on Fort Funston Closures
before the Labor & Finance Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors,
City Hall, September 20, 2000
Committee Members: Supervisor Leland Yee, PhD., Chair; Tom Ammiano; Sue Bierman.
We're here to consider the National Park Service's closure of open space at Fort Funston which has resulted in a reduction in land available for dog walking and other recreational resources by residents.
Supervisor Leland Yee:
Thank you very much... before I open this up to comments, there are a list of speakers I want to call. Before that, let me make some general comments.
The Fort Funston area is an area that I have gone to quite a bit of times, particularly when my children were a lot younger. I think it is a recreational facility, but it is also a place where many young children could go and explore and understand more clearly not only nature but the relationship between individuals and nature.
There is an educational facility there that Supervisor Ammiano and I, when we were on the Board of Education, were particularly proud of and very, very supportive, so this is an area that is of great concern to all of us -- that we continue to allow this place to be open to the general public.
I think the second area of interest for the City and County of San Francisco is that the City and County of San Francisco dedicated, transferred some of the land, the Fort Funston area, to the National Park Service ... So, on one hand, while we have turned that over, I'm sure that no one would say that we no longer care about its particular use. And so, to that extent, I think it's extremnelty important that this body and the entire Board of Supervisors, takes up attention to how and exactly what is beiug done to the Fort Funston area.
My immediate concern at this particular time is to find out exactly what is going on relative to Fort Funston. I did receive a briefing from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area officials; unfortunately, because this item has been remanded back from the courts to them for deliberation, they felt that it was inappropriate for them to come before this particular body and make their presentation, but we did, in fact, receive a briefing from those officials, and we will take that information and we will enter that into the record. However, that does not mean that they are absolutely not going to have any involvement in this particular proceeding. I think that they are monitoring this particular proceeding quite intensively, because they clearly do not want the City and County of San Francisco to be at odds with their particular position, so to that extent, I think that there is a welcome hand of cooperation. We will be speaking further with the City Attorney in terms of our jurisdiction over this particular issue.
So, with that, let me go ahead and call the list of speakers who have been particularly involved with this particular issue, and we will then, after this presentation, open it up for comments. The first such speaker, and, unfortunately, because of our time constraint, and there are so many individuals here who would like to make public comments, we limit the public comments to two minutes, and we will go from there.
The first speaker is Lydia Boesch.
It's my understanding I have two minutes -- correct? So, I, my three minute speech, I'll talk fast, and when I'm done..
[Supervisor Yee]: Yes, actually, if you have anything in writing, please submit that to us and if you can paraphrase whatever you have, that will help us out tremendously. Thank you very much.
[Supervisor Ammiano]: Two minutes is one hour in dog years!
I'll talk fast. I am an attorney and I have been representing the plaintiffs in the federal litigation. I want to thank you so much for having this hearing. We are here to tell you that the City does have a direct interest in this closure, and we want to tell you our story and ask for your help.
First, the history of Fort Funston. In March 1960, the federal government announced its plans to dispose of Fort Funston, unless the City could come in right away and make plans to buy it. The City responded quickly. In April 1960, the Rec and Park Commission passed a resolution to acquire Fort Funston for "recreation and park purposes". In May 1960, the Planning Commission followed suit, and passed a resolution to acquire the park, for "open recreation and park use". Then, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution, to acquire Fort Funston for "public recreational and park purposes". Fort Funston was finally opened to the City as a city park in October of 1961.
In the relevant historical documents, the term "park purposes" and "recreational purposes" were used synononymously and interchangeably. What these terms describe are various activities on the land at Fort Funston, and included hiking, cycling, sand dune recreation, day camps, bridal paths... and even a golf course.
In 1972, Congress created GGNRA, and it was "to provide needed recreational open space, necessary to urban environment and planning". The House of Representatives said the new urban recreation area would "concentrate on serving the outdoor recreation needs of the Bay Area". San Franciscans were concerned right away about giving up control of their parks. The Planning Department, the Recreation Department -- Park and Rec -- and the Board of Supervisors all passed resolutions wanting this park to be maintained by the city, under city control, even though the federal government had got it.
We have a deed; when we gave the land away, we -- in the deed, there is a reverter, which means the City can take the park back. We also entered into an agreement where the City was supposed to be involved in the operations of Fort Funston. We believe the covenant has been violated, and we would like you to do whatever you can to help us go back to its original intent.
Nathan Winograd, on behalf of the 91,249 members of the San Francisco SPCA.
For some twenty years, the recreation needs of San Franciscans have by and large been honored, wildlife and recreation co-existing peacefully, han gliding, exploring, hiking and dog walking have thrived side by side with the flora and fauna.
In the 1990s, that all changed. With the arrival of new management Park Service staff to handle the transfer of the Presidio, historical ties to San Francisco were broken. In October of 1991, the National Park Service illegally closed approximately seven acres of Fort Funston, to implement native plant habitats. This closure was conducted without an environmental impact analysis, without proper project approval, and without public hearings, in violation of their own regulations and federal law.
Beginning in 1992, as public concern about the closures was increasing, the National Park Service held a meeting with the public, and promised that the closure would be temporary, limited to one year. That promise would not be honored. Instead, the National Park Service expanded the project by an additional three acres, one year later.
In 1994, an additional closure of 15 acres was proposed, without analysis or public hearings, and the National Park Service was not shy about the land grab. The project report confirmed, the project is ... "expanding into areas beyond our previous agreed-to perimeter; new areas are now within our grasp."
The National Park Service would not stop there. In 1995, they not only closed the 15 acres, but added another 10 : 25 acres in all, and again, they promised no more fences. That promise again would not be honored.
In 1999, the National Park Service approved the current 10 acre, now 12 acre, closure. In an e-mail, they admit that the project had not had a proper review... instead, the project seems to have been buried. It is no surprise that a federal judge found, "An intent on the Park Service to railroad through the closure, to maintain secrecy, to unleash the fencing with lightning speed, and to establish a fait accompli.
Good morning, supervisors, members of the public, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak. My name is Linda Shore, I'm a physicist at the Exploratorium, I'm also a regular walker at Fort Funston, I'm a native San Franciscan and a lifelong resident of the Sunset. Let me tell you briefly why I became active in the fight to save the open spaces of Fort Funston for myself, my family, and for the citizens of San Francisco.
I believed the Park Service all along when they told me that in 1991, in 1995, the closures were to protect the bank swallow. I also believed the Park Service when, in '95, they said the closures had come to an end. But in 1999, when another 10 acres of the most popular parts of Fort Funston were closed, I decided to investigate the science behind their decisions.
Because my time is very limited here, I urge you to read very carefully the written materials that the dog walkers will submit to the National Park Service as a formal response. It contains descriptions of the bad science behind their proposals, and it also provides detailed testimony of various experts, and the results of literature review, but let me very quickly highlight just a few examples of some of the gross scientific errors you'll find.
