Thursday, April 15, 2021
Uncategorized About that turf in Golden Gate Park ....

About that turf in Golden Gate Park ….


Here come the bulldozers, ready or not
Here come the bulldozers, ready or not

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 7, 2014 – We could fight forever over the safety of the new fields they’re putting in at Golden Gate Park. I am not a scientist, and (as is always the case) the industry that makes the artificial turf (out of chopped up old tires) has experts who say it’s safe.

But since the city, before the election is even certified, has started cutting down trees and moving in bulldozers in a mad rush to put down artificial turf, I thought I would put in a little perspective.

I offer this not as an expert in toxicology or chemical engineering (I took Organic Chemistry in college, but that was a loooong time ago) but as someone who has been writing about environmental issues for 30 years. Even wrote a book about environmental history, and travelled through the deep South talking to people about toxics, cancer clusters, and exposure levels.

And I also say this as someone who has watched this particular Department of Parks and Recreation, under this particular leadership, rush into doing what a few rich donors want. The artificial turf is funded by the City Fields Foundation, which is a project of the children of GAP mogul Don Fisher.

The Fisher kids (and will pay for) artificial turf. So grass fields all over the city are being converted to turf.

It’s an increasing problem in our society: Instead of government taxing the rich and making decisions in the public interest, government is letting the rich decide what’s they’re willing to pay for, and that’s driving policy.

But back to the turf.

Here is what we as a society have learned from the post-War Chemical Revolution:

  1. There is no “safe” exposure to hazardous chemicals.
  2. This shit is everywhere.
  3. Thus, you can’t easily prove than any specific health problem came from any single source or single exposure to anything.

But that doesn’t mean you ignore the problem.

There are lots of reasons people get cancer. People who never work in or live near chemical plants get cancer; people who live in remote mountains get cancer. But more of the people who are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals get cancer.

That doesn’t mean any one individual who works around any one chemical will get any specific disease. But if you expose 5,000 people to a carcinogen, more of them will get cancer than 5,000 people who weren’t exposed.

Which ones? Nobody can predict.

We can’t avoid all chemical exposure, not and live normal lives in a big city. You can’t walk down the street without breathing diesel exhaust. You can’t get in a new car, or go into a house with new carpets, or sit on a new couch, without breathing in some nasty – potentially cancer-causing — stuff.

Also: People are different. Some people have greater sensitivity to some kinds of chemicals. I’m not a bit bothered by second-hand cigarette smoke, but I get terrible headaches around pressure-treated wood. My brother’s a carpenter who works with PT wood all the time, and it doesn’t bother him a bit. (Of course, that doesn’t mean the poison in the wood won’t get to him at some point; people change, too. I used to use spray paint all the time, and now it makes me sick.)

Can we all live in chemical-free bubbles?  Of course not (we’d probably make the bubbles out of plastic anyway). But with all that said, you can be smart about it, and limit excessive exposure to stuff that we all agree is bad for you. And you can do your best to protect your kids.

See, it’s all about odds. The more you ingest certain toxic chemicals, the greater the risk you will have adverse health effects. And there’s no question that some of the chemicals in chopped up tires are bad for you.

NBC, in a story that has gotten wide circulation, found some indications of increased health problems in young soccer goalies who play on fields with crumb rubber. But the story also said that there’s no proven connection between exposure to crumb rubber and cancer. The EPA says “more testing needs to be done.”

Right now, nobody’s doing that testing, not at the federal level. We’re just taking the assurances of the turf companies that this stuff won’t hurt you.

We do know that the rubber contains toxic chemicals, including benzene and lead. When the fields get hot, some of that stuff evaporates into the air. Are the exposure levels high enough to be “unsafe?” Maybe not, by current standards.

Again, some perspective: For more than half a century, this country has leapt ahead with chemical technologies that everyone said were safe at the time but turned out to have serious health consequences. I can’t think of a single time when we decided NOT to use some chemical compound for fear it would hurt us and it turned out that we were wrong and the stuff was perfectly safe.

Sports facilities are different than, say, city streets. People dive into the turf, get it in their ears and eyes and noses and mouths. Stuff gets ingested that might be harmless to the touch. And when athletes are running around a lot, they inhale and process a lot more air.

My friend Susan Gerhard interviewed a prominent environmental lawyer in Washington, D.C. His name is Chris Nidel – and he has a masters in Chemical Engineering and is also a soccer player who just started playing goalie. Here’s what he told her:

“I had noticed, or my wife had noticed, that since I had been playing goalie, I would come home with a whole lot more tire crumb than I used to. When you come home from playing a game, you take off your shoes and they’re full of the tire crumb. You take off your next layer and it’s full of the tire crumb. And you take off the next layer, and it’s full of the tire crumb. All the way til you take a shower.

I started looking up what tires are made of. I quickly came to isobutadiene or polybutadiene and styrene rubber as the primary components for making tires. Then I went to my database that I use — one of the first places I look for the connection between chemicals and cancer relationships or any disease relationship — and looked up butadiene. The database I use is broken into ‘good,’ ‘ok’ and ‘poor’ relationships. So if a chemical is associated with a disease, it’s listed in one of those categories. For butadiene, lymphoma was listed in one of the top strength-of-association categories.

In my little scratch-the-surface look — the kind of thing I do when I get a call and someone says ‘I live next to this landfill, and …. they have x, y, z in our water, and oh, by the way four kids on our street have cancer,’ I would look and see ‘does this make sense, is it plausible?’ It looked to me like it makes sense. You’re making tires out of butadiene, you’ve presumably got a good amount of butadiene exposure. And it’s plausibly related to the outcomes that we’re seeing. It’s plausibly related to blood cancers, leukemia and lymphoma. And, to add to that, goalies appear to be more exposed than the average player and they seem to be the ones that are getting sick first and are more likely to get sick.


Again: Numbers games. Anyone who lives in a city is exposed to exhaust, bits of used rubber, and (in the past) lead and asbestos from cars. People who work at toll booths get more exposed to those things. They’re more likely to have problems.

I can’t argue that the artificial fields are “unsafe.” But I think we all agree that they potentially expose people to increased levels of some chemicals that have been linked to some health problems. (I’m sure nobody would recommend, for example, that you eat large amount of chopped-up tires.)

Toxcologists are fond of saying “the dose is the poison.” A couple of Tylenol pills won’t hurt you a bit, but it says right on the label not to take an overdose, which can harm your liver.

With a lot of these chemicals, we don’t know what dose is harmful. We do know that no exposure to any toxic chemical is 100 percent “safe.” Expose enough people to enough levels of benzene and some will get cancer. What’s “enough?” How many people? Honestly, seriously, nobody can say for sure.

Would we rather have no cars or buses at all and eliminate the health risks that come from inhaling exhaust? Maybe not. But over the years, we’ve tried to reduce the risk (for example, by eliminating lead in gasoline.)

Proponents of the turf say: Would we rather have grass fields that are a mess, full of gopher holes, unplayable in wet weather, poorly maintained and not good for soccer? A better question: Would we rather have grass fields that are well maintained and designed, and pay for them by taxing the Fisher brothers and the rest of the billionaires in this city? We don’t ask that.

Maybe ten or 20 years from now, we’ll look back and say: Why did we let little kids play soccer on chopped up tires? Why didn’t we make sure it was safe before we did it? If that happens, it will fall entirely within the pattern of environmental messes that we’ve made this century.

Maybe not.

But whatever: The Recreation and Parks Department is doing what the Fisher kids will pay to do, and nothing else seems to matter.


Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


  1. I play soccer and voted for the artificial turf. Grass is great but the city does not maintain it. Our team and every team that has played on that pitch has suffered broken ankles and other inJuries because of the gopher and mole holes. There are also not enough fields in SF/Bay area to meet the demand. Being able to play at night creates time.

  2. Sam — it is a NO BRAINER. Have you ever sat on plastic in the hot sun? NOT FUN. Many professional Men and Women soccer players have come forward with details of WHY they prefer grass to plastic. Here is just one:
    Secondly. Why do you associate “teetering on bankruptcy” with maintaining the grass in Golden Gate Park the way it has been doing wonderfully since well before the turn of the century? Do you know anything about how nasty the water run off is NOW going to become and how the watershed under the Beach Chalet is going to be affected by the many KNOWN toxic chemicals in tire crumb? No. You just take the side that “won” and assume they must have won because they were right not because they launched a misleading campaign backed by the money interests that now have power over every park in the city they did not before the election. Wake up.

  3. And if you took a similarly sized sample of people who has been in contact with anything else, how do you know the number developing cancer wouldn’t be even higher?

    Come back when you have hard evidence.

