Ballot Fights Over San Francisco Park

SAN FRANCISO (CN) – Whether San Francisco will install artificial turf and lighting at one of its most popular athletic fields depends on how voters react to two competing ballot visions for city parks.
     Most of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, along with its mayor, business leaders and the Democratic Party, support a provision that would put new artificial turf at the Beach Chalet Athletic Fields, at the western end of Golden Gate Park, a popular site for soccer players.
     Currently without lights, the field would be lit until 10 p.m., according to a plan already approved by the California Coastal Commission and the city’s parks and planning departments.
     Fighting the change from a natural grass playing surface and nighttime darkness at the 7-acre site is a coalition of dozens of neighborhood groups and the Sierra Club. They claim that fake turf and bright lights are bad for the environment and for children’s health.
     PROPOSITION H
     A petition drive got Proposition H on the ballot. The measure would keep natural grass and ban artificial lighting at the Beach Chalet, and at the Polo Fields, also at the park’s west end.
     The Sierra Club claims that the city’s parks department is trying to make money through permits and tournaments at the soccer fields. It claims that real grass is better for the environment than artificial turf, made of ground-up tires and plastic. They also say that the huge park’s master plan requires that the west end remain in a natural state.
     The neighborhood groups want their kids to play on real grass, not “toxic artificial turf.” They claims that the city has $5 million from a 2008 bond that should be used for turf renovation. Their election materials state: “Professional soccer players play on real grass. Our kids deserve the best.”
     PROPOSITION I
     The lights and turf crowd includes the seven supervisors on the city’s Board of Supervisors, who put Proposition I before voters.
     Along with the local Chamber of Commerce and the local Democratic Party, they claim that artificial turf and lights until 10 p.m. would give children year-round access to a safe place for exercise.
     In a voter information pamphlet, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein calls many of the city’s parks “out-of-date, unsafe and underused.”
     The neighborhood groups say that without lights, the fields will be “closed during the evening when many kids and their parents have time to play and exercise together.”
     Proposition I pegs city approval of projects like the one at the Beach Chalet to increased public use.
     If the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department determines that a given project would double the use of an athletic field, trail or playground, the city would be required to perform the renovations, as long as any necessary environmental impact report has been certified.
     If both Propositions H and I are approved by voters, then some or all of the measure that receives fewer votes would not be put into effect.

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