Claim: The bank swallows require a native plant habitat to supply the colony with food.
Fact: Bank swallows are common throughout North America, have been studied extensively, and no binding associations between bank swallows and any particular species of plants, native or not, has ever been found.
Claim: The bank swallows are disturbed by recreation occurring near their nesting sites.
Fact: Researchers have found bank swallows to be remarkably tolerant towards human disturbances. Colonies are found within active rock quarries, along busy interstate highways, and on the banks of rivers and lakes used for recreational boating.
Claim: The cliffs at Fort Funston are a fragile geological resource that can be damaged by human recreation on the bluffs.
Fact: Geologists who have conducted extensive research at Fort Funston, two of them, in fact, stated independently that human-induced damage to the geology of Fort Funston is negligible. As one of the experts stated to me, "the amount of material lost in cliff-retreat and landsliding dwarves any impact imaginable from people" walking on the cliffs.
In closing, supervisors, there is bad science in the proposal, and clearly the Park Service is trying to justify these closures in order to transform a popular recreation area into a native plant restoration area. And that, simply, in a city that's as heavily populated as this is, is just not advisable.
Thank you very much for your time.
Good morning.† I have copy thatís 3 instead of 2 minutes.
[Supervisor Yee]:† Thatís fine.† Just give it to the clerk.
Good morning.† My name is Nancy Barber.† Iím an environmental investigator.† I am a member of the legal team who worked on the Fort Funston side of the litigation.† I reviewed all of the National Park Service discovery produced in that action.†
The Park Service claimed in discovery that there is no master plan.† This claim as it relates to Fort Funston is grossly misleading.† Since 1988 the Park Service has advocated and implemented a public land management program.† It is called the Golden Gate Biosphere Program.† This is a project which functions under the umbrella of the UNESCO Biosphere Program.† This program is nothing more than an ethereal public land management theory.† It has no binding authority.† Some local authorities have legislated against its implementation.†
The program sets out to establish world-wide biospheres.† The goal is to return designated segments of the world to a pristine existence.† One of the stated precepts of the program is the world would be a better place if there were no humans.† Biosphere projects are designed to close off areas to revert them to a pristine condition.† It eliminates all human activity.†
In theory a biosphere project should be where there is little history of human activity.† In fact †the Park Service selected an area at Fort Funston which is one of the most significant public recreational areas in the entire park.†
In theory a biosphere project must include input from all elements of the local community.† In fact the Park Service failed to involve the public regarding this project.
In theory implementation of the Biosphere Project must consider the historical use of the land.† In fact the Park Service actually selected an area whose history was richly laced with public use.
In theory a biosphere project must include all forms of relevant information, including local information.† In fact the Park Service hatched a plan to eliminate relevant information from a significant segment of the parkís users.† Most deceitful was the original set of closures, masked under an environmental cloak of the bank swallow closure.† Many public users of Fort Funston were reluctant at first to challenge the pending closure, under the impression that the closure was singularly aimed at protecting an endangered species.
Good morning, supervisors.† Okay, my name is Linda McKay and I am one of the organizers of the Fort Funston Dog Walkers Ė itís an association of over 700 people.† The name is really a misnomer.† I wish we didnít have ďdogĒ in the name.† We have many members without a dog.† The fact is, we represent the only organization, with the exception of the hang gliders organization, who can speak for the users at Fort Funston.† So many people who love walking at Fort Funston join us, with or without a dog.† They share our passion for walking at the Fort.
I want to give my last statement now, just in case I run out of time.† I really want everyone to understand this is not an off-leash dog issue.† The closures affect all recreational users.† When they close the acreage at Fort Funston it means that you canít walk in it, kids canít play on the dunes.† This is really not an off-leash dog issue.† Itís a recreational issue.† We want to make that really clear.†
Back to my talk.
We organized in í92 because we felt threatened and we got the Park Service to agree not to put our dogs on leash, which was what they had been threatening to do, and things were very quiet for a while, until í95, when the land grabs started occurring.† There was an enormous outcry, which they could not ignore, so they met with us and made two promises:† the first promise was that they wouldnít take any more acreage for the bank swallow protection [if] they didnít need it, and the second promise was that the acreage they had taken in í95 would be reverted back to us in five years.† They just needed to rest that area and we would get it back.† And itís clear now that there is no intention of ever giving us this land back.
We were very unhappy at the loss of this -- this is coastline acreage; this isnít just acreage, itís cliffside coastline acreage, which is where people like to be.† We were very unhappy about this, but we believed that they were telling the truth -- we were a bit naÔve -- telling the truth not only about the reason for the closure but the promises to give it back.† Imagine our surprise in March when they closed off another 10 acres and we had an enormous sense of betrayal.† At that time we decided to fight.†
And sometimes people ask us, well you have other places to walk in the Fort, but when do we stop and take a position on this Ė when weíve lost all the places that we can walk?† And so we decided to take a position on this 10, now 12 acres.†
Our sense of betrayal only increased when we looked at the documents we received in discovery because we can see that the Park Service intends to kick us out of the Fort and itís just a matter of time.
Thank you very much.† Oh, I have the petitions Ė these are the petitions, and these are just some of the letters that have been written to the Park Service to protest the closure [hands binder to the clerk].† Thank you.
Thank you very much for allowing me to speak.† Iím not here to speak about the issue of the closures.† Iím here to speak as a member of Independent Living Resource Center; Iím their access coordinator.† And I am a history professor at night.†
My concern here is this:† I am a native San Franciscan and I used to play at Fort Funston, and I hadnít been able to go there for about two years.† I did a site visit last week with a person who uses a wheelchair.† He drives and can see.† I canít see, but I can walk.† I was appalled.† Half of the only accessible road has been totally removed.† The other half is being allowed to return to sand.† If the federal government intends that anybody can visit Fort Funston, theyíre going to have put back all the accessible features.†
My real concern, however, is why this is happening.† As a historian I am fully aware that this is not a natural area particularly.† This is an area thatís been occupied by humans for the last 150 years.† These gun emplacements were originally put there during the Civil War to protect gold coming out of California. This is not territory thatís pristine or innocent or anything else.††
Beyond that Iíve done some studying in botany of California; itís covered with non-native plants; they will have to apparently nuke it to get everything out of there, particularly the eucalyptus trees.† Iím sorry, Iím not being funny, but particularly eucalyptus trees.† I had that experience last year in Oakland after the fire.† A year later the eucalyptus trees were back.† The houses werenít, but the eucalyptus trees were back.† They are not going to be able to return it to a pristine anything short of, I suppose, bulldozing it.
I also spoke to a person, and I cannot identify him at the time, asking certain questions about accessibility.† And when I expressed my concern about the accessibility issues he said to me, and this is a quote Ė he didnít say what they were doing, he said ďDonít you want this to be a natural area?Ē† And that leads me to suspect thatís what they want.
