always cause for reflection: on the candidates and issues we are asked to support (or oppose); the state of our democracy; and our individual roles within it.

Today is no different. And while it may be some time before the full repercussions of today’s election will be known, we can immediately start reflecting on our relationship to each other and our relationship to the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

Here’s to a new opportunity: another chance to get involved and help build a more equitable world for us all. At the Wild Equity Institute, we always have the time to help you find your place within our growing movement to build a healthy and sustainable global community. Contact us to find out how you can become involved in our work.

The work begins near home. Today we stumbled across this photo of Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada. The lagoon is reclaiming it’s historic boundaries with water collected from the winter rains. It reminds us how easily and instantly the floodplain can be restored: and that we can build a better, more sustainable, and more equitable park at Sharp Park, just as nature is already attempting to do.

A Flooded Day at Sharp Park Golf Course.

Photo by John Curley. Creative Commons license.

November 16, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, 415-572-6989

Another 100K of Public Dollars Down the Drain at Sharp Park Golf Course

San Francisco taxpayers billed a half-million dollars
over the past six years for controversial San Mateo County golf course

SAN FRANCISCO— A new analysis of documents recently released by San Francisco’s deficit-ridden Recreation and Parks Department shows that Sharp Park Golf Course lost between $117,000 and $135,000 last fiscal year, bringing the golf course’s total operating losses to at least a half-million dollars since 2004.

“No community center or neighborhood park should have services reduced while the Department is subsidizing suburban golf in San Mateo County,” says Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “We deserve better: it’s time to close Sharp Park Golf Course and bring the funds saved back to San Francisco’s communities, where the money rightfully belongs.”

The analysis likely under-estimates losses because it does not include recent capital expenditures, such as the $300,000 San Francisco taxpayers paid over the past two fiscal years to install new pumps and repair pipes at the chronically-flooded golf course.

The Department’s own analysis shows losses of over $630,000 between 2005 and 2009.

Sharp Park Golf Course is owned and operated by the City and County of San Francisco but located in Pacifica, California. The golf course has illegally killed two endangered species for several years. Both species — the endangered San Francisco garter snake and the threatened California red-legged frog — require aquatic habitats to survive, but the golf course’s new water pumping system can drain these habitats more rapidly, putting both species at risk of further harm.

The Wild Equity Institute is working with dozens of community, park, recreation, historical, and environmental groups to eliminate San Francisco’s expenditures at Sharp Park while building a better public park on the land in partnership with the National Park Service. Go to wildequity.org to find out more about our plan to save San Francisco money, protect the environment, and provide recreational opportunities everyone can enjoy.


*Apportions unallocated revenues and expenses to each golf course equally.
**Apportions unallocated revenues and expenses to each golf course according to size.

Today’s calculations were made using the City’s own golf fund data. To prevent double-counting, subsidies from other taxpayer funds were removed from Sharp Park’s revenues: these are transfers, not true revenue generation. Similarly, subsidies to other taxpayer funds were removed from the analysis. “Unallocated” funds—revenues and expenditures that benefit more than one golf course—were apportioned to each course using two methods. In the first (proportional) method, unallocated revenues and expenditures were apportioned equally to each golf course managed by the Recreation and Parks Department. In the second (percentage) method, unallocated revenues and expenditures were apportioned to each golf course according to the golf course’s contribution to the golf fund. As seen above, both methods showed substantial annual losses at Sharp Park Golf Course.

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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Mark Buell, the new President of San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Commission, has agreed to meet with the Wild Equity Institute, Surfrider Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association, Sequoia Audubon, San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, and the Center for Biological Diversity after being put on notice of a forthcoming lawsuit over the City’s violation of environmental laws at Sharp Park Golf Course. The groups are represented by the Washington, D.C. public-interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

“The coalition of environmental, justice, and social service organizations calling for closing Sharp Park Golf Course continues to grow and is stronger than ever before,” says Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “We’re glad to work with Commissioner Buell to ensure that, just as he would never conduct the public’s business without complying with open government laws, we do not conduct the endangered species’ business without complying with the Endangered Species Act.”

