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Proposed bill puts golf under attack in California

By |  November 11, 2021 0 Comments
Headshot: Mike Kenna

Mike Kenna

My parents still live in Southern California, and my Dad, who is 87, golfs with his friends on public golf courses. He is a member of the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA) and receives its online newsletter.

This summer, he forwarded a copy of the SCGA News, and the top story was “AB 672 is Back.” This particular bill authored by Christina Garcia, California assembly member from Bell Gardens, Calif., proposes converting municipal golf courses to low-income housing. The bill died in the latest legislative session, but it is not over yet. It could come back to life as a two-year bill that begins less than four months from now

The initial AB 672 version is one of the most anti-golf bills to be filed in several years. Thankfully, the bill failed to get scheduled for discussion on San Francisco Democrat David Chiu’s Housing and Economic Development Committee. This outcome was what the allied golf community had hoped to accomplish when planning a full-court press in opposition.

However, when the bill failed, Garcia made AB 672 a two-year bill, which meant it would come back for a short consideration window in January 2022. She substantially amended her bill just before the end of the session to eliminate the obvious problems posed by the original bill’s wholesale assault on environmental quality and local zoning rules.

The entire bill is online at the California Legislative Information website. Here is the first paragraph to give you a sense of this awful idea:

“Upon appropriation by the Legislature of $50 million from the General Fund, the Department of Housing and Community Development shall administer a program to provide grants to cities, counties and cities and counties to incentivize making publicly owned golf courses in densely populated areas available for housing and publicly accessible open space.”

Homelessness is a severe problem in California, and since less than 10 percent of the state population plays golf, why not use the land for housing? Unfortunately, the nongolfing public does not understand that the municipal golf courses in their communities are part of park systems that provide soccer, baseball, swimming, picnicking, biking, pickleball, tennis and a myriad of other recreational pursuits. If not supported by the local government, these recreation areas would not be part of life in any California city or suburb.

I am very proud of the work the USGA supported over the last 30 years that explains how golf courses and other green spaces in urban and suburban areas provide more than a place to recreate. Golf courses benefit people and wildlife, and university research validates the ecosystem services open space provides. Research by two prominent universities has illustrated the environmental value golf courses have on their communities. The project demonstrated that golf courses offer the greatest amount of cooling among urban land uses, are more supportive of pollinators than residential or industrial areas and retain more nutrients from stormwater than residential areas. Golf courses benefit surrounding communities in the same way as city parks or other green spaces.

While Assembly Member Garcia believes golf courses are a waste of government funding, the SCGA soundly objects to her logic. Municipal golf courses provide funding for Parks and Recreation Departments throughout the state.

“The fees and charges routinely cover all the costs of operation, all the costs of replenishing the infrastructure,” said Craig Kessler, SCGA governmental affairs director. “Twelve million dollars every year go into the coffers of County Parks and Recreation, which subsidizes those swimming pools, trails, picnic areas and soccer fields that don’t pay for themselves.”

We all know water is a scarce resource out West, but the SCGA’s California Golf Water Facts is an excellent summary of how much and what kind of water is used by state golf courses. Courses use less than one percent of the state’s potable water, and 40 percent use recycled water. Smart irrigations systems, soil moisture meters and irrigation audits all help courses use water efficiently. Plus, California courses replaced millions of square feet of turfgrass with drought-tolerant plants in rough areas.

AB 672 is just another bad idea that will negatively affect the community environment and quality of life.

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