  4. Yeah, the “YES oh H” vote was suspiciously high in the precincts immediately adjacent to the GGPark soccer fields. The theory advanced was that the neighbors were concerned that soccer players are typically “diverse” and they didn’t want that in their back yard.

    Now they will just have to put up with it. Ha.

    There may be a no more diverse public endeavor in San Francisco

    As a class issue, this slices many ways.

    While I have ambulance about organized sports (organized anything) there is something about the informal face-to-face encounters around the periphery of child and adult sports practices and games around San Francisco that has an oddly precious and non-virtual quality. I believe these these kinds of endangered encounters (a mixture of repeated and random) make important contributions to a civil society in a way that social media, for example, fails us. That’s right. Having or knowing a kid can get you out there being a human instead of spending your life screened.

    If you want to have a fully informed opinion about this, spend an hour at the the five Crocker-Amazon turf fields in the far southern part of the city off Geneva. Absolutely amazing. This may the the most diversified age-class-race diversified social environment in San Francisco. If you haven’t been out there you really don’t know what the arguments about turf fields is about – you’re just a guy on a computer with opinions.

    These turf fields will bring a lot diversity into the park. I don’t know why there wasn’t an option for turf and no lights.

    Gregory Gavin

    PS – My daughter was a bit of artist with the ball and loved playing on turf because the of the liberation from the giant holes that SF Parks and Rec couldn’t ever seem to fix (maybe impossible with this volume of use). The grass fields at the Beach Chalet were always deep mush and littered with holes the size of buckets – constant fears of broken ankles. That’s why they were kept closed under lock and key by the city so much. Of course professionals play on grass! Their fields aren’t used 12+ hours a day and all kinds of workers cover them when it rains etc. Turf serves the proletariate.

  6. @ Sam: Agreed!

    Lots of thoughtful contributors, on both sides, posting on this thread; as these conversations go, this one is relatively rich.

    That said, for folks on our side of the issue, 48hills is “behind enemy lines,” so to speak. I send you respectful props for your grit, gumption and game throughout.


  7. Judy, use of the word “dearie” is very patronizing.

    And, no, it’s not a fact just because you state it. You need to provide irrefutable evidence. Where is it?

  8. Ella, sadly for you we don’t accept your definition of trolling as “anyone who disagrees with you”

    Here is a clue. Those who lose debates typically resort to accusing the winning party as a “troll”

    Weak and ineffective. Present you best argument and I will shoot it down, if I can. Don’t hide behind epithets.

    Readers will decide if you have made your case.

  9. Excellent analysis, John. There is no denying the earnest lyrical appeal of Tim’s rhetoric.

    But even Tim has to accept that if the city, the scientists, the court and the voters all agree, it’s time to quit.

  10. Oops – forgot to mention this. I was actually originally planning to vote against the change to the fields. I read many different perspectives, though, and changed my opinion before voting. I really do welcome the opportunity to hear different perspectives from people who can express themselves cogently and reasonably state their position, not just be contrarians. I’m happy with my vote, and grateful that I had the opportunity to hear different perspectives.

    That’s civil discourse. I’m a big fan of it. Crazy trolling aunts don’t add to it, though.

  11. Oh, it’s certainly not a matter of avoiding contrary opinions. Indeed, I seek them out. I’m a parent, and I’ve taught my child to read news sites and focus on stories that are different from what he’d normally believe, because I think we learn best that way. I’m a big fan of civil discourse representing a broad variety of perspectives. Not a fan of echo chambers at all.

    But when they’re just splattered spam by someone who feels the need to respond to every single comment – that’s not discourse, that’s just trolling. I don’t feed trolls. It’s like the crazy aunt who’s incessantly sending mail saying that Obama is responsible for Ebola, and did you know he’s one of them Muslims? At some point you just tune them out. I prefer technological solutions to do that, but I can ignore trolls pretty well. I’m practiced with some crazy relatives. 😉

    I have mixed feelings about these fields. I am absolutely in favor of having them available longer, and voted in favor of that. I’m troubled, though, by some of the reports of illnesses that seem to be statistically more prevalent among some players playing on this surface. I would appreciate a fast-track project by the City to see if alternate surfaces, not made from tires, might be feasible. I’m not out there protesting the lights or turf. I just don’t want SF to install something that in two years has to be ripped up, at great expense. We have the opportunity now to look at other options.

  12. Judy, the only thing you find fascinating is that they agreed with you, presumably because that almost never happens.

    Repeat after me: YOU LOST.

    Move on.

  13. Mary —

    It isn’t an issue of preferring crumb rubber to grass or vice-versa, it’s an issue of making SF’s finite soccer play-space work harder in order to meet the needs of SF’s growing soccer community. Given available real-estate and budgetary constraints, “natural” grass simply cannot meet that need.

    Deciding what “sense memories” kids “should” be gathering when they play outdoors is, in my very own humble opinion, the prerogative of each individual family. If “respecting nature” is a family’s preferred “culturally valuable lesson,” they might more reasonably consider conducting that lesson in an authentically natural setting, and not in an entirely human-made, urban, outdoor recreational area.

  14. in response to Judy Berkowitz: Thank you so very much for responding to my Qs. Your answers provided much food for thought. Following the $ is always relevant when examining issues. And perhaps why you have one too many folks rattled. Your answers to me continue to be provacative & priceless because they’re so ‘spot on’ so to speak. Respectfully yours, B. Brown

  15. Except Judith feels that ALL of SF is her backyard. The CFSN operates as a quasi BOS and planning commission, but like most SF neighborhood orgs, it’s really just a vehicle for its top members personal gripes. Notice the same items being brought to the discussion by JB.
    The voters have spoken, but Judith still feels like her opinion is needed.

  16. I’m not debating or complaining that H lost. It did.
    Some folks needed answers; in the case where I had facts I sought to provide them.
    Nothing more.

    You are correct that the various entities – Planning Commission, BoS, Coastal Commission, – voted to install artificial turf in these soccer fields.

    One of the matters that is interesting is that the California Coastal Commission staff recommended that the CCC oppose the installation of artificial turf at the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields.
    The CCC, all political appointees, ignored the staff findings and voted to support it.

    I found that fascinating…

  17. Judy, that wasn’t Tim’s point at all. Tim was trying to drum up paranoia about some alleged health issues with the materials used in artificial turf.

    The idea that the park should seek to recoup some of its costs from those who most use its facilities is a separate issue, and not germane here. That’s your thing.

    Anyway, the planning commission, the coastal commission, the city’s government and, most importantly, the voters have decided.

    You lost and the renovation is being done while you kvetch. Accept that sometimes people don’t buy what you are selling, and move onto another battle. Preferably in your own back yard.

  18. Tim —

    First things first: You are a wonderful writer. Tone, voice, content… you come across as thoughtful and articulate…it was a pleasure to read this piece.

    Second things second: Regarding crumb rubber turf, some folks are taking a “guilty till proven innocent” stance toward it, maintaining it should be banned now just in case yet-to-be-conducted studies find it is harmful in the future. But given that 1), the studies conducted up to this point have found no links between crumb rubber and health concerns; and 2), without artificial turf NOW, the city can’t meet the growing demand for play-space, that’s a pretty extreme and unreasonable position to take.

    As a parent, I am confident I am not playing Russian roulette with my kids’ health by letting them play on artificial turf, because the hard data simply do not support that conclusion. But if other parents feel differently and choose to keep their own kids off it pending further research, that’s their prerogative.

    As for the relevance of this discussion to the Beach Chalet renovation, there really is none: The voters have responded to a measure opponents of the project, after unsuccessfully trying to kill the it before the Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, the Coastal Commission, and the courts, brought before them, and the voters have unambiguously chosen to make the fields fit to play soccer on. This renovation is going to happen.

  19. And I still have yet to read you answer to my query:
    “What exactly have I written in the comments to this particular 48 Hills post – “About that turf in Golden Gate Park” – that leads you to that label of me?”

  20. Charles Deeter – Since I post under my own name and not a pseudonym, of course yes, it’s true that I’m president of CSFN, the large and active umbrella organization that it is.
    But it’s not true that CSFN is any sort of knee-jerk nimby association. CSFN is more of a good government organization, carefully reviewing issues as they come up.

    My comment that out-of-towners pay more to use the playing fields in SF is simply fact, dearie. Nothing more.

    And I’m not sure what your last statement means at all, but that’s OK. It’s pretty irrelevant anyway.

    But why are you – and not Nancy clarion – replying to my explanation of Rec&Park’s public-private partnerships?