The controversial Sharp Park Golf Course is owned by San Francisco but located in suburban San Mateo County. The golf course receives failing grades from golfers in most categories measured by the National Golf Foundation, has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2004, and has been killing two species protected by the Endangered Species Act, the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog, for decades.

The new notice explains that the City of San Francisco continues to violate the Endangered Species Act by harming endangered species without permits. Although the City has produced a plan to protect the golf course from liability, the plan is routinely violated, and even if fully implemented would still require approval from state and federal wildlife authorities before it can be lawfully implemented. The notice provides San Francisco with 60-days to remedy these violations or litigation will commence.

For more information on the Wild Equity Institute’s campaign to restore Sharp Park, click here.

Even though San Francisco dumped $300,000 of taxpayer money into new pumps and repaired drainage pipes at Sharp Park over the past two fiscal years, the controversial Sharp Park Golf Course is—once again—severely flooded.

Photographs Taken December 18 & 19, 2010.

Sharp Park Golf Course has had problems with water management since its inception. The golf course’s poor design and unfortunate placement has resulted in flooding from coastal storm surges and from normal winter rains nearly every year.

The ongoing flooding problems highlight the futility of maintaing an 18-hole golf course in this inappropriate location. Millions of dollars of public money would be required to defy nature and defend the golf course’s existing location: money that would be better spent on public parks everyone can enjoy.

Restoring Sharp Park’s wetlands would greatly reduce the risk of flooding events. Wetlands are nature’s best defense against flooding: they act like sponges, absorbing water and protecting surrounding areas from inundation. Their capacity to store water and reduce the velocity of runoff is far greater than mowed areas and golf course fairways and greens.

Thanks to thousands of calls and emails from supporters like you, the federal bailout of Sharp Park Golf Course proposed by Congresswoman Jackie Speier was not adopted by the 111th Congress before the congressional session expired. This means that the bailout proposal is over: unless it is reintroduced and passes both the House of Representatives and the Senate during the 112th Congress. With the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, this seems unlikely to occur.

“Democrats & Republicans, environmentalists and budget hawks, social service providers and open space advocates all agree: there should be no federal bailout of Sharp Park Golf Course,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “If federal dollars are spent at Sharp Park, taxpayers deserve a federal asset in return, and the best asset would be a National Park that everyone can enjoy, not just golfers.”


A Restoration Vision for Sharp Park.

The federal golf bailout submitted by Representative Speier would have taken money dedicated to wetland restoration and used it to build a sea wall at Sharp Park. To justify this diversion of funds, the Congresswoman argued that the sea wall was needed to protect endangered species at Sharp Park. However, ecologists and biologists that have reviewed the proposal determined that the opposite is true: the sea wall would doom Sharp Park’s endangered species while causing Sharp Park Beach to erode away.

Although the possibility seems slim, the federal golf bailout could be reintroduced in the 112th Congress. Fortunately, Representative Speier has increasingly focused her efforts on restoring the Bay Area’s wetlands. She was recently quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle stating that “restoration of our wetlands is critical for wildlife and our future.”

Contact Congresswoman Jackie Speier today at (202) 225-3531 and thank her for her efforts to restore the Bay Area’s wetlands. While you haver her on the phone, encourage her to extend this concern to Sharp Park by supporting a new national park on the property.

New documents released by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department show that another $63,000 was spent to install and repair a pump at the controversial Sharp Park Golf Course, adding to the course’s environmental and economic woes.

The 63-thousand Dollar Pump Installation at Sharp Park

The project follows a $238,000 project to fix the pumping operations implemented just two years ago.

The golf course’s expenses are partly responsible for the Department’s unpopular plan to commercialize San Francisco’s public spaces. For example, at a recent community meeting about Dolores Park, General Manager Phil Ginsburg argued for a controversial vending-cart plan to close a 70-thousand dollar shortfall in Dolores Park’s budget.

