More artificial turf is on its way to city's fields

After replacing natural grass with synthetic turf at seven parks in the past few years, The City still has about $5 million left to flip more fields.

At the same time, the carpets of plastic and recycled tires are being monitored for health hazards.

A $45 million public-private partnership between the Recreation and Park Department and nonprofit City Fields Foundation has installed artificial turf to increase playtime since grass fields close periodically for maintenance, upkeep and watering.

The City has swapped fields at Crocker Amazon, Franklin Square, South Sunset, Silver Terrace, Garfield, Youngblood Coleman and Kimbell parks. The asphalt at Mission Playground awaits construction, and the Beach Chalet soccer fields hinge on environmental review.

Laying a blanket of polyethylene and covering it with plastic grass blades, webbed by recycled tire, has stirred debate. City officials, athletes and parents whose children use the fields have questioned whether they could disperse toxic particles.

Tests for toxins and carcinogens, conducted by local and state officials in 2008, found no significant risks, according to the Department of the Environment.

“But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be monitoring the fields,” said Chris Geiger, municipal toxics reduction coordinator with the department.

“You don’t just do one test and stop … we don’t know what can happen 20 years from now.”

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi wrote legislation that would have prevented Rec and Park from installing the fields without the Board of Supervisors’ consent, but it remains stagnant.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has started tests of the water runoff at two of the fields.

“We’re kind of in the middle of the initial tests,” SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue said. “But so far, it’s clean.”

The seven synthetic fields are supposed to increase The City’s field playtime by 66,000 hours a year, Rec and Park officials estimated, and they have become some of the most desirable fields for sports leagues.

Geiger suggested that the fields continue to be monitored.

“I’m not a cheerleader for plastic lawns,” he said. “But especially if it’s used in a place where it’s hopelessly rundown, I think there is a place for it.”

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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