Community passions peak at Golden Gate Park soccer field meeting
Emotions ran high Wednesday as members of the Ocean Beach community voiced concerns about new artificial-turf soccer fields planned for Golden Gate Park, touching on issues ranging from toxic chemicals to sprained ankles and rare birds.
Whether showing staunch support (mostly soccer players and suits) or uproarious opposition (amateur astronomers and wildlife advocates), residents vocalized their opinions about the proposed Beach Chalet Athletics Field Renovation Project.
“Right now our city team has to get in cars to drive somewhere else to play,” said Jill Lonsbury, a 20-year youth and adult city soccer coach. “I’d like to look at what impact that has on the environment.”
Lonsbury and other community members came to the Golden Gate Park Senior Center to voice their views on what issues should be addressed by an environmental-impact report the City has ordered for the proposed fields.
“We’re in favor of children, and we’re in favor of soccer,” said Mark Welther, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society. “But we want to make sure that there’s a full and fair hearing of all the environmental issues that need to be considered in order to make a good decision about this.”
The well-attended meeting marked the second — and optional — phase of a 12-phase EIR process during a 30-day public-review period, when officials encourage the public to submit comments as to what they would like the final EIR to include. Once that comment period is done, the EIR is scheduled to wrap up in late summer or early fall. The Planning Commission will decide whether the completed EIR is sufficient some months after that, and the project itself is set for completion in mid-2013.
EIR supervisor Sarah Jones of the San Francisco Planning Department conducted the meeting and Dan Mauer of the Recreation and Park Department, on whose behalf the Planning Department is producing the EIR, provided a brief overview. The Playfields Initiative, a public-private partnership between the City Fields Foundation and the San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department, is funding this project.
Mauer described the current fields as having “a lot of gopher holes and [being] in pretty poor condition.” In addition to the “high-quality” synthetic turf and series of 60-foot light fixtures, the proposed plan will add more family-friendly facilities such as a spectator viewing plaza, children’s playground and picnic area.
But many were unconvinced that the new facilities are worth the impacts, raising questions about environmental and biological effects.
“It’s funny to us today to see images of children being allowed to run around with plastic dry-cleaning bags on their heads, or pregnant mothers to be binge-drinking cocktails,” said Kelley Watts. “Our culture has evolved [to] where we now consider such behaviors ludicrous, so how is that we [have] come to believe that it’s OK to let children play in tire waste, which all parties agree contain unregulated amounts of heavy metals and chemicals?”
When asked if the EIR would be evaluating the effects of synthetic turf on human health, Jones replied that it would not, and concerned murmurs rippled through the crowd.
“The EIR looks at all direct and indirect impacts of the project, and will be looking at the physical effects,” Jones added.
The project proposes ripping out the four existing grass soccer fields and converting them to synthetic grass, but many believe that there are health and pollution issues associated with the fake turf. The project also includes the installation of 10 field lights 60 feet tall, to allow evening use, although some argued that only adults will benefit from this — in spite of City Fields’ goal of providing kids with safe and accessible playing fields.
Children’s safety in Golden Gate Park also brought up some points about the areas surrounding the fields, long known to be popular with people seeking sex.
“I had to send a parent or an assistant coach if the ball went into the trees because I couldn’t send my children,” said Richard Cross, a longtime soccer coach and project supporter. Cross and other neighborhood members are concerned with the proximity of children to daylight sex cruisers roaming the semi-wild woods. “I think putting up these lights, those creepy guys will go away.”
Whether based on aesthetic, historical or environmental concerns, most of the people at the meeting agreed that the proposed project must consider many factors and that it needs considerable work.
“Ocean Beach is one of the few places in the city where you can actually see the night skies,” said Rasa Gustaitis. “The [proposed] lights would bleach the starry skies.”
Written comments about the scope of the EIR will be accepted until the 30-day public review period ends at close of business on March 4. Send comments to: Environmental Review Officer, San Francisco Planning Department, 1650 Mission Street, Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103. Questions or comments regarding the proposed project and the environmental process may be directed to Don Lewis, Planning Department EIR Coordinator, at (415) 575-9095.
More comments from community members on the next page
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- Soccer Fight Brewing In Golden Gate Park | BNewsworld
- Golden Gate Park's Beach Chalet soccer fields spur turf tiff | The Ocean Beach Bulletin