Every so often, circumstances present to government the potential for a win-win, an opportunity to create something that benefits people today as well as generations to come. That might be a cliché, but models do exist of successes and of squandered opportunities.
Building a world-class ballpark at China Basin — despite opposition from one-third of March 1996 voters — launched the creation of a vibrant neighborhood in San Francisco. That was a win.
In 1961, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors withdrew from the then-proposed Bay Area-wide, electrified commuter rail system. That lack of vision was a fail.
Right now, San Francisco, San Mateo County and Pacifica stand before a collective choice to win or fail regarding Sharp Park Golf Course.
Opened in 1931, the 18-hole, par-72 public course was designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who created some of the most famous golf courses in the world, including Cypress Point in Monterey and Green Hills in Millbrae. The former surgeon also co-designed Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., home of the annual Masters tournament.
Sharp Park’s coastal location also is home to the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog, both federally protected species. Forces natural and man-made are threatening habitat and breeding areas. By all appearances, Sharp Park is the latest Flanders field between the stereotypes of rich, white, middle-aged golfers and the ponytailed, sandals-and-socks set.
However, Sharp Park does not have to become the philosophical moonscape of trench warfare, where slogans and sound bites obfuscate reasoning. Sharp Park can be a place where golfers from all socioeconomic strata successfully co-exist with sensitive coastal species.
Actually, San Mateo County and Pacifica already have the framework of a plan to do exactly that. The golf course can be reconfigured to support the endangered snakes and threatened frogs, while recapturing some of MacKenzie’s original layouts. Additionally, San Mateo County has already identified private sources willing to underwrite most — if not all — of this proposed peaceful co-existence.
The final act remains with San Francisco, which owns Sharp Park Golf Course. There are those in San Francisco City Hall who would rather eliminate the golf course and “give” Sharp Park in its entirety to the National Park Service to oversee as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. However, the park service has stated that it will accept the property only under very specific conditions — expensive conditions; expenses that any budget-conscious local government should carefully consider.
Meanwhile, San Mateo County is prepared to accept Sharp Park as it exists today. The county will work with Pacifica and all appropriate experts and stakeholders to ensure that Sharp Park is a sustainable natural habitat and a San Mateo County-managed, affordable public golf course.
There is no reason for Sharp Park’s future to include winners and losers. Sharp Park is a rare opportunity for San Francisco, San Mateo County and Pacifica to work together to create a win-win benefiting people today and for generations to come.
Carole Groom is president and Adrienne J. Tissier is vice president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.