a_soccer_ball.pngThe San Francisco Planning Commission is holding a hearing Thursday on a proposal to renovate the Beach Chalet Athletic Fields on the western edge of Golden Gate Park.

The project, which would replace the four current grass fields with synthetic turf, as well as install field lighting and other new amenities, has faced opposition from neighbors who say it will hurt the park’s aesthetics and natural resources.

City officials say changing the fields to artificial turf would increase the amount of play time by reducing the need for maintenance-related closures.

One of the four soccer fields is always out of use to allow for grass re-growth, and the fields are closed to the public each Monday and sometimes for months to allow for grass cultivation and general maintenance, according to the city.

The installation of lighting would also allow for longer evening uses of the fields. City officials said the project would increase play time by more than 200 percent.

However, opponents of the project, which include the groups SF Ocean Edge and the Golden Gate Park Preservation Alliance, say it would potentially cause a loss of dozens of trees and wildlife habitat, decrease night sky darkness in the area, and infringe on the historic context of the nearby Beach Chalet and Dutch and Murphy windmills.

The Planning Commission is holding a hearing Thursday on the environmental impact report that has been drafted for the project.

The commission will take no action Thursday on the project, which is open for written comments until Dec. 12.

The commission’s meeting begins at noon Thursday in Room 400 at City Hall, but the Beach Chalet hearing won’t start until 5 p.m.

If the project is eventually approved, construction would begin in the summer or fall 2013 and last about 10 months, according to the city.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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