Friday, December 18, 2009

Golf Wars - Director's Cut

Christmas came early this year for members of the Pacifica Community Coalition To Save Sharp Park Golf Course, the Sharp Park Golf Club and the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance. It arrived on Thursday, December 17, 2009 in public hearing Room 416 of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Board of Commissioners at San Francisco's City Hall... And, even though it arrived early, for the gathered allies in attendance that afternoon, it was an event that was a long time coming...

As the Board worked it's way through five tedious hours on other issues to get to item number 11 on the Agenda that afternoon, the restlessness grew among the stalwart attendees, who had gathered as much as two hours before the scheduled 2 PM meeting start. However, for the Sharp Park Golf Course supporters still  remaining in the hearing room, as the clock approached 7 PM, the final decision was worth the wait...In an unanimous vote of 5-0, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Board of Commissioners voted to adopt SF Recreation and Parks  Dept (SF RPD) General Manager Phil Ginsberg's recommendation to proceed with a habitat restoration plan for the both the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake (SFGS) and the threatened California Red-Legged Frog (CRLF), while preserving the historic, 18-hole, Alister MacKenzie-designed golf course.

The vote came after a vigorous period of public hearings, meetings and controversial debates in both San Francisco and Pacifica. Thursday's approval of the Sharp Park Conceptual Alternatives Report came on the heels of a five-month study and one-month public hearing and comment period, pursuant to an Ordinance, adopted May 12, 2009 by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which requested that a study be made for recommendation of the best alternative for the restoration of the habitats of the endangered SFGS and the threatened CRLF at Sharp Park Golf Course.

The December 17, 2009 SF Rec and Park Commissioner's vote is the second most important of three significant votes that will determine the future of the Sharp Park Golf Course. The other two are the initial vote of the SF Park, Recreation and Open Space Committee (PROSAC) and the ultimate vote of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (SF BOS). The first important vote, the PROSAC vote, occurred on December 1, 2009. In a 14-1 vote PROSAC overwhelmingly voted to approve SF RPD General Manager Ginsberg's recommendations to restore the habitat, while at the same time, keeping the Sharp Park 18-hole golf course. PROSAC'S December 1st vote/recommendation was sent to the SF RPD Board of Commissioner's, for their review and separate vote on the issue. The results of the December 17th SF RPD Board of Commissioner's separate vote will now be submitted to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (SF BOS), whose ultimate vote will be the third and most important vote on the future of the Sharp Park Golf Course. That decision is not expected to take place until sometime in the latter part of 2010.

For the better part of the past three years, the "Golf War" has been waged. Initially it appeared to be a contest to keep the Sharp Park Golf Course an affordable one, against the looming threat of it being taken over and "up scaled" to a price out of the reach of the average golfer that presently plays the course. But, that battle, that saw polarities created and "lines being drawn in the sand", by the perceived "upscale" golfing advocates from courses located in San Francisco versus the "average working man" golfing advocates from the Sharp Park Golf Course located in Pacifica, quickly paled by comparison to the threat of losing the golf course entirely as requested by environmentalist groups, that were demanding that the venerable course be destroyed and ultimately turned into expanded wetlands and a public park.

With the realization that a successful attempt to destroy the Sharp Park Golf Course might be the precursor for other golf courses' destruction in the San Francisco stable of courses, the bickering groups quickly saw the wisdom in stopping the infighting with each other and unite as allies in a common cause to save the historic, 77-year old Sharp Park Golf Course from being dismantled and turned into expanded wetlands. They began challenging the statements being made by the environmental groups about the closing of the course as the only answer in order to improve  the habitats for the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red Legged Frog. Both the San Francisco and the Pacifica golfers stated that the frog, the snake and the golfers have gotten along with each other for quite awhile and although, admittedly, they agreed that the habitats for each endangered and threatened species needed to be restored, they maintained that, in doing so, it  was not necessary to destroy the golf course, which has been such a great nexus for the community and source of recreation for both seniors and youth, males and females, and San Franciscans and Pacificans alike.