Thank you very much for allowing me to speak.
Good morning, Supervisors.† My name is Florence Sarrett.† Iím here to talk about the health benefit in walking a dog and the emotional benefits of belonging to a community.†
Itís a no-brainer that walking is fine exercise, and walking a dog is a sure and delightful way to get it.† I actually have a prescription from an orthopedic surgeon.† It says:† ďThis ladyís dog should not be on a lead.† This is for her safety and to prevent injury.Ē† Jim Herriot has written, ďAnybody who has ever walked a dog knows the abiding satisfaction which comes from giving pleasure to a loved animal.Ē
Most important of all is the spirit of community at Fort Funston, whether you are with a dog or without one.† I invite each of you to walk the trails there if you havenít done it already.† Nowhere else in the City will you be greeted so warmly by so many strangers and your walk will be a mile of smiles.†
I speak as a senior.† At this age, not much family is left.† Husbands, brothers and sisters may be gone and children are often living far away.† But the men and women of the Funston community are like new brothers and sisters and our lives are richer because of them.†
We do need social opportunities and I hope you will do all you can to prevent this recreational oasis from becoming a show place rather than a meeting place.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak. My name is Alberta Romanini, and I have been a fan of Fort Funston for about 40 years.
As a troubled teenager, I found solace and serenity there. As a hardworking adult, with adult worries and problems, I found peace, companionship, and respite from lifeís burdens.
In my teenage years, Ft. Funston was closed to the public. It had mountains of wind-whipped sand dunes and seas of crisp, fragrant ice plant.
Did you know that on very hot days like this ice plant smells like grapes? Well, it does!
Even in those days the Fort had many devotees - some with dogs, some without. They parked where they could and hiked in. I donít remember ever feeling unsafe there. Its regular users were a presence during the entire day -- every day -- and crime didn't have much of a chance against hundreds of vigilant eyes.
I spent many hours at the cliffs' edge, looking out over the magnificent sea and drinking in its salty spray. I marveled at the pelicans spiraling into the water and watched as playful terns swooped and called plaintively. I gazed in awe at colorful hang-gliders dipping and rising and floating like gigantic butterflies in the wind. I saw Godís face in beautiful winter sunsets.
After GGNRA took over, Ft. Funston was opened to the public. New users happily mingled with the "old timers." The Fort became more accessible to people in wheelchairs and families with young children in strollers. To seniors with canes and tourists walking arm-in-arm. To joggers, cyclists, and College film students making the next award-winning documentary. The Fort was an idyllic oasis. There was room for everybody.
About ten or twelve years ago, change came to the Fort. Old trees were severely thinned or cruelly chopped down and fences sprouted up here and there. One day, Park Rangers, whom most of us had never seen before, began issuing written warnings to park users who where not walking on the paths or whose dogs were running off leash!
Concerned citizens quickly mobilized. We appealed to elected officials, to the SPCA, to the Cityís animal control board, and to the media. We spoke passionately at hastily called meetings and public hearings, and we PREVAILED! Or so we thought.
In the days and weeks subsequent to its unexpected set-back, GGNRA made tongue-in-cheek promises under the guise of conciliation and cooperation. Looking back at videotapes and meeting notes, I believe that GGNRA= s employees chose their words with calculation and an intention to deceive.
Recent findings in Federal court revealed what had previously only been suspected:† While deliberately withholding information and denying input from the Fortís frequent users, GGNRA regularly met and consulted with selected groups and individuals in order to circumvent enabling legislation and renege on signed and oral agreements. Strong words? No. Documented facts.
If this arrogant agency is not brought to heel, there will come a time when public access to Fort Funston will consist of watered-down guided tours.
No bike riding, hiking, or jogging. No children and dogs frolicking up and down dunes of sand and ice plant. No families picnicking under its trees. No paved paths for our seniors and disabled. No standing at the edge of the cliff with arms widespread and face to the wind.
I foresee a time when GGNRA will propose the erection of new buildings and urge people indoors to learn about nature from lectures, exhibits, and brochures instead of allowing continued, unfettered access to the outdoors, where the best lessons are taught by sun, wind, and sea.
I see a time when Ft. Funston will become a packaged nature "experience" for tourists and groups of school children on carefully monitored field trips instead of remaining the wild, wonderful place it has always been for all people to visit, care for, and enjoy.
Please. Read our letters. Listen to our words. Feel the passion we have for this place. Share our outrage over a betrayal of public trust.
All of us have been betrayed by an impersonal, unfeeling agency, which in its self-righteousness does not appear to be concerned about violating legislation, internal policies, and agreements made in good faith with the citizens of this City and the users of this park.
Come to Fort Funston and smell the grapes!
Thank you, and good morning. My name is Eleanor Vincent and I'm a psychotherapist by profession. I've lived in San Francisco for 43 years and for at least 40 of those years I have walked at Fort Funston. Now that I'm semi-retired my day starts at Fort Funston.
My remarks will focus upon the meaning of Fort Funston for many of us, and the importance of holding the GGNRA to its agreement with the City of San Francisco to maintain the park as open recreational space.
This area has meant so much to so many people. Hikers, joggers, horseback riders, hang gliders, picnicers, and those who are refreshed by quiet times on the cliffs. Stressed urban dwellers in this industrial technological age suffer from a terrible loss -- separation from the root of our being, the earth. We have a deep-seated desire to reconnect with nature. We have house plants. We plant gardens. We keep pets. We pay premium prices for homes with views. We flock to National parks and wild places for vacations.
Studies confirm what we instinctively know -- that interaction with nature enhances emotional, physical, and spiritual health. How lucky we are to have a wild place within the City limits where we can truly re-create ourselves. How unlucky we are that the GGNRA has installed unsightly fences and has declared its intention to permanently close a substantial portion of Fort Funston and I quote "protect the area from human disturbance."
Removing people from Fort Funston is hardly adhering to the agreement made with the City to keep the park as open recreational space. The GGNRA has not kept faith with the City of San Francisco. It hasn't even kept faith with National Park Service regulations. It took a lawsuit and a federal court order before they held a public hearing on these planned closures.
Humans are a part of the natural world and I know in my own life how healing it is to experience nature going about its wild ways. Standing on the bluffs in a howling wind or at glorious sunset, or in the fog when the air is so still there is a blending of ocean and sky, it's to know one's place in the scheme of things to feel a part of, not apart from nature.
When I look at the fences at Fort Funston I see the ultimate symbol of human separation from the earth. I see our human arrogance -- to imagine the earth is under our control, and I see the scarring of this precious piece of land. To fence Fort Funston is to cut off a place of recreation, renewal, and refuge for us all.
