Competing Ballot Measures Would Ask Voters To Make Decision On Beach Chalet Astro-Turf Plan

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and eight city supervisors announced a ballot measure Monday to ask voters in November to allow improvements to city children’s playgrounds, trails and athletic fields.

The measure was sparked by the fight over the proposed renovation of the Beach Chalet soccer fields on the western edge of Golden Gate Park.

The proposed ballot measure focuses on recreational areas in the city that have gotten state-mandated environmental review and approval by the California Coastal Commission and other necessary regulatory bodies to allow renovations and conversions.

The measure aims to ensure park projects can proceed as planned once vetted and approved, instead of being held up in appeals and other procedural delays.

The city’s plan to convert the Beach Chalet grass fields to turf and add lighting, fencing and other amenities has long been under contention by opposition groups claiming the project is environmentally destructive and harmful to children.

The $14 million renovation of the 7-acre site has been approved by the Coastal Commission and several city agencies, including the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, but has been delayed by multiple appeals processes and lawsuits.

According to the city’s Recreation and Park Department, the new Beach Chalet fields will increase playtime and help the environment by saving millions of gallons of water each year and cut back on herbicide use in parks.

According to the department, the delays are costly and deprive residents’ use of the facilities.

A competing ballot measure championed by the Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park, a group of residents, park advocates and environmentalists, is collecting the required nearly 10,000 signatures to stop the turf renovations, group spokesman Mike Murphy said.

The group started collecting signatures on Earth Day, April 19.

If the initiative known as the Golden Gate Park Recreational Fields Renovation Act is approved, it would mandate that athletic fields in the western area of Golden Gate Park remain as natural grass and not allow nighttime field lighting in those areas.

The required signatures must be submitted by July 7 for the measure to make it onto the November ballot.

“What’s being proposed is an unconscionable action, both from an environmental, human health and historic standpoint,” Murphy said about the Beach Chalet renovation plans.

Coalition members said voters would also be deciding about potential changes at Golden Gate Park’s Polo Fields through the initiative.

If both measures make it on the ballot and are approved by voters, the one with the higher number of votes will go into effect.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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