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Parks, Open Space & Natural Areas

Group activists are helping to preserve and protect open space and natural areas in the City and County of San Francisco. We know that open space in San Francisco plays a vital role in saving endangered species of plants and animals.

We are planning hikes, habitat restoration work parties, and other projects to educate the public and elected officials on the value of natural areas.




Presidio Trust news & actions....

The Presidio Trust's drive to approve the donor driven development on the Presidio's Main Post continues despite public comment and National Park Service criticism that the proposals will damage the Presidio's status as a National Historic Landmark.

Sign the petition on the Save the Presidio site and read relevant comments about the public process at,

The deadline for public comments on the Main Post Update and the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement is now June 1, 2009.  Tell the Trust what you think about the proposed contemporary art museum, the lodge and the theatre expansion.


Please sign an online petition that calls on federal officials to stop the Presidio Trust's efforts to bring excessive and damaging development to the Presidio of San Francisco.


Please add your name to the petition by clicking on the link, below.

These development plans -- including a contemporary art museum, a hotel, and an expansion of the movie theater -- should be rejected for the following reasons:

  • These proposals will permanently damage the Bay Area's most significant historic site, the "Plymouth Rock of the West."  The area of the Main Post has witnessed Native American settlements, the founding of a Spanish fort in 1776, and the presence of a U.S. Army base from 1848 to 1994.
  • The urbanization of the Presidio is inconsistent with the vision contained in the main legal documents that govern how the Presidio should be managed.
  • The proposed development plans will produce a substantial increase in traffic within the Presidio and in the surrounding neighborhoods.  According to the Presidio Trust's own analysis, the new development would increase visitors to the Main Post from about 650 thousand at present to more than 2 million people.  The overwhelming traffic load would harm both the neighborhoods and the Presidio.


Please add your name to the petition by clicking on the link, below.



Snow Plover alert!

from our friends at Golden Gate Audubon:

In San Francisco we can see the wintering population of Western Snowy Plovers in the Wildlife Protection Areas at Crissy Field and Ocean Beach. The biologists studying these birds on the breeding grounds have asked us to let you know about the status of the birds this year.

Since 1996, Point Reyes National Seashore has been monitoring the response of Western Snowy Plovers to management actions recommended by the state's plover recovery team. Biologists survey breeding habitat starting in March to determine the abundance and distribution of plovers within the Seashore. Once plovers establish territories and build nests, the areas are fenced to help prevent human disturbance. In addition, when possible, a 10x10 foot "exclosure" is placed around the nest to prevent access by predators.

Plovers can freely come and go from exclosures and the eggs are kept safe. Once eggs hatch, the vulnerable chicks are protected by the male for 28 days until they are able to fly.

Snowy Plovers along the entire coast of California have suffered huge losses this summer and it appears the park will end the season with lower numbers than in many years. With weather and other environmental factors changing as they are, plovers are struggling.

This year, within Point Reyes National Seashore, plovers have been particularly hard hit. Of the 21 nests located to date, 10 have been lost to environmental factors such as wind and tide. Common Ravens and other predators have preyed on nests that could not be exclosed. Of the 7 nests that hatched, only one chick has survived to fledging. With big losses such as these, Western Snowy Plovers are particularly vulnerable within the Seashore this summer.

You can help!!

* Stay out of the posted habitat areas and remain at least 50 feet away from birds and nests. Even the most knowledgeable birder will cause impacts to plovers in these areas.

* Walk near the water line on plover breeding beaches.

* Walk dogs only where authorized and always keep them on a leash.

* Dispose of garbage properly to avoid attracting predators.

* Leave driftwood lying on the beach. It provides nesting and feeding habitat for plovers. Do not build wood structures as upright wood provides perches for avian predators.

* Share your knowledge with others going to enjoy the beach.

* Volunteer to educate the public or to restore plover habitat

Contact the GGNRA to volunteer as a snowy plover outreach docent in San Francisco at george_durgerian(at) .

Call the Point Reyes National Seashore for more information about the snowy plover docent program there at 415-464-5124.



9/1/2007 - San Francisco's Natural Areas Program: 27% of our parklands gets 1% of the budget

To read this article and learn more, click:

9/1/2007  - Natural Areas Plan in limbo

To read this analysis and find out how you can help us champion this vital City program, click:



The Sierra Club Bay Chapter, San Francisco Group is concerned over the Recreation and Parks Department’s (RPD) failure to provide adequate support for its Natural Areas Program (NAP).




  • The Club and many other organizations have asked that several of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s 15 new gardeners be allocated to the Natural Areas Program (NAP). This program manages about 27% of the City parklands but is currently funded by only 1% of the RPD’s $150 million budget. It has only 6 gardeners, a bare 2% of the RPD’s 299 gardeners. Recent meetings with Denny Kern of RPD have resulted in a clear message from the Department that there will be no new gardeners for the NAP despite our request and the NAP’s needs.


  • Funding for the Environmental Impact Report of the NAP Management Plan has been put off for many months, thus delaying the adoption of that document and thus the ability of the NAP to undertake new and needed activities that are tied to the approval of the Management Plan.


  • Funding for new acquisitions for the NAP has been, to our understanding, put on hold. There are important land in-holdings in the NAP management areas that need to be acquired before they are otherwise acquired and used for housing or other such development.


  • Most outrageous of all is that the NAP is not included in any way in a proposed new bond measure for RPD capital project needs, yet the proposed Management Plan for the NAP includes many capital needs that are in desperate need of funding.

 The NAP is a vital component of Rec & Park activities. The program responds to the direction of the Board of Supervisors and Policy 13 of the General Plan to preserve our City’s native plants and habitats. Public support has been demonstrated by the allocation of funds to the NAP through several bond measures. That public support is further demonstrated by the fact that the NAP generates about 14,000 volunteer hours a year.


A recent Legislative Analyst report commissioned by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd quantifies how the RPD has short-changed and undervalued its own division. This report compared the Natural Areas Program with similar initiatives in other urban areas and found that while the Natural Areas Program's Management Plan is a model the rest of the country is following, the Natural Areas Program itself receives dramatically less support than other RPD programs. To read the Legislative Analyst’s report on the NAP Management Plan, go to:


It is simply not acceptable for the Department to fail to give this critical program the support it needs to be successful. Unlike other RPD programs, a failure of implementation can result in permanent losses to the environment. When native species are lost, it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to restore them. Every hour lost in weeding and managing our Natural Areas means a loss of habitat, some of it potentially permanent.


These arguments seem to fall on deaf ears in the Department. As a result, it seems likely that the Club will not be able to support, and may even oppose, the proposed 2007 local bond measure since it will not address the desperate needs of our City’s environment.


Sierra Club urges San Francisco’s Rec & Park Department to take a new look at the issues identified above and take immediate steps to redress the flaws in the Department’s approach to its Natural Areas Program.


Additional Comments on the state of our Natural Areas Program

This astoundingly disproportionate allocation of resources is the work of RPD's upper management -- General Manager Yomi Agunbiade and the Recreation and Parks Commission -- and ultimately Mayor Newsom, at whose pleasure they all serve. It's hard to understand why these officials would jeopardize our public lands this way, particularly since protecting and preserving Significant Natural Resource Areas is hard-wired into the Open Space Element of the City's General Plan. Just as historic buildings are cherished and preserved, the City's remnant habitats are officially supposed to be protected. Yet these same officials commit additional forms of fiscal mismanagement that undercut the Natural Areas Program. They expropriated nearly $20 million from the Open Space Fund to pay for the money-losing Harding Park golf course, along with another multi-million dollar raid from the Open Space Fund for a swimming pool.

The presence of the Natural Areas Program and its volunteers in the Golden Gate Park Oak Woodlands has transformed the area from a vagrant encampment to one where the public feels comfortable walking in the woods.  The same could happen in other "backwoods" portions of our park system, but the Natural Areas Program cannot work miracles if administration starves it of staff. (Ironically, the dept's panic reaction to the Chronicle story on July 24 means Natural Areas gardeners must be diverted from their ongoing work to cut down shrubs and trees to expose encampments.)



Saturday May 26th, 2007

Celebrate the debut of Healthy Saturdays and the long-fought struggle – and recent historic agreement - for car-free space in the City’s crown jewel, Golden Gate Park. Festivities are being planned for Saturday, May 26th all day long. Check back soon for more details to come! Or check

Compromise reached for "Healthy Saturdays" in Golden Gate Park

Through all-night negotiations, champions (including the Sierra Club) and opponents of "Healthy Saturdays" have reached a compromise.

These negotiations, mediated by the mayor's office after his veto last year of a previous Healthy Saturdays bill, have resulted in a winning compromise to open a portion of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park to pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized users on Saturdays (as is already the case on Sundays). While the agreement is not everything we wanted, we are proud that we've helped win new car-free, recreational space on an ongoing basis, not just a trial period.

The proposal, which was approved April 15 at the Land Use Committee of the Board of Supervisors, wins new car-free space on Saturdays on JFK Drive between Tea Garden Drive (near Eighth Avenue) westward to Transverse Drive for six months each year (April through September), starting this Memorial Day weekend! The proposal also includes a commitment from the philanthropic community to fund much-needed capital improvements to the long-neglected Middle Drive West.

The legislation, which is expected to sail through the Board of Supervisors, will initially cover car-free space for this year only. The legislation enacting ongoing car-free space needs to jump through a few more legislative hurdles, but we have the mayor's pledge to get it to the Board for approval within a few weeks.

The Sierra Club thanks the mayor's office for negotiating a winning solution, and we send praise and admiration to Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, a champion and leader extraordinaire on this important issue of ensuring public park space for people. We thank especially the over 100 supporters who showed up at the April 9 hearing and the hundreds of others who have been writing letters, flyering in the park, and attending community meetings building support for Healthy Saturdays. We are just a few legislative steps away from getting new car-free space in Golden Gate Park.


Please take a minute to thank Supervisor McGoldrick for his leadership:
fax: (415)554-7415;

- especially if you are a District 1 constituent.

Also write letters to:
San Francisco Chronicle
901 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
fax: (415)543-7708

San Francisco Examiner
450 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

Richmond Review
P.O. Box 590596
San Francisco, CA 94159.

Thank Supervisor McGoldrick for his commitment and achievement on Healthy Saturdays. Without his leadership, we would still be deadlocked on this issue.

And Herb said....

"And then to the rarest treasure, Golden Gate Park on a car-free Sunday morning, the air wet and clean, the meadows green with the promise of spring. Not a single automobile: The silence is deafening, you can actually hear the branches dripping moisture, squirrels scrambling through the underbrush -- and the birds! Hundreds of redbreasted robins bobbing across the lawns, now that there are no cars to frighten them. On Stanyan, the families are renting bikes and heading into the winding trails. Slowly it dawns on them that they can use the main drive and the roads. For once the world does not belong to the automobile. The bicycle is king again and the rider may go where fancy dictates without looking nervously over his shoulder. You are even allowed, for a few unrealistic minutes, to reflect on how pleasant life would be if the car were banned from San Francisco."

- Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/28/73



Excess and cash-strapped golf courses can be used for other important public needs.

SF has an excess of golf courses, is struggling to pay for their upkeep and is toying with privatizing these valuable public lands. Sierra Club has joined with the SF Neighborhood Parks Council in calling for a public review of options.

Sign the petition!

For more information about this issue, and calls for a proper public review of options and opportunities, please visit the SF Neighborhood Parks Council at:


  • Ongoing Areas of Activity


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