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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

BREAKING: Common Sense Prevails in San Francisco Board of Supervisor Vote on Sharp Park

Photo: Thomas Levinson, The Chronicle  
 It was a big win for Sharp Park supporters at City Hall yesterday.

The Chron's coverage features a terribly inaccurate headline. The work approved for the course and wetland is not  in spite of the frogs and snakes as the headline suggests, but specifically to improve the habitat for the frogs and snakes:
Frogs, snakes can't stop Sharp Park Golf Course construction
Marisa Lagos
 
"Construction at Sharp Park Golf Course will move forward after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected environmentalists' concerns that the project will threaten the frogs and snakes that call the course home. The Pacifica golf course, which is managed by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, is home to the threatened California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake. Built in 1932 by famed golf course architect Alister MacKenzie, Sharp Park for years has been a point of contention between golfers and conservationists, who want to see it shut down so the land can be used as a sanctuary for the wild creatures.

On Tuesday, environmentalists - led by the Wild Equity Institute - made another effort to force the parks department to conduct a full environmental impact report of the project. They contend the work will hurt the animals' environment, while the city says it will improve habitat for the frogs and snakes. The proposed project involves clearing reeds and sediment from a pond and waterway, doing construction around a pumping station, and digging a new, small pond on the site.

Environmental impact reports are costly and can take months to complete.  The work has been approved by the Recreation and Park Commission and the Planning Commission. The board voted 7-4 to allow it to move forward without an environmental study, with Supervisors Jane Kim, Eric Mar, John Avalos and David Campos voting no. It's not the last City Hall will hear of the issue, however: Opponents of the course will file a lawsuit objecting to the city's decision..."
 Doesn't seem like much. A 7- 4 vote by the Board of Supervisors on -  by any measure - a small project to improve both the frog habitat and golf infrastructure at Sharp Park. Its significance is this - We finally have a project at Sharp Park that has completed the tortuous path through the bowels of City government, will move forward, and actually do something useful for the park.

Also significant - The political arena at the Board of Supervisors level is exactly where the future of Sharp Park is most vulnerable. This is where we lost a 6-5 vote in December of 2011 and Sharp Park was saved only by a Mayor Ed Lee veto. That is what makes this 7-4 victory so significant. Two votes shifted from votes against the course in 2011 to votes for the course yesterday. And the specific votes that shifted were significant in and of themselves. London Breed filled Ross Mirkarimi's seat in district 5 and voted for the course.  Mirkarimi spearheaded the "Destroy Sharp Park" forces when he was a supervisor. David Chiu is President of the Board of Supervisors and  my Supervisor in District 3. He voted against the course in 2011 and voted for it yesterday.

It was a small victory on a small project, but the Sharp Park haters threw everything but the kitchen sink at this to try and kill it. They know a politically motivated Board of Supervisor decision was where they have their greatest strength. And they lost. Again. Common sense finally prevailed.

Of course it's not over. The ex-CBD attorney who founded WEI already stated he will be filing another lawsuit against the City over this decision. So what else is new? We know the lawsuits will never end and we know the reason why.  But, so far, they always lose in court. The vote by the Board of Supervisors was their best chance to prevail, and they lost. This very well may mean that the tide has turned. Good for the California Red Legged Frog. Good for the San Francisco Garter Snake. Good for fans of the landmark Alister MacKenzie golf course. Good for Pacifica. Good for San Francisco. Bad for Wild Equity Institute.

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