Supervisor Yee, members of the committee: my name is Allen Grant. I first came to the Bay Area in 1934, so I'm fairly familiar with this area and the Fort. As a former San Francisco City employee in the Department of City Planning,and a former resident for many years, I feel that this mater is of utmost importance to those who participate in the many varied activities enjoyed by the citizens of San Francisco as well as by many others in the surrounding Bay Area cities and counties.
The United States Army transferred Fort Funston to the City with the stipulation that the land be used for unspecified recreational purposes. The Fort is being used for many recreational uses, which are too many to mention at this time. Thousands of residents and visitors come to the Fort annually to enjoy what is a very special area.
I recently experienced a heart attack and as a result I am required to walk at least two miles every day. I get to drive up to the Fort from Half Moon Bay with my dog, and both of us get the exercise necessary to remain in good condition.
The GGNRA proposes to close 12 acres, as you know, which area has been utilized by the public for decades. My family has been going to the Fort for a quarter of a century. I am hoping that you will be able to use your good office to prevent or work out a compromise regarding the permanent fenced closures with the GGNRA.
Thank you, supervisors. My name is Christy Cameron. I'm a resident of San Francisco in the Sunset area and I have been a recreational user of Fort Funston since 1992.
When the San Francisco voters were asked to approve the transfer to the GGNRA they were promised that recreation would not be limited. Starting in 1991 the GGNRA started fencing off areas in a piecemeal fashion. Each closing at first was small; was relatively small, and was justified for Bank Swallow needs, or later, when the Bank Swallows moved south, later justified as erosion control, planting of native plants, or for public safety. None of these justifications have appeared consistent or necessary to the fenced-out public. I believe that the cumulative effect of these closures from public recreational uses is a violation of the Park Service agreement with San Francisco.
Many of us believe that there is a hidden agenda to turn Fort Funston into a botanical experiment, a sort-of native plant arboretum, and there are a number of problems with that, most importantly [that] these so-called native plants are not recreation tolerant the way the ice plant is, which has been there for about 60 years. Therefore, as interesting as an experiment with these so-called native plants might be, the reality is that it is inconsistent with recreational uses. Therefore the need for ugly, view-destroying fencing to keep the public out.
In 1999 the Park Service -- we did discover in litigation that the Park Service took a survey of users in 1999 that overwhelmingly wanted the current recreational uses to continue. No one mentioned wanting native plants instead.
On the eve of litigation in March of 2000 a hastily put-together survey by several park users and handed out in one afternoon [revealed that] overwhelmingly the Fort Funston users were opposed to the new fences.
In closing I will say that these latest closures are now called "permanent." They include Joey's Hill, the only dune for children to play on, and the children have been heart-broken about this. If the Park Service continues these closings, not only will the citizens of San Francisco lose their loved coastal bluffs, the views marred by ugly fences, but I would anticipate that the pressures on the City's already crowded public parks will increase. I urge the City to continue investigating.
Thank you very much.
Morning, supervisors. My name is Larry Shockey. I'm an attorney and I'm a candidate for District 10 Board of Supervisors.
I'm here today because this weekend I was approached by several residents of District 10 and I was asked to get involved in this issue, and I told them it was a calling that I would happily undertake.
District 10 doesn't border on Fort Funston, but we use Fort Funston and we care. We prize our parks like all San Franciscans do. And this was made very evident earlier this year when the voters of San Francisco passed Propositions A and C and money was made available for acquisition and maintenance of our parks.
To allow the Park Service to close this land flies in the face of the voice of the voters and it's contrary to the intent that's contained in the deed that transferred the park to the GGNRA in the first place. I strongly encourage the Board of Supervisors to get involved and to put the City squarely in track on this issue and to direct the City Attorney to intervene, to protect these open areas.
I have promised to make this issue a campaign issue, and I'm going to take it back to District 10 and I'm going to encourage all the residents in District 10 to contact the Board, to contact the City Attorney's office, to give voice to this concern and to let you know that this is indeed a city-wide concern.
My name is Linda Horning and I am definitely gonna vote for that guy!
I am a regular walker at Fort Funston with my two dogs. I love going there. It's an important part of my day. But I wanted to talk a little bit about the Bank Swallows since that's been raised so often as the reason that we need to keep our dogs and ourselves away from the cliffs and so many acres out there.
I'm sure all of you know that with the last few years the weather pattern has been really strange -- the El Nino and La Nina. San Francisco lost a parking lot right near the zoo on Sloat, where Sloat runs into the Great Highway. And I'm sure many of you know about the housing area in Daly City where the residents were forced to evacuate their homes. Well, that same thing is happening around Fort Funston; the landscape is changing. And it's my belief that that's why the Bank Swallows aren't there anymore -- actually their cliffs, their previous homes have fallen into the sea, and that's continuing to do that. It's not because of dogs, it's not because of people; it's because of the weather pattern, and that's going to continue on that way.
Also, I wanted to mention about the [fact that] the Golden Gate National Recreation Area seems to think that the use of Fort Funston is unusual, and my feeling -- and I'm proud to say this -- is that San Francisco is an unusual place and we're privileged to be here or we're privileged to have access to all the unusual things, and I would like to keep it that way; I'd like to encourage you to put your weight behind that and keep Fort Funston open and the way it is.
Supervisor Yee, thank you so much for calling this hearing. My name is Laura Cavaluzzo, citizen of San Francisco, and I just have some questions.
It mystifies me that with all of the rugged miles of coastline in California, much of it pretty much untouched, that anyone would choose Fort Funston as the site of a biosphere. It's filled with defunct deteriorating military facilities; it's a mono-culture of ice plant, they keep telling us, except when it's convenient for them to tell us that it is a remnant of native habitat; and it is in the middle of one of the densest populated urban areas in the state, in the country.
There is not a lot besides the view that is wild at Fort Funston, but it is a great place for recreation, for strolling and dog walking and hang gliding, and it angers me that San Franciscans are being fenced out of this land.
I know that the National Park Service has lately been trying to make the parks pay for themselves; we've got private industry coming in to the Presidio, we've got a conference center at Fort Baker. So I can only assume that this biosphere designation carries with it a hefty sum of grant money and as they say, "Follow the money, gentlemen."
I'm also mystified by the Organic Act and its application and relevance to this park. The National Park Service is very proud of the diversity of its offerings -- its monuments, its wilderness areas, etc. These areas are vastly different and they're used in vastly different ways, yet they must now by law be administered in exactly the same way? It's an easy way out of site-sensitive management, but it's unfair and relevant in this urban recreation area.
A dear friend of mine is a naturalist in the Easy Bay and I told him about what the GGNRA has been doing. He shook his head and he said, "Don't they know that the surest way to get people to stop caring about nature is to fence them out of it?"
Thank you very much.
