The Recreation and Park
Commissioners will be reconvening to vote to approve or disapprove the final NAP plan on Monday, August 21, 2006 at
8:30 AM, City Hall, Room 416. We suggest concerned citizens
who cannot attend this meeting (which has unfortunately been scheduled during business hours) communicate with City officials
and employees as to how you feel about the Natural Areas Program (NAP).
Therefore, we have set
up a template for you to e-mail City officials and employees (the addresses for these people are inserted for you) whereby
you can tell them what you want the disposition of the NAP to be. We have included a
sample letter for your use, and you can cut and paste this letter or any portion of it into the email template, or convey
your message in your own words. The webmaster of this site will be copied as well so that we can track
and confirm that the City acknowledges receipt of these e-mails. You can modify
the addressees if you wish. We thank you for taking the time to read this website
and participate in your City government.
TO THE COMMISSIONERS
OF THE DEPARTMENT OF RECREATION AND PARKS (and other City officials):
As Recreation and Park Commissioners,
each of you has the responsibility of oversight of the actions of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (“SFRPD”).
In discharging these duties, you have a responsibility to do what is best for
the community as a whole, while trying to balance the desires of special interest groups.
The key to this decision-making process is determining the breadth of interest in any given activity or property so
that you may assign the proper priorities to particular uses.
The staff of SFRPD should be
doing the same, and helping you through this decision-making process by appropriately
planning for the needs and desires of the community on a balanced basis. Unfortunately,
the SFRPD has abdicated their responsibility to the community as a whole and, in at least one circumstance, the Natural Areas
Program (“NAP”), has made recommendations that are not in the best interest of the residents of San Francisco. Instead, the SFRPD has chosen to serve the personal desires of a few who have direct
participation in and undue influence over SFRPD staff decisions.
What are just some of the legitimate
objections to the NAP?
1) The loss of non-native trees. The NAP plans to destroy 18,400
mature (defined as over 15 feet tall) trees and untold numbers of seedlings and saplings merely because they are non-native. There can be no legitimate dispute that this does not reflect the desires of the population
at large. The overwhelming majority of the public loves trees, and does not care about their origin. We appreciate the fact that mature trees improve the air quality in our urban environment and improve the
beauty of the City.
Thus, on one hand, we have the
Mayor’s program to plant more trees in the City, and on the other hand, we have NAP removing them. This is tantamount to digging a hole and then filling it up. We
would point out the trees to be planted under the Mayor’s program are non-native.
Additionally, there is the matter
of NAP proponents historically girdling healthy trees, and City NAP gardeners not routinely removing damaging ivy growing
up non-native trees or providing routine care, so that they decline in health. Thereafter,
NAP insists these trees be removed as they are dead or dying. Such action is
akin to denying routine medical care to children, and watching them die. At best,
such conduct is reckless, but with NAP it is intentional and malicious. The planned
tree removal is so extreme at Sharp Park
that it violates anti-logging ordinances in the City of Pacifica. An extreme agenda such as this has no business commandeering one third of public park
property as this NAP proposes to do.
2) Destruction of healthy vegetation merely because it is non-native.
Diversity is a nice concept, but destruction for the sake of diversity is not sanctioned in our society. Why can’t
park areas which are underutilized and/or undeveloped be utilized for Natural Areas?
Why must these areas be created in the portions of the parks already vegetated and
utilized very heavily for recreation? An official in the State Forestry
Department was shocked to learn of the areas NAP had designated for their use. It
was suggested this NAP was not respecting good land use management practices and not mindful of the responsibility the Department
has to provide recreation and enjoyment of the parks for the majority of the population.
3) Death of wildlife merely because it interferes with plans for the “Natural Areas”. NAP proposes to kill bullfrogs and non-native turtles because they are believed to be competitors to native
animals. Additionally, feral cats are to be “removed” from Natural Areas.
Removed to where? An answer to that question has not been forthcoming,
but it is widely accepted among those who attempt to deal with feral cats “humanely” that these cats will be killed.
4) Loss of legitimate recreational use. We will utilize off-leash
recreation as an example. Currently, there are as many or more dogs in the City
of San Francisco as there are children. Additionally, the City of San Francisco
enacted a law in 2005 that requires dog guardians to provide their dogs with adequate exercise. The ordinance states: “Adequate exercise means the opportunity for the animal to move sufficiently
to maintain normal muscle tone and mass for the age, size and condition of the animal.”