But the General Manager failed to mention that the Department had funds to close nearly all of this gap, but chose to spend the funds on environmentally harmful subsidies to a suburban golf course in San Mateo County instead.

Read SF Weekly’s Independent Assessment
of Sharp Park’s Financial Impact on San Francisco:

The pumping operations are the primary activity killing the California red-legged frog at Sharp Park Golf Course. The course’s pumps can drain 11,500 gallons of water per minute from the frog’s breeding habitat, and the new pump adds an additional 15 horsepower to the operation, increasing the risk that frog eggs and tadpoles will be exposed to the air or pumped out to sea.

The Wild Equity Institute is working with dozens of community, park, recreation, historical, and environmental groups to build a better public park at Sharp Park in partnership with the National Park Service. Find out more about our plan to save San Francisco money, protect the environment, and provide recreational opportunities everyone can enjoy.

Thanks to calls, letters, and compelling public testimony, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has delayed approval of a recycled water project that would benefit the controversial Sharp Park Golf Course.

The SFPUC was asked to give its General Manager authority to negotiate a recycled water delivery contract with San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department. The contract would deliver recycled water from a treatment plant in Pacifica to Sharp Park Golf Course.

As currently proposed, three-quarters of the recycled water from the treatment plant would be delivered to Sharp Park Golf Course. But since the golf course may not persist, the current proposal jeopardizes the long-term feasibility of the recycled water project: if the SFPUC cannot find alternative customers for this water, the project could become infeasible and set a bad precedent for future recycled water projects.

The Wild Equity Institute and other environmental organizations argued that the Commission needs to provide opportunities to deliver the water to other users before locking-in contractual agreements for a golf course that may not exist.

During the hearing, the SFPUC General Manager suggested that distributing this water to a diverse user base may be cost prohibitive. But this is contrary to the conclusions reached in the environmental review documents prepared for the recycled water project, which states “[i]f Sharp Park’s use as a golf course were to cease, recreational use of the property would still require water for irrigation purposes . . . . If the needs for the project change as planning progresses, the North Coast County Water District (District) and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) will make necessary changes to the project.”

The SFPUC will now wait for the Recreation and Park Commission to take the lead on the contract, perhaps as soon as the Recreation and Park Commission’s October 21, 2010 public meeting.

Tomorrow, Tuesday September 28, 1:30pm at San Francisco City Hall room 400, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will vote to authorize the SFPUC General Manager to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Phil Ginsburg and the Recreation and Parks Department to deliver recycled water to Sharp Park Golf Course. The vote is item 14 on the agenda. You can find out more here.

The Wild Equity Institute supports using recycled water for non-potable uses. In general, recycled water is a great substitute for drinking water, when the substitution is appropriate.

But this vote is pre-mature. As currently proposed, 75% of the recycled water from this project is slated to quench Sharp Park Golf Course: even though the golf course is unlikely to exist in the near future as sea level rises and environmental and economic constraints force the City to provide recreational golf elsewhere. This is why people from across the political spectrum, from San Francisco’s Green Party to Republican Senator John McCain, have all opposed investing millions of dollars in a water project for a marginal golf course.

So why the rush to vote? A document request by the Wild Equity Institute has found part of the answer: to beat a deadline for federal stimulus dollars for the project. With federal stimulus money on the line, the PUC and its partners seem to be spending money and making agreements first, and thinking about the consequences later.

But there are better alternatives: the PUC can design the recycled water project and sign water delivery agreements that increase the financial stability for recycled water delivery in the long run. By providing delivery options to other users on the San Francisco Peninsula, the PUC can diversify its customer base and increased the probability that this project serves as a positive model for other recycled water projects to come.

Please attend the hearing and tell the SFPUC that they should not authorize negotiations at this time. Instead, the PUC should ameliorate the risks associated with this project through construction plans and water delivery agreements that will give the PUC the flexibility to deliver this recycled water to other users.

