Garcia: Let soccer fields be built 

I realize the San Francisco Board of Supervisors wants us to be vegan, carry our food items in the proper containers and pay more than our fair share, but should it really be the one to decide whether we get new soccer fields?

That’s the question that will likely be answered in the coming weeks, when, if it all goes according to plan, the ruling bodies that should make such important decisions — the Planning and Recreation and Park commissions — have their approvals for wonderful new fields at the Beach Chalet appealed and sent to supervisors for their stamp of approval.

And they better give it because there’s simply no logical reason to stop The City from installing new synthetic turf soccer fields across from Ocean Beach unless you really believe that the lights on the pitches are going to impact the flights of pigeons and pelicans — the objection being proffered by the Audubon Society’s group of wingless activists.

Some neighborhood groups have complained about the idea of allowing people to play soccer at night because they fear it will lead to other nocturnal activities, like drinking. But most of those people have never even been to Beach Chalet and clearly don’t know much about soccer — it’s not adult softball.

At one point, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi raised concerns about the potential health hazards of the rubberized fields, but almost every study done on the fake grass has concluded that the surface is safe and sturdy. Mirkarimi said he’s a huge soccer fan — his real concern was about the “process” by which the new fields, which have proven hugely popular across San Francisco, were being installed.

Recreation and Park Department officials held several hearings on the proposed Beach Chalet design, and the main concern besides migratory birds seemed to be potential traffic impacts, which are minimal. That’s why the Planning Commission granted a categorical exemption for the structure, meaning it did not require an environmental impact report.

And the idea that synthetic turf fields would not be allowed under the Golden Gate Park master plan was answered by Doug Nelson, one of the plan’s co-authors who determined that the design was completely in compliance with the park’s grand scheme.

The new fields have increased playing time for children and adults in San Francisco by tens of thousands of hours. Any supervisor who votes against them should immediately receive a red card.

Mission organization has been pillar of community

Next week, the Mission Neighborhood Centers will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a gala dinner at City Hall, but its impact on the community extends more than a century, when it started as a sort of “girls’ club” for newly arrived immigrants.

The MNC owes its roots to the settlement-house movement of the late 1800s and has quietly evolved into the multitiered structure it is today, with more than a dozen centers that provide child care, education and senior services to more than 2,000 people.

The center has become a backstop to Mission district residents since it incorporated five decades ago, and the nonprofit’s staying power is one of the reasons a number of dignitaries, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are expected to turn out for its golden-anniversary party April 23. (Carlos Santana may be in attendance — how’s that for your Mission district star watch?)

“It has such a rich history of giving service to the community that it’s an honor to be part of it,” said Jim Salinas, president of the center’s board of directors. “It’s one place that’s really worth celebrating.”

For more information about the center, its history and its party, visit

Freeway off-ramps are no place for parks

Mayor Gavin Newsom likes to tout his green credentials so often that you have to wonder if he calculates his carbon footprint. But his eco-warrior instincts may have devolved into an all-time low, now that he’s directing city workers to place parks at freeway off-ramps.

The Department of Public Works recently started converting space next to freeway exits into tiny parks with trees and rocks because, well, they can. After all, who doesn’t want to watch tractor-trailers grind to a stop and inhale diesel exhaust?

We’re told that the tree lines will separate people from the pollution, to which we say, you must be working in the Police Department’s crime lab.

Wasn’t there an old joke about playing on the freeway?

I’m all for creating busywork for city employees in these downtrodden times, but this is one idea on which the mayor should hit the brakes.

Drug scandal is a story you can’t make up

People ask me all the time if I write fiction on the side. And I usually respond that I write about San Francisco — who needs fiction?

That brings us to the juiciest story in town, the one about the Police Department’s crime lab, where evidence was supposed to be stored not shaken. As it turns out, the best place to score good “product” was in the lab itself, by employees who know a sweet deal when they sniff it.

The technician at the center of the scandal, Deborah Madden, has told police that “discrepancies” about the amount of drugs were due to shoddy accounting practices. And shoddy is what you get when the counters are doing blow like the wind.

Madden told police she thought she could “control my drinking by using some cocaine.” And stuff like that, as I like to say, just can’t be made up.

It should be noted that Madden has not been charged with stealing drugs from the lab — she said she only inhaled the spilled contents, “trace cocaine” in her words. She also said other employees at the facility handled drugs carelessly, which is to say they didn’t keep track of them.


It’s still too early to tell how many criminal drug cases will be dismissed because of the lab’s lack of controls. But if Madden was at the lab for nearly 30 years before she retired, we can only imagine what a fun workplace it must have been.

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Ken Garcia

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