Assembly kills bill to convert public golf courses into affordable housing

REGION – Golfers across the state breathed a collective sigh of relief on January 20 when a bill proposing to convert public golf courses into affordable housing failed to pass the appropriations committee of the California State Assembly.

the legislationwhich was introduced by Congresswoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), would have authorized the California Department of Housing and Community Development to provide voluntary incentives, such as grants, to local agencies that enter into development agreements.

The proposal further required a minimum of 25% affordability for housing projects developed on a former golf course. According to Garcia, the state has 921 total golf courses, many of which are at least 100 acres.

In North County, there are several municipal golf courses, such as Encinitas Ranch, The Crossings in Carlsbad, Twin Oaks in San Marcos, Reidy Creek in Escondido, and Oceanside Municipal Golf Course and Center City Golf Course in Oceanside.

Additionally, Carlsbad is home to some of the top golf companies around the world, such as Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist and Cobra, to name a few.

The area is also steeped in history with PGA and LPGA golf tournaments including the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Kia Classic at Park Hyatt Aviara, a private course.

The Coast News contacted Garcia, but she did not respond by the deadline. Callaway and TaylorMade declined to comment.

“Very disappointed that my bill AB 672 made it to the Asm (sic) appropriations committee today,” Garcia tweeted January 20. ” It is not finished yet ! I will try again.”

Despite bipartisan dissent, Garcia pledged to reintroduce the legislation, which must go through the entire Assembly process.

The Southern California Golf Association was one of the main opponents of the bill, according to Craig Kessler, director of public affairs. The original bill, which was introduced in February 2021, called for circumventing CEQA, the Surplus Land Act and the Parks Preservation Act, which also drew ire from the golf industry, associations and players.

However, the bill was “substantially” amended on September 9 before returning to the Assembly in January, where it eventually died in appropriations.

Almost all municipal golf courses are considered a park under state law, Kessler said, citing the Parks Preservation Act. Kessler said most make a profit, which cities then use to subsidize their park systems for other activities, such as tennis courts, pools, maintenance and staff.

“The original bill would have made the decisions…and removed it from local zoning decisions,” Kessler explained. “The bill has been amended to restore all these local decisions. It resembled Senate Bill 9…and made it an acceptable bill for agencies that wanted to go that route.

According to Kessler, 22.3% of golf courses are publicly owned, hosting at least 45% of games and 90% of youth programs statewide.

“Housing is the No. 1 and indisputable issue at this point,” Kessler said. “The key point for golf… is to make the legislative statement that these are not parks. These are parks. It is a bad bill, it is bad public policy. It’s cheap, populous political posturing that doesn’t really address the problem it claims to address.

For local golfers enjoying a Sunday at The Crossings, news of the bill was met with confusion and skepticism.

Chance House, who lives in Spring Valley near San Diego, started playing last year and said the affordability and access to municipal courts made it easier for him to play.

House said the lower cost, compared to semi-private or private courses, allows him to explore more courses in the county and that reduced access will only hurt the long-term future of the ‘industry.

Chris Watts of San Marcos said the legalities of the matter made little sense, especially since most courses have operating agreements with third parties. For example, JC Golf operates courses in Carlsbad, San Marcos, Escondido, and Encinitas, among other cities.

Michael C. Ford