| Preserving Candlestick Point for Future Generations
By Senator Mark Leno Oct 26, 2009
In a time of unprecedented and painful state budget cuts, at least 100 of California’s treasured state parks are on the chopping block and could be closed to local residents and visitors. For San Francisco, that means the possible shuttering of Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, the state’s first urban park, which is located in the City’s Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood.
After decades of broken promises and limited funding from the state, this waterfront park has never realized its full potential. More than two-thirds of the park is used for parking during San Francisco 49ers football games and vast areas of Candlestick Point continue to be underutilized. As a result, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has twice proposed the closure of Candlestick Point to help close the state’s budget deficit. There is no reason to believe the park would remain open much longer given our state’s dire fiscal situation.
Earlier this year I introduced a bill that seeks to protect Candlestick Point despite these fiscal challenges. Senate Bill 792 provides a stable funding source for the park’s future operation, including $10 million for ongoing maintenance and $40 million for park improvements, so Candlestick Point can remain open. The bill also doubles the amount of improved parkland that can be utilized for biking, hiking, boating and other recreational activities.
SB 792 authorizes the exchange of state land, most of which can be used for parking under current law, with the City of San Francisco to complete a development project that was overwhelmingly approved by San Francisco voters in 2008 (Proposition G). That plan calls for 10,500 new residential homes, up to 35% of which will be offered at below-market rates, and millions of square feet of job-generating commercial and retail space, including what will be the state’s largest center for green technology companies. The project also includes the rebuilding of the Alice Griffith public housing development and ensures that more than 300 acres of new and restored open space and recreational areas will be created in the area.
Since introducing SB 792 in January, I have worked extensively with local groups, including the Sierra Club, Arc Ecology and Friends of Candlestick Park, to create a bill that provides better protections for the park’s natural habitat, including migratory birds. The bill deletes existing state law that allows more than two-thirds (80 acres) of parkland to be used for public parking at any time. It also saves an additional 20 acres of existing parkland that was originally proposed for exchange under the initial plan, and expressly confirms that there will be no exemptions to state-mandated environmental impact reviews. As a result of these good faith and productive negotiations, the above-mentioned groups have removed their initial opposition to the bill and are now neutral.
SB 792 is sponsored by the City of San Francisco and supported by a broad coalition of community leaders, organizations and residents, including Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, the San Francisco Labor Council, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Pastor Arelious Walker, Bayview Merchants Association, Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Center, Alice Griffith Tenants Association, Asian Pacific Democratic Club and the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition.
During the challenging process to resolve the state’s budget deficit, I heard from thousands of people from across the Third Senate District and throughout California who urged me and my colleagues to find a way to save our state parks from the budget ax. I am proud to have authored a bill that achieves this goal and protects one of our city’s most precious assets from closure.
I was a lead legislative advocate for a $15 vehicle license fee increase that would have kept all of our state parks open and provided unlimited access to the entire state parks system. However, that plan was shelved during final budget negotiations. We now find ourselves needing to develop innovative ways to save our state parks. SB 792 is a practical solution for Candlestick Point. It redevelops and improves our treasured but underutilized park and secures its future operation and maintenance so it is forever preserved for future generations.
Senator Mark Leno represents the Third Senate District of California, which includes portions of San Francisco and Sonoma Counties and all of Marin County. He can be reached via the web at www.sen.ca.gov/Leno, by phone in the San Francisco District Office at 415-557-1300 or San Rafael District Office at 415-479-6612, or by e-mail, Senator.Leno@senate.ca.gov.
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