Pacifica Climate Group: Keep Studying Sharp Park
BY IAN BUTLER Special to the Tribune
The Pacifica Climate Committee, a citizens group working since 2007 to study the local impact of climate change, has written to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Recreation and Park Department, urging them to “commit to long-term planning for the impacts of sea level rise and climate change on Sharp Park, and delay any planning decisions regarding Sharp Park until such planning is complete...The recently released Sharp Park Conceptual Restoration Alternatives Report omitted any analysis of sea-level rise and climate change impacts...therefore, the scope of this report is too narrow upon which to base long-term planning decisions.” The letter is dated December 21, 2009, and signed by Committee member Cynthia Kaufman.
The committee has been involved in climate change-related activities in Pacifica, such as creating an inventory of Pacifica’s non-municipal greenhouse gas emissions, celebrating International Climate Action Day on October 24, developing a “low-carbon diet,” and hosting the Community Climate Forum at Council Chambers on June 18, which featured Assemblymember Jerry Hill and then-Mayor Julie Lancelle.
Councilmember Lancelle was surprised that the City of Pacifica, which has been working with the committee, was not sent a copy of the committee's letter. She pointed out that “the City Council approved the formation of a Pacifica Climate Action Plan Task Force at the request of members of the Pacifica Climate Committee...Without a doubt, we are very concerned about the long-term effects of climate change.” The city is conducting interviews for the task force this week.
Dawn Kamalanathan, planning director of San Francisco Rec & Park, which prepared the alternatives report, echoes those sentiments. “The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is absolutely interested in and committed to exploring the long-term impacts of sea rise on Sharp Park.” Dawn stated in an email response to the Pacifica Climate Committee letter, “Our intent is to conduct this exploration in full partnership with the County of San Mateo and City of Pacifica, as the potential impacts of sea rise on that region extend beyond the boundaries of Sharp Park.”
But at Pacifica Council Chambers on December 11, David Munro, one of the lead authors of the Rec & Park report, indicated that the report focused primarily on helping the highly endangered San Francisco garter snake recover in the short term. He said, “We’re looking at a planning horizon that takes into account events that will happen before sea level rise becomes too significant.”
For Celeste Langille, Pacifica planning commissioner and Climate Committee member, more long-term planning is needed. “You need to do all the analysis before you decide on a course of action,” she said. “Because the alternatives haven’t been studied, I don’t know what would be better for flooding for the neighborhoods. That’s why there needs to be planning for 50 to 100 years out.” Although the Rec & Park report included a no-golf alternative, a 9-hole alternative, and its preferred 18-hole alternative, it chose not to evaluate the feasibility of phasing out the levee or turning the property over to the National Park Service and GGNRA.
A separate study done by ARUP International, an engineering firm, looked at the condition of the levee. It recommended repairs costing between $6 million and $14 million, and requiring annual maintenance of 1 percent of initial cost. It estimated such repairs would result in “low to very low vulnerability to overtopping or breach” for 50 years.
Bob Battalio, Pacifica hydrologist and coastal engineer who helped develop the FEMA Pacific coast flood study guidelines, estimates that an effective long-term levee repair could cost closer to $30 million, and would not necessarily help. He said, “The risk of flooding from rainfall runoff is greater than the risk of flooding from the ocean. Therefore, the levee is counterproductive.”
Battalio has offered to help develop an alternative plan. “I think we can develop a plan that is sustainable, can enhance endangered species habitat, maintain our beach, and can even allow golf for at least the next few decades. Unfortunately, the existing plan has fundamental flaws inconsistent with better solutions.” He fears it would endanger the very species it is designed to protect. “Their plan places salt-sensitive species right behind the levee where they are at risk from saltwater overtopping and groundwater intrusion.”
Lancelle said she would welcome an informational meeting with Battalio, perhaps along with Councilmember Jim Vreeland, who she said is “very well versed in coastal planning.” But she urged that “the long-term planning effort should not delay what needs to be done soon to maintain the coastal trail and golf course at Sharp Park and, most important, protect the endangered species habitat there.”
Unfortunately, the City of Pacifica has its hands full. As Commissioner Langille put it, “Pacifica has a lot of coastal planning to do besides the golf course. Just look at Esplanade.”
Is this a news report by a reporter or a column?
Mine, and a few others concern about this article is that is was not labeled as an opinion piece, which it cleary is. The Tribune continues to become nothing more than a birdcage liner and has about as much credibility as Pravda did in the 1980's. A local newspaper should really focus more on news and not become a weekly forum for those who clearly won't let the facts and the truth get in their way to take away the recreation choice of thousands.
One quote that did catch my eye: From Bob Battalio
“Their plan places salt-sensitive species right behind the levee where they are at risk from saltwater overtopping and groundwater intrusion.”
If Plater and his crew really want to restore this area to dunes and wetlands, and take the sea wall down as they say, won't the "salt sensitive species" be worse off? At least now the snakes and frogs are not in danger from salt water intrusion.