Saturday, January 2, 2010

Pacifica's "Golf War" has made it to the Wall Street Journal! "Apparently Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore..."

Happy New Year everyone!

Two pieces of information to share...First, looks like the local "Golf War" being waged in Pacifica and San Francisco has made it all the way across the nation. A San Francisco "Golf War" colleague of mine sent me this last week...Sorry for delay in letting you know...holidays were very, very busy... Apparently, the story that I wrote about the recent 12/17/2009 vote of the SF Rec and Parks Commission, along with providing a detailed background of the past history of the "Golf War", has made it to, of all places, the Wall Street Journal... My original article, which was initially printed in the Pacifica Tribune on 12/23/2009, was picked up and published online by the San Jose Mercury News, which has a substantial readership throughout Silicon Valley. The Wall Street Journal has an office in Silicon Valley. One of its reporters picked up the story, wrote a brief report about it on December 26, 2009 and then the Wall Street Journal online bureau linked it to my 12/23 article in the San Jose Mercury News for the in-depth coverage...

I tried to send the original link only, but it was no longer available.

I'm sure that most of you have already read my article, but I am forwarding the entire info, in tact, as it was sent to me...Second thing that I would like to pass on is additional info about what was sent to me under separate cover by another one of our PCC members about what has been published in the San Mateo Times today concerning the 10 top environmental stories in San Mateo County, and, of course, according to the Times, our Sharp Park Golf Course saga is the number one 2009 environmental story in San Mateo County!

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

The below "Snakes, Frogs and a Famous Course Saved" is the brief report that was published by the Wall Street Journal, along with a web link to the article published by San Jose Mercury News, which had originally been published in the Pacifica Tribune:

December 26, 2009 as of 12:45 PM EST


Frogs, snakes and golf course get a reprieve
Snakes, Frogs and a Famous Course Saved
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission has voted to save the city-owned 18-hole Sharp Park golf course in Pacifica. This has been a long-simmering controversy because of environmental concerns. The plan would relocate several holes to protect wetlands habitat that is home to the San Francisco garter snake and the red-legged frog, at a cost of between $5.9 million and $11.3 million. There had been a serious move to shut down the 79-year-old course created by Alister MacKenzie, who also designed Augusta National and Cypress Point.
—John Paul Newport
Wall Street Journal Online

Related Headlines from the Web on

My Turn: SF Rec and Park Board votes to protect snakes, frogs and golf course

By Barbara Arietta
Special to the Pacifica Tribune
Posted: 12/23/2009 06:00:00 AM PST

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, Dec. 17, 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.

In a unanimous vote of 6-0, 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 climaxed 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 Dec. 17 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 Dec. 1. 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 Dec. 1 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 its 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 its second community meeting, which was a fundraiser, there were over 325 members in attendance. Men, women, youths, seniors, non-golfers and more golfers and residents 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), led by its Chair Barbara Arietta, immediately began taking up the challenge to promote the saving of the golf course. 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 other San Mateo County politicos, whose efforts proved to be extremely valuable in the immediate days leading up to the Dec. 17 vote in San Francisco.

With the SF RPD Board of Commissioner's vote now having been cast, and the approval having been given, the next step in the restoration plan will be to move into the Project Design phase, and continue with the Environmental Impact Report process that is currently being undertaken.The results of that report are expected by November, 2010. Then there will be 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, and the County of San Mateo, who will join representatives from Congresswoman Speier's office, golf course architects, engineers, and other professionals, at the table to begin the discussions on how we accomplish this project," said Dawn Kamalanathan, SF RPD project director. The estimated cost ranges from $5.9 million to $11.3 million. Funding has not been identified. If the project remains on target, permits for the envisioned habitat restoration and golf course renovation will be issued in the year 2012.

2. San Mateo Times Says Sharp Park Golf Course is Number 1 Environmental Story of 2009 in San Mateo County

( According to the San Mateo County Times, the Sharp Park story is number one of the 10 top environmental stories in San Mateo County. Actually this number one ranking does not surprise me since we have fought so hard on this for so long and have involved so many entities, the stories are growing to epic proportions, much like the Trojan War...only this time it's the Golf War...and, one should pay special attention to the comment made by the Times,"Sharp Park's future is still uncertain, given the plan's lack of funding and San Francisco's ballooning deficit, the City's Board of Supervisors could use the money issue to quash the project at a later stage..."

So, it is very important not to become in any way "complacent" on this issue, at this point, even though we have prevailed at each and every vote taken thus far...the most important vote of all belongs the SF Board of Supervisors and we need to do our best to show them how important the historical, Alister MacKenzie-designed Sharp Park Golf Course is to the recreational, social and economic welfare of our community and that we wholeheadrtedly support the recommendations of the San Francico Recreation and Park's Dept scientists that state that the habitats of both the California Red-Legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake can be restored, without destroying the 18-hole golf course...Over the past 78 years, our treasured Sharp Park Golf Course has been such a valuable part of the Pacifica community and has provided much recreational and social benefits to both Pacifican and San Franciscan, alike...)

Here are the  "Top 10 environmental stories of 2009 in San Mateo County" that were printed in the San Mateo Times...The top ten list in reverse order was:

10) State Parks saved
, (Gov the Schwarz finds way to cut 14.2 from State Parks budget, while keeping parks open),
9) Landfill now energy treasure
(HMB's Ox Mountain landfill converts methane into electricity),
8) Salmon season disappears (Pacific Fishery Management Council shuts down the Calif. Chinook salmon season, dealing a blow to commercial fishermen.),
7) Green-collar jobs sprout,
6) Sewage spills targeted
, (Environmental watchdog group SF Baykeeper filed federal lawsuits vs San Carlos, Millbrae and the West Bay Sanitary District),
5) Controversial development
, (Developers proposal to build 25 luxury homes on a steep hill in San Mateo's Highlands-Baywood Park neighborhood.),
4) Half Moon Bay's burden, (Loses 18 million lawsuit to developer Chop Keenan),
3) Butterfly habitat bulldozed, (SMC Board of Supervisors allows developer Brookfield Homes to build a 71-unit subdivision on San Bruno Mountain.)
2) Saltworks a future city? (About a proposal to turn Redwood City's Cargill Saltworks site into a mini-city with up to 12,000 new homes),
and last but not least-
1) Teeing off over Sharp Park
, (You guessed it. It's about the Golf Course. Here's a quote, "Environmentalists denounced the solution to the species' troubles at the golf course, which is located in Pacifica, while golfers cheered. Sharp Park's future is still uncertain given the plan's lack of funding and San Francisco's ballooning deficit; the city's board of supervisors could use the money issue to quash the project at a later stage." be continued in the next episode.

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