Dueling Ballot Measures to Determine Fate of Beach Chalet Soccer Fields

Two competing initiatives on Tuesday’s ballot have pitted San Francisco residents against each other over the fate of athletic fields in Golden Gate Park.

How San Francisco residents vote on Proposition H and Proposition I will determine whether a multi-million dollar private donation will be used to install artificial turf and nighttime lighting above the Beach Chalet soccer fields on the western edge of Golden Gate Park.

While artificial turf and nighttime lighting would allow more soccer players to enjoy the athletic fields later into the evening, opponents of the project say that newly designed real grass fields with below-ground drainage systems and proper maintenance would suffice while posing no threat to the natural beauty of the park.

Critics also say that nighttime lighting on the fields would be visible from Ocean Beach and would spoil one of the few natural spaces left in the city.

Proposition H, if passed, will stop Golden Gate Park athletic fields from being turned into artificial turf fields with nighttime lighting.

According to San Francisco City Controller Ben Rosenfield, if Proposition H is approved, the $6 million private donation to the Recreation and Park Department will be affected.

The other voter initiative concerning soccer fields on the ballot in November is Proposition I.

If passed, Proposition I will allow for the renovation of city playgrounds, walking trails and athletic fields to include the installation of nighttime lighting and artificial turf if an environmental impact report by city officials determines the changes will double usage of the site.

If both Propositions H and I are approved, the one with the most “yes” votes will take precedence with regard to the Beach Chalet soccer fields.

Krysta Jenkins, a 29-year-old San Francisco resident who teaches soccer in the city and lives in the Sunset District, said she supports the installation of artificial turf and nighttime lights. She said children in San Francisco should be able to use Golden Gate Park athletic fields rain or shine, day or night.

Jenkins, a semi-professional soccer player, said the fields near Ocean Beach are “career-ending fields” due to their lack of maintenance and their state of disrepair.

She said the proposed new field “helps me help the kids and it helps my business.”

Jenkins said she will vote no on Proposition H and yes on Proposition I.

Those who have also come out in favor of the turf and lighting project include the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the San Francisco Democratic Party, as well as the City Fields Foundation, which is managed by the sons of the founders of Gap Inc., William, Robert and John Fisher, among others.

Greg Miller, who is voting in favor of Proposition H and against Proposition I, said artificial turf and nighttime lighting sets a “terrible precedent” for the park.

Miller said the space was designed to allow individuals and families access to forest and meadows. He said he’s worried that the tranquility of the park is in jeopardy.

He said the lights proposed for the athletic fields will rise high into the sky and above the height of the trees there now. While Miller admitted that the current fields are in need of an upgrade, he said artificial turf isn’t the answer.

He said the fields have poor drainage but nothing that can’t be rebuilt as beautiful grass fields with proper drainage.

Miller also suggested that the Recreation and Park Department look into acquiring new land or placing the artificial soccer fields and lights in already urbanized areas outside of Golden Gate Park.

Those who stand with Miller against the artificial turf and lighting include the Sierra Club, Golden Gate Audubon Society and 44 groups that make up the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, among others.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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