Morrison & Foerster Scores Another Victory For Golf at Alister MacKenzie's Sharp Park

08/20/2015

Environmental Litigation

Press Release

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 work was authorized by the Coastal Commission in April 2015. Morrison & Foerster has represented the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance (SFPGA), which intervened in order to specifically represent the interests of golfers in protecting this unique and affordable public golf course, for more than four years.

Wild Equity, an environmental litigation offshoot of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, brought the most recent 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 and 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.

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 SFPGA would suffer from the granting of the motion.

This is the fourth time the courts have rejected environmentalist groups’ challenges to habitat management related to the 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.

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

Local, state, and federal governments, as well as administrative agencies between 2009 and the present day have rejected environmentalist-led attacks on Sharp Park Golf Course.

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.

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

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.

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