News & ToursNovember 19, 2011

Both sides optimistic after Sharp Park hearing

Both sides in the ongoing dispute over Sharp Park golf course in Pacifica, Calif., expressed optimism following arguments in a hearing in a federal district court in San Francisco Nov. 18 about the the Alister Mackenzie-designed municipal course.

Judge Susan Illston presided over a hearing that lasted approximately 30 minutes about the plantiffs' request for a preliminary injunction for mowing to be halted on the back nine and pumping to cease in order to protect the California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake.

Opponents of Sharp Park contend operating the course harms the threatened species. Supporters of the 79-year-old muny, operated by the city of San Francisco, believe the sport and the species can both thrive on the coastal property.

"We don't know what she's going to do, but we are confident she's heard our point of view and understands it," Bo Links, co-founder of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, told GolfDigest.com. "We don't think [opponents] have shown there is a need for emergency relief and in the interim, the city is working on a habitat restoration plan designed to improve everything so that the golf course and the species can continue to co-exist. She was asking the plaintiffs what evidence have you shown me of immediate, irreparable harm? Don't we have to look at the overall picture. Whatever the controversy, it's been going on for years."

The Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups seeking an injunction, issued a press release reiterating its case. "The city must halt the illegal activity that harms endangered wildlife at Sharp Park golf course," Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute and legal counsel on the lawsuit said in the release. "We believe Judge Illston will uphold the law and establish sensible, science-based interim protections to protect endangered wildlife being harmed by pumping and mowing of wetlands."

Illston took the case under submission and didn't say when she would issue a written ruling. Links said he expected it soon, perhaps within a week.

"My impression is that this is a very able judge," Links said. "The most heartening thing of all is we believe she fully understands our position. It's like a golf shot. We've hit it, and we're waiting to see where it's going to bounce. We're waiting to find out."

-- Bill Fields

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