  21. What, we are absolved of our actions when we sign into this comment board? Are you not one of the heads of the Coalition for SF neighborhoods? The largest and most active NIMBY group that exists in SF?
    As for the provincial piece, all you have to do is read your Xenophobic comment “Plus they can change the permits in order to charge more, attract out-of-town teams.”
    You’re the kind of San Franciscan who complains about people from other San Francisco neighborhoods coming to your part of town.

  22. “Charles Deeter” –
    What exactly have I written in the comments to this particular 48 Hills post – “About that turf in Golden Gate Park” – that leads you to that label of me?
    Just curious…

  23. B. Brown – I imagine City Fields’ motivation is that of any city contractor’s is…

    As to the remainder of your questions, your answers will probably be found within their contract with the city.

  24. David – This isn’t about kids and soccer; although that proved an effective advertising strategy and is a convenient by-product.

    It’s about Rec&Park’s practical reality of making as much money from Rec&Park property as possible in order to allow the Dept to become an enterprise department.

  25. How about if we make this be “about” the practical reality of kids having a place to play field sports in their own communities?

    I hear a lot of ideology and wishful thinking in this discussion, but not a lot of alternatives that would actually promote the abilty of kids to play. Leaving aside real issues like Rec Park competence and unsustainable use of water, the city has financial priorities that it puts above the very significant cost of maintaining playable grass turf — things like funding health care services for low-income people.

    It is at best a dreamy fantasy and at worst a disingenuous NIMBY strategy to suggest that the city fund grass turf. It is the 21st century SF version of “if there is no bread, then let them eat cake.” It is not realistic and it is not progressive.

  26. Ella, it’s a fairly basic cognitive skill to disregard any post or poster. It’s come to a sad state of affairs if people need technology to do something so simple.

    But any poster who thought he was being blocked would simply post with a variety of names. hat you are really saying is that you want Tim to do more work so that you can do less work. And I think that Tim’s interest is in writing and not in being a systems administrator

  27. Sam, I would assess your comment as “we don’t need no stinkin’ science.” I’ve provided abstracts for two scientific studies here, one finding an increased biomechanical risk from artificial turf, the other finding an increased risk of cancer.

    Is the city aware of the health risks? Possibly. Does it care? I wouldn’t count on it.

  28. Here’s a problem solver… Leave?! Marin, San Diego, Italy. Adios, we’re packed in as it is. Imagine what your exposed to on a daily basis in SF as a pedestrian or cyclist or muni passenger????The foods we eat/expose our children to. Soccer fields unfortunately kinda take a back seat… No?

  29. Life is indeed easier when living in an echo chamber where one never has to hear any opinion contrary to their own.

  30. I will not attack any particular poster, but will indicate that the propensity of any poster to post comments following nearly every other comment posted is, in fact, why I do not participate on this forum. I read daily, but have posted … twice? (This may be my third comment.)

    Rather than name any particular commenter, I’d suggest working with the code that runs the platform to enable people to block certain users if they wish, in order to never see their comments. I have a very distant relative who believes that he must reply endlessly to friends’ and family’s posts on Facebook. It’s rather amazing how we have such great conversations now that nearly all of us have blocked him. Perhaps he’s still replying, but we’re not replying to him. Troll’B’Gone. It’s a beautiful thing. I’d love to see it here.

  31. It is my understanding that City Fields is going to close up operation and that all further expenses related to these fields will be at taxpayer expense.

  32. In response to Judy Berkowitz: “This means that SF gives over the existing •public* property to this *private* group. City Fields will renovate these fields to become not just simply playing fields but rather a soccer complex.”
    Just trying to figure out City Fields motivation here. — Does this mean that City Fields will manage the soccer complex and provide ongoing maintenance while simultaneously collecting $ from permits issued for use of the “renovated” soccer fields as well as fees for the dedicated parking? And that City Fields is choosing to use artificial turf to keep their initial costs down? — Is City Fields looking at a revenue stream from the Beach Chalet Soccer Complex et al for an indefinite period of time?

  33. Out of town teams! Heavens to Betsy! San Franciscan soil should only ever be touched by the most native of toes!

  34. B. Brown –
    Because it’s not just about the artificial turf; it’s all a complex (heh) package.
    And it’s not just the Fishers, it’s their corporation, City Fields.

    From City Fields, the Fisher’s company website:
    It’s about “…a public-private partnership to remedy the city’s ongoing athletic field deficit through synthetic turf renovations, light installations and reorganization of the Recreation and Park Department’s antiquated and inefficient Permits and Reservations system.”

    This means that SF gives over the existing *public* property to this *private* group. City Fields will renovate these fields to become not just simple playing fields but rather a soccer complex.
    A soccer complex has dedicated parking lots, high-intensity lighting and the artificial turf fields which must be fenced and kept off-limits to walkers, dogs etc.

    Plus they can change the permits in order to charge more, attract out-of-town teams (they can charge more to out-of-towners) and designate exactly who plays and when they play.

    This is mainly about public-private partnerships and the monetization of (formerly) public property.
    Park & Rec is aiming to become an “enterprise department;” this is one means to that end.
    (An enterprise department is one which funds itself from its fees, fines and permits rather than from monies from the General Fund. An example is the Planning Dept.)

  35. In response to the closing quotation of Tim’s article: “The Recreation and Parks Department is doing what the Fisher kids will pay to do and nothing else seems to matter.”

    Why can’t the Fisher Brothers pay for grass & maintenance for a period of time instead? I.e., what vested interest do the Fisher Brothers have in recycling toxic tires or in the installation of faux grass?

  36. This might sound distracting to some bc it was not in the ballot, but isn’t the rubberized pavement used on the playgrounds made out of ground tires? If what the enviro lawyer/chemical engineer says it’s true, that’s a much bigger concern. Not just soccer kids will get exposure; every kid playing on SF Rec & Park’s playgrounds today are getting exposed.

  37. A few points for thought:
    – The California Coastal Commission staff recommended that the CCC oppose the installation of artificial turf at the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields. The CCC, all political appointees, ignored the staff findings and voted to support it.

    – The artificial turf installed in Garfield Park in April 2007 was completely torn out and replaced later in that same year; in October, I think.

    – All the real grass in Jefferson Park, a large, full-square-block area, was replaced/replanted/sodded with real grass in the past few months.(Turk-Eddy-Laguna-Gough).

  38. Greg, since you are evidently unable of following a singe link, I will spell it out for you:

    “Art. I, §2, cl. 3: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers . . . The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years . . .”

    Art. I, §9, cl. 4: “No capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”

    Sixteenth Amendment (1913): “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

  39. I asked for something in the constitution, not an opinion from some wingnut from the loony bin on what the constitution means. If I wanted that, then your own opinion of what is constitutional would have sufficed.

  40. No, mud is what the GGP soccer fields were until the voters made their enlightened decision to make them playable again.

  41. To give the devil his due, once in a great while he does mention something factual that adds nuance to the argument, but one corn does not justify picking through the piles of, um, mud.

    This turf blog entry is especially full of interesting, informed, and varied commentary from many people, but all the screaming by one person is very distracting.

  42. 90%? Really? That’s very impressive, given that there is no way of knowing who posts what here. I could post as Y and you could post as Sam.

    But I’m sure you know best.

  43. So, Gary, you admit that 50% of your post to this site are personal attacks on another poster? Actually i make it 75% since your first was only notionally about turf.

    But don’t worry, you won’t be banned. If only because, at a site without registration, that isn’t possible.

  44. I was compelled to post a comment because of Tim’s excellent and well written assessment of the fake turf situation. He did some research and didn’t make any wild pronouncements, and he really did convince me to change my opinion, even though changing minds didn’t seem to be his motive. I would have voted against the turf had I seen this article before the election.

    And while I enjoy comments sections of some blogs – because quite often I can learn more from what others contribute to the discussion – Sam seems to be hell-bent upon imposing an ideology, and rarely any facts, upon everyone, over and over again.

    I know that I can scroll beyond his comments, but really, I’d rather participate in a blog where opposing ideas are well presented and the compulsion to respond to nearly every dissenting opinion is not allowed.

  45. You’re right, and you have the support of probably 90%+ of the readers here (judging from how many commenters complain about the Pestilence and how many express support). Thanks for taking the time to count. It’s like being at a party and have every single conversation being interrupted by the same loud, angry know-it-all who will contradict whatever you say (except that at parties one person can only interrupt one conversation at a time).

    When he gets excited (e.g. during the election threads) his percentages are even higher.

    There are other mean-spirited contrarian commenters here, but none of them is afflicted with this pathological pushiness.

  46. Who said that I’m ‘hardly ever here’ ? I wrote that I’ve only posted here twice, now 4 times. I have been reading 48 Hills off-and-on and while I’d like to participate in the comments, your obsessive responses prevent me (and probably others) from doing so.

