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

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

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

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

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

2006 Natural Resources Management Plan for Sharp Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Additional Background on SNRAMP

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

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


Letter from experts expresses concerns with Conceptual Alternative A18

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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!