Attorneys debate toxic turf during Beach Chalet project opponents' last stand


Opponents of a city plan to install artificial turf soccer fields and stadium lights at the Beach Chalet soccer fields in Golden Gate Park — after losing at every stage of the project’s approval process — had their day in court Friday, beginning what could be their last chance: to have a judge block the project.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if these were the most heavily scrutinized soccer fields in the country,” attorney James Emery, who is representing the city and the project, said as he started off his opening arguments to defeat the lawsuit.

Groups including the SF Coalition for Children's Outdoor Play and the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter filed a lawsuit based on the claim that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it chose to use what the plaintiffs lawyers describe as “toxic turf.”

The main argument on the plaintiff’s side was that the styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) that will be used for the fields is inherently toxic. Other arguments included the lack of hybrid alternatives on the Environmental Impact Report conducted for the fields, as well as deletion of emails by a city department.

Plaintiffs attorney Vernon Grigg started off with the assertion that the SBR turf being used for the soccer fields is made from crushed up tires “that aren’t even allowed in a landfill without a permit,” and that the EIR failed to offer other alternatives such as carpet pad rubber or cork.

His co-counsel Richard Drury also pointed out that SBR turf has a 18.8 in a million chance of causing cancer, exceeding the significant threshold of 10 in a million the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) adopted in 2010.

Attorney Scott Emblidge, another lawyer contracted by the city on the case, said that wasn’t a standard that the city has adopted, criticizing the oft-repeated point by saying, “San Francisco has not formally adopted significance standards, though they have said it 17 times in their opening brief.”

But Drury emphasized that the city is compelled by CEQA to consider a less toxic option. “There are no alternatives to less toxic turf,” Drury said. “It wouldn’t have been hard for them to do that — they just didn’t do it.”

But Emblidge said the EIR didn’t identify the turf choice as significantly toxic, a point Drury disputed.  

“The EIR does mention alternative forms, and does discuss alternative turf composition,” Drury said. “They consistently covered that there were significant health effects. There’s lots of speculation, but nothing that truly shows it.”

Other points were made that people within the Recreation and Parks Department were deleting emails related to the project, but coverage on that subject ran short as Judge Teri L. Jackson had to leave the court because of other engagements.

Attorneys for both sides are scheduleed to meet on Wednesday to be questioned further by Jackson.


These people were elected by the people and so know what is best for everyone.

If I have learned anything from the Bay Guardian it is that obeying my masters at city hall is the greatest good.

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

As previously noted, this project has NEVER lost a vote before the numerous public decision-making bodies that have considered it. The NIMBY opponents claim that it's because of their corruption and servitude to their corporate masters, etc. However, if the court upholds all the previous rulings on the project what will the NIMBYs say then? Is our Superior Court corrupt, too?

Isn't it sufficient for the NIMBYs to have held the project up for a few years and cost the City's taxpayers a few million? Is THAT not a sufficient victory?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

bemoaned business running healthy SF through the courts, claiming that elected reps of the people were for this so the lawsuits were a shitty way to go about things. They also whined about prop H, the hand gun ban for city citizens going through the courts, they lost that one. The whole prop 8 thing went through the courts and they think that is awesome.

SF progressives think the whole system is fucked because they don't get their way, when it works out for them it is democracy in action and those that don't agree are racists.

Whats your question?

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

How are these concerns "NIMBY"?

That is just plain ludicrous!

Fact is that this is a new stadium in Golden Gate Park. :(

The fence around that soccer field should also be removed. There is no justification for that field being there as GGP is supposed to be a refuge from the City....

Posted by guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 8:42 am

I played soccer there twenty years ago.

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Posted by find people numbers for free on Jul. 23, 2014 @ 1:17 pm

18 in a million chance of getting cancer one day? You have a 990000 in a million chance of getting cancer from something else first.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

Your chances of sustaining a serious leg injury while playing on the existing grass field are like 100,000 in one million

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Posted by zip code look up by address on Jul. 23, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

But when you do receive an injury, how does the blood get cleaned up?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

When you twist an ankle or knee, there isn't any blood.

I play soccer all the time. It's extraordinarily rare for blood to spill on the ground. (On socks, sometimes. On shirt, very rarely. On the ground, I can't remember a single time) But if it did, it would get cleaned up on turf the same way it gets cleaned up on a grass field: via rain/dew/evaporation.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

Nobody cares about this - just build the damn artificial turf - everywhere else does.

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Real turf creates jobs and helps our warming planet. Kids should be home studying for school instead of concentrating on sports in the evenings which is getting this country nowhere fast.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

I don't think a few soccer pitches that are synthetic poses much threat to the planet.

Oh, and when I hire workers, I always look for someone who has played sports. They tend to be better at teamwork, and they know how to manage loss and upset - something that many people fail at.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

Digging holes in the ground and then filling them up creates jobs too.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

nor the hole-fillers can ever be fired, reassigned or have their pay cut.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

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Posted by anon on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

Unfortunately we already know that the judge is partial to developers, and the city planning "family" so it will have to be appealed like other major suits vs. the city.

Posted by goodmaab50 on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

It didn't take long for goodmaab to make the claim that the " judge is partial to developers". Has it never occurred to the NIMBYs, when you keep losing on this issue, you're the problem? When does it begin to dawn on you that your views are a fringe minority overwhelmingly rejected by a democratic process?

Can't the NIMBYs at least exult in having delayed this excellent project for years and cost the City's taxpayers millions? After all, isn't that a considerable victory?

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