Vote for natural grass soccer fields, not toxic artificial turf

by Katherine Howard

The November election pits a grassroots initiative protecting Golden Gate Park against a SF Recreation and Park Department (RPD) park power grab. The Rec. and Park Department has been pushing to demolish the natural grass fields at the Beach Chalet soccer fields in western Golden Gate Park to make way for a seven-acre artificial turf soccer field containing toxic tire waste and 150,000 watts of stadium lighting on 60-foot-tall poles. Located right next to Ocean Beach, the lights would be kept on until 10 p.m. every night of the year.

Golden Gate Park Beach Chalet soccer fields
Golden Gate Park Beach Chalet soccer fields

This summer more than 15,000 San Franciscans signed initiative petitions to give you the opportunity to weigh in on this project by casting a simple “yes” or “no” vote on putting artificial turf and sports lighting in the western part of Golden Gate Park. Proposition H also requires the City to maintain those same sports fields as grass.

But, fearful of San Franciscan’s love for Golden Gate Park, Rec. and Park created a competing initiative, Proposition I, which amends the Park Code to “authorize renovation of children’s playgrounds, walking trails and athletic fields where a certified environmental impact report documents at least doubling in anticipated usage.”

But Prop. I presents a Pandora’s Box of unforeseen consequences for all of San Francisco’s parks.

Prop. I is unnecessary – Rec and Park already possesses the authority under the City Charter to renovate city parks; it is misleading – it does not provide any new funding for renovations; and Prop. I’s dependence on “anticipated usage data” opens the door for Rec. and Park staff to create their own data. The department can then use that data to decide unilaterally which projects should take precedence in your neighborhood park.

Additionally, Prop. I’s “doubling in usage” criteria could be tied to virtually any development, including commercial or private activities in your parks.

Prop. I impacts your control over your local park. Prop. I supporters have already admitted that Prop. I would prevent any new laws from being passed to protect a park after a project had been through an EIR. Prop. I’s impact on the public’s right to challenge or appeal a project – or even to file a ballot initiative – is unclear.

Prop. I is not “for the children.” In reality, Prop. I is just a thinly veiled Rec. and Park power grab, disguised as a measure that will somehow benefit children. Protect your say over your parks.

If you want to maintain control over your park – your artificial turf playing fields, your playgrounds and your walking trails – then please think seriously about voting “no” on I.

To protect Golden Gate Park, join the 15,000 people who signed petitions and vote “yes” on H.

For more information, go to the websites at www.protectggp.org and www.sfoceanedge.org.

Katherine Howard is a landscape architect and community activist who helped put Prop. H on the ballot. She can be reached via editor@sfrichmondreview.com.