Another Court Victory for Golf and Habitat at Alister MacKenzie’s Sharp Park

- by: San Francisco Public Golf Alliance

San Mateo County Hall of Justice


SAN FRANCISCO (August 20, 2015) – San Francisco’s plan to renovate the landmark Alister MacKenzie-designed Sharp Park Golf Course took another step forward today, with a favorable decision from the San Mateo County Superior Court.

Ruling in the case Wild Equity Institute vs. California Coastal Commission, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge George A. Miram denied a motion for preliminary injunction brought by golf foes to halt work on the Sharp Park Pump House Project. The Coastal Commission in April 2015 granted a permit for the work at the 83-year-old golf links, located on the Pacific Coast at Pacifica, CA., a southern seaside suburb of San Francisco.

In denying Wild Equity’s motion for preliminary injunction, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Miram found that Wild Equity failed to show that it would likely prevail at trial, and also failed to show that it would suffer greater injury from denial of the injunction than the Coastal Commission, the City and County of San Francisco, and the public course golfers represented by intervener SF Public Golf Alliance would suffer from the granting of the motion.

Sharp Park Golfers

Wild Equity’s moving papers and the opposition papers filed by the Coastal Commission, San Francisco, and the Public Golf Alliance, together with the court’s ruling, can be found on the case records page of the San Mateo Superior Court's website.

Wild Equity, a small environmental litigation firm founded by a former staff attorney of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, brought the lawsuit to stop San Francisco from installing concrete pier footings and a retaining wall at a pump house at the southwestern corner of the golf course. The concrete work was only a small portion of a dredging and pond-building permit approved in April by the Coastal Commission. The project is intended to improve the habitat for protected frog and snake species at the golf course, while reducing flooding risk to the golf course and a neighboring residential development. Wild Equity’s lawsuit named the Coastal Commission and San Francisco as defendants; the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance joined the lawsuit as an intervening defendant, to represent the interests of the public course golfers and historic preservationists who treasure the venerable golf links.

This is the fourth time in recent years that the courts have rejected environmentalist groups’ challenges to operations at Sharp Park Golf Course. The United States District Court, Northern District of California in 2012, and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and San Francisco Superior Court in 2015 all dismissed prior law suits. Lawyers at San Francisco-based Morrison Foerster have represented the Intervener San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, on a pro bono basis, in all the lawsuits.

Wild Equity has lost every battle. They are on the wrong side of this issue and on the wrong side of history,” said Christopher Carr, chair of Morrison & Foerster’s Environment and Energy Group.. “The responsible thing for them to do now,” said Mr. Carr, “is to support the efforts to get this work done promptly and to fully restore this precious public recreational asset so it will be there for future generations. The species and golfers have always co-existed at Sharp Park and they should continue to do so, for the benefit of everyone.”

Work on the Pump House Project, under the permit issued by the Coastal Commission in April, began in June 2015, and is scheduled to be completed by the end of October 2015. The Coastal Commission’s approval of coordinated golf restoration and habitat recovery work is only the most recent in a long line of local, state, and federal governmental and administrative agency actions between 2009 and the present day rejecting anti-golf attacks on Sharp Park Golf Course..

Habitat recovery work still remains to be done at Sharp Park, along with renovation of the historic golf course itself. Plans for that work are currently undergoing environmental review in the San Francisco Planning Department. SF Public golf Alliance and the Alister MacKenzie Foundation are working together to raise philanthropic funds for the golf course restoration.

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Richard Harris



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