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Monday
Mar062017

Eight Years! Sharp Park Finally Gets Long Term Reprieve, Chance For MacKenzie Restoration

We've been following this saga way too long but huge credit to Richard Harris and Bo Links for nearly a decade of battling to save Alister MacKenzie's Sharp Park design. After essentially facing the same foe--Brent Plater of Wild Equity--the San Francisco Board of Supervisors finally included the course as part of a natural resources plan that will ensure its long term prospects.

A WPA project designed by MacKenzie and Pebble Beach remodeler Chandler Egan, the run-down public course still sports a vibrant and diverse golf scene. With some love and money, it could be one of America's best public golf facilities.

The full press release announcing what appears to be the (merciful) end to this saga.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 6, 2017

SHARP PARK PLAN MOVES FORWARD

Historic “Working-man’s golf course” to Remain Open with SF Supervisors’ Support 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – After eight years of non-stop political battles, efforts to preserve the historic Sharp Park Golf Course have received a long-term commitment from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. 

By a 9-1 vote on Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Supervisors certified a Final Environmental Report for a Sharp Park Restoration Plan that recognizes the historical significance of the 85-year old links designed by Alister MacKenzie, one of world’s most famous golf course architects.  Specifically, the Supervisors: 

  • ·      Approved the continued operation of the 18-hole public course, owned by San Francisco but located in its beachside suburb of Pacifica;
  • ·      Designated the seaside links as “Historic Resource Property” under the California Environmental Quality Act; and
  • · Allowed modification of three holes along the margins of Laguna Salada, a freshwater marsh in the center of the course, to enhance habitat for the endangered San Francisco garter snake and the protected California red-legged frog, on condition that the changes be consistent with the golf course’s historic architectural character. 

A handful of environmentalist groups, including Wild Equity Institute, the San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, a couple of local Audubon societies, National Parks Conservation Association, and, for a while, Center for Biological Diversity, had for years opposed San Francisco’s Sharp Park Plan. They had demanded closure of the course to protect the frogs and snakes, but since 2009 these opponents had lost a series of fights over the golf course in San Francisco city agencies and before the California Coastal Commission, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and other state and federal resources agencies. In 2012 and again in 2015, four different state and federal courts dismissed lawsuits from the activist groups.  They lost at every turn.

The California Coastal Conservancy and several resources agency and court decisions noted that construction of the golf course in the early 1930’s severed connection between the Pacific Ocean and Laguna Salada, thereby converting what had been a brackish marsh into suitable habitat for the freshwater frogs and snakes, which were first found at Sharp Park in 1946, 14 years after the course was opened.   In a 2015 decision in favor of San Francisco’s Sharp Park plans, the Coastal Commission emphasized the importance of balancing the historic public recreation value of the golf course with the need to protect endangered species.   

On its Feb. 28 agenda, the SF Board of Supervisors was scheduled to hear yet another appeal, from the same environmentalist groups, challenging December 2016 decisions by the San Francisco Planning and Recreation & Park Commissions certifying a Final EIR and adopting the Sharp Park Restoration Plan as part of the Rec & Park Department’s comprehensive San Francisco Natural Areas Plan.  But when it came time for the anti-golf appellants to put on their case, their attorney Michael Lozeau dramatically announced his clients were withdrawing their appeal, in consideration for a minor Rec & Park concession on the placement of dredging spoils. 

At that point, 50-plus San Francisco Public Golf Alliance members who came to City Hall to testify – working men and women, retirees, and students from across San Francisco’s  broad ethnic and social spectrum – happily went home.  During the two weeks before the hearing, the golfers submitted over 1,000 e-mails and mostly-hand-signed letters, pleading the case for their beloved Sharp Park.

The golfers’ message resonated with the Supervisors.  Voting with the 9-1 majority to certify the Natural Areas Plan Final EIR, Supervisor Ahsha Safai – whose southern San Francisco district is near Sharp Park – noted “the irony of it all . . . that we have an existing working-man’s golf course . . . designed by a Scottish immigrant . . . that would be restored . . . that would then in the end be the reason why we have the opportunity to protect two of the most endangered species in Northern California.  That’s one irony that shouldn’t be lost.” 

Thanks to the Supervisors’ vote, neither the irony nor the golf course will be lost.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to restore MacKenzie’s masterpiece at Sharp Park,” concluded Golf Alliance co-founder Bo Links, “but now the wind is at our back.”

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Reader Comments (6)

Brilliant, just bloody brilliant!! Congratulations and plaudits to Bo and his fellow golfniks. Well done, comrades.
03.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve B
Always enjoyed Sharp even when course conditions were awful. Curious how Sharp has handled the rains and floods and whether it is even playable. Said it before: if it weren't for the Mackenzie affiliation, the golf cognescenti wouldn't give a damn. The front nine is certainly no better, from a design standpoint, than Harding's front nine. And Harding catches a ton of flak on this website. In the end, Mother Nature will win this battle.
03.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSoro B
The vibe at Sharp has always been great - I'm not surprised to see the outpouring of support.
03.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPGT
Soro,
Unlike Harding, Sharp is not aspiring to host a major championship. If $26 million had been spent on Sharp instead of Harding, I'm fairly confident something spectacular would be there today.

Yes, the MacKenzie affiliation helps, but ultimately once people who hadn't been there before saw the setting and potential, this was about saving a grand WPA project that serves the game well with the potential to be an incredible facility again.
03.6.2017 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Who should get the restoration gig?

Doak is probably the foremost expert on McKensie and did and amazing job on Pasatiempo.

Maybe Bryan Silvia?
03.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterThe Golf Blurb

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