If you can’t make it, send your comments to mhoush@sfwater.org.

San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department is seeking federal funding from the Army Corps of Engineers to build a sea wall at Sharp Park: a sea wall that ecologists and biologists have stated will doom the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog, and cause Sharp Park Beach to erode away as sea level rises. We need you to take action today to stop this golf course bailout effort in its tracks.

Read More About the Golf Bailout Here:

The Department is trying to obtain the funds from Section 206 of the Water Resources Development Act: a federal program that directs the Army Corps of Engineers to restore aquatic ecosystems. The Department convinced Congresswoman Jackie Speier to initiate the request: and true to her early statements in support of restoring Sharp Park, her request claims that the money will be used to protect endangered species at Sharp Park, not bailout the golf course.

But legislative research by the Wild Equity Institute indicates that the Department has a very different—and arguably illegal—purpose for the restoration money: the Department’s formal letter in support of the project expressly states that the funds will be used to ‘reconstruct the Sharp Park Seawall’ and to ‘maintain the existing recreational opportunities provided by the golf course’.

Unfortunately, this request has become part of H.R. 5892, the House of Representative’s Water Resource Development Act bill for 2010. We need to make sure the Sharp Park project is redefined so the money is properly spent on restoration: and if we can’t, we need to stop H.R. 5892 in its tracks by preventing companion legislation from being introduced in the Senate.

Help us convince public officials that if federal funds are spent on Sharp Park, we should receive a federal asset in return: a new National Park with recreational facilities everyone can enjoy and a preserve that supports San Francisco’s and California’s namesake endangered species. Please take action today: the Center for Biological Diversity has set-up this action alert so you can point-and-click your way to a better public park at Sharp Park.

Come hear local coastal engineer, Bob Battalio, present an assessment of our preservation and development challenges and opportunities in an age of climate change. Learn how Pacificans can adapt to climate change while maintaining our coastal community, save our natural shores, and enjoy the ride!

Nearly two-dozen allies have joined the Wild Equity Institute in demanding heightened environmental and fiscal scrutiny of Sharp Park Golf Course. The controversial golf course is killing endangered species and loses money, and a new community group letter and a park group letter ask the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to stop prioritizing the suburban golf course the City owns in San Mateo County, and instead prioritize neighborhood and community services threatened by the ongoing recession.

San Francisco Budget Rally; Sharp Park is “Bleeding Green”

San Francisco’s budget crisis is resulting in substantial cuts to neighborhood parks and community services. But cash flow isn’t the only factor in determining what is cut and what is not: these decisions are also a product of the City’s priorities.

The community and park groups recently submitted two letters highlighting the choices the City can make, and specifically highlighting the ongoing financial losses at Sharp Park Golf Course as a misplaced priority.

The SF Weekly recently wrote that Sharp Park’s liability is nearly twice what the Recreation and Parks Department claimed last year, and will require at least $17 million in capital investments to remain operating. If we instead invested this money in our neighborhood parks and community services, we’d be well on our way to building a healthy and sustainable community for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

The groups joining the Wild Equity Institute in the letters represent a broad spectrum of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties, and include Arriba Juntos, the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Chinese Progressive Association, Neighborhood Parks Council, Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth, Pacifica’s Environmental Family, Vietnamese Youth Development Center, Arc Ecology, Sunset Youth Services, Sequoia & Golden Gate Audubon Societies, San Francisco Youth Commission, Our City, Mission Beacon Community Center, Pacifica Shorebird Alliance, Mission Community Peace Collaborative, San Francisco Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Homies Organizing the Mission for Youth Empowerment, National Parks Conservation Association, the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, Nature in the City, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will release his budget proposal to the public June 1. A growing chorus of environmental and social service groups are hoping the Mayor’s budget will help save community services by closing the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course.

Add your voice by contacting the Board of Supervisors & the Mayor. Demand that the City stop subsidizing suburban golf in San Mateo County by closing Sharp Park Golf Course and reinvesting the money saved back in our neighborhoods, where the money belongs.

