[No. 02] San Francisco is on line!This information package is put together by a concerned citizens' group. The group aims to save the parks around San Francisco from being ripped out and turned into lifeless turf fields. The presentation is worth a very good look.http://sfparks.googlepages.com/release. [SynTurf.org Editor's Note: This is definitively an award winning candidate for SynTurf.org's 2008 "Environmental of the Year Award"].
[No. 01] The San Francisco Brief: California Dreaming, A Future without Turf?
By Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. March 21, 2008.
The Recreation and Park Department of the City of San Francisco has announced plans to set up a Synthetic Playfields Task Force. The Task Force is scheduled to meet in early April to tackle the question of health and environmental concerns raised by the proliferation of artificial turf in San Francisco.
The ides for the task force originated with the Planning Director, Dawn Kamalanathan, who in a memorandum, dated February 27, 2008, stated the following as the reason for the suggestion:
Over the past decade, park jurisdictions across the country have installed synthetic turf on playfields for the material’s known maintenance benefits and an improved play experience. Recent concerns regarding potential environmental and health impacts have caused many of these jurisdictions to initiate additional research and discussion on the overall advantages and disadvantages of synthetic turf. Given dramatic variances in the climate, usage, and context in which synthetic turf is used, each jurisdiction is moving through its own process to determine how to responsibly move forward with playfield renovations. The Department proposes convening a Task Force, comprised of professional experts and citizens, to clarify and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the use of synthetic turf on playfields in San Francisco.
To tackle such a weighty issue the Task Force is scheduled to meet all of 6 to 8 hours in four sittings. April 8 from 6 to 8 PM, and also April 30 from 6 to 8 PM, and May 13 from 6-8 PM and (if necessary) May 20 from 6-8 PM.
According to the announcement: “To facilitate a thorough and well-informed discussion,” the Task Force will consist of5 “subject matter experts,” who will offer expertise on: climate change and recycling policy, public health impacts and risks (e.g. physical health, respiratory disease, etc.), water quality and conservation, and toxicity of synthetic turf materials. [Note: SynTurf.org counts only four subject matters].
In addition to the “body of experts.” the Task Force will also have 9 additional members picked as follows from the community: 1 from the Park, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Committee (PROSAC), 2 from citywide park policy and advocacy organizations, 2 from park and field users, 2 from neighbors (those affected by impacts of park uses), and 2 from schools and other youth serving organizations.
This is already setting up to be sham proceeding. The Task Force is supposed to be “comprised of professional experts and citizens, to clarify and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the use of synthetic turf.” There is no indication as to what criteria will govern the weighing of pros and cons of artificial turf. The comparison should be between the advantages of natural grass against the disadvantages of artificial turf. That will constitute an objective matrix for analysis in a process that requires of the community participants to “be fair and objective in deliberating with fellow task force members.”
The majority of the Task Force’s membership already favors artificial turf, because the logic of the earlier installations is still what prompted municipalities to install synthetic fields and playgrounds –maintenance savings, weather-proof and“safe” playing surface. These “selling” points for synthetic turf (also add no need to water, to mow, use pesticides or fertilizer) are based on the propaganda and commercial puffery of the purveyors of this product which, too, requires a long list of –cidal treatments from pesticides to bactericide to keep them safe and sanitary.
Artificial turf field has absolutely no redeeming environmental value. In terms of health risks to and adverse therapeutic effects on living organisms, recent research indicates serious doubts as to whether artificial turf contributes to wellness. The industry and policymakers are fond of reciting statistics about obesity and overcrowded fields as reasons why more playing time is necessary in municipal parks. Neither natural grass nor artificial turf causes obesity: sedentary lifestyles (may be genes) and lousy nutrition cause obesity.
That level of concentration of play on an area naturally wears out natural grass playing fields. This can be minimized with budgeting playtime across a wider time line. Also here is one publication called "Sustainable Turf Care" published by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (www.attra.ncat.org) that may help demystify the secrets of maintaining a decent natural grass playing field.It is available at
For this Task Force not to be a sham proceeding, the Task Force should begin its work by establishing a few working principles. First, give full faith and credit to the precautionary principle. Second, not be swayed by “expert” review of the existing literature, as most of them are either biased toward the industry or have failed to ask the right questions. Third, not be swayed by what is politically expedient or popular. Fourth, hear out university agricultural extension experts on emerging new technologies that make natural grass all the more high performance and less costly to maintain. Fifth, hear from financial experts as to the cost of installation, maintenance (including repair of damage caused by vandalism, lighting, security fences and cameras), replacement of the carpet, mat and infill every 8 to 10 years, and actual cost and externalities associated with disposal of the Sixth, not promote the use of artificial turf because it uses recycled rubber, plastics or tires. Seventh, consider the ramification of turning open multipurpose parks into semi-private restricted multi-sport venues. Eighth, require a site-specific environmental assessment study for every proposed installation of an artificial turf field.