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Fight over Beach Chalet soccer fields in court

August 21, 2013 5:45:58 PM PDT
A San Francisco Superior Court judge is now involved in the battle between supporters and opponents of proposed soccer fields at Golden Gate Park.

It's estimated that about 12,000 kids play soccer in the city, many on the fields at Golden Gate Park that the city desperately wants to redo. First, there was the political process and now, there's the legal arena. The fight is over San Francisco's plan to renovate four soccer fields at the western end of Golden Gate Park using artificial turf.

Six neighborhood parks already have the new surface. "During the year, there's just so much more play. We don't have to cancel games every time it's rainy or foggy or drizzly. And more kids get to play more and longer," soccer mom Lorraine Woodruff told ABC7 News.

Over the past two years, several city agencies including the planning commission, the city board of supervisors, and the California Coastal Commission have signed off on the Golden Gate Park plan. But lawyers for the Sierra Club claim the rubber turf is highly toxic and that the environmental impact report was flawed.

"Because the board was not given the choice. They were not given the choice of non-toxic alternatives that are in use all over this country, all over the world," said Sierra Club attorney Richard Drury.

The city and a non-profit partner called "City Fields Foundation" are preparing to spend $14 million on the project and their attorneys say the synthetic turf has been vetted.

"Why we're here today, I don't know, because the fields have been studied and studied and studied, and the city did one of the most thorough environmental impact reports it's every done and concluded there's no significant environmental effect from using these fields," said City Fields attorney Scott Emblidge.

For some critics, the controversy is not just about the turf. The city plans to install lights and extend hours. Mary Anne Miller lives near the soccer fields and is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "Golden Gate Park really doesn't need the big draw of the large-scale soccer arena which it would be on the equivalent almost of Kezar Stadium," she told ABC7 News.

The judge has asked both sides to submit more information by September 13.


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