WEI Executive Director Brent Plater Speaks at a Budget Justice Rally May 26

San Francisco is poised to cut millions from community centers and neighborhood services this year to close the City’s budget deficit.

Yet the City is simultaneously concocting plans to subsidize suburban golf in San Mateo County with an $8 million dollar irrigation project, a $15-30 million dollar sea wall, and up to $14 million dollars in golf course enhancements.

The Wild Equity Institute has proposed a more just solution: close Sharp Park Golf Course, deed the property to the Golden Gate National Parks, and return the money saved back to San Francisco communities, where the money belongs.

San Franciscans Demand Better at Sharp Park

Under our proposal, San Francisco can reinvest its money in local Government services, the killing of endangered species at Sharp Park would stop, and we’d all get a new National Park that everyone can enjoy.

Please send an e-mail to the Board of Supervisors & the Mayor and demand that the City stop subsidizing suburban golf in San Mateo County: close Sharp Park Golf Course and reinvest in our neighborhoods during these times of fiscal crisis.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced a bill to spend a billion federal dollars and create a new federal office dedicated to San Francisco Bay wetland restoration.

It’s a great sign that, after some early missteps, the Congresswoman finally understands the importance and timeliness of science-based wetland restoration projects.

Now we need the Congresswoman to display the same vision for coastal wetland restoration at Sharp Park.

Wetland restoration is one of the best investments we can make to build a healthy and sustainable global community for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth, particularly in coastal areas that will be affected by sea level rise.

And that’s why restoring Sharp Park makes so much sense. Restoring Sharp Park’s wetlands will create a better public park on the land that everyone can enjoy, preserve endangered species, and defend our coastal communities against a warming and rising sea.

A Restoration Vision for Sharp Park.

And under the Wild Equity Institute’s plan, restoration will also boost Pacifica’s struggling economy by creating the first and only visitor center for the Golden Gate National Parks’ San Mateo County properties. These facilities have a demonstrated track record of providing an economic boost to local economies, a boost that the current golf course has failed to provide to date.

Let’s get Congresswoman Speier on the right track on both sides of the San Francisco peninsula. Call her today at (202) 225-3531, thank her for introducing the new wetland restoration bill, and then encourage her to support similar efforts to restore Sharp Park.

Sue Digre put this forum together with the help of Margaret Goodale. Attend if you can, it should be awesome!

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In Pacifica, as elsewhere along the 700 mile coast of California, cliffs crumble and beaches wash away and return. Almost every year we are reminded that here along the San Mateo coastal erosion averages two feet a year. But the process is not orderly, and dramatic events often occur during El Nino years like the one we have experienced this winter.

On Saturday, March 27, join Pacificans at THE FORUM at 2:00 PM at the Hilton library. This FORUM is about Coastal Erosion, the first in an educational series free to the public on various topics.

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Parking: on the street during library hours

December 15, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: BRENT PLATER, WILD EQUITY INSTITUTE, 415-572-6989

MORE LEGAL VIOLATIONS AT SHARP PARK UNEARTHED
GOLF COURSE HAS UNPERMITTED POLLUTANTS IN WATER
ALL GOLF ALTERNATIVE WOULD VIOLATE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

SAN FRANCISCO— E. coli, fecal coliform, ammonia, phosphates, zinc, mercury, selenium, copper: these are just some of the pollutants found in the aquatic habitats for two endangered species at Sharp Park Golf Course, and two new legal notices filed by the Wild Equity Institute demand that the City clean-up its act.

“We’ve known for a while that the quantity of water at Sharp Park was an issue, but now the quality is an issue too,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Luckily there’s a single, economical solution to both issues: restore Sharp Park’s natural wetlands and let nature’s filters absorb the excess water and scrub the contaminants out for us.”

