Sharp Park granted stay, postponing lawsuit

View of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif.

Impending legal action that could shut down San Francisco’s legendary municipal golf course, Sharp Park, has been suspended following a decision Thursday in federal court.

Judge Susan Illston, presiding for the Northern District of California, has put a brake on all discovery in the case filed by environmentalists claiming that the city-run course is harming the habit of two species. The case, known as Wild Equity Institute, et al., v. City and County of San Francisco, et al., was filed under the federal Endangered Species Act and concerns two species that reside in marshlands at the golf course, the threatened California red-legged frog and the endangered San Francisco garter snake.

The case was slated to go to jury trial in October. Illston’s decision postpones any trial and any related discovery process pending a presentation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services of a biological assessment of established maintenance practices.

Last fall, Illston refused the plaintiff’s efforts to shut down the golf course. She ruled there was no clear evidence that frog and snake populations were being diminished by golf-course operations.

Chris Carr, an attorney with the firm of Morrison & Foerster who is working the case pro bono on behalf of one of the defendants, the San Francisco Public Golf alliance, expressed optimism that U.S. Fish & Wildlife would find that existing golf course practices are consistent with protecting habitat of the two species. If so, the 80-year-old municipal golf course designed by Alister Mackenzie and operated by the city of San Francisco would be allowed to continue operations. The course actually is located in the city of Pacifica, in San Mateo County, but falls under San Francisco administration by virtue of a legacy grant.

Repeated efforts to reach representatives from the plaintiffs, including the Wild Equity Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity, have been unsuccessful.

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