Supporters seek to defend San Francisco Beach Chalet soccer field upgrade in lawsuit

S.F. Examiner File PhotoShut out: A proposed plan would install turf and lights at the Beach Chalet fields.

S.F. Examiner File PhotoShut out: A proposed plan would install turf and lights at the Beach Chalet fields.

Supporters of a plan to convert the Beach Chalet soccer fields in Golden Gate Park from grass to artificial turf asked a judge Tuesday to allow them to join The City in fighting a lawsuit filed by opponents seeking to block the project.
The City Fields Foundation is a nonprofit working with San Francisco to renovate various fields around The City. The plan to overhaul the 7-acre site on the western end of the park with turf and lighting was approved by several city agencies, including the Board of Supervisors in July, but groups such as the San Francisco Coalition for Children’s Outdoor Play filed a lawsuit in October to try to block the project.
The groups argue that The City did not adequately review the environmental impacts of the project as required by the California Environmental Quality Act, and said the turf could be toxic to children playing on it.
But Scott Emblidge, an attorney representing the City Fields Foundation, said Tuesday the project “has been studied more than you can imagine … and been approved by every city agency that has looked at it.”
Emblidge said the argument over the turf is a red herring, noting that opponents have proposed a separate plan that would replace fields at the nearby West Sunset Playground with synthetic turf and lighting.
“Why are they saying to move these ‘toxic’ fields to a different park?” he said.
Richard Drury, attorney for the project’s opponents, said safety is their main concern and they have proposed nontoxic artificial alternatives, such as turf with sand or cork underneath it.
Drury said The City has chosen “the most toxic kind available” and “refused to consider any of the alternatives at all.”
A judge is expected to rule within the next week on the motion, and both sides are next scheduled to return to court Jan. 16.
Barring a delay as a result of the lawsuit, construction on the fields is expected to begin next summer or fall and will last about 10 months.

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