When the Coastal Commission fails

"Fornicators" are far from the only losers in the Beach Chalet soccer complex deal


The sensationalist title of the Bay Guardian article "Fornication loses to soccer fields" (5/15/13) overshadows the far-reaching implications of the Coastal Commission's rubber-stamp of San Francisco's Beach Chalet soccer complex. Lost in the article is the story of what really happened: powerful political interests leaned on the commissioners to abrogate their responsibility to protect the California coast.

Project supporters repeated the fallacy that seven acres of artificial turf and 150,000 watts of sports lighting next to Ocean Beach would stem the flight of families from the city. Notably, none of the commissioners acknowledged that the City of San Francisco's own environmental impact report identified an alternative that meets the project goals — including the need for playtime — without any impact on the coastal zone. In fact, the "need" argument is a red herring to push through a pet project.

When the commissioners approved the Beach Chalet's 150,000 watts of lights — situated only 500 feet from the beach — they did not even discuss the impacts from sports lights. They disregarded their own staff report — which said much of what opponents of the project have been saying for years — and ignored copious evidence from well-credentialed experts demonstrating the city's faulty environmental analysis on the negative biological and aesthetic impacts of lights on people and wildlife in the coastal zone.

Only Commissioner Steve Blank seemed willing to uphold his duty to protect the coastline. Blank reminded the panel that its mandate is to uphold the Coastal Act and protect the interests of the 38 million Californians in our shared coastline. The California coastline has remained protected for decades due to the diligence of past commissions. The commission is supposed to transcend local politics. But the remaining commissioners failed to do this.

The approval of the Beach Chalet project is not just the acquiescence of the Coastal Commission to a single project but an all-out attack on coastal protections. Now, any developer who can trump up claims of local need for recreation can expect this commission to rubber-stamp its project.

Anyone concerned about the integrity of California's coast should be outraged. We encourage you to let your elected representatives know that if the Coastal Commission members can't abide by the Coastal Act, they should be replaced before they can do even more damage to our remaining coastline.

For those not at the hearing, the Bay Guardian headline refers to the claim that the Beach Chalet is a cruising ground for gay men, a claim used to sensationalize the issue and also to assert that healthy, all-American recreation field would make the area "safe for children." This homophobic tactic was a recurrent theme during local hearings and has been deeply felt by the LGBT community.

The battle for our parkland is not over. There is currently a CEQA lawsuit in the courts; in addition, a broad coalition of groups is moving forward to continue to fight this project. Join with them — it will take everyone's participation to win back our parkland, our beach and our coast.

Sue Englander is an Executive Board Member, Harvey Milk LGBT Club. Arthur Feinstein is chair of the Sierra Club, Bay Chapter. Mike Lynes is executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Katherine Howard is a member of the Steering Committee of SF Ocean Edge.


soccer fields (which have been there at least 20 years that I know of).

Most cities build on their beachfront and, in many cases, it is privately owned. Not in SF, so you already have far more public provision than would normally be the case.

Quit whining.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 7:02 am

Return GG park to its native form! Sand dunes and no trees!

Posted by NOT_Eric_Brooks on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 9:01 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 9:46 am

You must not be a beach goer, and I'm sorry for that. I don't see why anybody, except for selfish wealthy private property owners on the waterfront would want the coastline to be privatized. Do not forget - voters approved Proposition 20 which established the California Coastal Commission. Without the Coastal Commission transcending local governments and upholding their obligation to protect the coast, California's waterfront would look a lot different - for the worst.

Funding to reverse previous private property land uses and create public access to California's beaches continues to pour in from agencies like the State Coastal Conservancy. These agencies, including the Coastal Commission, are not going anywhere. Battles like this will be fought for every single development in the coastal zone - so get ready.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 9:49 am

as long as they pay my asking price.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:09 am

has more the money to buy your beachfront property. And I'm sure public access points exist very near your home, so whoever wishes to walk in front of your house can at any time.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:27 am

side of mine.

But yes, we haven't fenced off the beach and generally do not enforce entrance controls.

Few intruders bother though. Beachgoers are lazy.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:39 am

Lets be correct. The Beach Chalet has never been a gay cruising area. The area between the soccer fields and the restaurant is. However, I don't believe it is as popular as it was years ago.

I am not a big fan of artificial turf, but it is cheaper to maintain, and it has been a resounding success at Crocker Amazon. The Beach Chalet field has been a soccer field for at least 50 years, albeit a crappy one. The light issue is no different than when there are concerts at the Polo fields and they keep the lights on until 10pm. In the summer, this will be an issue 1-2 hours per day. And the lights won't be on every night - only during the soccar seasons, and only when night games are played.

