His hands were shaking as he put the plans on the conference table and unrolled them. We were given as much time as we wished to review them. Strange. A little Sunshine, a FIFA request. Rec and Park was “responsive”. Responsiveness is a hallmark of the new political paradigm. A ruse, a simulation. Simulated responsiveness.
I was told that this Project Manager who works for Rec and Park and who also sits on the board of the City Fields Foundation (the private part of the private-public partnership whose intent is to pave over all of the City’s fields with toxic artificial turf), is the nervous sort. Maybe hyper-vigilance is in order. Could be that it’s in the job description.
The popular presumption is that Rec and Park is corrupt. I’ll buy into that. For sure, the abovementioned partnership doesn’t pass the smell test. Your erstwhile Certified Qualified Write-In Candidate for D4 Supe got a good whiff of that and put it out there that such corporate sponsorship of our Parks was not wanted. So, here you have my expressed opinions in a thumbnail sketch.
If these fields were truly safe for kids, then why the hazmat liner under the ghost grass and chopped up tires? Why would all the rain that falls on the fields go to the Westside Treatment Plant? It’s safe, right? And free of all that pesky dirt that would ordinarily get mixed in with it. Why don’t we just drink it?
As the SF Groundwater Supply Project gets underway, that’s what we’ll do. Wells right next to the proposed shittyfields will draw water from the aquifer over which Rec and Park wants to install this hazmat dump with a 20 mil liner and a plastic artificial grass cover. Weird timing for these projects. I went to the Planning Commission to complain and made my 3 minute comment because I felt I ought to do something. It didn’t feel good (think Gong Show), but I did it. One gets the feeling, at these public comment periods, that the real game’s not over here, that the show is elsewhere. And it isn’t and it is. There are no actual bags of money being passed around anymore but the favors have already been traded and decisions have already been made. The malaise in me arose even as I steeled my resolve not to be a water-boy in this game.
In an average year around 4 million gallons of rain fall on the Beach Chalet Meadow. During heavy storms, that rain, mixed with everything that gets flushed, gets screened and dumped into the Pacific Ocean at overflow points at Lincoln and Vicente. A November 2013 storm rained o’er us about 1″ and flushed fecal coliform. The ShittyFields at the Beach Chalet would creating a giant container of the area. All of those 4 million gallons which would ordinarily enter the watershed will be diverted to the combined sewer system. 4 million gallons of rain wasted. Additional irrigation is required to clean the snot, spit, and sweat off the plastic mat, and to cool the created heat island in Golden Gate Park (the thermal coefficient of containerized rubber covered with plastic is high). That water will be wasted too.
The drought continues, it rains again…a long awaited winter storm pattern in February, hopefully not the last we’ll see. A few puddles in the street here and there, complete with dead rainbows floating in oil, thin film diffraction, and I’m thinking–drains to ocean not to groundwater basin. Amidst the storm, an eye on the watershed in a watershed moment, and real rainbows in the sky. Ours is a beautiful City, beheld from many vantage points, and still many of those eyes are attached to the idea that we should not miss any opportune moment to create something beautiful. 7 1/2 acres of hazmats wrapped in plastic does not describe any reasonable person’s idea of beauty when compared to what can be created by working in concert with Nature.
So, what’s a reasonable person to do? Grab some friends, head out to a meeting with contractors and the same shaky project manager. Rec and Park wants to start the ball rolling on this project. They’re desperate to use the old bond money left over from the last Presidential term. And, there are some hungry political donors who want to eat. Funny thing, if you throw $500 million in bonds at a department with no real mission whose organizational MO revolves around public-private partnerships, all the political hacks, seeing the lack of oversight, take in the view of that giant pile of money, and it becomes a clearing house for political debt.
We sat around the table. At some point, I pointed to the Partnering provisions of the contract. I noted the charged political atmosphere surrounding the project. After all, didn’t I run for public office on a platform that called for canning this ill-conceived, toxic project? I noted that it would be a good idea to allow for some extra on site security for this unpopular environmental degradation. A direct action would wreak havoc with payment schedules and coordination of the project. I mentioned bumbeques (the pejorative term for cooking over an open fire in our public places). I asked–what if?–and was told that rarely does the tire crumb infill create a conflagration. Reassuring. Less reassuring considering that the EPA’s largest Superfund sites are tire fire areas. I’ve seen tire fires on the Rez back in New York. The heat and the clouds of poisonous smoke make extinguishing them nearly impossible…nothing to do but watch them burn, and when it’s over, bulldoze the area.
At the meeting, there was concern about sourcing the cryogenically produced SBR infill material. The best, less-dusty, toxic tire crumb comes from a process by which tires are submerged in liquid nitrogen, frozen and smashed to bits. There’s high demand for the product. Everyone wants to move the tires filling up the landfills. Whole tire disposal is strictly regulated by the EPA and is an expensive pain in the ass for landfill operators. Dumps would prefer to move these tires and have worked out the workaround for getting rid of them, but there just aren’t enough processing facilities to fill the orders. The orders are there because of the political push to install the fields, no BS–it’s not about the kids, it’s about money. And the the PAC’s, and the political hacks, and the New Age Tin Men who sell these cancers, make the rules and control the playing fields for this game. There’s money in plastic and used rubbers, a lot of money. Railing against this one, well, it’s not a level field–it’s uphill all the way.
And so we beat on, angry and growing louder. We’re going to ballot box this one too. The language for the ballot initiative is being drafted. We’re crowdfunding the campaign. We’re being resourceful. We’re reaching out (still) and asking for (still more) support. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t come to this (again). Elected officials would get the picture. There would be a real apparatus for public input and a real, effective means for that input to find its way into the decision-making process. Sadly, in its current state, all the City Hall apparatchiks in the apparat leave us no choice–it’s the way it is, not as it should be.