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Posh San Francisco enclave enters pickleball cold war as anonymous fliers dropped

The tennis courts at St. Francis Wood are pictured on Aug. 4. | Source: Eddie Sun/The Standard

A wealthy San Francisco neighborhood appears to have entered into a cold war over plans to install a pickleball court, just in time for National Pickleball Day on Tuesday. 

Anti-pickleball propaganda has been strategically placed around the posh St. Francis Wood neighborhood, home to just two landmarks, a homeowners association building and a tennis court. 

“Know the facts! Would you want the homeowners association board to build a pickleball court next to your home?” the anonymous flier dropped around the area in late June reads. 

An anonymous anti-pickleball flier dropped in St. Francis Wood in late June. The flier has been annotated by the person who picked it up. | Source: Courtesy photo

The flier adds that pickleball courts could violate noise rules and depreciate property values “just as foreclosures can.”

One Standard reader and local resident, who asked to remain anonymous, annotated the flier with notes before sending in a photo of it.

“Ha! Absurd hyperbole … know your audience!” one note in red ink reads on the flier.

The tennis court has effectively become the neighborhood’s Checkpoint Charlie, splitting the warring factions in two over plans to change its use into a pickleball court. 

But while strong feelings against the plan have been made known through the fliers, no one in the neighborhood would tell The Standard how they really felt on Friday afternoon.

The pickleball debate in St. Francis Wood centers on the homeowners association’s proposed pilot program to temporarily line one of the two tennis courts in the neighborhood’s Terrace Green Park, with the court available for pickleball on two weekend days in June if members made reservations. The homeowners association did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

Jeff Freeman prepares to play tennis at the courts in St. Francis Wood. | Source: Eddie Sun/The Standard

Jeff Freeman, who plays tennis at the courts at St. Francis Wood almost every day, often finds them empty or else rarely reserved and didn’t have much to say on the matter. 

Despite hearing an “undercurrent of opposition,” Freeman said he hasn’t seen any fliers or negative things directly from anyone else.

A 15-year resident of St. Francis Wood, who didn’t want to be named, said he doesn’t have any opinions about the pickleball takeover and hasn’t seen any fliers about it.

He thinks negative sentiment is probably from the neighborhood being “older, more conservative and resistant to change,” with opponents worried that pickleball would draw a bigger crowd to a park that people in the neighborhood would rather see remain quiet and private.

A longtime resident of St. Francis Wood, who didn’t want to be named because she didn’t want annoyed residents taking it up with her, said she plays tennis regularly at Golden Gate Park, not around the neighborhood.

“I don’t mind changing the courts because I live up the hill,” she said. “But if I lived across the street, I could see how the noise can be annoying.”

A crowd gives public comment on a proposal to convert Stern Grove's flood-damaged tennis courts into permanent pickleball courts on Nov. 3, 2022. | Source: Jeremy Mann for The Standard

Prior concerns about pickleball courts saw neighborhood tensions near Stern Grove reach a fever pitch in November last year, with a pro-tennis advocate telling pickleball fans to shove the tiny green ball up their behind. After some courts saw damage during winter storms, additional meetings yielded more optimism from sports fans who hoped to see more equity among recreational offerings.

San Francisco Recreation and Park Department communications manager Daniel Montes said the city is on track to add pickleball offerings while balancing the demand for other sports facilities in the city. 

Montes expressed excitement about the Larsen Court project at 850 Vicente St., which would bring eight dedicated outdoor pickleball courts.

“After robust outreach last year and support from the [department’s] Pickleball Working Group, this location will offer all the amenities they requested, including an ADA-accessible bathroom and easily accessible parking,” Montes said.

George Kelly can be reached at