Golden Gate Park water plant plan questioned by neighbors

Location, location, location. That was the recurring theme of many people who told the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Planning Department what should be examined in an environmental review of a recycled-water plant proposed for Golden Gate Park.

“We’re never getting this land back,” Nancy Wuerfel said of the planned site for the facility, near the Murphy Windmill at the west end of the park. “Once we let it go, it’s gone.”

Rendering of the Westside Recycled Water Project treatment plant proposed for Golden Gate Park

A rendering of the Westside Recycled Water Project treatment plant proposed for Golden Gate Park. Image courtesy San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

The SFPUC held a meeting Thursday at the Golden Gate Park Senior Center as part of its process of gathering public input about what issues should be included in an environmental-impact report to be prepared for the proposed Westside Recycled Water Project. The San Francisco Planning Department is conducting the environmental analysis of the SFPUC proposal.

Hiroshi Fukuda said the placement of the plant would contradict the uses for park land established by the Golden Gate Master Plan, which was intended to provide guiding principles for the future development and preservation of the park.

“Why do we have a master plan if this just ignores it?” Fukuda asked.

The WRWP would build a facility on the site of an old wastewater-treatment plant. Partly treated water from the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant on the south end of Ocean Beach would be piped under the Great Highway to the new facility, which would further treat the water and then distribute it for irrigation purposes to Golden Gate Park, the Presidio golf course and the California Academy of Sciences. Water from an aquifer underlying western San Francisco is the primary source of the park’s current irrigation water.

Some speakers questioned the plan to run pipes under the Great Highway, or wondered about the need to ship the water from the Oceanside plant to be treated elsewhere.

“I’d like to hear more about site alternatives,” including the Oceanside plant itself, said David Pilpel.

An image of the proposed location of the pipeline that would run under the Great Highway

George Wooding of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council said it doesn’t make sense to put the pipes under the Great Highway in light of the erosion problems already affecting parts of Ocean Beach, including the area where the City closed part of the Great Highway near the Oceanside plant.

“I don’t think it’s prudent, or even intelligent,” he said.

Wooding said he was concerned that the city would eventually seek to install rock revetments or other coastal armoring along most of the beach to protect the new infrastructure.

“You’re going to have to change the entire character of Ocean Beach to get this through,” he said.

Katherine Howard of the Golden Gate Park Preservation Alliance asked for the EIR to include a list of all alternative sites the City had considered and why those sites were rejected in favor of Golden Gate Park.

Howard also read from a resolution from the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, which recommended that the EIR should explore not only alternative locations, but also the possibility of building the plant completely underground.

Jose Quinteiro, who said he lives near the proposed WRWP site, asked for the EIR to examine potential impacts on children playing near the plant.

“What they didn’t show you is there’s a playground about 300 feet away,” Quinteiro said about the City presentation explaining the proposal.

The Sierra Club already has taken a position opposing the WRWP plant, calling it an “inappropriate use of public parkland.”

Some speakers were optimistic to varying degrees about the project.

Peter Drekmeier of the Tuolumne River Trust, a group dedicated to protecting the river from which San Francisco draws its existing municipal water, agreed that alternative sites should be explored. But, he cautioned, the park proposal could turn out to be the best option.

Drekmeier suggested the City should also look into changing the kinds of landscaping used in the park to reduce the amount of irrigation required, regardless of that water’s source.

Richard Fong said he supported the project as a way for San Francisco to get the most use out of its water.

“I think this is something valuable for our City and County of San Francisco,” Fong said.

“I am entirely in favor of better uses of our water,” said Adam Raskin, who said he lives on La Playa Street near the proposed transport pipes. But, Raskin said, the City should be thinking bigger – looking for ways to reduce the need for water instead of ways to continue using the same amount.

Unlike many speakers, Greg Miller said he liked the appearance of the plant.

“It’s a very pretty plant,” Miller said, but better suited to an industrial park rather than Golden Gate Park.

Miller also said he was concerned that the plant would separate the west end of Golden Gate Park from the adjacent Ocean Beach.

“We’re beginning to lose a lot of the connection of the park to the beach area,” he said.

Other speakers said they wanted the EIR to examine any smell, noise or light that would come from the operation of the recycled-water plant.

Because the purpose of Thursday’s meeting was simply to gather suggestions from the public, city representatives at the meeting didn’t answer questions or respond to comments.

The SFPUC will take written comments about the scope of the EIR through Oct. 13. Written comments should be sent to Bill Wycko, San Francisco Planning Department, 1650 Mission St., Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103. Comments also may be faxed to 558-6409 or emailed to carrie.dovzak@sfgov.org.

Location, location, location. That was the recurring theme of many people who told the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission what should be examined in an environmental review of a recycled-water plant proposed for Golden Gate Park.

“We’re never getting this land back,” Nancy Wuerfel said of the planned site for the facility, near the Murphy Windmill at the west end of the park. “Once we let it go, it’s gone.”

The SFPUC held a meeting Thursday at the Golden Gate Park Senior Center as part of its process of gathering public input about what issues should be included in an environmental-impact report to be prepared for the proposed Westside Recycled Water Project.

