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Lawsuit Blocking Turf Fields At San Francisco Beach Chalet Dismissed

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Beach Chalet athletic fields at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. (CBS)

Beach Chalet athletic fields at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A San Francisco Superior Court judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a parent and environmental group that opposed plans to convert the city’s Beach Chalet athletic fields from grass to artificial turf.

Judge Teri Jackson ruled Tuesday that the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department renovation plans to change the fields into turf at the park at the western edge of Golden Gate Park followed environmental guidelines. Because of the ruling, the project can now proceed.

The City Fields Foundation, a nonprofit working with San Francisco officials to renovate fields around the city, joined the parks department as co-defendants in the case that was filed in October 2012.

The opposition groups, which included the San Francisco Coalition for Children’s Outdoor Play and the local Sierra Club chapter, argued that reports examining the renovation’s environmental impact weren’t conducted properly and violated the California Environmental Quality Act.

Opponents, comprised of mainly parents living near the western side of Golden Gate Park, also said the turf could be toxic to children.

Opposition attorney Richard Drury said Wednesday his clients are disappointed but not surprised by the ruling.

“We were hoping for a different outcome,” he said.

He said the group would likely start an appeals process.

“There’s no question that this artificial turf material is full of toxic chemicals,” he said.

The group hired an expert to analyze the turf, and came back with findings that the material is more likely to cause cancer compared to data points the city is using, Drury said.

The plan to overhaul the 7-acre site on the western end of the park with turf and lighting was approved by several city agencies, including the Board of Supervisors in July 2012.

Supporters of the project hailed the judge’s decision and held a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Western Addition’s Kimball Playground fields, which are made of the same turf slated to go in at Beach Chalet.

According to the parks department, the $14-million renovation project at the Beach Chalet fields will begin next year. The fields are expected to reopen in 2015.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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