Clearly for many of the medium to large size breeds, this can only be accomplished by off-leash recreation. Even a simple game of “fetch”, the most basic of activities humans engage in with their dogs,
cannot be played unless the dog is off-leash. Yellow Labrador
retrievers are a very popular breed of dog in the City, yet they are genetically predisposed to being overweight. These dogs require a good deal of off-leash running exercise as well as some swimming in order to maintain
an acceptable, healthy weight. Furthermore, there are some breeds of dogs which
require swimming as a primary form of exercise. If they are exercised primarily
on grass, pavement or the ground, they develop arthritis at an extremely young age.
One example of this would be the Newfoundland—a
dog bred primarily for water rescue. This NAP program not only reduces the available
area for off-leash recreation at a time when the number of dogs is ever-increasing, it also eliminates all areas where dogs
are legally allowed to swim. One of the Commissioners pointed this out to Lisa
Wayne at a meeting, and asked if NAP had considered alternative areas for swimming since they planned to eliminate the current
areas, and she merely replied, “No”. This is not indicative of an
attitude which seeks to fulfill the legitimate recreational needs of perhaps the largest “special interest” recreational
group in the City-dog guardians. This attitude puts guardians at substantial
risk of violating their legal duties and is unconscionable. This NAP cannot be
approved without modifications which would increase the available area for off-leash recreation beyond what it is now, as
well as designate specified areas for dogs to swim. Anything less would subject
the City of San Francisco to litigation; the City has enacted an ordinance placing requirements upon dog guardians, acknowledged
in same ordinance it is expected public property will be utilized to fulfill these requirements, and subsequently systematically
removed the ability to fulfill these requirements by eliminating access to public property for that use. These actions are clearly discriminatory, and will serve to inflame the dog guardian community. Litigation
over this issue would be inevitable and costly. Monies would be better spent
fulfilling the City’s obvious responsibilities to the recreational needs of the public in order to avoid litigation
In this regard, mention must
be made of the incredibly ill-advised idea that has been floated (quite recently) to convert Sharp Park Golf Course into an
additional natural area, a habitat for the red-legged frog. Although the Sharp
Park Golf Course is not currently generating net income for the City, it has the potential to do so if properly managed. Some may argue that point, but clearly the SFRPD is so badly managed at this time
in all respects, that any credibility on their part to refute that statement does not exist. To destroy such a valuable recreational
resource for a ridiculous notion that red legged frog habitat could be an ecotourism draw is patently absurd. Let us remind you that the terms “recreation” and “park” are a part of the department
name for good reason; recreation is an activity the staff is paid to foster,
and that happens in parks, not in habitat.
5) NAP is exorbitantly expensive. At a time when SFRPD is not
fulfilling its mandate to repair, maintain and improve existing park facilities, it is poor planning to incur even greater
financial responsibility by undertaking the creation of Natural Areas within the parks.
These areas are expensive to create and their maintenance is labor intensive and thus expensive to maintain. When children still are forced to play on fields so riddled with gopher holes that they risk serious injury,
play in recreational centers that are severely in need of repair, and utilize bathrooms that are so unclean they present a
health hazard, serious discussion of this NAP becomes ludicrous.
The SFRPD has failed to even
complete the audits that were mandated by the Proposition C that provided SFRPD money to be used for recreational interests.
The excuse given was that SFRPD ran out of money.
Yet funds have been created to continue the planning of the NAP, and to produce this current plan document. It is rather transparent that funds have been arbitrarily and poorly allocated within the SFRPD,
and now is the time for the S.F. Recreation and Park Commissioners to step in and
put a stop to this type of irresponsible behavior. The two largest “special
interest” recreational groups in the City -- parents and dog guardians -- are
currently poorly served by SFRPD; the NAP proposal is one glaring example of this fact.
The very small segment of the population who are native plant advocates and avid bird enthusiasts are the few people
who are pleased with NAP and whose interests are being served by NAP. The needs
and desires of the masses must override the preference of the few, because the masses are for the most part footing the bill. There must be accountability when you take tax monies given to you by citizens in
good faith. The NAP was never spelled out to the voters in Propositions they
voted on; the citizens were not told they would be sacrificing recreational properties to create “Natural Areas”. This plan would never have been funded and approved by the voters if it were explained
in detail at the time the voting took place. At best, the NAP should devote 5%
of the park properties to Natural Areas; a figure proportionate to the population these areas bring pleasure to. That limited development should be put on hold until SFRPD can put its house in order; they must complete
their audits, and set and reach standards for all existing park facilities before NAP is even brought up again for
implementation in no more than 5% of the SFRPD’s undeveloped or underdeveloped park properties.