Swanson suggests that the city add lighting to existing ballfields to extend use and that games be scheduled better if more ball-playing time is needed. Yet, she says, "It's not a matter of the city accommodating the college's needs; it's the college taking care of its own needs."
The university has two large fields: the men's baseball field and the track. Scatolini and Swanson believe that the women's softball field does not meet standard regulation size and should be moved to either of the two upper and larger fields. The current master plan calls for removal of fencing, backstops, and athletic infrastructure from the green space and restoration of the field to its natural state to unify the park.
"It is my understanding that after the master plan is complete and approved, city Parks and Recreation will determine in cooperation with the park council the best resolution for the green space," Watkins says. "Meanwhile, we're actively looking at all options for meeting the needs of our women's softball team. In fact, we're [at] the moment checking all the 20 or so fields on the point for potential alternatives."
A court decision in the late 1980s requires the university to pay $90,000 to the city whenever the master plan is completed and approved. Watkins says these funds are available and have been.
At a height of at least 50 feet in most places, Sunset Cliffs -- composed of eroding sandstone and shale -- do not allow easy or safe access to the beaches and surf. Rock falls occur during the summer and winter, and only agile park users, surfers, and strong swimmers climb or walk down the slopes. The master plan recommends refurbishment and maintenance of the Ladera Street stairway and construction of new stairs at Garbage Beach, which would be accessed from the lower parking lot.
The city closed the Ladera stairs because handrails on the bottom flight rusted and fell off but determined that replacing them would require taking off two of the flights. Scatolini says public usage continues despite a chain and sign intended to deter access.
"The foot treads are treacherous, yet when I went to the stairs, I saw over 100 people go up and down those stairs, ignoring that they were closed," he says.
The Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Recreation Council believes adding access points in locations other than the Ladera Street stairway will result in injuries and deaths.
"We're very concerned right now that park planners have put in a second stairway not even 200 yards from a new stairway that is being built," recreation council chairperson Ingram says, referring to the stairway to Garbage Beach. "If you're going to put in access, wouldn't it be better to put it in an area where access would serve the public best? That site would lead people to come down to a new surface beach that is submerged."
The recreation council also fears that the parking lot and pocket beach's isolated locations may increase gang activity and underage drinking and drug use. A permanent public restroom and beach shower near the lower parking lot have been recommended in the master plan, yet also pose similar safety concerns.
"Issues of vandalism, vagrancy, and sex crimes along with increased gang activity bring great concern to the community," Scatolini says. "Permanent facilities are usually locked to prevent some of these problems, and the public is then denied access to the facilities, thereby negating their usefulness.... Digging in sewer and water lines through the soft sandstone [for permanent restrooms in] the park is an issue, as this would disturb fragile native habitat and exacerbate erosion problems."
Ingram supports the addition of portable facilities instead of permanent restrooms, arguing that the former lend themselves to the natural park and are unobtrusive. "The Porta Pottis, if not attractive, are effective because they don't provide places for drug deals or sexual perverts," she says.
Craig Castaneda, a policy adviser to District Two councilmember Michael Zucchet, says Zucchet "is very aware of the issues and oppositions and how they attribute to crime, drainage, and plumbing and does not feel there is a need for the permanent [restrooms] at this time." As for the other areas of contention, Castaneda says Zucchet supports the removal of the ballfield and has not yet formulated a position on beach access.
Castaneda is eager for the master plan to come before the council by the end of the year. "So much focus has been placed on these three items that the committee has lost focus in a lot of discussions," he says. "The focus of attention should be on erosion. Whether [Zucchet] is trying to work with the recreation council, Parks and Recreation, or the [land and housing] committee, he wants to mitigate erosion along the linear and hillside portion [of Sunset Cliffs]."
The Sunset Cliffs Recreation Council and coastal area committee of the Park and Recreation Board have approved the master plan conditionally. However, before it comes before the city council for final approval, the public must respond to the city's environmental impact report, the city's design review committee needs to evaluate whether there are any design flaws, and the plan must be approved by the Park and Recreation Board. Anne Swanson predicts that the California Coastal Commission will want to contribute an opinion as well.
In the meantime, Steve Scatolini waits and worries.
"Although this ballfield comprises part of the park, everyone thinks of their own use for the park," he says. "I, I, I, I. Everybody is worried about themselves. I'm worried about this living land. There are not many living places left that are publicly owned that we can give to the future. It's worth passing it on intact and preserving it intact."