California local governments lost $20 million operating golf courses in fiscal year 2020, report finds | national news

(The Center Square) — About two dozen local government-run golf courses in California lost money in fiscal year 2020. Three lost more than $2 million, according to a new report from the Reason Foundation. of dollars.

The report reviewed the financial statements of 221 local governments, indicating that they operated golf courses in their 2020 financial reports. Of these, 155 lost money operating these courses in fiscal year 2020, losing 61 millions of dollars in public funds. The report notes that the 221 yards identified in the municipal financial statements are only a “subset” of all yards owned by local government.

Indian Wells Golf Resort in California, owned by the city of Indian Wells, had the largest operating loss at more than $4 million. Two other local government-run golf courses in Carlsbad and Dinuba recorded losses of more than $2 million in 2020, according to the report.

“Clearly, the extent of the COVID-19 related lockdowns likely played a role in the 2020 financial results of many courses, particularly in California, Hawaii and other states with strict or lengthy shutdowns,” Marc Joffe, senior policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, mentioned.

Joffe told The Center Square that local governments he observed in California ended their exercises on June 30, 2020. Governor Gavin Newsom ordered businesses to close in mid-March 2020. While from many courses have closed, the counties began to allow classes will reopen in April with restrictions on carts and indoor dining. With many other activities canceled, the National Golf Foundation reported the largest net increase in golfers in 17 years.

The report showed that 24 golf courses in California reported losses in fiscal 2020, including a course in Bell Gardens, Calif., which reported more than $139,000 in losses. Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia represents this district and recently introduced a bill which would provide grants to local governments to convert municipally owned golf courses into a combination of affordable housing and publicly accessible open space.

Garcia told The Center Square that the Reason Foundation report poses the question to local governments – “is this golf course the best use of our tax dollars?”

“We have a housing crisis. We have an open space crisis,” Garcia said. “We have a limited budget in our local government and taxpayers subsidize these golf courses. I think it’s fair to ask taxpayers if this is the best use for them.

Under Garcia’s bill, local governments would be eligible for grants to turn golf courses into housing and open space if at least 25% of new units were affordable housing, 15% of land was open space accessible to the public and no more than one – one third of the square footage of the development was “for non-residential use”, such as parking lots.

Garcia noted that there are at least seven municipal golf courses within an eight-mile radius of her home in southeast Los Angeles County, an area she says lacks open space but has many contaminated properties. Garcia told lawmakers last month that, in dense communities like his, offering incentives to governments that want to convert their golf courses could be another tool the state can use to address the affordable housing shortage.

The bill was defeated by members of several golf associations at a hearing in March. They said the bill “distinguished” family golf from park and recreation sports. Nick Bailey, vice president of the Northern California PGA Chapter, spoke on behalf of the California Alliance for Golf at a hearing last month. He said the bill would reduce green space in communities that already lack it and “excommunicate golf from the parks and recreation family.”

Responding to that opposition, Garcia said the bill is intended to spur conversations between local governments and taxpayers to decide whether to continue subsidizing golf courses or reallocate space to meet other needs. from the community. Under her legislation, no local government would be required to convert golf courses into housing, and she acknowledges that the bill “is not for everyone”.

She also noted that golf courses tend to take up much more space than other sports. According to Garcia, 43 baseball fields, 91 football fields or 2,000 tennis courts are the equivalent of one golf course in his district.

“The reality is that these golf courses are many, many acres in a landlocked, very dense community,” Garcia said. “And as we ask communities to build more housing so we can get through this housing crisis, we need to be creative about where those spaces are, especially in dense communities like mine.”

On Wednesday, Garcia’s bill was scheduled to be heard by the Assembly’s Local Government Committee, but the bill was postponed. If he moves forward, he will go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where a similar measure introduced by Garcia died in last legislative session.

Michael C. Ford