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Natural Areas Plan draws opposition over golf course redevelopment, tree removal, off-leash dogs

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(Photo via Recreation and Parks)

A hearing today on an ambitious 20-year plan to manage San Francisco’s natural areas drew opposition from dog owners, urban forest lovers and environmentalists opposed to redevelopment efforts at Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica.

The joint hearing by the Planning Commission and Recreation and Parks Commission was held to review the final environmental impact report on a Natural Areas Management Plan covering 32 natural areas in San Francisco and San Mateo counties, including Twin Peaks, Mt. Davidson, McLaren Park, Bernal Heights and Sharp Park.

Those areas comprise around 1,100 acres and include 30 miles of trails and more than 140 species of plants and animals, city recreation and parks officials said today.

Much of the plan is receiving widespread support, but a number of environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Wild Equity, Audubon Society and the Center for Biological Diversity today called upon commission members to remove redevelopment plans for a golf course at Sharp Park in Pacifica and handle them separately.

The golf course, which includes wetlands habitat for endangered red-legged frogs and San Francisco garter snakes, has been the subject of repeated litigation and legislative battles between environmentalists and city officials over the years. City plans include the relocation of the 12th hole.

Brent Plater, executive director for the group Wild Equity, said the city had initially said it would treat any changes at Sharp Park as a separate project, but later added the golf course redevelopment to the natural areas management plan, meaning it would not undergo additional environmental review.

“I hope the commissioners will not overlook this bait and switch that has been done with Sharp Park,” Plater said.

Other areas of controversy in the plan include a proposal to reduce off-leash dog areas in Bernal Heights and in McLaren Park, a change that comes on the heels of similar reductions within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. A number of trail areas would also be removed or relocated.

The plan also includes an urban forest management plan that calls for the removal of 18,500 trees, especially eucalyptus trees, in areas including Mt. Davidson and at Sharp Park and the use of herbicides in some areas to control invasive species of plants. Recreation and Parks officials have said they plan to replace trees on a 1-1 basis.

Groups including the San Francisco Forest Alliance today asked the commissions not to certify the environmental impact report as it stands due to the tree removal plans.

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