Supporting and promoting golf in Northern California

Sharp Park Update

Dec. 7, 2012

A federal court lawsuit that was aimed at closing the Alister MacKenzie-designed Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica so that it could be turned into a frog and snake sanctuary was dismissed on Thursday.

The course, which the San Francisco Board of Supervisors initially called to be closed in December of 2011, is and will remain open for play.

Read the complete press release below:


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – On December 6, 2012 Judge Susan Illston dismissed a federal court lawsuit aimed at closing the historic, San Francisco-owned Sharp Park Golf Course (Pacifica, CA.)

Brought by a covey of conservation groups led by the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Sierra Club, the lawsuit alleged that public golf operations at Sharp Park are killing rare frogs and snakes, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. Wild Equity Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, et al. vs. City and County of San Francisco, et al., U.S. District Court, N.D. California, No. C11-00958 SI.

Judge Illston cited an October 2, 2012 Biological Opinion issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) that found golf at Sharp Park is “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the California red-legged frog or San Francisco garter snake.” The FWS issued an Incidental Take Statement, approving continued golf and related maintenance activities, subject to FWS restrictions on pesticides, golf carts, water pumping, and other practices.

“This is a common sense result,” said Chris Carr, of the Morrison and Foerster office, lawyers for co-defendant San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, which brought the motion to dismiss. “And it should lead to a period of cooperation in which San Francisco and San Mateo County can work together to restore habitat for the species, while preserving historic and popular public recreation.”

Sharp Park was created by master architect Alister MacKenzie, who built many of the world’s greatest golf courses, including Augusta National, home of the annual Masters Tournament, and the Cypress Point Club.

Long known as “the poor man’s Pebble Beach,” Sharp Park has been a Pacifica gathering place since its opening in 1932. It is the historic home of a middle-class and ethnic minority golfing clientele, and in 1955 hosted the inaugural tournament of the Western States Golf Association, one of the country’s oldest and largest African-American golfing societies. Sharp Park is designated an “historic resource” under the California Environmental Quality Act, and recognized as historic by the Pacifica General Plan, the Pacifica Historical Society, and the Cultural Landscape Foundation of Washington, D.C.

Sharp Park has been the focus of a four-year political and legal tug-of-war between advocates of public recreation and historical preservation on the one side, and the environmental groups led by CBD on the other. In December, 2011, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance calling for closure and conversion of the golf course into a frog and snake sanctuary. But the ordinance was vetoed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who in his veto message called for San Francisco and San Mateo County to work together for a “balanced approach” to save public recreation at the golf course, while recovering habitat for the species.

“With this important step behind us,” said former Pacifica Mayor Julie Lancelle, “the dream of restoring the public treasure that is Sharp Park can move forward.” Golf course preservation, combined with habitat recovery, is supported by San Francisco Mayor Lee, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission, unanimous resolutions of the Pacifica City Council and San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, and by Congresswoman Jackie Speier.



Sharp Park Golf Course has been determined a “historical resource” by SF Planning Department:

San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, a serious candidate for mayor, has a pending ordinance to close the golf course, and is saying the kinds of things in the context of a mayoral campaign that he’s saying about (1) golf and (2) Sharp Park. See his speech April 29 on steps of City Hall

Here is a link to a website which has a copy of Avalos’ ordinance plus his press release announcing the ordinance.

Avalos’ campaign has fully adopted the language of an attack on golf itself: they are talking about replacing the golf use at Sharp Park with “modern” recreations, that the people have said they want instead of golf.

Sharp Park Golf Course has been designated “historical resource” property under the California Environmental Quality Act by the San Francisco Planning Department. No Environmental Impact Report has been done on the environmental or historic architectural consequences of destroying and “repurposing” the historical property.

The law requires such an analysis before a decision is made to destroy or significantly impact such a resource.

In addition to, and simultaneous with the political attack, Sharp Park Golf Course is the subject of a close-the-golf-course lawsuit in Federal Court.

The groups that seek to close the golf course filed on Sept. 23 a motion for preliminary injunction, seeking a court order halting mowing on more than half the course and cessation of flood-relief pumping; the motion will be heard Nov. 18 in Federal Court by Judge Susan Illston. See the press release from Center for Biological Diversity, and Wild Equity, the organizations leading the close-Sharp Park movement, announcing their filing:

The filing says essentially what the opponents have been saying all along, that the golf course must be closed under the Endangered Species Act to protect the frog and snake.

Reply briefs by the City and the SF Public Golf Alliance will be filed in mid-October, and the Court hearing will take place Nov. 18 in Federal Court in San Francisco.



U.S. Open Champion Ken Venturi, who learned his golf on San Francisco’s public courses, urges golfers to fight to save Alister MacKenzie’s public Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica. Environmental activists filed suit March 2 in Federal Court in San Francisco to close golf operations at the historic course. The Public Golf Alliance has scheduled an April 28 rally at Sharp Park.

The tug-of-war at the Sharp Park Golf Course between golfers and preservationists, on the one hand, and environmental activists on the other (which was the topic of a feature article in the Spring, 2010, NCGA Golf, “Test of Time,” entered a new phase March 2 with the filing by the Center for Biological Diversity and other eco-activist groups, of a lawsuit in Federal Court in San Francisco to close golf operations at the 80-year-old Alister MacKenzie-designed course.

S.F. Chronicle, March 3, 2011, “Sharp Park Golf Course Sued Over Red-Legged Frog

Ken Venturi, honorary chairman of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, is calling for golfers to fight to save the historic golf course, which has been designated a threatened nationally-significant cultural landscape by the Washington D.C.-based Cultural Landscape Foundation — The Cultural Landscape Foundation, “Landslide,” July,2009

“It is unthinkable that San Francisco would seriously contemplate destroying Alister MacKenzie’s masterwork,” says Venturi, a San Francisco native who learned his golf at Sharp Park and the city’s other public courses. “So I urge my friends and fellow golfers to preserve Dr.MacKenzie’s legacy, and defend it with your time, your money, and your passion. Do not let anybody destroy Sharp Park.”

Venturi’s Public Golf Alliance will hold a Rally and Fundraiser to Save Sharp Park on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 6 p.m. at the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica.

RSVP for the Rally, or volunteer to help save Sharp Park, at<