Several turned out to a parks and recreation committee meeting Wednesday night to protest the rules, which require any group of 10 people or more to buy a permit and liability insurance in order to use the city's soccer fields.
Recently, games in which the players don't have permits have been broken up by police.
The recreational players argued it's impossible to buy liability insurance for pick-up games, since the participants are different from one day to the next.
Their concerns sparked a wide-ranging debate about the purpose of the city's fields, the nature of liability insurance, and what constitutes an organized group as opposed to a pick-up game. Underlying the controversy was the fact that limited field space on the Peninsula makes competition among groups virtually inevitable.
Rather than relax the city's rules, Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Miller offered to research the possibility of designating a given field for pick-up play at certain hours of the day. Groups could then use that field on a first-come, first-served basis.
Praising that alternative as a viable compromise, the nine-member citizens' committee unanimously upheld the field restrictions. Several members said keeping the fields in top condition for organized youth groups is their top concern.
It's unclear, however, whether the alternative will satisfy the groups of adults who use the field for recreation on a regular basis.
Several left the meeting saying they felt optimistic a solution was in the works. But Miller said afterwards that his offer wasn't designed to allow them to keep playing as a group at pre-scheduled times. If they want to do that, he said, they'll still need to buy a permit.
"Say we identify Boothbay Park on Tuesday and Thursday from 12 to 2 p.m." as the pick-up field, Miller explained. "What do you think is going to happen when three organized groups show up?"
The problem with letting large groups of adults use the fields, Miller said, is that they get torn up and then become unsafe for the groups that rely on them, such as AYSO soccer.
"If you ask anybody, I think we have some of the best sports facilities on the Peninsula," Miller said. "There's a reason for that: They're well-managed so that they're not over-used."
It also helps that Foster City has more public parks per capita than most cities. Sea Cloud, Catamaran, Boothbay, Edgewater and Port Royal parks all have soccer fields.
Indeed, Foster City's fields are the most desirable in the area, said Yilmaz Sahinkaya, who spoke on behalf of a group that plays on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Lately, he said, the group has shifted its games to San Mateo parks, where the rules are less strict.
Miller said he'll report back to the parks and recreation committee at its March meeting on the feasibility of designating a pick-up field. Meanwhile, the permit rules will stand.
E-mail Will Oremus at email@example.com.