Posted by Richmondman on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:00 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:11 am

stadiums. Not on California's amazing, unique, naturally rich coastline.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

It's a beach.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

I didn't say anything about myself, I said something the California coastline.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

You expressed your own personal opinion about the coastline, which I disagreed with.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

I have had sex at the beach chalet many times years ago, it defiantly was a cruising area. Why shouldn't men have parks for sex, we pay taxes too , not every park has to be for children. Anyway with Adam4Adam I have not cruised there for 10 years.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

I live right by there, never cruised because I'm not a gay guy, but I'd rather have the sex cruisers than bright lights. Bright lights will make it impossible to sleep; the gay cruisers on the other hand don't bother anyone. Let them cruise and have sex. For a woman walking alone in that park at night, it's probably the safest area in the city, because none of those guys are the least bit interested in me. You're right though, there seem to be a lot fewer of them than there were before. And I actually liked it better when there were more, because I felt safer.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

Parking lots, hotels, roller coasters, lots of bright uses along our coast line. I don't see anything wrong with playing fields with lights.

Posted by Garrett on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:02 am

I'd like to see The Coastal Commission do it's job with zero tolerance for infringement of it's mandate. Any exceptions made lay the ground for subsequent petitioners pointing at those exceptions, and claiming that they're being singled out for harsh treatment, regardless of the merits or truth.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

Maybe shoot on sight for anyone being politically incorrect on the beach?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

Well said.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

Here are the facts:

The Beach Chalet soccer complex means the loss of over 7 acres of green grass to 7 acres of artificial turf, made up of gravel, plastic carpet, and potentially toxic tire waste infill; 150,000 watts of sports lighting, lighted until 10:00 pm every night of the year and located just a few hundred feet from Ocean Beach; loss of plantings to over 1 acre of new paving; loss of over 55 trees; installation of seating for over 1,000 visitors; expansion of the parking lot by 33% - in a City that brags about being "transit first." Loss of carbon sequestration equal to planting over 7,000 trees and having them grow for 10 years. Loss of the night sky to families at Ocean Beach, who visit to view the sunset, to gaze at the stars, or to sit by the fire rings.

These plastic fields will have to be replaced in 8 years, with no money in the budget to pay for replacements. Rec and Park is always crying poor - how are they going to pay the millions of dollars needed for replacement fields? Does anyone think that San Francisco will have more money in 8 years than it has now?

Add to all of this, placement of this project in a tsunami zone. What will be the impact on the park and on the aquifer under the park (from which San Franciscans will soon be drinking) when a tidal wave spreads tons of tire waste throughout the park?

The Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Golden Gate Audubon Society, as well as over 10,000 people who signed petitions, postcards, and wrote personal letters, are opposed to this project. Also opposed are Viking Soccer Parents for Green Grass in Golden Gate Park and Educators for Photosynthesis, an organization of teachers.

And don't forget the 44-member, city-wide neighborhood organization, the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, as well as every major historic preservation organization -- national, state, and local. People who oppose the terrible damage that this project will do to Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach range from very young soccer players to grand-parents and cover a wide variety of occupations. In one sense this is a generational issue - do we destroy this area or do we protect it for future generations?

Many professionals are also lined up against the project. Dr. Travis Longcore, the leading expert on the impacts of artificial lighting on wildlife, wrote a 24-page report detailing the damage this project will do to wildlife in this area. Wayne M. Donaldson, past State Historic Preservation Officer and currently the Chairman of the United States Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) detailed the unmitigated damage this hard-edged and paved sports complex will do to the beauty and character of Golden Gate Park.

There is a feasible alternative to this project. The San Francisco Department of Recreation and Park, by refusing to even consider this alternative, has introduced a lot of strife into a situation that could have been resolved peacefully and positively for everyone involved.

Learn the facts -- go to the website, www.sfoceanedge.org or to Facebook SF Ocean Edge or to Flickr SF Ocean Edge or to twitter @SFOceanEdge.

Posted by SF Ocean Edge on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

It may seem rash, but I see this as another part of the movement to abolish democratic government by intentionally inducing failure. As you say, the field will need to be replaced with no funding in sight. And the water... who's idea was this to contaminate our fantastic Hetch Hetchy water with local groundwater anyhow? Dasani?

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

Just two nasty, obsessive compulsive old ladies with nothing better to do than waste $2 million dollars of the City's money countering their bogus claims.

Posted by Andrew Solow on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 2:11 am

NOT "facts". Just more garbage from SF Ocean Edge

Posted by Andrew Solow on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 2:13 am

Wake up, San Franciscans. The park is for us, for the wildlife, and for future generations. Are we going to stand by and passively accept this unfair, expensive, dangerous plastic/tire fill and blinding bright lights by our beautiful Ocean Beach?

