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Soccer field battle offers glimpse of Manteca’s future

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POSTED May 9, 2013 8:30 p.m.

Imagine your kid playing on an aging soccer field.

It can’t be used five months out of the year due to gophers and mud issues.

So you get together with other soccer parents and lobby the city to allow you to install artificial turf. The field already has lights. You persuade the council to let you move forward because a durable playing surface means the field could get use into the early evening to help kids stay involved in a healthy diversion.

You also point to all of the water the city would save from not needing to irrigate as well as avoiding the cost of fertilizer and general upkeep.

The project passes muster with various city commissions and city review boards.

Then after three years of wrangling you are informed that there is one more body that needs to give its OK. And if they say no, there is no appeal

The board, by the way, answers to no one. Its members are appointed to lengthy terms by the legislature yet they have significant say over your life.

An Orwellian nightmare? Try California today.

The California Coastal Commission is deciding the fate of plans to upgrade an aging, 70-year-old athletic field for soccer in the western end of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The field has the misfortunate of being within the coastal corridor.

As such the commission is seriously considering killing the lights for fear they may confuse migrating birds, nixing the artificial turf because it may be poisonous to children and wildlife, and possibly force the clear cutting of park trees so there is a connection with the ocean.

If you think that can’t happen in Manteca or Lathrop guess again.

The Delta Stewardship Council - created by the California Legislature from the same governing cloth as the California Coastal Commission and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency - is a reality.

The council is in its infancy. It has say over the secondary zone that includes almost all of Lathrop and a chunk of southwest Manteca as well as the Delta’s primary zone.

The stewardship council staff pooh-poohs any suggestions that the agency will exercise its veto power over development or even seemingly innocuous projects such as pouring a cement patio by noting they don’t have a direct impact on the Delta.

Gee, do you think when the Coastal Commission was formed in 1972 that anybody in their wildest nightmares thought it would be exercising control over a park rehab project that is on the urbanized side of the Great Highway in San Francisco?

The Delta Stewardship Council staff earlier this year tried to quell growing concern among local government leaders in and around the Delta that the agency would be usurping local land use decisions.

They said that unless it had something to do directly with the Delta, they’d pass.

Pouring concrete in the secondary zone for a driveway or patio obviously impacts the Delta as it increases runoff. It is the same argument that the Coastal Commission is using to serve as the body that will say yea or nay to the San Francisco soccer field project.

You’d have to be naive and blind to California’s bureaucratic history when it comes to the environment not to believe that the Delta Stewardship Council will morph into a super government agency that will ultimately overthrow local government control whenever they deem it in the best interest of the Delta.

The Coastal Commission has already done things no one would have thought possible when it was formed including banning Fourth of July fireworks in some coastal towns because they spook birds.

Dismiss at the peril of your property rights the possibility that the Delta Stewardship Commission - described by some as the California Coastal Commission on steroids - could one day sit in judgment to potentially bar  Manteca, Lathrop and other cities in the secondary zone from upgrading a soccer field or a long list of other land uses.

The future of much of San Joaquin County could very well be played out this week in San Francisco as that city struggles to not have its soccer field rehab project killed by a commission that answers to no one.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.

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