Sharp Park Golf Course maintains several culverts and drainage ditches which the golf course uses to collect storm water and irrigation run-off, and then discharges this water through point sources into endangered species habitats on the property. The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into United States waters without a permit, but recently released water sampling data shows that Sharp Park’s discharges contain a variety of pollutants. The golf course does not have a permit, and in a letter prepared by the law firm Environmental Advocates, WEI demands that San Francisco put an end to these illegal discharges immediately.

A second notice letter alleges that San Francisco’s proposal to invest up to $11million dollars in golf course improvements designed to push endangered species off City property and onto adjacent lands violates the Endangered Species Act and jeopardizes recovery efforts for the species. The City’s plan has been heavily criticized as fundamentally flawed by ecologists, biologists, and coastal engineers because it fails to assess how climate change will affect the property and because it makes the preposterous assertion that picnickers are a greater threat to endangered species than golf course lawn mowers and pumping operations.

“The City’s all-golf alternative may provide job security for paid consultants, but it’s a pink slip for Twain’s Frog and the Beautiful Serpent said Plater. “Recovery efforts that actually work are already being implemented at Mori Point, next to Sharp Park: we should take a page from their recovery book rather than burning it.”

The controversial Sharp Park Golf Course is beset by numerous problems: it loses money, it harms endangered species, and it’s poor design and unfortunate placement causes the course to flood during normal winter rains, putting the surrounding communities at risk.

The best solution to these intersecting problems is to close the golf course, restore the natural flood-protection features that the golf course destroyed, and operate the land in partnership with the National Park Service, which already owns and manages properties adjacent to Sharp Park. A restored Sharp Park can reduce the risk and exposure of catastrophic flooding events, recover endangered species, spur Pacifica’s economy, and create recreational opportunities everyone can enjoy.

The Pacifica Tribune recently reported on a letter written by Pacifica’s Climate Committee urging San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department to consider how climate change and sea level rise will impact the viability of the controversial Sharp Park Golf Course.

In the letter the Committee states that the Department’s all-golf alternative report for Sharp Park “omitted any analysis of sea-level rise and climate change impacts” and that “therefore the scope of this report is too narrow upon which to base long-term planning decisions.” The Committee urged San Francisco to “commit to long-term planning for the impacts of sea-level rise and climate change to Sharp Park and to delay any planning decisions regarding Sharp Park until such planning is complete.”

A Restoration Vision for Sharp Park.

Sharp Park Golf Course is unsustainable economically and environmentally. Golf advocates are therefore pushing to privatize course management while armoring Sharp Park’s coastline at public expense—to the detriment of coastal access, endangered species, and the sustainability of our beaches. But we can build a better public park at Sharp Park if we all demand that the Recreation and Parks Department do so. Download and send in a community support letter today and join our growing coalition of groups working for a better solution to the golf course’s numerous problems.

The Recreation and Parks Department released its controversial report about the future of Sharp Park last month. Now the San Francisco Board of Supervisor’s Government Audit & Oversight Committee will have an opportunity to hear from the Department—and from you—about the future we desire on this land. Please attend this important hearing on Wednesday, December 16th, 1pm at San Francisco City Hall room 263 and tell the Board of Supervisors that we deserve a better public park at Sharp Park!

Ecologists, biologists, coastal engineers, & restoration and recreation advocates have criticized the report because it has several fatal flaws: it fails to consider the impacts of climate change and sea level rise on Sharp Park; it fails to consider sensible restoration alternatives at Sharp Park; and it proposes that we manage Sharp Park like a zoological exhibit for the two imperiled species on the property, the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog, by surrounding the habitat with golf and a reinforced sea wall to keep picnickers away from the land. You read that right: the report suggests that picnickers are a more significant and widespread threat to the endangered species than the golf course, even though the golf course has killed many of the animals and picnickers have never been accused of harming a single one.

A Restoration Vision for Sharp Park

At this hearing, you will hear an impassioned defense of the report from paid biological consultants who will earnestly insist that surrounding the endangered species with threats and uninhabitable space will ultimately be good for the species because it will allow us to grow snakes and frogs like any other agricultural product and encourage future generations of endangered species to migrate away from Sharp Park altogether.

