No joke: This NIMBY is for the birds

In the past, I may have joked that people in San Francisco will fight about every blade of grass, but this week it became official.

At a meeting for a proposed project to replace the deteriorating soccer fields at Beach Chalet with four artificial-turf pitches and lights, opponents of the plan — though considerably outnumbered — came up with a whole slew of new reasons to stop the ball rolling.

The reasons included the potential impact on migratory bird flights (the lights could confuse them) and the loss of star-gazing ability (because the glow makes it harder to see the sky).

And no, I’m not making this up.

Nearly 100 people turned out for the meeting, most of them in favor of the project, which would take the rundown, gopher-hole-ridden patch of grass near Ocean Beach and transform it into an athletic destination for soccer, lacrosse and rugby players. The turf fields would triple the amount of time available for youth and adult players, and would end years of embarrassment for city athletic leagues that hold tournaments on the poorly maintained grass fields.

The project is being made possible through the City Fields Foundation, which has been transforming fields throughout San Francisco to increase playtime. The Beach Chalet project, which likely would begin in summer, is slated to cost about $10 million.

I agree that natural grass would be better — if The City had the money and manpower to properly maintain the fields. But as Recreation and Park Department chief Phil Ginsburg noted, San Francisco has 50 gardeners working in Golden Gate Park today compared with 200 in the early 1970s.

Activists trying to stop the project have been relying on the “pastoral retreat” concept raised by the original park planners in 1880. And I sympathize with the desire to cling to the park’s history, but Golden Gate Park is no longer a place for horse-drawn buggies and Victorian designs.

It’s a park that provides all sorts of recreation, including soccer fields at Beach Chalet that are in dire need of improvement.

Yes, it means there will be more activity and more traffic along the park’s western edge, but that’s good.

You can add your views at 7 p.m. Monday at the park’s senior center, 36th Avenue and Fulton Street.

I think the birds will survive the needed change — and the neighbors, too.


Stop with buffoonish ballot act

I love satire. I’m a huge fan of political humor. And I’m all about citizen involvement, especially at election time.

But as badly twisted as California’s initiative process is, there’s nothing funny about exposing its obvious flaws. And that’s just what one ballot measure would do, should it ever get on the ballot, which we can only hope it does not.

That would be one Sacramento man’s desire to officially ban divorce in California, a notion that’s not nearly as clever as John Marcotte believes. The idea is to make fun of the state’s 2008 vote to ban same-sex marriage, a political statement designed to “protect” the sanctity of traditional unions. And while I would pay the $12 for the campaign T-shirt that shows a bride and groom chained at their wrists, I think the initiative process is abused enough without making it the focus of political theater.

We have late-night television for that. And there’s always Sarah Palin.

Still, if Marcotte can get nearly 700,000 people to sign on with him, which is what he needs to qualify his satirical statement for the ballot, then I will be the first to admit that the joke had legs. I mean, the attempt to turn Alcatraz into a holistic Zen center was funny, but divorce? Not so much.

If Marcotte was smart, he would wait until the inevitable round of national stories covering wacky California politics has run its course and then pull the plan out of circulation.

Take my word — please.


In land of lenity, even public sex crosses the line

In case anyone thinks San Francisco is not a fringe paradise, here’s an idea that’s sure to provoke controversy: Public sex tents.

Why didn’t we think of that sooner?

A regular attendee of the infamous Folsom Street Fair suggested sanctioning frolicking under the big top as a way to deal with complaints about people engaged in sex on the streets. That way the police don’t have to act, they can just avoid peeking into the tent — The City’s own Cirque de Salacious.

Even in our hallowed land of civil liberty and timeless tolerance, one would have to realize that giving the official nod to public-sex acts would make San Francisco just a little over the edge. Bawdy is one thing; illegal is quite another. The word inappropriate immediately comes to mind, but indecent also would apply.

Where’s P.T. Barnum when you really need him?


Forecast swell next week for dry state, surf contest

Now that Californians have been warned that the state faces one of the worst drought years ever, it’s time to take action: Let’s go surfing.

It’s hardly rained since October, but now our weather forecasters are telling us we are due for a supersoaker of a storm starting this weekend. With big ocean fronts come big waves, and our local meteorologists say we could be talking about humongous swells — large enough to finally get the world’s big-wave riders to pack their wet suits and head to Half Moon Bay next week.

They’re calling it a “projection” at this point, but wave watchers are hopeful that this is one prediction that comes true. Some preliminary forecasts say a typhoon-level swell is developing near Japan that could push waves of up to 50 feet toward Hawaii by Monday.

And if that happens, Northern California surfers could be in for a very wild ride by midweek. Word is already being shipped to the 24 surfers invited to Mavericks. Most of them already will be in Hawaii for the Eddie Aikau Invitational in Oahu.

The drought is still on. You may have to remind yourself when you’re getting soaked next week.

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