San Francisco Natural Areas Overview
Welcome to SF Natural Areas!! This site is for, by, and about the volunteers who work to preserve and protect the remnant habitats within San Francisco.
Unlike most other major urban areas, San Francisco’s steep topography has prevented the sort of torched-earth development that completely obliterated all traces of original landscapes elsewhere. In fact, 1100 acres (that’s 27%) of the San Francisco parks system are officially designated Significant Natural Resource Areas because they still contain irreplaceable biological communities. Other mostly-pristine remnant areas are owned by other public entities including the Public Utilities Commission and the Presidio Trust.
These public lands are under constant threat, however, from invasive weeds and over-use — and this is where volunteers come in. Volunteers with the Natural Areas Program of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (RPD) contribute tens of thousands of hours each year pulling weeds, maintaining trails, and propagating and planting native plants.
In fact, Natural Areas Program volunteers constitute over 25% of all RPD volunteer hours even though the Natural Areas Program has only 2% of RPD staff and receives only 1% of the RPD budget. The Natural Areas Program is underfunded and understaffed by a factor of ten. Volunteers are what prevent these priceless biological assets in San Francisco from collapsing into weedy ruin.
Anyway, other natural areas managers besides the SFRPD include the Presidio Trust which runs its own volunteer program; the National Park Service, which runs the Golden Gate National Recreation Area; the SF Public Utilities Commission which owns important remnant areas near Laguna Honda; and UCSF, which owns and manages Mt Sutro. Plus, there are other important groups which play crucial roles in San Francisco’s preservation of its biological heritage.
However, what has been missing is a site where volunteers can post their photos and tell their stories about working in these remarkable areas. That need is what this site attempts to fill. This site also, over time, may become an integrated botanical guide to San Francisco’s native plants, though this be an over-ambitious goal.
Browse the Events, Photos, and Blogs to see what’s happening at all the various Natural Areas. To track quickly and easily the most recent contributions, check the general blog section and the general photo section. These combine all content from all the natural areas we cover in reverse chronological order, so the newest stuff is always the first you’ll see.
General Blog Posts
These posts concern general SF Natural Areas themes. For posts regarding an individual site, go to that site's main page. For all blog posts from all sites in chronological order, go here.
Send the Sharp Park Golf Course into GGNRA Receivership
This Thursday, April 30, at 1pm in Room 263 at City Hall, you’ll have your opportunity to tell the Board of Supervisors to stop wasting our tax dollars operating the money-losing Sharp Park golf course. The Government Audit and Oversight Committee will consider legislation “to develop a plan, schedule and budget for restoring Sharp Park habitat for the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake in conformance with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, and transferring Sharp Park to, or developing a joint management agreement with, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and making environmental findings”.
The reasons that the Sharp Park golf course is an expense that San Francisco can no longer maintain have been well exercised here. Check out this great perspective by Pacifica resident Ian Butler for another view.
Of all the potential fates of this golf course to be considered, incorporating it into the GGNRA makes by far the most sense — ecologically and financially. San Francisco residents and taxpayers need to come to tomorrow’s BOS meeting and push to make this happen!
2009-05-12 22:31:54 -0700, Golf Slut said:
You must be kidding. I understand that the environment must be protected and preserved to sustain a natural and healthy ecosystem, but to close this golf course in pursuit of that goal, absurd. I have had the opportunity to grow up in Pacifica and was fortunate enough to have had my first job, which I held through high school, at Sharp Park Golf Course. The lessons I have learned and relationships I have built at Sharps are invaluable. I would not be in the position I am in in my current career and life for that matter, have I hadn’t taken up the game of golf. Please do not proceed with this action, you are making a huge mistake.
2009-05-13 07:12:04 -0700, Tinman said:
Oh, no one is kidding here. The Board of Supervisors approved the legislation unanimously. Change is coming to Sharp Park.
2009-05-13 20:09:45 -0700, Golf Slut said:
It’s a crying shame. We sit back and complain of our children and future generations because they are inside playing video games, or chatting online, or texting. They need to be outside engaging with others, playing hide and seek beneath the street lights, kickball, golf. We’re going to find otherwise a future full of socially inept individuals attempting to lead communities, state governments and a nation. We are missing the point here my brothers and sisters, the importance of preserving and protecting this wonderful resource for outdoor activity and social interaction, face to face goes beyond a frog and a snake. “This land is your land, this land is my land…”
2009-05-13 21:32:03 -0700, Tinman said:
There are lots of places to golf on the peninsula where the courses don’t have all the “washing out to sea”, “flooding every winter”, and “killing endangered species” problems that the Sharp Park course does. The course is a toxic asset on the books of whoever has to pay for it, and it appears that finally San Francisco decision makers are figuring this out.
Sharp Park Promise and Peril
At the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee meeting yesterday, the Rec&Park Department budget was examined in detail. Most public comment focused on budget-deficit impacts on program and personnel at community recreation centers, but several people argued that the prime target for saving money should be the Sharp Park golf course.
That the Sharp Park golf course is a major fiscal drain on San Francisco’s taxpayers is unquestionable:
- The course is flooded, unplayable, and not generating green fees for months at a time.
- The course imposes major fiscal risks to the City because of civil and criminal penalties for illegal “take” of the endangered San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog during the course of regular operations.
