Board rejects appeal of Beach Chalet soccer fields 

Soccer enthusiasts have reason to cheer after scoring a major victory toward realizing an upgraded
soccer complex at the Beach Chalet on the west end of Golden Gate Park.

The project would replace the existing grass fields with synthetic turf and install 60-foot-high lights to allow for nighttime play on the 9-acre site, along with upgrades such as improved bathrooms and spectator seating.

At the conclusion of a seven-hour Tuesday hearing that went on past 11 p.m., the Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to reject an appeal of the project’s environmental impact report after hearing from an outpouring of residents on both sides of the contentious issue.

Supporters strongly backed the project for allowing more soccer play hours, which are expected to increase from 4,738 hours to 14,320 hours. “This is a perfect spot for that,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, whose district includes the site.

But others lamented the change. Supervisor John Avalos said the report was adequate, but it was a “troubling decision” since it would result in the loss “of what I envision Golden Gate Park should be like” and “I think there will be a glow at the beach.”  

The board was not voting on the project itself, but simply whether the report adequately addressed the project’s impacts.

Appeal supporter Kathy Howard said the plan would tarnish the park’s beauty. “This is the heritage that you will leave for future generations of children,” she said. “If you love Golden Gate Park you will reject the EIR. There are other locations for this soccer complex. But there is only one golden gate park.”

But Supervisor Scott Wiener said the impacts were not as dramatic as opponents portrayed. “I think there’s been some overstatement about the impact that this will have on the naturalness and open space in Golden Gate Park,” Wiener said. “This is 1 percent of the park in an area that is already near other lighted areas.”

Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg passionately supported his department’s project to address a severe shortage in play fields. “Our goal is to help San Francisco families thrive by ensuring that every child in this city has a place to play ball,” Ginsburg said.

Supervisor Christina Olague cast the lone vote in support of the appeal and said she was worried about the impacts of the lighting.

The debate isn’t completely over. It appears opponents will try to argue their case before both The City’s board of appeals and the California Coastal Commission.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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