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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.

Thursday, December 15, 1pm, San Francisco City Hall Room 400: Join us at a San Francisco Planning Commission and Recreation and Park Commission joint meeting where the commissioners will vote on a taxpayer funded bailout of the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course. This meeting will likely be a long one: we need you to come early, stay late, and demand that the commissioners oppose this terrible project. A coalition of environmental, environmental justice, social service and neighborhood park groups have come together to oppose this golf course project, demanding that the City eliminate it from the environmental review of the Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan: and if they don’t demanding that they reject the environmental review process all together. Golf industry groups have pressured San Francisco’s Mayor to bailout Sharp Park Golf Course for years, and the Recreation and Parks Department and in 2009 it drafted a controversial proposal to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course. This proposal was heavily criticized by environmentalists, budget hawks, and Bay Area scientists, and the proposal died on the vine. But in an Orwellian move, seven years later the Recreation and Park Department inserted the golf course redevelopment project into the final environmental review for San Francisco’s Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan ("SNRAMP"), a plan that many, including Wild Equity, once supported. This was done even though the Department promised the public in 2009 that the golf course redevelopment project would never be integrated with the SNRAMP plan: Wild Equity, the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Tomorrow, S.F. League of Conservation Voters, National Parks Conservation Association, S.F. Green Party, Sequoia Audubon and others all agree: the environmental benefits proposed by SNRAMP in other areas are far outweighed by the environmental destruction the golf course bailout would cause at Sharp Park. We need to stop this proposal, and that’s why we are asking you to join us at 1pm on December 15 at City Hall Room 400 to demand that the golf course project be removed from SNRAMP’s environmental review process, and if the City refuses to remove it, demand that the entire environmental review document be rejected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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