Originally posted at http://theyodeler.org/?p=4478
Sierra Club Yodeler Magazine, April 28th, 2012
It should be a no-brainer: Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, in southeastern San Francisco, should not be closed.
On July 1, a batch of our state parks are due to be closed (see previous article) because our state legislature and governor have lacked the will to find the money to keep them open (the number has been fluctuating as ad-hoc plans are made to keep some open).
Candlestick is among the scheduled closures, even though it would cost only about $500,000 a year to keep open.
In 2008, San Francisco voters approved Proposition G, a confusingly worded measure that approved giving much of Candlestick away to developers–in return for a vision of parks, open space, and improved public access, along with the promise of thousands of new jobs and affordable-housing units (see May-June 2008, page 7). In particular, voters were told that the transfer of land was essential for keeping the rest of the park open and for improving it. The shoreline is also public-trust land and slated to become part of the Bay Trail.
After passage of Prop. G, the state approved Senate Bill 792, truncating parts of the park to allow for high-rise development along the shoreline. The Sierra Club fought hard to preserve the parkland, but agreed not to oppose the bill, in large measure because it (see section 26) specified $40 million in park funding, including $10 million for repair and maintenance. The developer, however, is not obliged to pay until the title is actually transferred, and transfer might be phased over many years. Some parcels may be transferred as early as next year, but the bulk of the transfer—and thus of the monies promised—will not become available for some time.
Now city planners are talking about a “temporary” closure of 6 – 12 months; when the land is finally transferred to the city and then to lead developer Lennar Corporation, the funds should be released to allow the park to re-open.
With the money identified so clearly, though so tantalizingly out of reach, why can’t our leaders find the political will and leadership to find a way to keep the park open now? The legislature, the city’s planning department, State Parks, and various state regulatory bodies were able to cooperate to transfer park land to the developers. Why can’t they show the same can-do spirit for keeping the park open?
Further, while other state parks are being kept open through public-private partnerships, Candlestick has the misfortune of being adjacent to and largely serving a low-income community.
The high costs of closure
A critical flaw to the closure plan is that it’s not as simple as simply locking the gate, especially at a site like Candlestick with numerous points of entry. What will close down are the existing facilities, such as picnic areas and restrooms, and all ongoing maintenance. But this park has had problems with illegal dumping, homeless encampments, and vandalism, which can only increase with closure. In this urban setting, closure brings the danger of increased crime; some form of patrol will be necessary, and if the park closes, those costs will have to be bourn by the city.
Why wait to see these impacts, when they are predictable and avoidable?
The closure is to be temporary, but what would be its impacts on the long-term plans to transform Candlestick Point into the centerpiece of a great shoreline park? The Yosemite Slough restoration project is finally under way (see March-April 2008, page 12). With the strong backing of the California State Parks Foundation, this has involved local environmental and environmental-justice groups such as Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ). Plans for the restoration call for ongoing stewardship and community involvement. Closure would threaten these partnerships–exactly when volunteer efforts are most needed to supplement scarce funding.
Community members would lose access to the park’s community garden. Any garden suffers from a gap in care, but this would be especially painful in an area with limited access to fresh produce.
Perhaps the greatest cost of all would be the loss of “good will”, especially among the city’s southeast neighborhoods, already underserved in open space and recreational resources.
Part of Candlestick’s problem is that the responsibility can’t be pinned on any one official or agency–but there are many officials who could take the lead in breaking through the logjam.
Click here to send a message to San Francisco’s assemblymembers and state senators, Mayor Ed Lee, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Urge them to do everything in their power to keep Candlestick Point State Recreation Area open.
Steven Chapman, Executive Committee, Sierra Club San Francisco Group
Other parks to close
Two of the other scheduled state-park closures are in the Bay Chapter: China Camp State Park and Olompali State Historic Park. Two others that were on the original closure list, Tomales Bay and Samuel P. Taylor State Parks, have been rescued, at least temporarily, by agreements with the National Park Service.