    And take your own damn advice about silence.

    FYI, my first post on this thread where I mentioned you was meant to enlighten Tim, not to engage you.

    The nutcase screaming on the bus isn’t engaging in personal attacks or insults and yet he, like you, should, should recognize that his behavior is ‘antisocial.’

    If Tim chooses to ban me for this – so be it. It was worth getting this off my chest.

    I won’t be engaging you in any further debate. Feel free to further discuss this among yourself.

  47. Greg, neither of us are scientists and so both of us are just guessing here. How do we know anything is safe or not? Because we trust the experts who advise our decision makers.

    The city would not be using asbestos or cyanide to build these pitches because they are known toxins. But experts and scientist are all over the place on these artificial pitches and they are used around the world without any proven problems.

    The voters weren’t being asked if it was safe. That is assumed. They were asked if they want them over grass, and we have our answer. It’s just that you don’t like it. Well, hey, I don’t like that 8-Wash won’t get built, but I can live with it, and so should you.

  48. Greg, the reference used in the Constitution is to a “direct tax”. You will find the citation in here:

    Interestingly, that prohibition does not extend to the States. And you may be aware that Florida has an Intangibles Tax, that looks a lot like a wealth tax to me.

    And of course property tax is a tax on wealth, indirectly, although it is payable even if you have negative equity.

    So if you thought this would fly, ask Chiu to take it to Sac.

  49. There are housing on the athletic fields in GG park?
    Please explain to me how the lights will “floodli(gh)t” houses until 10 pm. What houses? The nearest homes to the lights are almost a quarter of a mile away from the fields.
    Why are people here so hysterically unreasonable?

  50. So you are hardly ever here and yet you are an expert on who posts what here? Sorry, not buying it.

    But since you claim to be inexperienced here, you should be aware that Tim is very clear that he does not want personal attacks on others here, nor insults or insults..

    So please post on the topics, as I have done, and try and do a better job of controlling your emotional reactions. Otherwise silence is the better part of discretion.

  51. The point is that it’s toxic. If it was benign, it wouldn’t have this effect. And if it is toxic, how can you assure that it won’t get out beyond your kids’ skin (and bloodstream if they get a cut)? If you cut assure me that it would be confined to your children, I might be fine with that. But what about the groundwater that the rest of us use?

    And then there’s the matter of the stadium lights. Again, I wouldn’t mind if it was just your house that was being floodlit till 10PM, but why impose this on others?

  52. Sam, I have only posted twice on this site, PERIOD. EVER. Your inability to exert self-control by limiting the number of your responses (look around –do you see ANYONE ELSE disrupting these threads as much as you?) and your delusion about me being a ‘sock puppet’ is evidence of mental health issues. But what is most troubling is that, like a nutcase Evangelical who won’t shut up on the bus, screaming that everyone going to hell, you think that you are right, and that entitles you to hog the comments sections of 48 Hills. But you are just as annoying as that nutcase Evangelical.

  53. Really? I’d like to see the article in the constitution where it says “there shall be no tax on wealth.”

  54. That’s nice, jch. But our Resident Troll has already assessed the risk as zero. No study is going to refute that kind of solid logic, especially not one from somewhere in Europe.

    I wouldn’t mind so much if it was just his kids that were playing in it. Of course it’s not.

  55. Nobody is depriving anyone of grass. 99% of GGPark will remain grassy and natural. We’re talking about a tiny portion of the park that is dedicated to a particular sport.

    And when people play a sport like soccer, they are thinking only of the game. They’re not picking wild flowers or bird-spotting.

    The tennis courts in GGPark are also not grass. Problem?

  56. in response to Mary:
    “…when kids play outdoors…they should gather sense memories of birds, animal life, the smell of grass & dirt and experience other culturally valuable lessons, like respecting nature.”

    For me, the above captures the essence of the issue: children & other folks safely enjoying nature. My favorite childhood memories are rooted in my exploration of the pristine nature available to me where I grew up. As a result, I do not believe it’s okay to deprive generations of children, growing up in SF, the simple pleasures of playing on a real grass field.

  57. Gary, a few token words about turf and then a two paragraph personal attack on another contributor. Obviously you are a sock puppet of a regular here trying to stir up animosity rather than debate the issue.

    I see the idea. Post under multipile names trying to give the appearance that there is more than one person demanding censorship here. But you need to get a lot better at it, I’m afraid. Your deception is painfully obvious.

  58. Thanks for an insightful article. As someone who voted for the artificial turf, had I read this before the election, I would have voted against it.

    PS: I almost never post here on 48 Hills because of the troll Sam. There should be a limit as to the number of comments posted by an individual per article, or a way of hiding all posts from him.

    He certainly must have an enormous ego, thinking that his opinion is so important/correct that he is compelled to respond to nearly half of the posts. here. It is abnormal and probably some type of mental disorder to have written 30 out of 96 comments on this thread.

  59. Some schools have already stopped installing the turf fields, including Kennedy Catholic HS, just outside of Seattle. There are other artificial products, such as what they’re going to use instead (ground up shoe treads) that have markedly lower toxicity profiles.

    I’m glad my kid’s not playing soccer anymore, and really glad that when he did, he only played on grass fields. I suppose it’s too much to hope for SF to look into a different artificial surface for these fields?

  60. When the left wins at the polls, it’s a mandate from the people and binding.

    When the left loses at the polls, then they must take direct action to impose their minority will on the majority.

    Being left means never being wrong and never really losing.

  61. Another super critical issue brought to the voters in twee toon town SF. It doesn’t matter that a myriad of bureaucratic hurdles in SF were already made on this; that multiple courts affirmed those decisions – lets take it to DIRECT DEMOCRACY!
    And then when that fails – “anti turf activists” engage in sit ins to block construction. We could not be more a caricature of ourselves if we tried. profoundly embarassing and on of the biggest examples of how broken our current system of government is.
    How much could the money have spent on this only in SF saga have bought actual needy families in SF?

  62. The artificial soccer pitches are a long-term solution, so there is no concern that it compromises any sub-soil growth of vegetation Indeed, that is desirable.

  63. Greg, you have done a good job of articulating why I don’t want the city running a lot of things, like power and transport.

    Privatize it

  64. Yes, they do, that was my point. It’s a rich league and so can afford real grass. Even so, the touchline area around the pitch is often “astroturf”.

    Many professional pitches in Russia are artificial because of the extreme climate.

    But if you don’t have a lot of money, grass is an extravagance, and even more so if water is at a premium as it is here.

  65. And possibly the health of our children. Given what we know so far the city should be monitoring playing level air quality at all of our synthetic fields.

  66. There is lots of anecdotal data on a link between cancer and synthetic turf, but well-designed scientific studies are in short supply, probably for the reasons Tim cited.

    I did, however, find the following well-designed Italian study. In short, the risk is not negligible.

    Sci Total Environ. 2011 Nov 1;409(23):4950-7. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.07.042. Epub 2011 Sep 9.
    Artificial-turf playing fields: contents of metals, PAHs, PCBs, PCDDs and PCDFs, inhalation exposure to PAHs and related preliminary risk assessment.
    Menichini E1, Abate V, Attias L, De Luca S, di Domenico A, Fochi I, Forte G, Iacovella N, Iamiceli AL, Izzo P, Merli F, Bocca B.
    Author information
    The artificial-turf granulates made from recycled rubber waste are of health concern due the possible exposure of users to dangerous substances present in the rubber, and especially to PAHs. In this work, we determined the contents of PAHs, metals, non-dioxin-like PCBs (NDL-PCBs), PCDDs and PCDFs in granulates, and PAH concentrations in air during the use of the field. The purposes were to identify some potential chemical risks and to roughly assess the risk associated with inhalation exposure to PAHs. Rubber granulates were collected from 13 Italian fields and analysed for 25 metals and nine PAHs. One further granulate was analysed for NDL-PCBs, PCDDs, PCDFs and 13 PAHs. Air samples were collected on filter at two fields, using respectively a high volume static sampler close to the athletes and personal samplers worn by the athletes, and at background locations outside the fields. In the absence of specific quality standards, we evaluated the measured contents with respect to the Italian standards for soils to be reclaimed as green areas. Zn concentrations (1 to 19 g/kg) and BaP concentrations (0.02 to 11 mg/kg) in granulates largely exceeded the pertinent standards, up to two orders of magnitude. No association between the origin of the recycled rubber and the contents of PAHs and metals was observed. The sums of NDL-PCBs and WHO-TE PCDDs+PCDFs were, respectively, 0.18 and 0.67×10(-5) mg/kg. The increased BaP concentrations in air, due to the use of the field, varied approximately from <0.01 to 0.4 ng/m(3), the latter referring to worst-case conditions as to the release of particle-bound PAHs. Based on the 0.4 ng/m(3) concentration, an excess lifetime cancer risk of 1×10(-6) was calculated for an intense 30-year activity.

