San Francisco Park Department Ignores Science, Promotes All-Golf Alternative for Sharp Park Although No-Golf Option Shown to Be Best for Environment, Budget, and Outdoor Recreation

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185

San Francisco Park Department Ignores Science, Promotes All-Golf Alternative for Sharp Park Although No-Golf Option Shown to Be Best for Environment, Budget, and Outdoor Recreation

Surreal Report Actually Suggests Picnicking, Not Golf Course, Greatest Threat to Endangered Species at Sharp Park

SAN FRANCISCO - The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department this
month released a deeply flawed and incomplete alternatives report for
restoring Sharp Park
in Pacifica, after a directive from the San Francisco Board of
Supervisors to explore a range of alternatives for the future of the
park to protect and restore endangered species habitat at the site.
Despite deliberate attempts to constrain the scope of the report,
omission of any credible discussion of the impacts on habitat due to
sea level rise with climate change, an apparent lack of any expertise
on coastal lagoon ecosystems, and the unprofessional mixing of the Park
Department's personal preferences with supposed "science" on the
restoration options, the report still confirms that management
activities at the controversial Sharp Park golf course are harming
endangered species and will continue to drain city coffers.

"This
report, while disappointing, is not surprising, since the Park
Department seems incapable of any objective analysis of the true costs
of the golf course, the benefits of restoration, or uses other than
golf," said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for
Biological Diversity. "The report is extremely unprofessional and
frankly, should be embarrassing to the city. The Park Department
falsely inflated and fabricated the costs of wetlands restoration and
with no factual basis tried to make impacts from the golf course appear
benign."

"The ecological illiteracy in
portions of this report is appalling," said Miller. "It shows a
complete and willful misunderstanding of how the coastal lagoon
ecosystem will respond to changes with sea level rise and misstates
their own consultant's conclusions on salinity intrusion. Not
surprising, since the department refused input from anyone with coastal
geomorphology or hydrology expertise. It also shows an inexcusable
misunderstanding of and unfamiliarity with coastal wetland restoration.
It is an unprofessional mix of the Park Department's personal biases
with cherry-picked and misconstrued fragments of the consultants'
reports. Send it back with an ‘F'."

In
the report, the City's so-called "expert" on endangered species
actually claims that picnicking is one of the most significant threats
to the red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake
at the site while downplaying the extensive golf course impacts. There
are no reports of crazed picnickers ever killing an endangered species
at the site. In contrast, it has been documented that golf-course
activities have serious impacts to endangered species and illegally
kill them. An endangered snake was run over recently by a lawn mower,
hundreds of frogs have been killed due to pumping the pond, gophers and
their burrows that both endangered species depend on are routinely
destroyed, and the golf course pollutes the wetlands with harmful
fertilizers and pesticides.

"The best
economic, environmental and recreational option for the future of Sharp
Park is clearly to add it to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area,"
said Miller. "Then the park can provide free recreational opportunities
for everyone to enjoy, save San Francisco tens of millions of dollars,
and allow restoration of the Laguna Salada wetlands and surrounding
habitat for the long-term survival of the San Francisco garter snake
and red-legged frog.

"The Park
Department claims that experts on the species endorse the 18-hole
alternative but they have done no such thing," said Miller. "The Park
Department also promised peer review of this report. Now they are
refusing to allow hydrology and coastal lagoon experts to peer review a
report that was clearly constrained and doctored by the Park Department
- what are they trying to hide?"

The
report states the obvious: the less restoration work put into Sharp
Park, the cheaper it will be to get done. But the minimal habitat
enhancement proposed by the Park Department in the 18-hole alternative
is inadequate to allow the recovery of the garter snake and frog at the
site, and is set up to fail with climate change and sea level rise. It
will cost tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure to protect the
golf course - and armoring the coast to do so will destroy the beach in
the process. Continued pumping of the wetlands will ensure that the
small areas left behind for endangered species will become more saline
and uninhabitable. For far less money, a restoration project can allow
the coastal habitat to adapt to climate change, while focusing
engineering solutions closer to houses and infrastructure rather than
fighting the ocean.

The report
deliberately inflates the costs associated with habitat restoration and
fails to include major infrastructure costs that will be required to
keep and maintain the golf course. The Park Department added the absurd
and unjustified cost of expensive off-site spoils disposal to the
no-golf alternative and outrageously proposes draining the lagoon, and
expensive and unnecessary damaging impact, to make restoration seem
infeasible. The report does not mention the $32 million armoring of the
sea wall needed to protect the golf course, the $7 million dollar
project to provide recycled water for the thirsty and wasteful
golf-course greens, nor the millions of dollars of fines and damages
the City is liable for illegally killing endangered species.

Background

Sharp
Park Golf Course is owned by the city and county of San Francisco but
is located to the south of the city on the coast, in Pacifica.
Maintenance and management of the golf course has killed and harmed
endangered San Francisco garter snakes and threatened California
red-legged frogs. In 2008 the Center for Biological Diversity filed
notice of intent to sue San Francisco for harming endangered species at
Sharp Park, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.

In
May the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a Sharp
Park restoration planning ordinance directing the Park Department to
develop a plan, schedule, and budget for restoring endangered species
habitat at the park and to consider whether to transfer the property
to, or develop a joint management agreement with, the Golden Gate
National Recreation Area, Pacifica, or San Mateo County.

Nine
prominent scientists sent a letter in August to the Park Department
noting that many of the golf-course management activities are
incompatible with restoring healthy populations of the garter snake and
red-legged frog and that restoring wetlands and uplands habitats and
connecting them with protected adjacent open space is the best option
to ensure the long term survival of the species in the area. The
signatories to the letter were biologists, herpetologists, ecologists,
and hydrologists with collective expertise regarding wetlands habitats,
the endangered species at the site, and amphibians and reptiles.

Nine
different assessments of Sharp Park's financial state since 2005 have
concluded that the golf course loses from $30,000 to $300,000 each year
from the golf fund alone, and millions more are expected to be lost on
capital-improvement projects to maintain the course. Potential fines
for violations of the Endangered Species Act, or seeking environmental
compliance through a permit associated with a federal Habitat
Conservation Plan could cost many millions more.

The
ongoing environmental problems at the golf course are largely due to
its poor design and unfortunate placement. To create the course in the
early 1930s, areas around the Laguna Salada were dredged and filled for
14 months. Not surprisingly, Sharp Park has had problems with flooding
and drainage ever since.

Restoring the
wetlands at the park will complement habitat-restoration work within
the nearby Golden Gate National Recreation Area for the garter snake
and the frog at adjacent Mori Point and Sweeny Ridge, and could reduce
flooding risk for nearby neighborhoods. A broad coalition of community
and conservation groups support the restoration of the native ecology
of Sharp Park, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Nature in
the City, Neighborhood Parks Council, San Francisco Tomorrow, Golden
Gate Audubon Society, Sequoia Audubon Society, Pacifica Shorebird
Alliance, San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, Yerba Buena
Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Action for Animals, and
Transportation for a Livable City.

###

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Share This Article

More in: