Coastal Commission to take up Beach Chalet soccer plan

Beach Chalet soccer fields sign

Photo: Tom Prete/Ocean Beach Bulletin

The California Coastal Commission is set to weigh in Thursday on San Francisco’s plan to install artificial turf, fencing and field lights at Golden Gate Park’s Beach Chalet soccer fields.

A staff report prepared for commissioners suggests they take a hard line against much of what the City has proposed for the site.

The $14 million plan would replace the fields’ existing grass play surface with artificial turf, and bring in lighting and spectator seating, all with the aim of reducing the amount of maintenance required and increasing the number of hours the fields can be used for active play.

The City already has approved the renovation project, but opponents in October sued to block it. They also appealed to the Coastal Commission, a state body that has jurisdiction over much coastal development.

Advocates of renovating the soccer fields have said that the plan will allow more people to play while saving money on maintenance. The fields, like many grass playing fields in the city, are often partly or completely closed to allow them to recover from the wear and tear that come with hard use.

“The kids of San Francisco deserve a safe athletic field to play on,” Patrick Hannan of the City Fields Foundation told the San Francisco Examiner. The City Fields Foundation has helped pay for similar renovations of fields throughout San Francisco.

Opponents, however, say that the plan completely and inappropriately changes the way the area would be used. Banks of lights to allow nighttime play would confuse birds migrating along the coast and diminish the number of stars visible nearby, they say, and some worry about whether the plastic and rubber playing surfaces might contain harmful chemicals.

“San Francisco‚Äôs own Local Coastal Plan requires that development ’emphasize the naturalistic landscape qualities of the western end of the park,'” opponents wrote in an Examiner opinion article.

beach chalet soccer coastal commission permit notice

A notice hangs on the fence around Golden Gate Park’s Beach Chalet soccer fields informing the public that the California Coastal Commission is considering a permit for San Francisco’s plan to put in artificial turf, lighting and other changes. Photo: Tom Prete/Ocean Beach Bulletin

A Coastal Commission staff report prepared in advance of Thursday’s meeting recommends that commissioners decide the proposal falls within the commission’s jurisdiction and block a number of key aspects of the planned renovation. Among other recommendations, it suggests that artificial turf should be dropped from the plan altogether and even asks the commission to require that fences already on the site be removed and replaced with lower ones.

Thursday morning’s Coastal Commission meeting is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael.

Read the California Coastal Commission staff report on the Beach Chalet soccer fields plan:

California Coastal Commission staff report on Golden Gate Park Beach Chalet soccer fields_A-2-SNF-12-020 (B…

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  1. Forgot to mention that for anyone mocking the notion of stargazing: the beach- esp. in front of the park behind the dunes- has the best stars in the city. That may not be saying much considering the already terrible light pollution we have, but then that’s a case for less lights, not more…right? It’s the last refuge for people who want to hop on bus, take a 5 minute walk behind a dune and look up to see the stars over the sea.

    Don’t knock it till you try it on a clear, moonless night. You’ll forget that you’re in a city, and probably surprised by the number of stars.

    Maybe soccer aficionados from the other neighborhoods who want these fields have simply forgotten what stars look like, and have given up on having that essential view of the night sky. That’s sad.

  2. Selfish?

    It’s selfish to want to prevent further hardscaping of this already overbuilt city? It’s selfish to want to prevent further contributing factors to the polluted stormwater runoff that affects beachgoers? It’s selfish to want to preserve as much of the natural setting along the coastal zone and avoid stadium lighting where millions come to enjoy an ocean sunset? It’s selfish to question a $14M boondoggle? It’s selfish to think a park is a space where grass is prefereable to recycled tires?

    Adults want their night soccer league and that narrow interest is supposed to trump all??

    That’s somehow not selfish? Kids can do just fine playing during the day, just as I grew up doing. Maybe if this was just astroturf without the lights we could talk, but the project proponents just had to go for the full monty and throw in the lights. That gets my full-throated opposition.

    It. Doesn’t. Fit. There.

