City of San Francisco "Golden Gate Park Athletic Fields Renovation Act" Preservation Initiative (November 2014)

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See also: City of San Francisco Parks and Athletic Fields Renovation and Conversion Council-Referred Plan (November 2014)
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A City of San Francisco "Golden Gate Park Athletic Fields Renovation Act" Preservation Initiative ballot question is on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of San Francisco, California.

If approved, this measure enacts an initiative called "Golden Gate Park Athletic Fields Renovation Act." This initiative, designed and backed by the Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park, would require all fields in the western portion of the Golden Gate Park to remain natural grass fields and would prohibit the construction of any nighttime lighting for these fields. The measure was triggered by the city's plan to renovate the Beach Chalet soccer fields on the western edge of the Golden Gate Park. The city council referred a competing measure to the ballot that seeks to authorize the project. If both measures receive more than 50 percent approval, the one with the most votes will be enacted, and the other will be rejected.[1]

Image of Golden Gate Park

Competing measure

See also: City of San Francisco Parks and Athletic Fields Renovation and Conversion Council-Referred Plan (November 2014)

Background

Both this measure and the competing measure referred by the city council were triggered by proposed renovations of the Beach Chalet soccer fields on the western edge of Golden Gate Park. These renovations were first planned and approved by the city's Recreation and Park Commission in 2010. The Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park filed appeals to the city to keep the project from going forward. They delayed the project, but were ultimately ignored. The city approved a plan to begin a $14 million renovation of all four soccer fields in the Beach Chalet area on the western edge of the park. The plan includes replacing the grass with synthetic turf, installing lighting, installing benches for players, erecting bleachers for 1,000 spectators, setting up a barbecue area and constructing a community room and renovated bathrooms. This initiative is the last effort of the coalition to preserve the fields as natural grass.[2][3]

Text of measure

Full text

The full text of the initiative measure:[4]

SanFrancisco2014ParksInitaitive.jpg

Support

Note: Supporters of this initiative measure are opposed to the competing city council-referred measure.
Image of Beach Chalet soccer fields location

Supporters

The group behind this initiative is called the Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park.[5]

According to the coalition's website the following groups have supported the initiative:[5]

  • Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods
  • Take Back Our Parks
  • SF Ocean Edge
  • Sunset Parkside Education and Action Committee (SPEAK)
  • Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
  • San Francisco Green Party
  • San Francisco Watershed Protection Alliance

Arguments in favor

Supporters of the initiative believe there are significant harmful effects of artificial turf and believe enjoyment of the park will be impaired by the proposed renovations. The Coalition points out that the park was “designed and managed to afford opportunities for all to experience beauty, tranquility, recreation, and relief from urban pressures” and that these opportunities are put at risk by putting in plastic grass and artificial lighting.[5]

The Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park website featured the following statement supporting this initiative and opposing the proposed artificial turf project it would prohibit:[6]

Coalition members have numerous concerns about the negative impacts of the proposed Beach Chalet project. These concerns include:

  • environmental and human health threats posed by toxic chemicals in plastic turf and the rubber tire crumb infill;
  • the impact of high intensity sports lighting which would add significant light pollution that would impact birds and other wildlife that use the Park’s open spaces;
  • adverse impacts on the natural aquifer that underlies these fields which will soon be used to supplement the City’s potable water supply;
  • impacts on combined sewer overflow discharges into the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Beach;
  • impact of the Beach Chalet project on the Golden Gate Park historic district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and,
  • the precedent for the rest of the California Coast set by the California Coastal Commission’s ruling approving the plan.

Supporters of the initiative believe this issue must be taken to the voters because the decision-makers in the City and the California Coastal Commission disregarded a wealth of information about the harmful effects of artificial turf, night lighting, and the inappropriateness of a sports stadium in the naturalistic western end of Golden Gate Park. Thousands of concerned residents signed petitions, wrote letters, testified at hearings, and publically protested the Beach Chalet project. Nevertheless, the decision-makers turned a deaf ear to this outcry and are allowing the project to go forward.[7]

—Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park[6]

Videos

The following videos are featured on the Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park website:[5]


Beach Chalet Fields Renovation

What's the Deal With Synthetic Turf Particles?

Opposition

Note: Many opponents of this initiative support the competing city council-referred measure that would allow the Chalet Beach renovation project.
Beachchaletrenovated2014.jpg

Opponents

The city council approved the plans to renovate the Beach Chalet field and opposes this initiative to block the project.[1]

Arguments against

Opponents of this initiative insist that the park will be much more enjoyable and accessible to residents, including youth, if the renovations are allowed to go forward. Those who support the renovation project, advocating the competing measure, also say that converting the fields to artificial turf will save countless gallons of irrigation water in a time when California is experiencing an extreme water shortage.[1]

In an opinion piece on The Richmond District of San Francisco blog, Sarah B. wrote the following in favor of the Beach Chalet renovations:[8]

Artificial turf is already in use in several fields across the city, and the lower maintenance and increased playing time it offers make it a sound choice.

And unlike many city projects, half of the $8.9 million renovation costs would be shared by the City Fields Foundation who to date, have renovated five facilities in the city. They know what works and so far, have been very successful in their efforts.

In its current condition, the Beach Chalet fields can host just over 4,000 hours of play in a year. With the renovations in place, the amount of hours for both soccer and lacrosse games to take place would almost be tripled.

In a time when the game of soccer is on the rise, kids are in need of more physical activity and city budgets are being slashed, why wouldn’t we say yes to this project? Let’s turn Beach Chalet into the sports facility it was always meant to be. It would be a great benefit to soccer enthusiasts throughout San Francisco, and would be a facility that all of the Richmond District would be proud to have, especially this one.[7]

—Sarah B.[8]

The San Francisco Chronicle online featured an opinion piece advocating the renovation project that would be prohibited by this initiative and criticizing opponents of the project. Below is an excerpt from the article:[9]

The package would be a blessing for the city's soccer players. The $8.9 million cost will be split by the city and the City Parks Foundation, largely supported by the Fisher family, who started the Gap clothing chain. Along with the new fields, there will be lighting to allow play up to 10 p.m. in an area that's largely shrouded from nearby homes. The existing turf - so heavily used that one of the four fields is rotated out of use for restoration - has been devoted to soccer for decades.

Why the need to explain the background and benefits? Because even a use as benign as improved soccer fields has generated opposition. Almost any change in Golden Gate Park draws fire, and some nature lovers want to hang on to the grass at all costs and fear impacts on wildlife. Though a swath of studies have failed to find any definitive harm from the artificial turf, some opponents cite health worries.

These doubts shouldn't prevail. A popular and growing sport deserves public support. A creative use of public and private money in tough budget times should be encouraged. Families weighing a move out of the city can take rundown sports facilities off their checklist. The city should get behind an encouraging idea that improves sports and parks.[7]

—Opinion piece featured by the San Francisco Chronicle[9]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

According to city election code, 9,702 signatures from registered San Francisco voters was required to qualify this initiative for the ballot. On July 7, 2014, the Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park turned in about 15,000 signatures. If the city elections office certifies that enough of the submitted signatures are valid, the initiative will go before voters on November 4, 2014.[2]

See also

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