  67. But Manuel… the city can’t seem to maintain our roads without potholes. You trust them to contain toxic chemicals from leeching into the groundwater?

    The difference is the consequences.
    Consequences of the city not maintaining grass fields: gophers.
    Consequences of the city not maintaining toxic astroturf: poisoning our environment and groundwater.

  68. There is also a biomechanical risk. The study below comes from PubMed

    J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2013 May;21(5):293-302. doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-21-05-293.
    Synthetic playing surfaces and athlete health.
    Drakos MC1, Taylor SA, Fabricant PD, Haleem AM.
    Author information
    Synthetic playing surfaces have evolved considerably since their introduction in the 1960s. Today, third-generation turf is routinely installed in professional, collegiate, and community settings. Proponents of artificial surfaces tout their versatility and durability in a variety of climates. However, the health and injury ramifications have yet to be clearly defined. Musculoskeletal injury is largely affected by the shoe-playing surface interface. However, conclusive statements cannot be made regarding the risk of certain shoe-playing surface combinations because of the variety of additional factors, such as weather conditions, shoe wear, and field wear. Historically, clinical studies have indicated that higher injury rates occur on artificial turf than on natural surfaces. This conclusion is backed by robust biomechanical data that suggest that torque and strain may be greater on artificial surfaces than on natural grass. Recent data on professional athletes suggest that elite athletes may sustain injuries at increased rates on the newer surfaces. However, these surfaces remain attractive to athletes and administrators alike because of their durability, relative ease of maintenance, and multiuse potential.

  69. What lost black and brown communities? There are 50,000 blacks living in SF according to the most recent census. And probably at least twice as many “browns” (I assume you mean Hispanics) although it’s hard to know for sure as many of them do not want to be counted or identified, for obvious reasons.

    Cam you describe the racial quotas that you think are appropriate for SF?

  70. The U.S. Constitution bans the direct taxing of wealth. So if you wish to tax wealth, the path is simple – pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

  71. If your supervisor was bound to do what the majority of his constituents wanted, then there would be no need for him to have to think about the issue at all. He would just conduct a poll or focus group and do what the masses tell them.

    We elect representatives so they can think for themselves – not be robots.

  72. What occurs to me about what will happen, the Fishers put tons of money to get some bs thing they want (like their awful schools for instance), then they stop putting the money and it all falls apart and someone else has to pick up the slack.

    The Fisher bros advertised for this heavily, and then what? They bought the election in SF, as usual and then these eyesores and crowds will come over, etc.

    My thought is for the people against it to obstruct it at every turn, in court, so that they give up. Good luck to you guys that oppose this, but the COURTS is what you should be doing right now.

  73. This last point shouldn’t be understated.

    I think young kids could really benefit from playing outside, in the grass, around trees and open spaces. It’s sounds painfully simple, BUT, some fresh air would probably do wonders for today’s overly connected kids (Uber for teens, anyone?) who need to “reset” their focuses and look up and out.

  74. I never heard the “race” argument when describing the opposition to this proposition. Latinos are already in the area, not many of us, but still…

    @Barry – I think you’re correct in the demographic which will be taking the most advantage of this new “field.”

  75. Eisenberg’s advice that we all “respect other peoples’ issues and… remain silent if we don’t fully agree,” has dangerous consequences.

    There are lots of fools with marginal issues. And there is often a direct relationship between foolishness and the stridency with which an issue is promoted. That’s a huge problem on the politically correct left that grew out of the multiplicity of narrow issues and wedge identities of the multicultural sixties. A hierarchy of issues is needed, otherwise progressivism devolves into a babble with no moral center.

    There is only so much time, money, attention, energy, etc. with which to attack the glaring social-economic-environmental problems. Without a moral map and a hierarchy of issues, real consensus isn’t possible. So we’re left with tacit, back scratching agreements. You keep quiet as I bore everyone to tears with my pet issue, and I’ll keep quiet as you bore everyone to tears… etc.

    Run away development, runaway City salaries, bought off Supervisors, a bought off mayor, a lost creative class, lost Black community, lost Brown community are all issues that trump astroturf. As the progressive base shrinks, if progressives don’t find consensus on what matters, they’re doomed.

  76. So if one of your kids gets cancer, I’m sure you’ll chalk it up to the luck of the draw, rather than looking for the causes and risking a conflict with your ideology.

    Heck, you’d probably drink a glass of fracking runoff just to show how “safe” it is.

  77. I think there is one aspect of this mess that has been long overlooked: private industry at the trough of the public treasury. It’s my understanding that City Fields Foundation is going to close up shop — now that the matter of synthetic turf and night lights at the Beach Chalet soccer fields has been put to rest (for the time being — the lawsuit against the EIR is still pending). So who is responsible for the maintenance of the fields over time, now that the Fisher brothers have accomplished what they set out to accomplish? The taxpayers of San Francisco. The company that is getting the contract at the Beach Chalet Fields is Verde Design (, though the largest installer of synthetic turf in California is Easy Turf (, whose Bay Area dealer is Heavenly Greens (

    I have also recently received an email from someone who follows this issue about how state governments are subsidizing this industry by providing grants to communities so that they can install the stuff. Unfortunately, I cannot find the email and have asked that it be resent.

    Regarding the ethnic matter: the SF Latino Democratic Club has come out in opposition to the installation of synthetic turf at the Beach Chalet soccer fields. This may in part be due to the whole matter of privatization of public assets. I don’t know. Potrero Hill successfully resisted the installation of synthetic turf, as did neighbors near the Rossi Playground in the Inner Richmond. And professional women soccer players are busy suing FIFA for the right to play professionally on natural grass (

    In addition to concerns about cancer clusters, there are concerns about staph infections from playing on the fields. On Monday evening, after an op-ed that I wrote appeared in the SF Examiner, a father tracked me down and called me at home. Seven or eight years ago, his son had been playing soccer on synthetic turf one spring break when he was in college. He got a scratch so tiny that he had not even put a band aide on it. Soon enough, he was dragging his leg and ended up in a San Diego hospital’s infectious disease unit. It was touch and go for a spell, and the doctors did not know what they were going to do, but they eventually created a cocktail of drugs to treat his infection — and that did the trick, though his son was knocked and hospitalized for a week. From that experience, the father got the impression from the doctors that it was common knowledge that infections from playing on synthetic fields were more prevalent than those from playing on grass fields.

    I have done some internet searching and come up with this:

    This father said to me that he believed that he and I understood that synthetic turf fields will run their course and sooner rather than later, everyone will want to go back to real grass fields.

  78. Mary was addressing your personal flaws by comparing you to Nevius, reasonably, but since you changed the subject:

    First, I never heard of “the loony left”. I am sure that was a slip, because you are usually so polite.

    Second, I hear bellyaching to this day from the mainstream right (including you) about 8 Washington, about how it was just a bunch of rich condo owners near the Embarcadero who wanted to keep the views in their expensive condos. It’s not at all true, but the righties are not exactly being gracious about it.

  79. Sam, the material is NOT contained at all. Have you been to one of the tire-crumb soccer fields? The tire crumb is all over the place. A student told me yesterday that he has gotten it in his hair. And then the mentioned the smell. Another student mentioned the burns from the synthetic turf — skin burns. A father called me on Monday night after he read my op-ed in the Examiner to tell me about his son who had gotten a stubborn infection from a tiny, tiny scratch that he had received from playing on synthetic turf when he was in college. The son ended up in a special infectious disease unit at a San Diego hospital for a week — though the scratch was so small he had not even put a band aide on it. And let’s not forget: 1.6 million pounds of ground up tires according to one report, tens of thousands of ground up tires, are going into the initial installation at the Beach Chalet. And when the plastic/tire crumb fields start to break down, what is the maintenance? Tens of thousands of more ground up tires … And that crumb will inevitably run off into the ocean and/or get into the stomachs of the wildlife that remains. We should indeed be concerned about human cancer clusters — but let’s also be concerned about wildlife cancer clusters. And most of the animals that I am thinking of are smaller than people.

  80. If the birds had a vote, they’d say NO!!! (all that high voltage lighting at night not to mention the un-grass). Too bad we don’t include them when we think of these playfields. But they live here too. So does the environment affected by artificialness on the ground and the yuckiness created by rain on toxins….Environment not happy either. It doesn’t get to vote. I heard 2 kids of parents who voted no on H disparage both things the other day–the animals and the environment–and it made me sick.

