Sharp Park Gets Reprieve

On Monday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee vetoed legislation that would have turned Sharp Park Golf Course over to Golden Gate National Recreation Area officials and led to its likely closure.

Earlier in December the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the legislation by a narrow 6-5 vote that would have paved the way for a dialogue with the federally-run recreation area on a long-term management strategy. Federal officials said they weren't interested in running the 18-hole golf course, which likely could have led to the demise of the 400-acre facility in Pacifica.

The threats to the future of the popular, affordable municipal layout designed by the great architect Alister MacKenzie stemmed from a lawsuit filed by environmental groups to shut it down in an effort to protect a number of threatened species, including the endangered California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snakes. In addition, the facility has cost the city of San Francisco $1.2 million over the past five years.

Supervisor John Avalos, the legislation's sponsor, said that the law allowing national park status would fix the problems at the course, which he said "has been a financial and environmental liability."

In 2009, San Francisco's Parks and Recreation Department thought it had refuted such a claim in a study which found that keeping the golf course open was the best, quickest and most cost-effective way to protect the endangered frogs and snakes that inhabit wetlands on the property.

Studies by other public agencies determined that the golf course was a "historical resource" protected by the California Environmental Quality Act. In addition, the facility is one of a few in the Bay area that is affordable for working-class and ethnic minorities, a fact noted by San Francisco's mayor.

"I believe in striving for an equilibrium between environmental and recreational needs," Mayor Lee said in his veto letter to supervisors.

The possible closure of the 80-year-old course has received national attention and has been widely opposed by various entities, including the Chambers of Commerce of San Francisco and Pacifica, Pacifica Historical Society, United States Golf Association and Northern California Golf Association. A local group, the Public Golf Alliance, was also a strong advocate for keeping Sharp Park open for golfers.

"With his veto, the Mayor speaks up for working class, public recreation, in both San Francisco and San Mateo County, and we thank him for that," said San Francisco Public Golf Alliance spokeswoman and Sharp Park Women's Club member, Lauren Barr, in a statement. "The ordinance would have effectively deprived ethnic minorities, the middle class, seniors, and high school golfers of a treasured and affordable home. Public golf is an important part of the city's recreational mix, and Sharp Park's historic course makes the sport accessible to men and women across the ethnic and economic spectrums.

"The supervisors' anti-golf ordinance is not how San Francisco should treat the recreational needs of its working-class and ethnic minority citizens, its neighbors in San Mateo County and Pacifica, or one of its great historic properties," added Barr.

"The mayor has broad support and gratitude throughout San Francisco and San Mateo County for this veto."

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