But we need not triage our biological heritage this way. There is still time for us all to choose a better future for Sharp Park by restoring Sharp Park’s ecology while protecting the endangered species on the property and providing recreational opportunities everyone can enjoy. We know it can be done: the National Park Service is already doing so at the adjacent property, Mori Point.

So please attend this hearing and speak up for a better public park at Sharp Park! If you cannot attend you can send comments via email to support the cause.

In a new report released Tuesday, fiscal conservatives on Capitol Hill, led by Senator John McCain, highlight a $2.2 million dollar federal stimulus bailout for Sharp Park Golf Course—owned by the City and County of San Francisco but located in Pacifica, California—as one of one-hundred projects that benefit private interests over the public good and make improvements where they are not necessary.

“Sharp Park is not too big to fail, and we all deserve better than a multi-million dollar bailout of a money-losing, endangered species-killing golf course,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “If federal dollars are spent on Sharp Park the American people deserve an asset in return, and the best asset would be a new National Park unit on the property that provides recreational opportunities everyone can enjoy, not just golfers.”

Currently Sharp Park Golf Course uses over 400,000 gallons of drinking water daily to irrigate fairways and greens during peak demand periods, but as California’s drought continues the Public Utilities Commission has capped sales of water from the Tuolumne River—The San Francisco Peninsula’s most important freshwater source—sending wasteful water users like Sharp Park Golf Course in search of alternative water supplies.

The golf course’s proposed solution would have federal, state, and San Francisco taxpayers fund an $8.8 million dollar recycled water project that would deliver 42 million gallons of recycled water to Sharp Park annually. One-third of the funding would come from federal taxpayers, but three-quarters of the water would go solely to the golf course.

But Sharp Park Golf Course, the report notes, is losing money, harming the environment, and is likely to be closed even if the water project is built: the report states that a great public outcry has stalled a controversial proposal to invest an additional $11 million dollars—above and beyond the money spent on the water project—in Sharp Park Golf Course to improve playing conditions at the golf course’s current, unsustainable configuration and location.

“Throwing good money after bad on Sharp Park Golf Course is not only environmentally unsound, it is also unjust,” said Mr. Plater. “When San Francisco is cutting services to community centers and neighborhood parks by 20-30%, it is inequitable to spend millions on golf in suburban San Mateo County. The time is right to partner with the National Park Service to create a better public park at Sharp Park, and return the money San Francisco saves back where it belongs: invested in our neighborhood parks and community centers.”

Thanks to the thousands of calls, letters, and email messages sent by all of you, Congresswoman Jackie Speier met with a delegation of people working to build a better public park at Sharp Park on Monday, November 30. The Congresswoman heard our voice, but is continuing to chair behind-the-scenes meetings with the golf lobby—and without us—to reduce public access to Sharp Park, privatize course management, and force taxpayers to foot the bill for the environmental problems the golf course has created. It is simply not just to privatize our public spaces while taxpayers foot the bill for golf’s environmental harms. Contact the Congresswoman and thank her for meeting with us, but let her know we need her help finding solutions for everyone at Sharp Park, not just the golf lobby.

The Government Audit and Oversight Subcommittee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisor’s will hear a report on the Recreation and Parks Department’s fatally-flawed alternative report on the future of Sharp Park December 16, 1pm at San Francisco’s City Hall. The report has been heavily criticized by scientists, geologists, and biologists because it fails to even discuss how sea level rise will impact Sharp Park in the coming decades and because it bizarrely suggests that picnicking—that’s right, picnicking—is too great of a threat to endangered species to seriously consider restoration options on the property. 60% of the folks who attended the last hearing, including the vast majority of Pacificans, rejected the fatally-flawed report and supported building a better public park at Sharp Park. We need your support again: please attend this hearing and help build a better public park at Sharp Park!