Avoiding Hazards On and Off the Golf Course

We successfully assisted the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office in representing the City and County of San Francisco (City) in multiple lawsuits.

The suits, brought by Wild Equity and other plaintiffs, alleged that the City was mismanaging the Sharp Park Golf Course located along the Pacific Ocean in the City of Pacifica.  Plaintiffs alleged management of the course was detrimental to local populations of the endangered San Francisco garter snake and threatened California red-legged frog.  Among other issues, plaintiffs claimed that operation of pumps to manage water bodies at Sharp Park, golf cart use, and routine maintenance operations, such as mowing, resulted in frequent and unlawful take of the listed species.

The plaintiffs sent a notice of intent to sue in 2008 over alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act at Sharp Park.  We were brought in at that time and assisted the City with the development of a compliance plan to allow for continued operation of the golf course while avoiding harming the listed species.  This action caused plaintiffs to delay filing for more than two years.  The suit was eventually filed in early 2011 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.  We worked with the client to initiate and complete the Endangered Species Act consultation process.  This step included preparing a biological assessment regarding the potential effects of golf course operations on the listed species.  We also sought to obtain a biological opinion and incidental take statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Concurrently, we successfully opposed a motion to enjoin golf course operations.

Following the conclusion of the consultation, we filed a motion to dismiss the litigation.  The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted our motion and the Ninth Circuit affirmed.  Parallel with the Endangered Species Act proceedings, we worked with staff at the City to obtain permits from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the Coastal Commission over the objections of Wild Equity.

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