  81. Nicely done.
    After viewing the film Inequality For All, the subject of taxing the wealth came up. I often wondered about how these changes can be made as far as changing the tax code. Some guy said it had to be done on the federal level….like writing Nancy Pelosi might be a good start….
    I know we’ve been wanting to see tech companies get taxed appropriately, so that is local…..But I’d love someone to explain to me what a good strategy would look like to make a concerted effort to change the prevailing attitude and reverse the Reagan-era tax reduction on the rich. How did Reagan do it? How can the reverse be done today so that the wealth gets taxed appropriately? What can we do other than make our comments, and vote for local leaders who get it? What is the role of the federal government in all of this? Well, they represent us, so of course, revolution could be the easy answer.
    People like Elizabeth Warren have been like a breath of fresh air….Is it all just in the zeitgeist and when our voices get louder and louder people will wake up and suddenly a shift will happen? I guess I’m looking for a history lesson in how Reagan successfully lowered the tax burden on the rich. This is obviously not working for our society, so could a President just as easily raise it back with the stroke of a pen? Help!! Will somebody chime in here? Thank you.

  82. Yeah, we live there, we bicycle through there, we bird watch there, we watch kids play soccer on real grass there. Or we did.

  83. Michael, your love of soccer seems to have blinded you to the fact that most of the issues you cite as “real” also underlie the scenario at OB. I learned long ago to respect other peoples’ issues and that it’s okay to just remain silent if I don’t fully agree. In fact it’s the first commandment of networking in scenarios where you share some common ideas with others but maybe don’t agree on everything. If you don’t follow that procedure then a circular firing squad results where each individual insists on their viewpoint and theirs alone.

    You see, I agree with you on most of what you list as real SF issues. But you alienate me when you demean the battle we neighbors are fighting over B.C., demeaning our cause as unreal and mere nimbyism. That’s the myopic viewpoint The New York Times, for example, offers up when it covers the SF scene, always with an eye towards mocking us. Too many San Franciscans buy into that superficial approach.

    It’s a mistake to insist we should make local policy always with a criterion of not providing fodder to our outsider critics, critics who so often just cannot be bothered to understand where we are really coming from.

  84. Then they are wrong – it’s about soccer for kids.

    But this being San Francisco, people who wouldn’t know how to head a soccer ball in a month of Sundays claim the right to an opinion.

    Ask me why I don’t care.

  85. Mary, here is what gets me. When the loony left win an election, like 8-Wash, that’s the end of the matter.

    But when the left lose, they never accept that loss, but rather act as if they hadn’t lost.

    Why do you have so little respect for the democratic process, when you lose?

  86. Mary, i am a father with two soccer-playing kids. I want them to play and they cannot pay on grass because it cannot be maintained.

    Soccer is a physical contact sport. Players get hurt and injured all the time, like with any sport. The players accept that risk because they love to play.

    Too many non-sports types are trying to tell sport players what they can and cannot do.

    The voters have decided. What part of that aren’t you willing to accept?

  87. Grass isn’t an option here because the voters won’t pay the significantly higher cost of it. So either our kids play soccer on artificial turf or they don’t play at all?

    Do you want to deny our kids the chance to play the world’s most popular team sport on a misguided principle?

  88. An astute analysis Cap’n Crumb. The proponents say it’s simple and all just about soccer for kids while the opponents say theres a much more complex backstory. Thank you kindly for so clearly outlining the underlying issues.

  89. Well said Tim. As usual, you speak the truth to power, and follow logic through to its natural conclusion.

  90. If only it were 3 soccer fields. Prop I means it’s whatever soccer fields the City Fields Foundation decides it wants …. 3 soccer fields not that big a deal, except maybe in this one location where the neighbors and others have been objecting for (I believe) solid historic reasons. But really it’s not just 3. Twenty city fields now plastic, more than 10 school, for a total of more than 30; and lots of playground conversions happening soon (I commented elsewhere)…

  91. Thanks for this thoughtful article, Tim. Your emphasis on the risks of artificial turf and the importance of erring on the side of caution are spot on. How sad that the City has allowed a decision impacting the health of a generation of kids to be made by the highest bidder.

  92. I hear Germany does have a lot of (now aging and unattractive) artificial turf fields, but gen’lly, it’s the favelas of Brazil where the world’s best players develop…..on unmaintained asphalt and dirt. The idea that San Francisco girls aren’t playing Div I soccer because they grew up playing on poorly maintained fields is (and I say this with respect) a bit off point. The number of even probable-to-play Div I players in the area is a small percentage. I believe there’s a lot that could be done to create better players before doing it via additional (we already have 30 acres) artificial turf fields: better / higher licensed coaching; better crosstraining to prevent early injury / ACL; more time spent in futsal (as the great book The Talent Code suggests) for technical improvement. Meanwhile, when kids play outdoors, in their overscheduled lives imho, they should gather sense memories of birds, animals life, the smell of grass & dirt and experience other culturally valuable lessons, like, respecting nature.

  93. FYI

    When I opened my first business I was 21 or 22. It was a cool little bar and dance club off market near Zuni called Mr Fives.

    I told my partners that the Bay Guardian was the only place I would consider doing ads.

    I also greatly appreciate all the years that Tim put into that paper and into writing on lots of important issues.

  94. Interesting, Y. That was my sense of it too. The people living near the park were the ones paying attention. It was heartening to see even conservatives solidly opposed to it at the various forums. But then I realized that no one on the east side was really paying attention, and they’d just be swayed by the money.

    Eric Mar really sold his constituents up the river on this one.

  95. ok, it’s like you either write C.W. Nevius’s stories for him, you are C.W. Nevius, or you’ve memorized his stories. either way, kinda scary, Sam.

  96. Respectfully, but I think Mission Playground (tiny pitch) is the only place where turf has replaced asphalt. The rest over here in the South where I live (Crocker, Silver, Youngblood, Garfield, Minnie Lovie) and elsewhere (Kimball) replaced grass. If only they were replacing asphalt…..(SCORES is doing this at school yards, but tiny pitches; there’s an asphalt-replaced smaller turf pitch somewhere near Bayshore, too) … and using a different, less questionable material to do it. Crocker is a good complex with a good nature mix…. But there are now 20 acres of city fields with synth turf, 10 more acres from schools, and, apparently, more coming, with not great plans for maintenance.

  97. A couple minor points in response to the Cap’n and Tim’s initial post:

    Umm….the Polo Fields and Beach Chalet have sucked for decades…way before Phil Ginsberg. Slightly. That is a VERY far fetched point. The gardeners cannot control gophers digging holes through sand.

    I don’t have a horse in the race as far as having an opinion on Ginsberg. I don’t agree with all of his methods but I do know that he’s far more engaged than most of the SFRP directors that I can recall. I recall not much of any of them before him. I recall lazy and deadbeat directors mostly.

    Also…where was all this “organized opposition” when the fields were astro-turfed on the Southeast side of town?

    Oh yeah….that’s the brown side of town. White NIMBY’S arent going to waste their time fighting over there.

    I really think this is one of those issues that brought the Guardian down….not specifically but generally.

    I have spent thousands and thousands on ads in the Guardian…as have many of those of us in the Small Biz community.

    Did the Guardian care about us? Not at all. Sure they finally started rolling out a “Small Biz Awards” issue when it was trendy to do so…but the winners were always layered with progressive political schmaltz.

    The Guardian backed itself into a corner with the Chris Daly machine…or should I say Chris Daly go cart. The Guardian had no time for small biz…no time for middle class family issues….no time for supporting a simple issue like soccer fields…no time for neighborhood groups that might not be arch left…etc etc etc

    And the Guardian has paid for it dearly.


    Growing up I respected and loved the Guardian.

    It was the go to source for just about everything except maybe the pink pages on Sunday.

    Now it’s gone and the City is worse for it.

    The fact that people tired to make the turf issue into a Mod vs Prog issue is a joke. It’s a small group of HATERS with too much time on their hands.

    Renters rights is a real issue.

    Run away development is a real issue.

    Runaway City salaries to people that mostly don’t live in the City is an issue.

    Bought off Supervisors is an issue.

    A bought off mayor is an issue.

    Small Business getting evicted left right and center is an issue.

    Google bus’s is an issue.

    The City’s losing its creative class is an issue.

    The City losing its Black community is an issue.

    The City losing its Brown community is an issue.

    The City’s gay population dwindling is an issues.



