Astronomy club latest to oppose Beach Chalet soccer lights 

It’s important to have someplace to play soccer — but it’s also important to have a place to check out the Andromeda galaxy.

And those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive, according to leaders of San Francisco Amateur Astronomers.

The club is one of the groups concerned about plans for Beach Chalet soccer fields, which call for installing artificial turf and upgrading the lighting system. The improvements involve 60-foot-tall light fixtures that would stay lit until 10 p.m. They would boost the amount of play and practice time on the site’s four fields from about 91 hours a week to an average of 275.

The fixes, first proposed more than two years ago, have stirred up some controversy among those who oppose synthetic turf because they are concerned the fields may be toxic to children. The lighting also worries the Golden Gate Audubon Society, which has expressed concerns that it could disorient birds that migrate during darkness.

Unless altered, the lights are likely to get in the way of stargazing, San Francisco Amateur Astronomer President David Frey said. He said the organization meets at least once a month at Lands End, less than a mile from the proposed lighting.

"When you’re doing astronomy, it’s important that the sky is dark so you can see the universe," he said. "And that’s what we do, show people the universe."

Frey said he supports soccer fields being improved, and he doesn’t believe the two uses need to be mutually exclusive. He said there are fixtures that do a pretty good job of focusing all light downward and very little of it upward toward the sky, he said. Some of those fixtures are more energy efficient than their dark-dampening equivalents.

Several organizations have asked the San Francisco Planning Department to require an environmental review of the project, which planners currently are considering.

Recreation and Park Department spokesman Elton Pon said the specifics of the lighting have yet to be nailed down, and the department is willing to consider all lighting options.

"Everything’s on the table," he said.

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Katie Worth

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Saturday, Mar 17, 2018


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