After eight years of political battles with environmental groups that sought to protect frog and snake species at the Pacifica, Calif., property, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved continued operation of the 18-hole, Alister MacKenzie-designed golf course, with planned modifications to three holes to enhance wildlife habitat.
After eight years of non-stop political battles, efforts to preserve the historic Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, Calif., have received a long-term commitment from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the Northern California Golf Association reported.
By a 9-1 vote on February 28, the Supervisors certified a Final Environmental Report for a Sharp Park Restoration Plan that recognizes the historical significance of the 85-year-old links designed by Alister MacKenzie.
Specifically, the Supervisors:
- Approved the continued operation of the 18-hole public course, owned by San Francisco but located in its beachside suburb of Pacifica;
- Designated the seaside links as “Historic Resource Property” under the California Environmental Quality Act; and
- Allowed modification of three holes along the margins of Laguna Salada, a freshwater marsh in the center of the course, to enhance habitat for the endangered San Francisco garter snake and the protected California red-legged frog, on condition that the changes be consistent with the golf course’s historic architectural character.
A handful of environmentalist groups, including Wild Equity Institute, the San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, a couple of local Audubon societies, National Parks Conservation Association, and, for a while, Center for Biological Diversity, had for years opposed San Francisco’s Sharp Park Plan. They had demanded closure of the course to protect the frogs and snakes, but since 2009 these opponents had lost a series of fights over the golf course in San Francisco city agencies and before the California Coastal Commission, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and other state and federal resources agencies. In 2012 and again in 2015, four different state and federal courts dismissed lawsuits from the activist groups, the Association reported.
The California Coastal Conservancy noted that construction of the golf course in the early 1930’s severed connection between the Pacific Ocean and Laguna Salada, thereby converting what had been a brackish marsh into suitable habitat for the freshwater frogs and snakes, which were first found at Sharp Park in 1946, 14 years after the course was opened, the Association reported.
In a 2015 decision in favor of San Francisco’s Sharp Park plans, the Coastal Commission emphasized the importance of balancing the historic public recreation value of the golf course with the need to protect endangered species, the Association reported.
On its February 28 agenda, the SF Board of Supervisors was scheduled to hear yet another appeal, from the same environmentalist groups, challenging December 2016 decisions by the San Francisco Planning and Recreation & Park Commissions. But when it came time for the anti-golf appellants to put on their case, their attorney Michael Lozeau announced his clients were withdrawing their appeal, in consideration for a minor concession on the placement of dredging spoils, the Association reported.
During the two weeks before the hearing, golfers submitted over 1,000 e-mails and mostly-hand-signed letters, pleading the case for Sharp Park. The golfers’ message resonated with the Supervisors. Voting with the 9-1 majority to certify the Natural Areas Plan Final EIR, Supervisor Ahsha Safai noted “the irony of it all, that we have an existing working-man’s golf course, designed by a Scottish immigrant, that would be restored that would then in the end be the reason why we have the opportunity to protect two of the most endangered species in Northern California. That’s one irony that shouldn’t be lost.”
“There’s still a lot of work to be done to restore MacKenzie’s masterpiece at Sharp Park,” concluded Golf Alliance co-founder Bo Links, “but now the wind is at our back.”