My name is Roulhac Garn and I've been a resident of San Francisco and have been walking at Fort Funston since 1984. And I'm here to ask your help. The federal government is arrogant, it's punitive, it's nasty, and it lies to us and to you. And we can't fight the federal government by ourselves. The City of San Francisco has a remedy to take this property back or at least to threaten to do so and we'd really appreciate your help.
My name is Lee Walker and I was born in San Francisco and I was raised in Daly City. I have been going out to that area since I was a child. I used to ride horses through there. Now that I'm a senior citizen I find it very difficult to get around certain parts of Fort Funston. They've ripped up the Sunset Trail, which has left an uneven path. The other trails are in disrepair. They have promised to fix them over the years and they have not. They are full of potholes, uneven pavement. They've fenced in so many acres with these unsightly fences [and] there's nothing pretty about them whether there's flowers on one side of them or not. All they need now is a guard tower and some sentries; that's exactly what it looks like out there.
Thank you for listening.
Good morning, supervisors. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. Two minutes is not enough
time to respond to many of the statements I have, the least debatable statements [sic] I have heard spoken here today.
My name is Steven Krefting. I represent the National Parks Conservation Association's 400,000 members, 65,000 of whom live in California.
I will speak to some of the relevant acts that apply to this situation.
You have heard the Organic Act mentioned, which has applied to all National park land since it was passed in 1916 and which describes the purpose of park lands as to conserve the scenery and natural and historic objects and the wildlife they're in and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
In addition, the law that created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area states that the Secretary of Interior shall preserve the recreation area as far as possible in its natural setting and protect it from development and uses which would destroy the scenic beauty and natural character of the area.
One other federal regulation you haven't heard mentioned here today; it's across the page from the one that was mentioned and was the subject of the lawsuit -- is Code of Federal Regulations 2.15 that bans off-leash dog walking on any National park property. It also requires, in another section, that people stay on the trails. Neither of those had been enforced at Fort Funston for years and we have great issue with the Park Service over that.
Some people that also haven't been represented here today are the volunteers that have been doing the native plant restoration work at Fort Funston, which was called for in the 1980 General Management Plan that mandated or suggested that as it was possible, dunes at Fort Funston would be restored to natural habitat. Nearly 1000 volunteers spent over 10,000 hours of work doing that work there in 1999 alone.
I would encourage the Board to work with the Recreation and Park Department to identify more appropriate and more developed parks that the City has control over, to be made available for this increasingly popular hobby of dog walking.
Thank you very much.
Can I ask a question, Steve?
It sounds like you just don't think people should be there.
We're talking about, this area would close off less than 20% of Fort Funston. 80% is still available to the park users. We do believe that people should be keeping their dogs on leashes, frankly, and we do believe that people should be staying on the trails. Fort Funston is a much more valuable resource than some of these people seem to think and the Bank Swallow colony, as a matter of fact, is one of only two left on the California coast. It is a threatened species in California. I would think that the City ought to be proud of having such a resource in its territory and would be working hard to maintain it for future generations.
Well, we also have to think about people, and the people
I agree. 80% of Fort Funston remains open to people after this closure. And it should remain a recreation area and people should remain there. I like to go bird watching there. Other people like to do other things there. I think that this particular use has frightened many people away. There are a lot of people that are not comforable being surrounded by dozens of dogs when they go out for a walk, and they don't feel welcome there, so they don't go there, so I'm not surprised a survey of the users at Fort Funston suggested that most of the people wanted it to stay the way it was. You didn't talk to the people that didn't go there, that stay away because they're not comfortable being around a bunch of dogs when they go out into nature. They go other places. I don't think they should have total control of, I mean this is not their park, this park belongs to all Americans.
I just want one more question. Are there other places on Ocean Beach where native plants can
This is one of only two areas in the City where the dune systems remain, that I am aware of. This used to be one of the most extensive dune systems on the West Coast. Fort Funston and the Presidio, where there's also native plant restoration going on on the dune systems above Fort Baker, are the only two sites that I'm aware of that are remnants of the dune systems. They are different from the Ocean Beach. You'd have to really tear down a whole bunch of houses to put dunes back around Ocean Beach.
I have a question, too. Does part of the plan call for any kind of rotation -- you know, where certain areas are closed and then others are open and then, after a certain time, then those closed areas become open, you know, a rotation. I think there is sense to that and I'm just asking
Personally I would say I don't believe there is a lot of sense to that just because the areas where the closures have happened have been the most sensitive areas. There are areas away from the bluffs that are less sensitive. I certainly believe that some, I mean I would hope that certain types of recreation are compatible with native plant restoration and that the larger, the greater the area where the native plants are restored, the less important any single area of them becomes, because you have cushioning effect. I do believe, however, that if you are talking about off-leash dog walking, that's, you know, even the ice plant gets worn out from the dogs. There is an area right by the parking lot where nothing grows at all and there are areas where you can see clearly where erosion is taking place, where the ice plant has started to fall down. So that is not an activity that I think is compatible really with ice plant or anything, other than ground.†
But I happen to believe that the City should take some responsibility and provide more areas in the City for people who want to recreate their dogs off-leash. There is no ecological problem with dogs running across a lawn. So, you know, why aren't there bigger areas in Golden Gate Park that are provided? Why aren't there bigger areas in other parks that are provided for the dog walkers if it is the City's will to be taking care of this constituency.
Good afternoon and thank you very much for having us here today. My name is Anne Farrow. I am the current co-chair of San Francisco Dog Owners Group and secretary and newsletter editor of Fort Funston Dog Walkers. Both organizations I got invovled in because of the arrogance of the National Park Service. I want to thank you for taking an interest in the ongoing closures at Fort Funston.
I've been a visitor at Fort Funston since the day it opened as a San Francisco City park in 1961, in October. At the time that San Francisco added Fort Funston to its park system it was seen as a space for open space recreation. It wasn't a place where ball fields or tennis courts or golf courses or stadiums were going to be built. And it wasn't a place where fences were going to be built either.
That vision -- open space recreation -- was still in place when the City agreed to transfer the land to the National Park Service. By 1972 the vision of a sanctuary for open space recreation had been created in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Fort Funston has been a sanctuary for dog walking from the time it opened as a San Francisco park and probably earlier (there were people who apparently sneaked in there when the Army was still there). The addition of a parking lot on the former Nike site in 1974 and a paved level handicap-accessible trail made it an even more appealing place to go.
When my children were small we took the dog and the kids and went to Fort Funston when they wanted to get away from it all without going very far. We live in San Mateo County and we shop in San Francisco because we are at Fort Funston every day.
When I was first able to walk at Fort Funston on a daily basis I was horrified to see the new fences that had been erected. Bulldozers cavorted in the fenced area, supposedly to create some sort of natural habitat. It seemed kind of unnatural to me. But the word on the street was that these fences would be taken down after these areas were created. This year, more fences appeared.