Although it is true that the golfers, the snake and the frog have co-existed with each other at the Sharp Park Golf Course for the past several decades, it is also true that, due to a multiple number of reasons, the habitats of both endangered and threatened species urgently need to be restored for their future successful survival and promulgation To this end, there has been much controversy about what needs to done to the Sharp Park Golf Course in order to make that happen and also what would be the most cost-efficient approach in doing so. The choices at hand are: 1. Restore the habitats and modify the 18-hole golf course 2. Restore the habitats and change to a 9-hole golf course 3. Restore the habitats and make the golf course lands into expanded wetlands.

Many entities entered into the battle during these past two to three years, in the effort to save Sharp Park Golf Course from the powerful threat of the close-the-golf course coalition led by the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity and the San Francisco parks activist group Neighborhood Parks Council. Initially the venerable links course was valiantly defended by the stalwart leaders of the Sharp Park Golf Course, led by it's President, Dave Diller. But, quickly the co-founders of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, Richard Harris and Bo Links, joined Diller in the battle. As this was happening, the City Council of Pacifica, led by then-Mayor Jim Vreeland and Councilwoman Julie Lancelle joined the challenge and passed a resolution in 2007 supporting that the course remain an affordable course and asked to be brought to the table in negotiations with San Francisco concerning the course's future operation. In the same month of December of 2007, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors initiated their own resolution of support for the golf course. The Pacifica City Council then established its own Pacifica Golf task Force, populated by several community leaders, and led by both Vreeland and Lancelle.

As the battles waged on, it eventually became apparent that the local "Golf War Effort" needed yet one more expansion. The already established groups believed that there was a need to go out into the entire community of Pacifica and draw from all segments of the community. Heretofore, the emphasis had mostly been on those that were golfers, but now the drive was on to conduct an enhanced recruitment of diverse golf course supporters, in addition to the golfing members of the community, in the effort to save Sharp Park Golf Course and that meant recruiting non-golfers into the campaign to save the links course. A new group, called  "The Pacifica Community Coalition To Save Sharp Park Golf Course" (PCC), had 135 members show up at it's first community meeting. By the time of it's second community meeting, which was a fundraiser, there were over 325 members in attendance. It quickly became clear that the sentiment to save Sharp Park Golf Corse was not relegated to just golfers. Men, women, youths , seniors, non-golfers, more golfers and residents of diverse cultures joined the ranks of the ever-growing local community organization.

The men and women of the newly formed Pacifica Community Coalition To Save Sharp Park Golf Course (PCC) immediately began taking up the challenge to promote the saving of the golf course. It's members marched in September's Fog Fest Parade, designed and distributed buttons and bumper stickers, gathered signed petitions from residents all over Pacifica, passed out leaflets, held neighborhood organizational meetings, spoke at each and every meeting of PROSAC, the San Francisco Rec and Park Dept Board of Commissioners and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meetings in San Francisco, which had the subject of the Sharp Park Golf Course on their agenda. They participated in both radio and tv debates. Wrote articles on the issues.  They reached out to other community leaders in other areas of San Mateo County, who had political contacts and allies in San Francisco.

They communicated with the offices of US Senator Diane Feinstein, Congresswoman Jackie Speier , State Assemblyman Jerry Hill , San Mateo County Supervisors and San Francisco county Supervisors, as well. In addition, they received the help of 3rd District Supervisorial candidate ex-Sheriff Don Horsley, whose efforts proved to be extremely valuable in the immediate days leading up to the December 17th vote in San Francisco. The PCC, in effect, did what any well-organized political campaign would have done. In addition to the efforts of the Sharp Park Golf Club, the  SF Public Golf Alliance, the City of Pacifica and the County of San Mateo, the efforts of The Pacifica Community Coalition To Save Sharp Park Golf Course (PCC) proved to be a very strong deciding factor in the outcome of Thursday's vote in San Francisco. With that vote, the second most important battle is won, but the "Golf War" is not over. All the groups will continue their efforts to save Sharp Park Golf Course until that last ultimate vote is taken by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the fate of Sharp Park is finally determined.