Hiroshi Fukuda said the placement of the plant would contradict the uses for park land established by the Golden Gate Master Plan, which was intended to provide guiding principles for the future development and preservation of the park.

“Why do we have a master plan if this just ignores it?” Fukuda asked.

The WRWP would build a facility on the site of an old wastewater-treatment plant. Partly treated water from the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant on the south end of Ocean Beach would be piped under the Great Highway to the new facility, which would further treat the water and then distribute it for irrigation purposes to Golden Gate Park, the Presidio golf course and the California Academy of Sciences. Water from an aquifer underlying western San Francisco is the primary source of the park’s current irrigation water.

Some speakers questioned the plan to run pipes under the Great Highway, or wondered about the need to ship the water from the Oceanside plant to be treated elsewhere.

“I’d like to hear more about site alternatives,” including the Oceanside plant itself, said David Pilpel.

George Wooding of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council said it doesn’t make sense to put the pipes under the Great Highway in light of the erosion problems already affecting parts of Ocean Beach, including the area where the City closed part of the Great Highway near the Oceanside plant.

“I don’t think it’s prudent, or even intelligent,” he said.

Wooding said he was concerned that the city would eventually seek to install rock revetments or other coastal armoring along most of the beach to protect the new infrastructure.

“You’re going to have to change the entire character of Ocean Beach to get this through,” he said.

Katherine Howard of the Golden Gate Park Preservation Alliance asked for the EIR to include a list of all alternative sites the City had considered and why those sites were rejected in favor of Golden Gate Park.

Howard also read from a resolution from the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, which recommended that the EIR should explore not only alternative locations, but also the possibility of building the plant completely underground.

Jose Quinteiro, who said he lives near the proposed WRWP site, asked for the EIR to examine potential impacts on children playing near the plant.

“What they didn’t show you is there’s a playground about 300 feet away,” Quinteiro said about the City presentation explaining the proposal.

The Sierra Club already has taken a position opposing the WRWP plant, calling it an “inappropriate use of public parkland.”

Some speakers were optimistic to varying degrees about the project.

Peter Drekmeier of the Tuolumne River Trust, a group dedicated to protecting the river from which San Francisco draws its existing municipal water, agreed that alternative sites should be explored. But, he cautioned, the park proposal could turn out to be the best option.

Drekmeier suggested the City should also look into changing the kinds of landscaping used in the park to reduce the amount of irrigation required, regardless of that water’s source.

Richard Fong said he supported the project as a way for San Francisco to get the most use out of its water.

“I think this is something valuable for our City and County of San Francisco,” Fong said.

“I am entirely in favor of better uses of our water,” said Adam Raskin, who said he lives on La Playa Street near the proposed transport pipes. But, Raskin said, the City should be thinking bigger – looking for ways to reduce the need for water instead of ways to continue using the same amount.

Unlike many speakers, Greg Miller said he liked the appearance of the plant.

“It’s a very pretty plant,” Miller said, but better suited to an industrial park rather than Golden Gate Park.

Miller also said he was concerned that the plant would separate the west end of Golden Gate Park from the adjacent Ocean Beach.

“We’re beginning to lose a lot of the connection of the park to the beach area,” he said.

Other speakers said they wanted the EIR to examine any smell, noise or light that would come from the operation of the recycled-water plant.

Because the purpose of Thursday’s meeting was simply to gather suggestions from the public, city representatives at the meeting didn’t answer questions or respond to comments.

The SFPUC will take written comments about the scope of the EIR through Oct. 13.

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7 Comments

  1. I am a patent attorney and an ecologist. I live on Valley Street in Noe Valley. I am a water activist. I support water recovery and recycling. I was legal counsel for Ecology Action on its walk from Berkeley to Los Angeles in 1969.

    I oppose installing a water treatment plant in Golden Gate Park. The 100 million should be spent on a water treatment plant in Mission Bay. East Side – West Side, both need to be planned together, East side should be high tech, West side should be low tech and rely on natural systems better suited for Lake Merced. As a surfer, I would prefer a solution the Sierra Club could recommend. Rick Peterson

  2. Ocean Beach group –

    Just wanted to clarify a few things about the article. The San Francisco City Planning Deptartment ran last Thursday’s scoping meeting for the SF Westside Recycled Water Project. Not the SFPUC. Scoping is part of the CEQA process, and City Planning is Lead Agency for this project.

    SF City Planning is accepting comments on the project (NOT the SFPUC).
    Written comments should be sent to Bill Wycko, San Francisco Planning Department, 1650 Mission St., Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103. Comments also may be faxed to 558-6409 or emailed to me – carrie.dovzak@sfgov.org.

    Comments on the proposed project should be received by October 13, 2010.

    Thank you!

    Carrie Dovzak

    • Great point, Carrie. The proposed project is the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s. But as the entity responsible for conducting the environmental review of the proposed project, the Major Environmental Analysis Division of the San Francisco Planning Department was in charge of this meeting.

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