Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Announces Opposition To Pro Soccer At Kezar Stadium

Photo: Jerome Paz/Flickr
By Amy Stephenson - Published on March 14, 2016.

We reported recently that Kezar Stadium might become the new home of the North American Soccer League's San Francisco Deltas, and that representatives from the team are soliciting feedback from the neighborhood. 

This week, they got that feedback, in the form of an official opposition from the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council. HANC sent an email to subscribers outlining its issues with the Deltas' proposal.

In February, the Deltas announced a proposal to use Kezar for 15-20 home games per year, beginning in 2017. The games would mostly take place on Saturday evenings, with the occasional game on Wednesday evening or during the day on Saturday. At the games, the Deltas would sell beer and wine to the general public, and hard liquor to VIP ticket holders.

At the time, many neighbors responded with concern about the potential traffic impact caused by thousands of fans coming to the neighborhood, as well as potential bad behavior from those who've been drinking. Representatives for the team argued that the games' relatively brief two-hour run times would discourage heavy drinking, and said that the Deltas would encourage fans to use public transit to get to games. 

HANC's position is that holding pro soccer games and selling liquor will change the character of the stadium from a youth-oriented sports center to something less beneficial to the community. HANC board member Tes Welborn has printed fliers opposing the plan, posting them around the neighborhood. The full text is below: 

Kezar Stadium was created 35 years ago by a push from the community, to take the abandoned 49er site and to create an open recreational and youth sports center. Recently, the community worked hard to get Rec and Park to rebuild the track to professional standards, with the help of high school coaches and parents.

Thousands of kids and high school students have played on the Kezar field. Tens of thousands of everyday San Franciscans have run on the track or simply enjoyed siting on the grass, enjoying this great public facility.

Key to this was the adoption in 1991 of a simple rule: no booze at Kezar. Alcohol is the “gateway drug” for pro sports. No booze, no pro sports. It has worked for 35 years to keep Kezar for San Franciscan kids and all of us who paid for it. Now Phil Ginsburg, GM of Rec and Park, wants to lease it for at least 20 Saturdays a year for seven years to a pro soccer team. And the team wants to sell beer, wine, and hard liquor, so Ginsburg wants to break the 35-year ban on alcohol at Kezar.

Many neighbors and neighborhood groups oppose this proposal, including the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, for these reasons among others:

  1. Oppose privatization of this public facility. Weekends are high usage days for neighbors and high school teams. In addition, we'd lose additional days due to Rec and Park's “protect grass fields” policies.
  2. School, kids, and adults need public soccer fields to play on.
  3. The sale of alcohol at Kezar is prohibited in SFRPD code, and allowing it could set a bad precedent for more private rentals.
  4. The pro soccer team, the Deltas, has not considered the impact of 5,000-10,000 audience attendance on the neighborhood parking and traffic.
  5. Installation of TV-quality lighting would be a negative impact on the neighborhood.
  6. Rec and Park has not done outreach or planning with our neighborhoods.

Please join us in writing to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission to oppose pro soccer, attend the March 17 meeting, 10am, City Hall Room 416.

"My personal belief is that the stadium is dedicated to youth and neighborhood sports, and that allowing alcohol for this event will incentive [Rec and Park] to further privatize with additional paying events," Welborn said in an email to Hoodline. "[That] pushes out youth events, local joggers, etc."

HANC has set up a petition on Change.org to gain support for its position. As of this writing, it has 31 signatures. 

Opposition to the project isn't unified. Last week, the Deltas' proposal received conditional support from another neighborhood group, the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors. However, the ISPN did express "serious reservations" about traffic and alcohol sales. 

The Rec and Park meeting mentioned in Welborn's flier, to be held this Thursday, could potentially be the final approval needed for the Deltas to play at Kezar. The team's proposal has already cleared Rec and Park's Operations Committee.

Does hosting pro games change the character of Kezar? What about selling alcohol? Take it to the comments. 

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