I urge you to do all that you can to influence the Park Service to return to the original intention of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, including Fort Funston, and that it be used for open space recreation.
Good afternoon, supervisors. Supervisor Bierman, Supervisor Yee, and President Ammiano. Normally you see me here on different issues. It's nice to be here for a different one.
I'd like to make some rebuttal statements to that gentleman [referring to previous speaker, Steven Krefting].
There is enabling legislation that went with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the transfer of the land, that says that off-leash dog walking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the recreational uses. In the National Park Service each park has its own ability to make its own rules. There are several parks in the National Park Service that allow off-leash dogs to go hunting. But when they're done hunting they must be on a six-foot leash or within a little cage. So, the dogs at Fort Funston are not hunting; that is, I just wouldn't want to see that -- that we'd have to have hunting at Fort Funston.
The other thing is, is saying that many people do not go to Fort Funston is true. I didn't go Fort Funston, I went to Fort Funston once prior to becoming a pet guardian. I went there once with my best friend, Patrick. We ran around, it was hot, we couldn't get back there; no Muni access, and then any other time you would want to go there, typically 50-mile-an-hour winds and blowing sand. It's a very practical place for many tourists to go.
The other things that the National Park Service, eventually they do want to shut down the entire thing to dog walking and other recreational uses. The City cannot afford that. We have many different crises going on in the City. We have a no-kill policy at our SPCA. Our Animal Care and Control is one of the most humane in the country, so us as people who care for pets in San Francisco, we have that responsibility.
I also want to thank you for having this hearing. This is very important that the City does look at this as a substantial issue for the well being of people not just in San Francisco, but for the people of the surrounding communities.
Hi, my name is Patricia LaCava. I'd like to thank you for having this hearing.
One of the things I'd like to comment on because of a previous speaker is that my favorite places to go in the City used to be Land's End, Ocean Beach, and the Presidio. I'm left with Fort Funston. I'm a single working mother, I don't have a lot of time, and it's really nice to be able to go somewhere I can take my entire family -- dogs and kids.
The City of San Francisco is renowned as being one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Within the City one of the most beautiful spots is Fort Funston. There probably aren't too many tourists going there, but it does provide for residents a very relaxing alternative to Pier 39. It is necessary for the people to be able to go there and see how beautiful nature can be, and it helps them justify paying their outlandish rents.
The GGNRA was established for the maintenance of needed recreational open space. I need Fort Funston as recreational space, my son needs it and all of San Francisco residents do. The GNNRA [sic] act like the park belongs to them. The people use the park act as if they were a part of the park. If you look at the rate of closures at Fort Funston since 1991, if it continues, within my lifetime all Fort Funston will be closed to the public. My son goes there with me to enjoy it and I hope my grandhildren will be able to as well.
Okay, actually I'd like to give this to you because I have a lot of facts on here about Bank Swallows [hands info to the clerk]
Good morning, supervisors. Supervisor Yee, thank you very much for requesting this hearing on Fort Funston.
My name is Lindsay Kefauver. I've been walking at glorious Fort Funston for 22 years. I grew up in Washington, D.C. in a political family and one of the reasons I moved to San Francisco was to escape politics and the omnipresent federal government.
Well, I had pretty much succeeded. However, the National Park Service started playing "Big Brother" with former San Francisco City parks entrusted to them that I use daily, and I decided that I need to speak out.
The current closures at Fort Funston are just the latest mishandling by the National Park Service. Over the last ten years I've watched them systematically close off areas for one pretext or another, chop down distinguished old cypress trees, bulldoze the iceplant, tear up the main paved coastal trail favored by elderly, the disabled, and parents with baby strollers.
After the GGNRA's controversial 1995 large land grab both Superintendent Brian O'Neill and ranger Jim Milestone stated that no more Fort Funston lands would be closed off to the public. In fact, one of the two sections closed in 1995 for native planting was to be reopened in five years. The planting did not happen and the area remains closed.
So here we are five years later, and 12 more acres are being grabbed.
Fort Funston is a unique open space on a edge of a large, densely populated city. It needs to be kept open to responsible recreational use by its citizens, who use it every single day. It is our cherished playland by the sea. It is not a national park that you visit once a year or once in a lifetime.
So my question is, has the National Park Service breached its contract with the citizens of San Francisco. If so, I would support efforts by the City to reclaim these former City parks for use by its citizens.
Thank you very much.
Good morning, supervisors, and thank you so much for convening this hearing.
My name is Vicki Tiernan and first, in response to the gentleman from the [National Parks] Conservation Association I'd like to urge that you all read carefully the documents that have been submitted to you -- most particularly the Enabling Legislation, the deed of transfer with the City of San Francisco, and the Agreement with the City and the federal government, and the scientific information that will be submitted. Supervisor Bierman, I think that will answer your questions. We all want to protect the bank swallows, but I think it's very clear that the amount of space that's been proposed to be closed off is not necessary on a scientific basis.
The main point I would like to make is that the parks in the City are having an increased impact because of the fact that we keep getting shut out of more and more GGNRA land. The Park Service has shown a clear pattern of incrementally closing off more and more badly needed recreational space to San Franciscans. Ocean Beach, Land's End, and other areas of the GGNRA were closed to off-leash recreation in 1996, Ocean Beach ostensibly to protect the snowy plover where, and since then the numbers of snowy plover have been shown to decrease, since off-leash dogs have been banned from there.
In 1991 the process began of gradually closing areas of Funston to all recreational users; again, this is not just about dogs. Whale watchers, hikers, bird watchers -- everyone is closed out of these areas. I would like to submit a map that shows that even though it's 20%, it's virtually all coastal bluffs. If the Park Service had tried in 1991 when this closure creep began to close the entire area at one time, there would have been an overwhelming public outcry and demand for scientific justification. But they have accomplished this now, in a piecemeal way -- bit by bit, acre by acre, year by year.
Please don't wait until the last acre is taken from us to intervene.
Thank you very much.
Good afternoon and thanks also for having me. My name is George Durgarian and I have no prepared remarks, but I should say since most of you people know me, that I am part of the dark force that is the National Park Service. Most of these people know me as a park ranger. I'm an interpreter; I give programs at Fort Funston. That said, I am in no way speaking for the National Park Service now, as you well know, because I can't do that.
What I do want to say is that because I know these people well, because I jog there in the morning and I know Lee and Linda and a lot of the people that brought this suit, that I feel that I want to make sure that you know that none of the rangers out there are interested in closing off any of this -- they want to make as much of this park open to as many people as possible. That said, the word "closure," I feel, is really inappropriate. What this area is. is a way for the Park Service to try to achieve a balance which is set out in its mission, which is to -- you'd think that I wouldn't be a professional speaker, the way I'm speaking right now, but I'm a bit nervous. The way that the Park Service is trying to achieve its mission between trying to preserve these cultural and natural resources for future generations and to provide enjoyment. It's a very difficult balance, especially in a city as heavily populated as this.