  98. Scientists are now dealing with this issue Sam. Why don’t you let them. Meanwhile, precautionary principle, anyone? btw: You spend an awful lot of time commenting for an ordinary citizen….. You must have a vested interest here. I don’t care exactly what it is, but I hope it’s not money.

  99. Notice I said nothing about parking or the crowds or barbecues at the end of GG Park. The Beach area is already crowded on nice weekends. All San Franciscans should be able to enjoy the park; if they built the new fields with real grass, the same numbers of people from the same diverse city would be there playing soccer. Also: I focused on GG Park because it’s in the news, but these turf fields are all over the city. I just wonder: If we look back on this in 20 years, will we say it was crazy to have kids play on toxic rubber?

  100. Yes, grass is universally used for soccer professionally around the world but there is big money in that, and they can afford grass. The English Premier Soccer League is the second richest pro team sports franchise in the world, after the NFL. Real Madrid and Barcelona are fabuliusly wealthy.

    But do kids in Montevideo and Liverpool and Bilbao and Prague and Mumbai and Hanoi and Melbourne and Osaka play on grass? Nope.

    The top pro’s play on grass; the hoi polloi have to make do with artificial turf. Because that is better than not playing at all.

  101. Avid soccer player here. With lots of soccer friends who are feeling the same way about this issue: stop the synthetic turf. We are not (yet) out in front on this because soccer players, you may be aware, are formed as teams, though, and easily swayed by leaders, coaches, administrators and officials, who hold authority over their positions, play time, jobs, etc., to speak as one. I have dozens of players & families whose kids showed up at those hearings who don’t even want them playing on the turf. They were brought there for the pizza. I was there myself. Even at the international level, there is fear and concern about speaking out. But …. the prominent coach in Washington State has. And so has the US Women’s National Team. I get the sense, Sam, that you enjoy being on the wrong side of history.

  102. If 1,000 soccer players play on fairy dust, some of them will get cancer.

    Scientists deal with provable facts and not paranoia. You are speculating.

  103. Sam, if you are “not aware of any soccer players getting cancer because they didn’t play on grass,” then you didn’t read the link Tim has here in the article to the NBC story. And you are remaining willfully ignorant. Lots of young players are getting cancer, they and their parents believe, because they didn’t play on grass. You can question them, OK. It’s bad form, though, as they’re the ones who’ve survived chemotherapy and you have not. Unfortunately, those cancers may show up four or five years from now after the last grass field in the city is gone. …..

  104. I don’t really care about the Fishers.

    I don’t really care about Moderates or Progressives.

    I don’t care about astroturf causing cancer bc we are all being effected 100 times more by using cell phones and cell phone towers.

    I don’t care that I played all through high school at Beach Chalet and the Polo Fields and my ankles are completely fucked up to this day.

    I don’t care that I played 5 years at CAL playing lacrosse on Astro Turf and have zero after effects…and that was one some of the earliest turf….and not nearly as comfortable as the turf today.

    Here’s what I care about:

    18 MARIN / NO BAY
    2 ***** SAN FRANCISCO ****

    Those are the numbers of girls last year that grew up in the greater Bay Area and were playing on Division 1 Nor Cal college soccer teams (Berk, Stan, Sonoma St, Davis, St Marys, Santa Clara, etc).

    The 2 girls that grew up in SF and were able to make a college team both played on club teams in the suburbs.

    So that means that not one girl from SF who played on SF fields was able to make it to college.

    On the other hand…there were about 30 girls from SF playing college basketball because of the Mission Rec Center AAU program. Basketball courts are the equivalent to turf fields in that they require no maintenance on the City’s part.

    Everyone would much rather play soccer on well maintained grass. We know that the City and County of SF has no interest in maintaining grass fields due to “budget constraints.” Yet no City the size of SF has as many City employees making 100K+. The money is there…the will and interest is not. Thus the turf.

    I understand that most people in the City’s political world could care less about kids and even less about kids sports. However if we want families to stay in the City then we have to offer sports programs, music programs, theater programs to youth and their families in the same way that other regions can offer them.

    I’m sorry that the neighbors on the Western side of the park will be mildly effected by this. If it makes you feel any better, my neighborhood, Hayes Valley, has been turned into a giant construction zone, a giant maze of gridlock from horrible transportation planning, and a desirable location for any over priced flagship store you can imagine selling utterly useless over priced clutter.

    The outer Sunset seems like the outposts of Alaska compared to Hayes Valley…even with some soccer fields that might be used a little more than they used to be.


  105. In three years working with the campaign for grass fields at the Beach Chalet I didn’t hear anyone who opposed the artificial turf and night lighting say anything that appeared to me like racism. I did hear the argument that Myrna mentioned from time to time, but it was always cited like Myrna does as speculation for why people objected.

    Now I *did* hear a few people make objections about the impact on parking, but they were pretty uncommon and sounded like the same kind of objections people usually make to new developments everywhere. Myself, I live 3 miles away, so it’s always been about keeping a good balance of recreation facilities for all SF residents, as well as the environmental impacts (goodbye dark skies and horned owls) and the value of one of America’s historic 19th-century city parks.

    Playing is certainly good for kids, and I wish RPD had been willing to compromise a long while ago so that we could have seen an extra two seasons’ play on good new grass fields at the Beach Chalet.

    There are a lot of people who objected to artificial turf fields in other areas of the city. Unsurprisingly, they were more successful in areas with political clout (Potrero Hill) than they were in Crocker-Amazon, or the Mission or at Kimbell fields in the Fillmore where the neighborhood kids often can’t use the field now that it’s booked by lacrosse-playing private-school kids.

    I did hear some comments (in public testimony by supporters of RPD) that didn’t quite chime with San Francisco’s tolerant values. Quite a few said that night-lighting would make them safe from the “freaks” looking for man-on-man action in the bushes at the Beach Chalet. This seems to miss the reality that most of that pick-up scene moved online about 15 years ago, and any remaining die-hards aren’t really there to score with a soccer player. And one poorly-briefed teenager said that if the Beach Chalet development didn’t go ahead, he could put up with having to play at Crocker-Amazon and so his family would have to move to Hillsborough instead. So there you have it, SF doesn’t cater to families and so they’re being forced out to a suburb where the median home price is a tad over $3 million. Really, it’s a war on the middle class I tell you.

  106. Tim, that’s a pretty accurate analysis of a big chunk of the situation with the Beach Chalet fields (and the broader issues of artificial turf fields elsewhere, and Rec and Park’s overall direction). While the results are not official, it’s unlikely there will be much change to the 55-45 margin by which Prop H is losing and Prop I winning. There’s still pending litigation, but no injunction, so sending the bulldozers in on the day after the election is symbolic vitriol, but unlikely to be illegal. And our current system allows virtually unfettered campaign contributions, so the Fishers’ $900,000 spend got them a whole lot of disinformation.

    The concerns you raise about SBR and other materials in used tires are much as you state: plausible, backed by strong evidence that these compounds are carcinogens in some contexts, but very difficult to disentangle from all the other environmental exposure that any youth or adult soccer player receives. Given that we don’t know, you’d think a city like San Francisco would adopt the precautionary principle. Where we do have artificial fields, why not choose infill material like sand, cocoa-fibre or cork, as have other cities in the Bay Area? Because that’s not what the Fishers want, and tire crumb is (literally) dirt cheap.

    There are a several additional dirty secrets that got buried in this process:

    * The big aim of RPD and the Fishers was to build a soccer complex with easy access to the Golden Gate Bridge and 280 so that well-heeled suburban soccer players could play night-time league games without having to visit scary neighborhoods like Crocker-Amazon. The ads may talk about soccer for kids, but the night-lighting makes clear this facility is for adults.

    * One quality Phil Ginsburg lacks absolutely is strong people management skills. An RPD director who commanded the respect of his department could build and motivate a professional crew of gardeners with pride in their skills. That would allow RPD to maintain their grass fields to a high standard. Professional soccer is almost universally played on grass fields, and it’s the surface of choice around the world. But if you have incompetent management, you get the kind of poor maintenance we have seen at RPD. City Fields Foundation (aka the Fisher boys) funds artificial turf fields in large part because they require third-party construction contractors rather than competence from gardeners, their managers or the RPD director. As good Republican donors, the idea that their investment might depend on maintenance by unionized government workers must give them the creeps.

    * People like Scott Weiner and Phil Ginsburg make great play of how onerous the CEQA process is, but in reality its just a cumbersome box-ticking process for them. The CEQA process can provide reasonable checks and balances for commercial development, but when the project sponsor and the EIR author are the same organization, it becomes child’s play to manipulate. You start by stating that the city has an urgent need for just the things your project will provide — don’t worry, there’s no need to look at any of the competing demands on the city’s money or land. In each analysis section, feel free to acknowledge all the potential impacts for your development but then add a sentence stating that the total impact in this category is either “Less than Significant” or will be so after mitigation. You also construct some unrealistic alternatives (develop a smaller site with artificial turf and do nothing at the Beach Chalet) so that you can judge your proposal as being the only way to meet that urgent need you identified up front.

