Restore Sharp Park
Sharp Park in Pacifica, San Mateo County, was once home to a rare and beautiful lagoon and wetlands. Now it is at a crossroads: it can be restored to wetlands as a National Park or continue as a failing golf course, ignoring the growing challenges of climate change and sea level rise.
We envision restoring parkland at the site of the existing municipal golf course. A park will provide a healthy home for unique local wildlife such as the endangered California Red-legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake. Protecting the natural wetlands will help the City of Pacifica adapt to sea level rise, while the alternative of armoring a seawall will cost taxpayers millions. Closing Sharp Park Golf Course will save the City of San Francisco millions in new infrastructure, improvements, maintenance, legal fees, and mitigation measures. A public park will bring jobs and tourist dollars to the area, as well as more accessible recreation.
For San Franciscans
Sharp Park Golf Course is a drain on San Francisco’s resources, but Sharp Park can be transformed to benefit the City. We must urge the City to transform Sharp Park into a National Park.
- Allow the Recreation and Parks Department (RPD) to reinvest in underserved neighborhood parks, critical social services, and even provide better access to affordable golf. Sharp Park Golf Course is San Francisco’s worst performing golf asset. It lost more than $1 million over the past eight fiscal years, resulting in a $2.5 million subsidy for the Golf Fund from San Francisco's General Fund in 2013. As climate change causes sea levels to rise, armoring Sharp Park Beach to keep the golf course in place will cost San Francisco millions more. All of these funds could be redirected into places and programs in critical need.
- Allow the National Park Service to transform Sharp Park to better meet San Francisco resident’s recreation preferences. The National Park Service has stated three times in writing that it wants land, but not the golf course. In a survey conducted by RPD, San Franciscan's stated that more hiking and biking trails are residents’ #1 recreational priority; golf ranked 16th out of 19 options.
Pacificans can help their city prosper by supporting a new National Park at Sharp Park.
- It will bring real dollars to Pacifica’s economy while improving Pacifica residents’ access to open spaces within their city. Despite decades of opportunities, Sharp Park Golf Course hasn’t generated revenue for Pacifica’s economy. In contrast, National Parks are a boon to local economies. In 2011, California’s National Parks generated $1.192 billion in revenues. That wasn’t a fluke. Taxpayers earn an average of $10 for every $1 invested in the National Parks Service. Pacifica can take advantage of the economic opportunity a National Park provides. Sharp Park National Park has an additional economic edge. It will be the Southern Gateway to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The GGNRA is the most visited National Park in the nation. A visitor center at Sharp Park National Park will allow Pacifica to be a gateway for these visitors in San Mateo County, and help Pacifica draw visitors from around the globe.
- The National Park at Sharp Park will continue Pacifica’s efforts to sustainably adapt to sea level rise. Restoring Sharp Park’s wetlands will protect Pacifica neighborhoods from flooding. Wetlands are nature’s best defense against floods – they act like a sponge, slowing down water during times of high flow to help prevent flooding. In contrast, attempting to defend the golf course from the ocean by building and armoring sea walls, Sharp Park Beach will disappear. The beach south of the Pacifica Pier will soon look like the beach north of the Pacifica Pier. It will be ocean crashing against concrete and rocks – the sandy beach lost long ago to the sea. Sharp Park National Park will prevent this tragic loss.
By supporting the Restore Sharp Park campaign, golfers can have it all. Restore Sharp Park will create a National Park and improve affordable golf. Local communities will benefit, and unique local wildlife will thrive. But we need golfers’ support to make that happen.
- The Bay Area golf market is in trouble. Golf is overbuilt here. There are 6 million more golf rounds each year than golfers want to play. Golf’s popularity peaked in 2004. Now the game loses about 3 million US players each year. Golf market experts do not expect the game's popularity to recover.
Under these conditions, some Bay Area golf courses must close. The only question is which ones.
- Sharp Park Golf Course is one of the Bay Area's worst performing golf courses. Even though its prices are heavily subsidised, many golfers choose to avoid the course's poor conditions and play elsewhere. Rounds played each year are far below levels needed to sustain a golf course, and the course receives failing grades in nearly every category that the National Golf Foundation uses to rate golf courses. Winter rains cause flooding at the Golf Course, and it is threatened by rising seas.
Closing Sharp Park Golf Course, rather than other, better courses, will allow San Francisco to reinvest in the City's five other municipal courses and improve access to affordable golf for everyone. It will also ensure that the best, most exciting courses are left as the collapsing golf market reaches a new equilibrium.
Closing Sharp Park Golf Course will also remove a blemish from Allister MacKenzie’s otherwise successful career.
- Although known for integrating his courses into natural landscapes, MacKenzie ignored the value of Sharp Park’s natural systems. His design destroyed the natural flood protection provided by wetlands, lagoon, and barrier dunes. Unsurprisingly, the opening day for the Golf Course was delayed two times due to flooding. After the course opened, ocean storms swept away the holes that were built on flattened sand dunes. Few MacKenzie-designed holes remain.
It is better that MacKenzie be remembered for his most successful courses rather than the ecological destruction and economic folly that is Sharp Park Golf Course.
Watch this annotated audio excerpt of the Historic Preservation Commission hearing.