mike koozmin/2012 s.f. examiner file photoThe Beach Chalet soccer fields have already been approved to have artificial turf

Competing ballot measures address controversy over Beach Chalet fields

After six years of public discussion, approvals and appeals, a renovation of the Beach Chalet athletic fields with artificial turf and new lighting was going to move forward until Proposition H was placed on this year's ballot. The measure would require San Francisco to keep all athletic fields in Golden Gate Park west of Crossover Drive as natural grass.

To combat Prop. H, backers of the renovations placed Proposition I on the ballot, which seeks to amend The City's park code so it can upgrade athletic fields, children's playgrounds and walking trails that would double public access to such features.

If both measures pass Nov. 4 with more than 50 percent of the vote, only the one with the most votes will apply to the athletic fields. However, Prop. I goes further in scope than Prop. H and so its other provisions would remain even if it has no impact on the field renovations.

Prop. H supporters — which include the Sierra Club, Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park and Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods — argue that artificial turf makes “noxious fumes” and that runoff is environmentally damaging. They also complained about “light pollution” from keeping the fields illuminated until 10 p.m.

“The jury is still out on synthetic turf and whether or not it is safe to play in,” said Sue Vaughan, chairwoman of the Sierra Club's San Francisco chapter.

The Recreation and Park Department's Master Plan states that the western edge of the park should remain natural, Vaughan said, and that it's fair to say the plan creators had no idea the Beach Chalet soccer fields would be targeted for synthetic turf and night lights.

But those behind Prop. I, which was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors, said thousands more children would be able to access the athletic fields with the improvements, especially with extra space becoming available without needing to book in advance.

“A month before construction, Proposition H was put on the ballot to stop the project and undo all those years of public process and continue to deny San Francisco's kids the opportunity to play on these fields,” said Patrick Hannan, campaign manager for Yes on I.

Prop. H proponents said the Golden Gate Master Plan states that the western edge of the park is to remain in a natural state. They contend that the Recreation and Park Department is trying to privatize the athletic fields to make money off permits and tournaments.

Hannan said that claim was an oversight and that a section at the back of the master plan addresses the fields, specifically encouraging The City to renovate as needed to boost public use.

“Proposition I in no way curtails or prevents the approval or appeals process for any parks projects,” Hannan added.

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