This Wednesday, July 14, California State Parks officials are convening a public meeting to examine the future of Candlestick Point State Recreation Area. Candlestick, to most people, means football, but the state recreation area just beyond the stadium is noteworthy in its own right: It was the first state park ever created specifically to serve an urban population, and it sits across South Basin from Hunters Point and draws many visitors from the industrial city’s southeast waterfront.
The park has faced many changes over the past few years; in 2008 the governor threatened to close it along with 47 other state parks to close the state’s recurring budget shortfall. Now, it’s at the center of a debate over how to balance habitat restoration, open space, and urban development.
The City of San Francisco has proposed a large development here, with Lennar Corporation in the lead on a plan that includes more than 10,000 new homes, a commercial zone, and a new football stadium. With an anticipated increase in traffic, the city is also considering a controversial plan to build a bridge over Yosemite Slough, just north of Candlestick, and the subject of ongoing habitat restoration efforts.
State park officials hope to discuss the park without pulling in the larger development picture, but that may not be easy. “The goal,” says parks spokesperson Steve Musillami, “is that the discussions are focused on the park and future of the park and not the development projects – although obviously there are linkages of the two. The plan should fulfill recreational needs and preserve natural and cultural needs of the area.”
The public meeting on Wednesday is part of an effort to get input from park visitors, offering everything from online surveys to workshops in order to enable community involvement in planning Candlestick’s future. The new design scheme aims to integrate the needs of both people and the natural environment, and it might include anything from building and improving facilities to improving trails to creating youth programs. State Park officials will create four potential plans for the area: two exclude the new development plan, while the other two take the city’s plan into account.
That development plan has been the focus of debate so far. Critics charge that the city’s plan would also remove 23 acres from Candlestick Point Recreation Area, leaving the park just 150 feet wide in some areas. But the lion’s share of attention has gone to the proposed the bridge, which would be six lanes wide. Critics argue that it would irreparably damage the wetland and mudflat habitat beneath it, used by as many as 118 bird species. Opposition groups, such as the Sierra Club and the nonprofit Arc Ecology, argue that the bridge is both harmful to wildlife and unnecessary since alternative routes are just five minutes longer and three-fifths of a mile longer.
Proponents of the development plan, however, argue that the bridge will attract businesses and new residents alike. The 49ers stadium, which currently adjoins Candlestick Point Recreation Area, could also act as a magnet for heavy bridge use. (Of course, if the team moves to Santa Clara in the near future, that part of the debate will be moot.)
The meeting will be from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Southeast Community Facility, 1800 Oakdale Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94124.