Meanwhile, with the SF RPD Board of Commissioner's vote now having been cast, the next step in the restoration plan will be to move into the Project Design phase, in conjunction with an ongoing Environmental Impact Report process that is currently being undertaken. The results of that report are expected by November, 2010. Then, there is the ultimate vote by the SF Board of Supervisors to be taken which is expected to be made sometime in the latter part of 2010.  "Although we expect that this will be a process that will eventually take about 24 months, our first step in the immediate weeks and months ahead will be to gather all stakeholders in this process, which include the GGNRA, the City of Pacifica, the County of San Mateo, golf course architects, engineers and other professionals, and have them sit down at the table and begin the discussions on how we accomplish this project," said Dawn Kamalanathan, SF RPD Project Director. If the project remains on target, permits for the envisioned habitat restoration and golf course renovation will be issued in the year 2012.

Barbara Arietta
Chair, Pacifica Community Coalition To Save Sharp Park Golf Course
P.O. Box 941
Pacifica, Ca 94044


mw said...

I think we need James Cameron for this epic.

Jeffrey W Simons said...

I really have to give credit to the leaders and members of the Pacifica Community Coalition to Save Sharp Park Golf Course, the Sharp Park Golf Club, and the SF Public Golf Alliance. At every turn, Plater and his followers have tried to kick you into sand trap after sand trap. They have lied, exaggerated, made false personal attacks, changed arguments in mid stream when they didn't work, impugned the integrity of individual leaders, bullied, threatened, misrepresented the works of respected authors . . . basically every tactic of a child having a temper tantrum when they don't get their way.

The Alliance has always stayed right down the middle of the fairway with the truth, consistent and logical arguments, and a dogged determination to counter every lie Plater has thrown out. Golf clap

One the one hand, I think its reprehensible that you've had to waste so much time and energy fighting the Platerborg and his minions like Ian Butler, Carlos Davidson, Peter Baye, etc . . . on the other hand, it has allowed some true heroes with honest voices to step forward and demonstrate their commitment to the jewel that is the Sharp Park Golf Course.

mw said...

No one should think this movie is over. I've yet to hear much explicit support coming from the Board of Supervisors (outside of maybe two or three) and I don't think anyone has a clue what that vote will look like. Remember this board voted to not report undocumented workers who are charged with felonies to the INS.

The lawsuits are coming. Guaranteed. They will be flying fast and furious from the Wild Institutionalized Center for Diverse Biological Equity. No telling whether our Supes will have the backbone to stand up to it.

BTW, if interested in the real motivation for lawsuits that are continually launched by environmental litigation firms like The Equitable Institute for Centering Biological Diversity check out this article in the NYT.

Jeffrey W Simons said...


Great link, thanks. How odd that an attorney that represents CBD is named "Suckling", and that they still come across as whiny bullies in that article.

Anonymous said...

Or an explicit report from the City of Pacifica saying how they are going to ask Pacificans and San Mateo County voters to pay for the golf course. Whether Pacifica donates staff time and services or actual cash, Pacificans will have to pay. Most folks don't pay golf and most folks won't want to pay.

Anonymous said...

Some money is expected to be Federal.

Some folks don't hike, yet all Pacificans are paying for both bike and walking trails in this city over several years. Some folks don't agree with paying all utilities and otherwise subsidizing Sanchez Artist center yet we do. Some folks think we need a dog park, but not all folks have dogs. Some folks think we need a 21st century library, and the Little Brown Church should be restored, and many other civic benefit issues need to be addressed, yet they aren't.

Some folks don't drive but we all pay for roads. Some folks think the overhead wires should be undergrounded, and the leaking sewer system fixed; we should pay for these because of safety and ecological issues, yet that doesn't happen.

Some folks think some economic development (such as quarry redevelopment) is needed to bring-in a bunch of city tax revenue, some people (including "no growth" City Council)have done what they can (which is plenty) to make sure that doesn't happen.

An alternative to not having tax revenue producing commerce in a city to pay the city overhead likely will include parcel owners taxes and boosting other fees, which ultimately affect everyone. As one recent Mayor said "..its nice to pay some taxes, look at all we have". That must be the 60% open space which brings in no revenue, whereas golf course concessions brings in revenue for our city, and these golf course concessions are listed in the top 27 income producers. But, this is your "scare tactic" first anonymous, so "boo".

However, here's an alternative plan to fix your concern, "fix Pacifica" by voting-out this city council in 2010.