- San Francisco pays San Mateo county tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes each year. Yet SF RPD only charges Pacifica residents the same green fees that SF taxpayers pay — even though there are no compensatory revenue transfers back from Pacifica to San Francisco. San Francisco taxpayers thus subsidize each Pacifica golfer $10-15 per round. San Francisco’s budget deficit deepens in order to provide a handout to Pacifica golfers.
- The recent controller’s analysis of the golf fund (initiated by Supervisor Elsbernd) confirms that golf is sustainable in San Francisco only by annual transfusions from the General Fund to the tune of 10-15% of the entire golf budget. Though the analysis lumps a number of categories that should have been split, it’s clear that the Sharp Park golf course gets the biggest subsidies.
- Any attempt by San Francisco to “improve” the golf course will require a protracted and highly expensive Habitat Conservation Plan process that, from all indications, the California Coastal Commission will ultimately reject.
All these points were raised at the Budget and Finance Committee hearing, and the good news is that the Supervisors were thoroughly receptive to this message. Supervisor Avalos — chair of the committee — directed the City Attorney to look into the question of transferring Sharp Park to the GGNRA, and he put the issue of converting the golf course to alternative uses on a future B&F Committee agenda. Supervisor Mirkarimi also stated significant interest in the potential savings that could be achieved by restoring Sharp Park. Reportedly a preponderance of the rest of the Board of Supervisors feel similarly, so good things may follow!
The “peril” part of current developments comes from the just-released Pacific Institute study of the impact of the anticipated sea-level rises due to climate change during the coming decades. In a word: that golf course is toast regardless of what San Francisco officials decide to do.
Of course, there are no real surprises here; that the entire section of Sharp Park west of highway 1 is at high risk for flooding and erosion is obvious simply by looking at it. However, this study clearly delineates the boundaries of the jeopardy with a nifty graphical tool.
Here are some screen shots zeroed in on Sharp Park. First is the flooding hazard risk:
And here is the erosion hazard risk. Note in particular that the whole sea-wall, several of the existing holes, and most of the new holes that Younger recommended would wash out to sea — just as four of Alister Mackenzie’s original holes already have done.
These findings underscore the fiscal folly of throwing any more taxpayer money into this revenue-sucking loser of a golf course. They highlight even more dramatically the insanity of the Younger Report’s recommendations to expand the golf course west of highway 1.
All indications are that the California Coastal Commission would never approve a plan to “improve” this ridiculous golf course. The accumulating evidence may just be persuasive enough to convince RPD and BOS officials as well.
2009-03-16 09:44:25 -0700, TereseL said:
Hey Now… well, that is interesting news. Do you think a letter to my Supervisor (Mirkarimi) stating my support for restoring Sharp Park or transferring it to GGNRA would be helpful?
2009-03-16 19:02:41 -0700, Tinman said:
We’ll keep you updated as things happen. When the situation would benefit from some noise, you’ll hear it here!
2009-03-19 09:47:34 -0700, TereseL said:
Thanks – I sent Mirkarimi an email Monday. Then, when I saw the story in the Chron yesterday I decided to give his office a call this morning. Just did so and sent an email blast out to about a dozen folks asking them to contact their Supervisor and support Mirkarimi’s legislation
2009-03-20 14:28:37 -0700, TereseL said:
also wrote the Chron – they called today to say my letter was being considered for printing. I don’t get the paper so I won’t know if it runs this weekend
2009-03-20 14:59:12 -0700, Tinman said:
@TereseL: Thanks for your efforts!
2009-03-29 22:44:33 -0700, MikeR said:
I played at Sharp Park recently and it’s in horrible shape. practically unplayable. It’s obvious that it’s gonna take million that the city doesn’t have to renovate the course and it should be turned over to GGNRA. In my opinion I don’t think the city ever properly maintained this place.
2009-04-12 10:01:10 -0700, Mary said:
I’m concerned that chemicals used by the golf course to maintain grass are harmful to the wildlife that lives there. Notably, the California red-legged frog (listed as threatened as of 1996), a key prey species for the San Francisco Garter Snake (listed as threatened in 1967).
Everyone knows amphibians are much more sensitive to chemicals than other species, and they are in terrible decline worldwide.
see: The Thin Green Line, PBS TV broadcast
It would be great if we could restore Sharp Park
2009-04-19 05:42:51 -0700, David Wardell said:
I’m an environmentalist. I’m also a golfer. Sharp Park is a real Catch 22. It gets less players because it doesn’t get taken care of. Lincoln Golf Course gets far less play than Sharp, so get your facts right. The Flooding thing is a realitively simple fix. The 14th hole needs about 100 yards of fill to keep the flood waters off the fairway. The tule line is the natural level of the lake and we are trying to protect the natural way, aren’t we? It puzzels me that most of the people who propose closing the course have never been there; never walked the sea-wall road that connects it to Mori Point. There are acres and acres of protected habitat within the golf course, plus the golf course connects to the Park Services’s Mori Point , which connects to the Quarry ( more open space). Sharp Park is played by a wide spectum of people. Go there on a Saturday or Sunday morning and see the diverse mix of people. By the way, Timmon, your comment about wearing plaid is totally off mark. Golfers and environmentalists dress pretty much the same.
In 2000 I had a heart and kidney transplant at CPMC in San Francisco. My burning desire to get out to Sharp Park and play golf again was a big part of my recovery. Some folk’s cavilier attitude about shutting down something that is very dear to me is very upsetting. I hope that a situation can be worked out that can continue to save the critters but also save the treasure that is the Sharp Park Golf Course.