Dueling ballot measures this November, including one proposed by Mayor Ed Lee, may decide whether the Recreation and Park Department can install controversial artificial turf athletic fields at Golden Gate Park's Beach Chalet.
As opponents are gathering signatures to place a measure on the November ballot that would block the artificial turf project, Lee has announced his intention to place a measure on the November ballot today that does the exact opposite. The mayor's Increased Usage of Children's Playgrounds, Walking Trails and Athletic Fields Act supports the planned renovation of the park's existing athletic fields with the synthetic turf, as well as lighting and spectator seating. The fields are particularly popular for soccer.
If both measures are approved by voters, the one with the most votes would prevail.
The mayor was joined in his announcement Monday by a majority of the members of the Board of Supervisors, Rec and Park Director Phil Ginsburg, the City Fields Foundation -- which funds artificial athletic fields in public parks -- and a crowd of young soccer players.
Mike Murphy, a member of the Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park, the group behind the measure to prevent the artificial turf installation, said the "dog and pony show" regarding the announcement was indicative of the "highly political process" around the plan from the very beginning.
"It's unfair we can't do something uncontested," Murphy said.
Among the group's concerns are the toxicity level of the artificial material and the heritage of the park. The coalition's ballot measure comes after years of fighting the turf project and being on the losing end of votes by agencies, such as the California Coastal Commission and the Board of Supervisors. A recent ruling by the San Francisco Superior Court over the adequacy of the project's environmental review that shot down the opponents' argument is being appealed.
Murphy said his group has until July 7 to submit at least 9,776 registered voter signatures to qualify its measure for the November ballot, and it is on pace to do just that.
Supporters of the artificial fields with lights in Golden Gate Park praise the plan for creating more play time on better conditions. City Fields Foundation has helped renovate 14 athletic fields in seven parks since 2006.
"We can't build enough parks for all the kids. We got to really reinvent them," Lee said. "How about more hours of soccer, kids?"