Thursday, May 19, 2011

San Fran golf group challenges environmental lawsuit over famed public course

The dispute over the fate of northern California’s historic Sharp Park Golf Course took a noteworthy turn today with a move by the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance to legally intervene in the case. Filing its Motion to Intervene at U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the Alliance asserts that Bay Area golfers “have legally protectable interests in their use and enjoyment of Sharp Park.”

Earlier this year, environmental advocacy groups - including the Sierra Club - sued the city, along with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other officials, to shut the 80-year-old municipal course in the name of protecting endangered snake and frog species. But the Public Golf Alliance, with nearly 4,500 members, says no one has been looking out for the rights of Bay Area golfers who have made the links-style course an area landmark.

Renowned for its design by legendary architect Alister MacKenzie, and spectacular natural surroundings, Sharp Park is modestly priced to attract golfers of all levels from throughout the region.   Among the course’s frequent users are public high school teams, the Chinatown YMCA, various senior center golf teams, and other players.

Law firm Morrison & Foerster is representing the SFPGA. Please see below for more information on the controversy surrounding Sharp Park and the new development with the SFPGA’s motion to intervene in the lawsuit.

If you’d like to hear more, we can put you in touch with Morrison & Foerster’s Chris Carr. The lead attorney on the case, Mr. Carr chairs the firm’s Environment and Energy Group and co-chairs its Cleantech Group.
James Bourne 212-262-7470
Robin Brassner 212-262-7472

Contact: Eileen King 212 336-4309

San Francisco Public Golf Alliance Moves to Intervene in Lawsuit Against Sharp Park Golf Course, Joining City and Mayor as Defendants
SAN FRANCISCO (May 19, 2011) – The nonprofit San Francisco Public Golf Alliance (SFPGA) today filed a motion to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit against Sharp Park Golf Course, seeking to join the City and County of San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee, and Recreation and Park Department  Director Phil Ginsburg in defending the historic golf course from threatened closure.
Morrison & Foerster filed the motion in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in San Francisco. The SFPGA represents a highly diverse group of Bay Area golfers, who “have legally protectable interests in their use and enjoyment of Sharp Park” that “cannot be adequately represented by any existing party” to the lawsuit.
Environmental advocacy groups led by the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity and the Wild Equity Institute, filed suit on March 2, seeking to shut down the historic, 79-year-old seaside course in the name of protecting a frog and snake listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.  The Sierra Club joined the suit for the limited purpose of protecting the animals, without specifically calling for closure of the golf course.
The SFPGA’s petition is based on supporting declarations from a diverse cast, including:  Carole Groom, President of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors; Kari Lee, Executive Director of the San Francisco Chinatown YMCA; Riley Jameison, a 90-year-old African-American golf pioneer and retired California Highway Patrol employee who for 20 years has hosted an annual tournament at Sharp Park benefitting San Francisco’s Western Addition Seniors Services Center; Julius Yap, coach of the men’s and women’s high school golf teams at San Francisco’s St. Ignatius Prep; Julie Lancelle, the recent-past Mayor of Pacifica; Herb Lee, a 78-year-old retired San Francisco police officer; and San Francisco favorite son and United States Open Champion Ken Venturi.
Created in 2007, the 4,500-member SFPGA contends that extensive studies undertaken by the City and County of San Francisco and others demonstrate that continued golf at Sharp Park “is compatible with protection of the San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog,” the species at the center of the lawsuit.  The SFPGA points to recent studies undertaken by City and County officials demonstrating that “it is not only possible, but very feasible” to accommodate golfers and the two species in an improved Sharp Park environment.
Sharp Park’s modest greens’ fees, classic design, and spectacular scenery attract a diverse range of golfers from throughout the Bay Area, including public high school boys’ and girls’ golf teams, and  fundraising golf tournaments for a wide variety of  civic, business, and political organizations.
“Other public 18-hole courses in San Francisco and northern San Mateo County are either too expensive, too busy, or too hilly for the profile of low-income, racially diverse, juniors and seniors at Sharp Park,” said SFPGA spokeswoman and Sharp Park Women’s Club member Lauren Barr.  “It is imperative that we preserve this historic public jewel. For nearly 80 years Sharp Park has served as an important recreational outlet and gathering-place for people of all economic means in our region.”
Legendary British golf course architect Alister MacKenzie designed Sharp Park, which remains one of the few public courses he created. U.S. Open Champion Ken Venturi, the Honorary Chairman of the SFPGA, calls Sharp Park “Alister MacKenzie’s great gift to the American public golfer.”  The Course opened in 1932, 15 years after the land was turned over to the City on the condition that it be used “only for a public park, or public playground.”
Chris Carr, an environmental and land use partner at Morrison & Foerster, said, “This is an historically important course that upholds the best tradition of public access. Most golf courses with the heritage and location of Sharp Park would be exclusive private clubs and available to only a narrow sliver of the population. The Alliance is committed to the conservation of protected species while adhering to the original vision of Sharp Park as a course for everyone.”
Mr. Carr, chair of Morrison & Foerster’s Environment and Energy practice group and co-chair of its Cleantech group, regularly handles matters involving the federal Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and their California counterparts.  Morrison & Foerster has a long history of supporting environmental causes in the Bay Area.‬‪
A hearing on the SFPGA’s Motion to Intervene will be held on June 24, before Federal Judge Susan Illston of the San Francisco Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
About the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance: A 4,500-plus-member, volunteer, non-profit public-interest organization supporting San Francisco-area public golf, and dedicated to preserving affordable, environmentally-friendly public golf. www/
ABOUT MOFO.We are Morrison & Foerster — a global firm of exceptional credentials.  Our clients include some of the largest financial institutions, investment banks, Fortune 100, technology and life science companies.  We’ve been included on The American Lawyer’s A-List for seven straight years, and Fortune named us one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.”  Our lawyers are committed to achieving innovative and business-minded results for our clients, while preserving the differences that make us stronger.  This is MoFo.

Submitted by Robin Brassner


mw said...

This is seriously good news. After three years of this nonsense I am happy to see the good guys finally go on offense.

I hope that one avenue that will be explored by MOFO is the misuse of EAJA reimbursement funds for organizations like WEI and CBD. Why should we as taxpayers continue to fund harassing and baseless lawsuits from organizations with ideological agendas? Even if there is no legal argument here, it may help in the court of public opinion. As long as the WEBLEEDU coalition can suckle at the Federal teat and there are no consequences for baseless filings, there is no reason for the lawsuits to ever stop and they never will.

Thomas Clifford said...

A step in the right direction !!!

todd bray said...

Really, it truly is. May the course and wildlife prevail.