    There are a few wild-cards out there. Maybe the National Park Service will write to object; the best course is to deny that their objections are valid. A whole bunch of pesky individuals and non-profits will comment. But that’s why you threw in a mention of every impact you can think of. Your response to each point should be either “irrelevant” or “we covered it on page x and the impact is insignificant”. Get your friend Mark Buehl to push it through the Rec and Park Commission and make clear to the Supervisors that if they vote “No” they can kiss goodbye to any city investment in their district. And you’re done.

    Of course there could be some last minute hurdles, too. Maybe someone will contest your bald-faced assertion that the Coastal Commission has no jurisdiction, and the uncooperative commission staff will write a scathing explanation of how your project violates the coastal plan in a dozen different ways. No big deal: all the Commissioners are politicians or political appointees (i.e. donors). Get your friends Nancy and DiFi to send them some pointed but flattering letters and they’ll soon vote to ignore their staff report. And then you might face a legal challenge or a ballot initiative. But you didn’t make friends with our richest residents just to hear their conversation — now’s the time to call in the checks to pay the lawyers and send out the campaign mailers. Hell, let’s place the story with a friendly New York Times writer as well. We’re playing for keeps, you know.

    * Oh, artificial turf has a life-expectancy of about 7 years. RPD has no budget allocation for replacing the surface when they wear out (or for the liability claims, I’d guess). Let’s hope there’s a lifetime supply of generous donors.

  107. SF Rec and Park has long proven itself to be incapable of maintaining grass turf. Even assuming (imaginary) competent management, grass turf is too unsustainably expensive and water-consumptive to use in coastal California. Turf grass doesn’t grow “naturally” here at all. It has to be heavily watered and constantly maintained in a very labor-intensive fashion. Grass turf experts will tell you that an adequate playing surface in this climate requires the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides — substances that unlike artificial turf are proven to be detrimental to human health. Further, San Francisco dog owners will not keep their dogs from digging up and defecating upon grass athletic fields, no matter what the regulations are or what the signs say. All of these truths are inconvenient, some of them are unjust, but none of them are subject to dispute between reasonable people.

    So it really is not a choice between artificial turf and grass turf. It is a choice between artificial turf and no place at all for kids and adults to play field sports. That is why there is such strong support for artificial turf in a city that applies environmental values to public policy decisions.

    Believing that SF Rec and Park could maintain grass turf that is “natural” and safely playable is like believing in magic.

  108. Barry, your cheap attempt at race-baiting is no more attractive than Myrna’s. Did you have to cite the aspiring players as “white” in order to make your point? Was that race-baiting really necessary?

    Sure, soccer players prefer grass. So do tennis players but not many tennis courts have the budget of Wimbledon, which is why hard courts are used up to the very highest level.

    Likewise with soccer, Real Madrid and Manchester United will play on beautifully manicured lawns that you could probably plays bowls or croquet on, but so what? That takes a lot of cash, care and effort, and the voters don’t want to pay for it.

    So all over the planet, artificial surfaces are used to provide all-weather use to kids of ALL COLORS. The World Cup brings together kids of all races but you have to go and make a race issue out of it. Soccer is probably the most racially integrated sport in the US given that the other major pro team sports tend to be racially aligned.

    The voters have decided. It’s over. Move on/

  109. Yes, Tim is being somewhat disingenuous here, when he writes that:

    “The Recreation and Parks Department is doing what the Fisher kids will pay to do, and nothing else seems to matter.”

    If this decision had been made behind closed door with no public input, Tim might have a point. But the reality is that in the history of government no subject this minor and trivial, which most cities delegate to a mid-level bureaucrat, has ever been subject to so many debates, public meetings and elections.

    In fact we didn’t just have one proposition on this, but two. And the people have spoken – we want these artificial pitches because we want our kids to play sports, and are nowhere close to being convinced about the environmental paranoia being spouted.

    So yes, the voters have decided that we want to spend the Fishers’ money on some nice, durable, low-maintenance, all-weather soccer pitches. Time to move on.

  110. A very thoughtful view of the situation Tim.

    Myrna, please stop beating this drum implying that the neighbors don’t want brown-skinned people or something flocking to their neighborhood and that this explains their opposition to Beach Chalet megaplex. That’s a ridiculous idea and unworthy of the debate. Matter of fact, most Latinos I know prefer grass to plastic and this opinion is common among soccer players of all races, both professional and amateur.
    The ones who would actually be playing on the astroturf the most seem to be groups from suburbia along with rich, local, mostly white techies like the ones featured in the Mission Playground video that went viral. They would be able to afford the fees to reserve a field for private use.
    These same fees are the major motivation of Rec/Parks in undertaking this godforsaken and highly politicized scheme, and even as other municipalities are reconsidering or even tearing out synthetic turf because of growing health concerns our own RP Dept can’t get it into the ground quickly enough. Makes you wonder.

  111. cl, I believe that is standard for any acts of charity, generosity and largesse.

    If someone offers to pay for a city service, it would be churlish in the extreme to blame them for some third-order effect of what the city used their money to purchase.

    You don’t look gift horses in the mouth.

  112. Please note that in the “partnership” agreement between City Fields Foundation and the City, all liability will rest with the City,
    “Under no circumstances whatsoever shall the Foundation or its trustees be liable to the City for
    any damages suffered by the City or any third party”

  113. So you want SF to be more like Richmond, CA? A city that has been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy for a number of years now, had the highest per capita murder rate in the state until very recently, and which fired a whole bunch of its cops simply because there was no money to pay them?

    That progressive success story?

    I’d be willing to bet on two things:

    1) No other city on the planet has ever had an election on an issue as trivia as this, and

    2) less than 1% of those objecting to artificial turf have ever played soccer themselves

  114. Yes, lots of East Side progressive groups endorsed the right way, other than a few big ones including the SFBG and the League of Pissed Off Voters (ironically an astroturf organization). But they never promoted any of their endorsements besides Campos, so Mission residents were swayed by the ubiquitous “Let Kids Play” billboards paid for by your tax dollars laundered through various nonprofits.

    Likewise, the West Side residents came out big against Prop G.

    There’s no solidarity among progressive groups, as there is in Richmond, CA. So both sides of SF sent the same message to the other, as best voiced by the Dropbox employee: “Fuck the Community.”

  115. So this is my perspective, Tim, as a mother of three soccer playing kids – from the East side of town. It may be that the stuff is somewhat toxic – I am not convinced either way. And I have read up about it. A lot. I know playing is good for kids – in many, many ways. The turf that has replaced asphalt is good- both in terms of injury to the players and toxicity. This has mostly happened in the South east end of town and everyone there has cheered and no one complained. When the proposal for turf was for the west end of town, then there were environmental issues – etc. I also heard a lot of racially charged undertones – too crowded – people coming with their barbecues, etc – I know what all that means. We are talking about a proportionately tiny area of a park that should naturally be sandunes. But your point that they should be maintained regardless of private sponsorship is well taken. I am pointing out that the political support for this issue among some is motivated by where they live, and who they want and not want in their back yard.

  116. It’s a city-wide decision because those pitches are a city-wide resource.

    It’s like asking if only the people living in the immediate vicinity of 8-Washington should be entitled to vote on that structure.

  117. Astificial turf is used all over the world. Soccer games at the highest level are played on it. I’m not aware of any soccer players getting cancer because they didn’t play on grass. It’s a non-issue.

    You know, although I usually disagree with the left, most time I see what they are trying to say and understand their concern. I just happen to take a different view.

    But this fuss over soccer pitches is probably the most illogical and unfounded thing I have ever seen, and that is saying something. It just doesn’t matter, guys.

    Are the materials toxic? Well, maybe if you eat them in a salad or grind them down and inhale them. But player soccer on them? Don’t think so. In fact there is asbestos in probably most rental homes in SF and yet tenants never get asbestosis, because the material is contained, as it is with the pitches.

    I don’t blame the city for going in immediately and doing this work, before some mutton-head decides to try some other strategy to stop them. And you know what? In a few months time all we will have are a lot of happy kids, a saving to the city’s budget and people asking why this was ever an issue, let alone put to the voters.

    Enough already with this nonsense.

  118. If you look at the voting maps, people on either side of that end of the park went big for yes on H/no on I. The rest of the city’s vote overrode them.

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