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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Other groups that oppose the golf course redevelopment include Golden Gate Audubon, Sequoia Audubon, Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter, SAVE THE FROGS!, and SF League of Conservation Voters.

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

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

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

December 20, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

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

Mayor Lee Vetoes National Park Partnership Option at Sharp Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://wildequity.org/

December 16, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

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

Federal Agency Rejects San Francisco’s Sharp Park Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information on the Sharp Park legislation:

The golf course at 400-acre Sharp Park is plagued by crumbling infrastructure, annual flooding problems and ongoing environmental violations. The site is home to two federally protected species, the California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake. Three dozen San Francisco community, recreation, environmental and social-justice groups have called for closing the golf course and creating a more sustainable public park at Sharp Park.

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

The Park Service is expected to propose restoring the site to coastal habitat with a trail network and other public-serving amenities. Sharp Park is within the legislative boundary of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and adjacent to the Park Service’s Mori Point, where a successful, multimillion-dollar wildlife habitat and trail restoration project accommodates neighbors, school groups and families in a community-based model of park creation. Coastal restoration experts released a scientific study and restoration proposal for Sharp Park showing that removing the golf course and restoring the natural lagoon, wetlands and beach processes is the least costly and only sustainable solution for the land. Restoration will provide the most public benefit and best protect endangered species, at much less expense than the Park Department’s costly plan to dredge wetlands and physically alter golf holes.

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

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

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

http://wildequity.org/

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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.