A bill in the California Legislature drafted by Congresswoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) proposes to convert California’s public/municipal golf courses into affordable housing. Assembly Bill 672 provides $50 million in grants to developers to redevelop California municipal golf courses into affordable housing complexes.
Yes, it’s a real thing. Assembly Bill 672 said:
Public golf courses: reconversion: affordable housing.
Current legislation establishes the Department of Housing and Community Development and requires it to, among other things, administer various programs to fund the acquisition of property to develop or preserve affordable housing.
This bill would require, after approval by the Legislative Assembly, that the Department administer a program to provide incentives in the form of grants to local governments that provide public golf courses for housing and open spaces accessible to the public, as specified.
GolfWeek reported The law project:
• Remove municipal golf courses from the protections of the Public Parks Preservation Act.
• Provide an exemption to the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA.
• Facilitate the rezoning of open public spaces for housing.
Congressman Garcia’s AB 672 “fact sheet” below states: “Golf courses are proliferating in and around California’s urban centers. As golf declines, the state can make a “big deal” to encourage the redevelopment of golf courses in a way that promotes fairness and affordability, and fights climate change.
Golf is in decline? In California?
The “fact sheet” also states: “In the 80s and 90s, golf was booming; but as the National Golf Foundation reports, since 2006 golf has been in decline. Golf courses are struggling to stay open. Some localities subsidize municipal courses. It is reasonable to expect their decline to continue.
This information is selected from a long list from the National Golf Foundation website filled with statistics and data supporting the growing popularity of golf in the country. The rest of the information said “SINCE 2006, there has been a cumulative contraction of approximately 11% that has been disproportionately concentrated in value-priced courses (less than $40 in play fees).”
Congresswoman Garcia’s “fact sheet” for AB 672 states, “Golf courses are labeled as open spaces. Who can access the golf courses? Only those who know or can afford to play golf. Paid leisure activities do not serve low- and moderate-income Californians.
Yet she proposes to further reduce or eliminate premium golf courses altogether if her bill were to pass — golf courses that serve low- and middle-income Californians.
The Globe has read reports that golf is up 30% in 2021, and particularly on municipal courses open to the public. According to According to the National Golf Foundation, 36.9 million people played golf in 2020. And, according to the Golf Foundation, of the nation’s 16,100 golf courses, “Golf remains highly accessible, with 75% of facilities open at public”.
California Land Use
California is made up of over 104 million acres of land statewide. Of that total, the federal government owns just over 45.8 million acres, or about 40% of California.
The Assembly’s “fact sheet” states, “California has 921 public and private golf courses. Their size varies considerably; but often consume about 100 acres of land.
That’s 92,100 acres of land that Congresswoman Garcia wants to remove from public access.
California also has a surplus of state-owned assets, including land and buildings. The misnomer that builders are running out of land is not the case in California, but may be in other states. However, the states and federal government have impressive real estate portfolios, owning vast tracts of land, structures, and buildings.
On January 15, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-06-19 directing the California Department of General Services (DGS) and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to identify and prioritize surplus state-owned properties to pursue profitable housing projects. The idea was to make public state and local lands available for affordable housing development, including:
- An Executive Order to Make Surplus Crown Land Available for Affordable Housing (Executive Order N-06-19)
- Connecting Affordable Housing Developers to Local Surplus Land and Strengthening Surplus Land Law Enforcement (AB 1486, Ting, 2019)
- Require cities and counties to inventory and report excess and surplus local public lands for inclusion in a statewide inventory (AB 1255, Robert Rivas, 2019)
Following that order, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) drafted Assembly Bill 1486to “Expanding Surplus Property Requirements for State and Local Agencies”.
“Surplus land” is land owned by a local agency that is no longer required for the use of the agency, with the exception of property held by the agency for the purpose of exchange or property meeting other exemptions.
The golf courses named in AB 672 are municipal golf courses – open to the public. Why would Congresswoman Garcia set up her venues on 92,100 acres of open land that includes public golf courses? This seems a rather cruel and deliberate attempt to remove the only golf courses in the state where members of the public from all walks of life can play golf at relatively low cost.
In Sacramento, there areour municipal golf courses on land owned by the city, operated by MortonGolf. Morton Golf Management Company offers programs for the physically or mentally handicapped and the blind, military veterans, stroke survivors, a Special Olympics program, junior golf, 30 different local golf teams for boys and girls , 13 Girls Golf Groups, First Tee Golf Program, First Tee Year Round After School Program, Latino Junior Golf Program, At-Risk Youth Golf Program, Girls Play League and many more. other programs aimed at providing the public with access to the sport of golf.
Congresswoman Garcia adopted the lie that golf is in decline to justify taking over and converting public golf courses into housing, when the state has an untold amount of “excess local land for a affordable housing. according to at the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
According to Forbesgolf is big business, “directly generating $84.1 billion in economic activity in the United States in 2016, according to research commissioned by the World Golf Foundation. The results reflect a 22% increase from 68 $.8 billion in 2011, the last time the U.S. report on the golf economy was released.The game also supports nearly 1.9 million jobs and $58.7 billion in compensation.
AB 672 originally a land use bill in Feb 2021 but was later heavily amended, has yet to have a hearing or committee analysis on it.
There are a lot of problems with this bill. What about the economic impact of golf on California tourism?
In Sacramento alone, municipal golf has provided over $4 million in property taxes, employment taxes, sales taxes, and rent to the city and state.
What about the impact on golf tourism in California with public golf destinations like Torrey pines in San Diego, pebble beach, Spyglass Hill, spanish bay and owned by the NCGA Poppy Hills Golf Course, all on the Monterey Coast? Or the public golf courses of Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Indian Wells? There are public golf courses on the central coast and in the many wine regions.
What about the huge increase in golf since the COVID pandemic? Most golf courses are reporting a significant increase in golf activity since March 2020, and in particular public/municipal golf courses.
There are many ways to free up California land and buildings for affordable housing, starting with local governments setting aside their myriad of permits that developers and builders must go through, as well as excessive fee structures. The government shouldn’t be in the real estate business anyway; the idea of the state compiling a list of “surplus land” is a much more appropriate and reasonable starting point for affordable housing than targeting public golf courses.
The Globe contacted Congresswoman Garcia’s office to ask if the bill had a sponsor or list of supporters, but we did not receive a response when the offices closed.