    I get it- the current situation with the fields is unsustainable. But proponents are claiming a false choice between status quo and turf/lights?

    Want to change the fields? Restore them to original habitat then, and watch project and maintenance costs plummet. That will be followed by measurable improvements in species biodiversity, water filtration/runoff mitigation affecting the north end of OB. Most importantly, you’ll have park that really feels like a park and the waterfront sunsets will remain unsullied by a massive artificial lighting complex every night.

    Want to play on turf fields? Then build them in a less sensitive location. The city is special because of its open space, and along OB we have a very special area where natural and urban elements are better balanced than the rest of the city. And on a nice day people come out here by the tens of thousands to enjoy the ability to be in San Francisco but feel like you are on the cusp of wilderness.

    C’mon soccer fiends, get your kicks in a less contentious spot with a better conceived plan. Please. Do it for those children who might prefer a healthier environment to the ability to play soccer on artficial grass after dark.

  3. How come the grass Polo fields can be effectively maintained, but the grass soccer fields cannot?

    RE: Lights,. My one concern is the additional skyglow to the entire area, not just the park. IMO, we need fewer lights at night. It doesn’t seem like a very safe idea to bring more people into the park after dark either.

    RE: The excessive water use for grass thing, is a canard, as the water is recycled through the entire park. What do you think those windmills are there for? Photo ops?

    Also with a dwindling youth population, why would we focus more resources on those fewer people?
    They could be spent replacing felled GG Park trees, cleaning algae choked lakes, removing overgrowth of blackberry brambles, upgrading existing bathrooms around the park, including the Beach Chalet, clean up the neglected bike path overgrown with iceplant. Garden the neglected open land on the Great Hwy. between upper and lower. Clean and replace dead trees in Sutro Park and revitalize the parapet. Clean Stern grove of garbage, debris and graffiti. Repair and upgrade boathouse at Lake Merced, re-open Sloat bathrooms and turn the water back on at the parking lot at OB.

    Maybe Rec & Parks could be more proactive and responsible for the area and take care of it instead of neglecting it.

    • The Polo Fields are taking a beating, too, for all the same reasons (high demand for playing space, gophers, tight park budget).

      MORE light in the evenings would be a good thing in that corner of the park…it’s been sketchy and even dangerous for decades. More positive use would discourage crime.

      Yeah, the windmills really are there for photo-ops. They haven’t pumped water i the park since the forties.

      Providing adequate quantity and quality of play-space is a way to address family flight from SF. Right now there aren’t enough soccer fields to meet the needs of the kids who live in the city.

      The funding source for the proposed renovation isn’t Rec and Park’s budget; it’s a gift from CityFields, which has renovated a number of fields through San Francisco.

  4. Anyone who looks at those fields and sees a “pastoral setting” or “meadow-lands” or (better yet) a “nature preserve” needs their eyes checked. The fields are a vast expanse of gopher-pocked, non-native grass requiring tons of fertilizer and millions of gallons of water a year just to keep them in their current, barely playable state. As for the lights, Great Highway from the air at night is a four-mile march of streetlights. How could the proposed shielded lights cause any additional avian confusion? And …star-gazing at Ocean Beach….seriously? For at least 70 years, the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields been human-made fields in a human-made park, and the renovation will enable them to fulfill their intended purpose: to give folks a place to play ball.

  5. Those fields are by far the worst in the city. I have seen countless people including myself roll ankles and hurt knees due to the poor quality of those fields. They must be replaced! Turf is the answer, low maintanence and even surface for playing. Also…why would you lower the fence? so that everyone is constantly having to climb them or run around them to grab balls that easily went over them??? Lastly, the light issue I can understand. I dont see why we just dont have lights. the polo fields were re -done and didnt get lit, so why do the fields at OB need to be lit?

  6. Yeah right. Real natural, pastoral chain link fence and pockmarked grass.

    This is sickening. Build the fields, yesterday.

  7. Don’t be so selfish, let the children play. Jeez, let the adults play too.

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