That being said, the Park Service is not, every trail at Fort Funston is open, even the proposed set-aside area, those trails that are off, the ones that are off the trail are social trails and not designated trails. Every person is there and they're welcome on every trail with a dog. Just in the same way, every person visiting this park from wherever is welcome on every single foot of Ocean Beach, with their dog, as they are welcome in the vast majority of GGNRA lands, with their dog.
Please understand that while you certainly have a lot of people out here who disagree with me strongly, they also know that the Park Service has to, is working to acheive its mission, to achieve this balance, and I really feel this closure is part of that balance.
I'm sorry I can't speak further on it, but thank you very much for having me.
My name is Laura Sweet and I've been using Fort Funston for the last ten years, seven of those years with just family and friends, the last three years with my dogs. I'm up there every day, more than most of the rangers who probably work there, 365 days a year, sometimes twice a day, and I'm opposed to the current closures and any future closures up there.
I want to second, quadruple my thanks for your looking into this issue. I wish somebody would really get to the bottom of the hidden agenda that's going on with the National Park Service and Fort Funston. These restoration efforts -- it's not true restoration because they're introducing new plants, etc. And I think the reason Fort Funston was chosen is because of ease of access to the area.
As for myself, I've been going to Fort Funston several times a year for almost a dozen years now and 95% of the people I have seen there over those dozen years have also been walking dogs. Like them I go to Fort Funston for the unique feel of freedom, squeezed between the concrete and the crowding of urban life and the beauty and the power of the ocean at the edge of the continent, for the smells, the sounds, the views of nature, up close. And especially for the community of dogs and dog lovers. It's more than just a microcosm of society, it's a real community transcending age, social status, background, class. Watching the dogs, just watching the dogs (whether you have them or not) at play, lifts the spirit, providing us all a much needed respite from the daily stressors of life in the City. Not to even mention the many problems everyone has in their, serious problems in their life.
Before I got a dog I went to Angel Island to get away. I haven't been back there because I want to spend my recreation time with my pets and they aren't allowed there. I've given up my annual visit to Point Reyes to visit the wildflowers for the same reason. People who don't like dogs have many options for on-leash or dog-free destinations. For the rest of us, Fort Funston is not just the only, is not just the best place, it's becoming the only place. And dog ownership is increasing.
In sum, I want to ask you to please keep recreation alive at the Fort. Don't let it be turned into just another nature walk or rarely visited native plant museum. Fort Funston is so much more to those of us who are lucky to live in the Bay Area.
My name is Lisa Vittori. I'm the parks representative for the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. I'm going to speak to four different topics.
One: my neighborhood is a changing neighborhood. It's multiracial, multigenerational, has a lot of families with kids and dogs in whatever order they came in. All of these people need places where they can go with their kids and their dogs, period; and that's the City and the national parks. I'm not going to speak about Fort Funston particularly with that, but Fort Funston is one of the places people go where they can go with everybody.
The second thing is that I also work for the Park Service, as a contractor and an employee. I do native habitat restoration pretty much full-time. This morning my job was cancelled; I got out of my boots and out of my poison oak material and into my little dress with my high heels. And I appreciate the people who talk about conservation, but you know what? I'm out in that field every day; there are many many many ways to do habitat restoration at Fort Funston and I could give you a whole map of the area so that we could really do habitat restoration and have dog recreation and there would be no conflict. It would be so easy, so easy, I'm telling you.
And many of the people who work for the Park Service who do habitat restoration also have dogs or are divided -- they don't have dogs now because they feel like they are in the middle of a civil war. And there is an atmosphere in the Park Service, you know, that is, I don't want to say anti-dog, but people are feeling like they have to make a choice. George left for a year and I could have taken his job except I wouldn't have been hired because I'm on the wrong side of this issue -- I'm a dog person, that's my first thing.
The third thing is on regional concerns. One of the reasons why Fort Funston is having this problem [is] because dog areas everywhere in the whole Bay Area are being closed down and that's one of the things you as supervisors have a chance to address.
And then in my last four seconds I'm going to speak to mental health. I suffer from extremely severe depression and Fort Funston and dog walking is one of the ways in which I recover. People jump off the Golden Gate Bridge all the time and we have dog walking as one of the ways in which people use dogs for mental health.
My name is Anne Alden and I'm a resident of San Francisco, and I want to thank you very much for caring enough to initiate this hearing.
Although I enjoy dogs very much I'm not currently a dog owner, but I am in support of the people who have spoken about not having closures at Fort Funston. I had a former job as Director of Development for the Nature Conservancy for the eastern region of the United States, so I've always had a longstanding interest in protecting threatened species and their habitats. And I don't want to take up more time, I'll just submit this letter, but I just want to add my support to no closures.
My name is Robin Buckley and I'm a resident of the Sunset District. I'm over 50 years old, and I'm fourth generation. I
I've been going to Fort Funston ever since I was about 12, when the military still had it. We used to go out there and run around and play Army. Then when the military was leaving I got a dog and I started walking my dog out there before they put in the parking lot and millions of people came. And it was quite nice to have the place all to myself, and I must say I'm here for personal reasons.
I like the iceplant. It serves a very good purpose out there. You can do a lot to it and it takes a lot of abuse. We used to go out there on motorcycles and four-wheel-drive vehicles, and you know, the iceplant never, it always came back, it survived and it held the land together. Now what they're planning -- it just won't survive the use and we need a place to be used by dog walkers. We're being forced into smaller areas and everybody's complaining about the dog poop issue. I work for the Health Department and it's a big concern of ours, you know we get complaints from people, and it's because we're being forced into smaller and smaller areas. And I'd just like to see you, you know, do whatever you can. I appreciate it.
Good afternoon, supervisors. My name is John Keating. I'd like to speak briefly to a number of the questions that Supervisor Bierman had.
First, with regard to whether there's other places the plants can be placed. To the extent that they do wish to plant plants, there's lots of other locations at Fort Funston. Yet they have chosen the one bluff area that has, gives access to the public to the bluff. The Park Service has postured as to the need to close off 12 acres. They've postured a lot of times, a lot of different ways, but the one time they were put under oath, the ranger said, admitted that they're only planting, and can only plant, one-third of an acre per year. Now they want 12 acres. Okay, multiply that out. They're planting only one-third of an acre a year. Why do they need to take the public off the last bluff access spot that they can roam freely with and take it all at once, when it will take 30 years for them to do the restoration they want.
Second of all, with regard to this concept that the NPCA, the National Parks Conservation Association gave, that there's an off-leash regulation, that dogs aren't allowed in the GGNRA. That involves an interpretation that has been routinely rejected; its an aberrant interpretation where they say that a general regulation basically supersedes the specific statute. It's been rejected by Ninth Circuit. It's been rejected by the Park Service, when the Park Service took public comment on this issue. The problem now is that the Park Service can, having done it by public comment, can't change it over the will of the public, so they're trying to get around the public comment so they can change it through the back door and not let the people be heard.