Posted by Jenifer Ransom on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

I play there every week and I'm a member of the public.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

"I play there every week and I'm a member of the public."

No one is saying people shouldn't get to play soccer. A perfectly reasonable alternative was put forth for soccer playing - one that would not have grave impacts on the wildlife, our ground water, our budget, Ocean Beach, and the future of Golden Gate Park. It was dismissed out of hand.

Posted by Jenifer Ransom on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

A soccer field is a soccer field.

Sometimes you take a view and you lose, ya know?

Posted by anon on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

The Beach Chalet grounds are far more than just a soccer field. It is a wildlife habitat, for one thing. The turf and stadium lights would be very disruptive to them and to the neighborhood as a whole. The Coastal Commission itself recommended that the artificial turf be rejected because it violates the naturalistic landscape of Golden Gate Park. So why have they now embraced it? Pressure from those who apparently don't give a damn about all the issues that would come out of this ill-begotten plan.

Posted by Jenifer Ransom on Jun. 09, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

play soccer and have a microbrew afterwards.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

God forbid little children should play in the park.
Some of them might be Brown; and our property values could go down.

Posted by Andrew Solow on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 7:39 pm

Most of the games slated to be played on the GGP fake fields are evening adult league play. This is not all about The Negro Children.

Posted by anon on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

what I want. When it doesn't it's incredibly dysfunctional."

That's the mentality of a 7-year old.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

when it protects the coast. When it doesn't it's dysfunctional. It's not "what I want." It's when it does it's job. Duh.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

A very disturbing vision is of Phil Ginsburg, a well connected lawyer with NO park experience, who rules over SF Rec and Park, HUGGING the Commissioners after the meeting in Marin last month. The commission voted his way while completely ignoring their own staff report, common sense and decency.... Carcinogenic astro-turf allowed Golden Gate Park in 2013? Follow the money, Fishers (GAP, Old Navy, Banana Rep, etc) are donating to this soccer stadium so they can get their name on it. Ginsburg: your blind ambition is destroying the soul of our city.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

The level of stupidity here is beyond belief.

First of all, "Sports Turf" is not astro-turf.

Second of all, granulated rubber is used as an active filtration agent because it has a tremendous affinity for a variety of pollutants. That means that if there are any pollutants in the environment, a granulated rubber based field will actually absorb them.

Third, nobody loves Phil Ginsburg. But, Ginsburg is right about this particular project.

Finally, the homeowners adjacent to West Sunset will NEVER allow field lights adjacent to their homes. And, they have the juice, the bucks and the attorneys to back that up into oblivion.

Posted by Andrew Solow on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 2:07 am

It cracks me up. The nonchalant attitude that most bay area residents have toward the environment in own own cesspool of a city while imposing ourallegedly "green" will on the rest of the state. Astounding. Some care, but most don't.

What's the concern over a few more lights, when the entire city is light blight wasteland with nary a star to be seen in the sky? Where was the outrage when The Bay Lights project was up for approval? Even the Exploratorium had to have an outdoor light show for their grand re-opening. Most of our "beautiful neighbors" never met a commercial project they didn't like, and would think something is wrong with the sky if they ever saw the Milky Way.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

but we guard and hug our trees like they don't grow.

Oh wait, they do.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

So, two nasty evil old women decided to spend every waking hour for more than two years trying to prevent children from playing soccer at Beach Chalet on a flat surface sans gofer holes and mud bogs?

Talk about a karma deficit....

Posted by Andrew Solow on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 2:02 am

Thank the goddesses for the crones.

Posted by anon on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

What is very obvious is that the Costal Commission had apparently decided well before the hearing and the release of the Commission's report advising the opposite of their action. I wonder how the CC employees who spent many hundreds of hours and tax dollars researching and preparing the report must feel at being dumped on. The only reason that I can see for the CC even having the report released was to be able to say that they followed the rules. This means that the Commission, in my opinion, will do what they want regardless of the facts or what is right for the California coast.

I am surprised that the Governor puts up with this, but then I suspect that the feeling is that the coast will disappear with the next quake so why bother to protect it.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

What is much more striking is how little of the coastline is privately owned and managed.

Posted by anon on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

dear God, you know there was the Golden Gate Parks Master Plan. synthetic turf and lighting go against the Master Plan and the coast plan; they are also bad for your birds, the water,,, the ocean, and these kids. are these your children on these commissions and committees that do damage to the land and water and birds?

why is it that money makes people evil? why is it that people come here to ruin the beauty of the city? God, could you please make them eat their own shit. They wouldn't know the difference; just charge 20$ for it. we can use that money for the cancer clinics for children and the vet clinic for the wildlife. amen

Posted by prayer to the God of common sense on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

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