Besides, he says: "It's going to destroy the livability of the people in the homes across the street."

I'll give Barry and his allies this much: The fields will adversely affect the quality of life in the surrounding area from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. a few nights a week, when the fields will need to be lighted for a few hours. The cheering of crowds and announcements on the public address system will fill the air intermittently. Traffic congestion will increase somewhat; parking will be more problematic during that time.

If the fields are built, it is true that adults living nearby will have to make moderate sacrifices. They may even have to repeatedly endure the smell of hot dogs and roasted peanuts.

The question is: Will a few adults make a few minor adjustments to benefit hundreds of kids?

The leaders of the opposition, Barry and an accountant named Choi Eng Grosso, have already answered that question, each in his own way.

Barry is unequivocal. He is not willing to make the sacrifice. "What would allay my concerns is if they go elsewhere," he says. "I sound like a classic NIMBY, but I am not."

Eng Grosso's position is both accommodating and repulsive.
She says she will be happy to drop her opposition to the project if the school district and the Little League boosters drop the disabled kids field.

If the disabled baseball field is axed, Eng Grosso says, nearby neighbors will have the open space they need to walk their dogs. She espouses this position, even though the best and biggest dog-walk in the city, Golden Gate Park, is a mere half-mile away.

As heartless and seemingly indefensible as it is, the neighborhood opposition has affected the school district, the governmental body that will make the final decision on the Little League fields. The district is seriously considering eliminating the diamond for disabled kids from the plan. "That option is definitely on the table," says Elizabeth Lee, a facilities and property analyst for the school district.

Other aspects of the project may fall away too. As the school district courses through legally required environmental studies over the next several months, neighbors will have their most advantageous opening to chip away at the proposal. The lights and night games may go. The public address system may go. The two-story building with a concession stand in it may go.

It's entirely unclear what will be left of Little League baseball in San Francisco after the Sharpies get done picking at it.

Tepper is keeping his good humor through the onslaught of the Sharpies. The Sharpies are, after all, just one of many, many obstacles he has had to overcome since he helped found San Francisco Little League three years ago and began looking for a field. (Yes, that's right, San Francisco had no Little League until three years ago.)

In 1996, Tepper identified four targets that might provide the kids of San Francisco with space to play Little League baseball: the city's Recreation and Park Department, the school district, the Catellus Development Corp., and the owners of the Park Merced Development.

He started with the Rec and Park people. In their own way, they were worse than the Sharpies.

It took six to eight months just to get their attention, Tepper says. It took another six to eight months of wrangling with the department and the mayor's staff to settle on a barely acceptable site. "It wasn't perfect but I was going to take it," Tepper says.

The deal, brokered by our famously consummate deal-maker mayor, fell apart in short order.

"I called the Rec and Park people back two hours after the Mayor's Office announced the deal, and suddenly it wasn't three days a week with two hours for practice and all Saturdays for games, it was one day a week with an hour-and-a-half for practice and only some Saturdays for games," says Tepper. "We couldn't work with that."

Park Merced, a development in the city's far southwest corner, was being sold at the time, so Tepper steered clear, not wanting to deal with new owners.

Frustrated and angry, Tepper turned to Catellus and the school district simultaneously.

Catellus has had several discussions with Tepper about providing four acres for three fields in its giant Mission Bay development on the city's east side. "Nothing is on paper yet and the check is not in the mail," Tepper says.

Catellus gave encouraging words during the run-up to the final city approvals for Mission Bay. As of last week, they had everything they needed from the government in the way of permission to develop. It remains to be seen whether the firm will give away four acres of prime real estate, when there is no political benefit to be had from the move. (Catellus Mission Bay Project Director Andrea Jones did not return phone calls.)

But even if Catellus comes through, it doesn't foreclose the need for the Seventh and Lawton site, as some of the neighbors seem to think. "The demand for Little League is constrained by only one thing: field availability," Tepper says.

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