My name is Eric Finseth. I'm an attorney with Wilson Sonsini down in Palo Alto.
The reason I'm here is just to emphasize how very important it is to dog lovers and dog owners in the area. My wife has estimated that we literally drive from Palo Alto up to Fort Funston three times a week to have an opportunity to walk our dog. There are very few, very, very few places in the entire area where one can in fact walk a dog off leash.
And although environmental concerns have great weight and legitimacy, under the current circumstances, where dogs simply do not go into the areas where the swallows area, there is essentially a hysterical overreaction in the regulatory authority to try to close down an area to conduct environmental protection in a situation where the swallows are not really adversely impacted by the dogs and where you have a lot of other legitimate interests in the society -- namely the people who want to maintain a free society and be able to enjoy their dogs -- adversely affected.
So, we would urge just as members of the public that the closure not occur.
by Supervisor Leland Yee
at Conclusion of Hearing:
First off, let me just say thank you to Lydia Boesch for sending me the material that sort of piqued my interest, and I have to be honest with you, when I received the material, it was so thick that I just kind of set it aside. But then I received another interesting letter from a friend of mine, who has taken a position on this particular issue, and then I received another thick packet from the Shepards, and I also set that aside. And then, as I set that aside, I think some of the information through osmosis must have gotten through, and it was articulated today, and I need to just express that.
People talk about the dogs, talk about the ecology and so on, but what really struck me in the letters that I've received and some of the testimony that I've heard today, is the mental health aspect of Fort Funston. The comments that I've heard about how this experience enriches their lives, how it helps them with not only their mental health, but it affects their physical health, is something that weighed very heavily on me. In an urban center, in the hustle and bustle of some transportation problems, the economy, and family issues, and so on, there is not a whole lot of place that maybe you can find some peace and tranquility, and when you have a place like Fort Funston, I think we need to look at ways to preserve that and leave it not only for ourselves but for future generations.
This issue is a rather troubling issue for me, as one member on the Board of Supervisors, we continually battle this notion of privatization, where more and more public interests and public assets are turned over to private companies, so that they can do with it how they want, and they leave the crumbs for the public. This somehow, this particular issue, the closing of certain areas.... concerns me, too. This is not a private entity; oddly enough, it's a public entity that is doing this. I think it's extremely important that we somehow preserve this piece of area for future generations, and not allow, somehow, an element to be introduced in there to then ... affect the environment so that we will not have Fort Funston anymore. We need to also look very carefully that we are not jumping the gun in closing off an area unnecessarily. I think that it is those kinds of concerns that led me to the following conclusion, and if the City Attorney can take note of this, that:
It is extremely important that the City and County of San Francisco maintain whatever control we have on Fort Funston. It is our land, we gave it to the federal government not to allow them to do whatever they want, but to keep that covenant of whatever the people wanted, and I believe it is for us to use and for us to then recreate in. To that extent, with the documents that we have been given so far, and with your good office, I would ask that you look at exactly the terms and conditions of that conveyance and, to the extent that we somehow have control over it, that we exercise that control. And then also, with regards to the enabling legislation, to understand exactly the whole context of that piece of legislation, as to what we can, in fact, do with Fort Funston.
I think the second area that I want you to look into is that if, in fact, the basis for the closure is to maintain the environment and ecology, I think that I would ask that you look at whether or not that premise is a sufficient premise; whether or not it is an adequate premise, whether or not the basis for this closure is sufficient, given the arguments and given the data that have been presented, and to also look at many of the comments, and also the research that's been done thus far, to then argue that the basis was not established....
And then, finally, I think as the president [of the Board of Supervisors, Tom Ammiano] asked, are there other alternatives to just simply this closure. So, if you could prepare this information to us, hopefully by, I hope, the middle of October, because, my understanding is that the, out of the settlement in the court case, the GGNRA will in fact be holding some additional public comments in October, and what I'd like to do is to see how that set of public comments will happen, and then at that point we should re-inject ourselves into this to determine whether or not there's sufficient argument that the National Park Service has provided for this.
Board President Tom Ammiano:
Obvioiusly situations like this are a challenge and they really do go back to land use. Almost every controversial issue seems to get reduced to that basic -- land use -- because San Francisco is a small city; not in vision, but certainly in area. And absolutely a piece of this puzzle is providing more off-leash areas in the City, that [is] absolutely a piece of this puzzle.
The specifics of this puzzle are a little more daunting, and obviously I think there's good people on both sides. And for instance, there is conflicting testimony about the bank swallow. And you know, I'd like to get more clarification on that from both sides. I was struck by everyone's testimony, particularly the park ranger and the conservationalist. It's a situation that's going to take some give and some take on both sides, and maybe there's more than one side.
I think what I feel good about is, and someone mentioned civil war, and then all of a sudden everything becomes black and white, you're either for the dogs or against the dogs or you're for the iceplant or whatever, and by the way, please -- no more SUV's, I don't want to hear about that, on the iceplant. So I do concur that the focus on this is healthy and democratic and could lead toward a resolve and so, and I'd like to participate in that as much as possible.
And I thank you all for being here today and I thank Supervisor Yee for having the hearing because it was not only an interesting hearing but an edifying hearing and does allow citizens to vent in a safe situation and that maybe we will take some positive steps forward. That's what I'd say. And balance -- someone did talk about balance and, you know, it's easier said than done, but that doesn't mean that the process should be thwarted because it is a difficult thing to achieve balance. I think we can get there.
Supervisor Sue Bierman:
Well, I join with both of you on your comments. I've been sitting here thinking about how this whole GGNRA happened and kind of thinking about Phil Burton, the congressman. And I think if he listened to all these people, he'd think there's a problem. I think that the people who enjoy it and who use it and who feel the need to continue and not have fences (I don't quite have a picture about these fences or where it's fenced), but I really think people and people's happiness and people's enjoyment is the most crucial thing, unless that is doing real harm some way.
I worry, too, about native plants, but I guess I'm maybe a little bit more a people person in that if people are happy out there, that's a good thing and we should try to figure out having both, I guess -- people happy and plants surviving. But I'm just grateful you've held the hearing,
Thank you for all your support. What I'd like to do is to continue this item to the call of the chair in that we will anticipate reopening this issue sometime in the middle of October, and my staff will monitor the public hearing that the GGNRA will be holding early in October on this particular matter, and we will bring that information back to this committee for deliberation in October.
Madame clerk, so this item will be continued to the call of the chair. Then, no other business, this meeting stands adjourned. Thank you.
Transcribed by Vicki Tiernan.
First Section of Fort Funston Forum