A conceptual, overhead rendering of the four renovated fields at Beach Chalet
It was early 2010 when we first heard about the plans to renovate the Beach Chalet soccer fields in Golden Gate Park. The City Fields Foundation, in conjunction with the City, proposed to fund a new soccer center at the existing site that would convert the playing fields to artificial turf, add lighting, renovate the restrooms, add a small playground, repave the parking area, and erect new fencing and seating areas for spectators.
The goal? More playing time for kids and adults. The proposed improvements would bring all four fields into use year-round and provide expanded hours into the early evening. Currently, the Beach Chalet fields can host 4,738 hours of annual play. The proposed renovations would add 9,582 hours of new play each year for both soccer and lacrosse players.
The process for approvals started off well for the project. In April 2011, the renovation was green-lighted by the Rec & Park Commission after nearly three hours of public comments from both sides of the issue. But this is San Francisco after all, so by May, Rec & Park bowed to the pressure of community groups and required City Fields Foundation to provide a full environmental impact report.
Opponents of the project raised concerns about the environmental impact that the replacement soccer center would have. How would birds be impacted by the new lights? Would light pollution from the lights ruin the sky for stargazers? What kinds of toxins are in artificial fields and will it harm children and animals? Why aren’t they using natural grass instead?
The process has dragged on and on, with appeal after appeal. And despite the plan being approved by the Planning Commission, the Recreation and Park Commission, the Board of Supervisors (nearly unanimous vote – that NEVER happens!) and the city’s Board of Appeals, the opponents made one last ditch effort to block the project by appealing to the Coastal Commission (a narrow slice of Golden Gate Park, which includes the fields, is within the coastal zone, which the commission oversees).
Today was the hearing and dozens of supporters and opponents turned out to voice their opinion to the commission, each given their 2 minutes to speak their mind.
One Richmond District parent, Jim Morris, took time off work to speak his support for the project at the Commission meeting in Marin. He arrived at 10am, spoke at 11:30am, and said when he left, they had nearly three more hours of testimony lined up.
Morris plays soccer in Golden Gate Park in his adult league, and his young daughter plays in a youth league. He said he supports the Beach Chalet fields renovation because there just aren’t enough soccer fields available in the city.
“My daughter’s team usually practices in the outfield of a baseball field. I have to protect them from baseballs coming at them from neighboring teams,” he said.
Morris said he has played games on the Crocker-Amazon fields, which were converted to turf by the City Fields Foundation in a previous project.
“Those fields are great to play on, and there’s such a great vibe in the community around that park since they went in.”
By the end of today’s meeting, the Coastal Commission agreed with what all the other city agencies have already stated – that the project should move forward – by unanimously voting to uphold the permit for Beach Chalet renovation.
And we’re really glad. We think there’s probably lots of kids and parents that will be cheering tonight about it too.
An overhead view showing the renovated parking, playground and seating area.
Instead of tall bleachers, an 18-inch raised walkway featuring built-in spectator
benches runs across the center of the fields.