The commissioners expressed feeling a little bit out of their league Wednesday in giving their blessing for the installation of lights and synthetic turf at Coaches Field after two hours of testimony and discussion.
Changes that would affect the use of a sports field are typically the purview of the Recreation Commission. Beautification is among the Park Commission's primary responsibilities and, as Commissioner Jukka Valkonen put it, the lights and turf "have no aesthetic value."
But the Park Commission decided unanimously to take the advice of Recreation Director Mark Delventhal who said the synthetic turf would make Coaches Field an all-weather facility meaning it could be open more often for more kids to use it. The commissioners also followed Delventhal's lead in recommending that organic infill, made of cork and coconut husk, be used at Coaches as it is now in Havens Elementary's new synthetic turf field.
Commissioner Randy Deutsch did lament the potential loss of a dirt infield for baseball if synthetic turf is put in at Coaches, but Delventhal said he would get representatives of Piedmont's baseball groups together with the soccer groups, who would benefit most from an all-synthetic pitch, to come up with a mutually agreeable turf layout.
More tricky was the decision to recommend the installation of lights.
As a concession to the neighbors when the construction of Coaches Field was approved more than 20 years ago, the City Council agreed to prohibit nighttime lighting at the park. Though it will be up to the council to change the municipal code, the Park Commission members were in consensus Wednesday that the promise of no lights, though codified in a 1992 ordinance, had not been set in stone.
The commissioners were not swayed by concerns shared by neighbors at the meeting about the light and noise pollution that adding lights now would bring.
"I'm not very sympathetic, in an urban setting, to someone saying, 'I'm used to looking out over this vast expanse of darkness so I can get a great view of downtown San Francisco all lit up at night," Deutsch said.
Commissioner Chris Kukula, who lives near Witter Field, and Commisioner Mary Geong, who lives near Beach Playfield, said the lights and the noise from those facilities didn't generally bother them.
But the commission made it clear in their resolution that their support for lights at Coaches wasn't taken as an invitation to add lights to Blair Park if the proposal to build sports fields there, which the , goes forward.