Thursday, November 26, 2009
Save and/or Restore Sharp Park
Last Thursday, November 19th, there was a hearing at the San Francisco Recreation & Park Commission in City Hall on the proposed plans for the Sharp Park golf course in the seaside town of Pacifica. At the beginning of the 20th century, the shoreland and adjoining valley in the middle of town was deeded to the SF Rec & Park Department for public recreation, and in the early 1930s the legendary golf course architect Alisteir Mackenzie created a municipal course in one small section near the ocean.
The course is barely withstanding a number of enemies these days, starting with the Rec & Park Department itself, which for at least the last decade has been starving the course of money and resources while it sinks millions of dollars into the money pit that is Harding Park Golf Course at Lake Merced where the PGA occasionally holds a professional tournament. The other opponent is an outfit called the Center for Biological Diversity, a litigious environmental group out of Tucson, Arizona which claims that the golf course is home to two endangered species, the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake.
As Paul Slavin points out in an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News, "Now, the red legged frog is found across much of low-elevation central California so we're not talking about extinction here, however heated some of the debate has gotten. The frogs, and their eggs, have been found on course property as well as much of the surrounding area, including Mori Point." The San Francisco garter snake, by the way, is found most plentifully around the San Francisco Airport rather than Sharp Park but let's not let facts get in the way of moral righteousness.
The hearing lasted for about three hours with people being asked to watch the proceedings in the ground floor City Hall Light Court until their names were called for public comment. There were three options being considered by the commission: 1. Destroy the golf course and return the area to wetlands; 2. Keep the 18-hole golf course but replace three holes that are close to Laguna Salada with new ones further east in the valley; or 3. Turn it into a 9-hole golf course.
With Phil Ginsburg as the new head of the Rec & Park Department and Jim Lazarus as President of the Rec & Park Commission (above center), it's probable that a back room political fix is already in, and that it has something to do with "mitigation banking."
The commenters were pretty evenly divided between those who wanted to "Save Sharp Park," in other words keep the golf course, and those who wanted to "Restore Sharp Park," which means destroying the course and restoring the wetlands to some imagined pristine condition. There were a few idiots on both sides, but the majority of people commenting were smart, idealistic citizens who were being pulled emotionally by all the rhetoric flying around.
The final decision was put off until the next Rec & Park Commission meeting, and video of the meeting at the San Francisco Government Television website still hasn't been posted a week later, so you won't be able to see me give my brief comments near the end of the meeting. I started by extolling the beauty of the course and the importance of Mackenzie the golf architect but could see everyone's eyes rolling with disinterest after three hours of testimony, so I cut to the punchline. "Thank you so much for proposing to get rid of the Par 3 12th hole. I've always hated it." This actually produced a laugh from everyone.