Lawmakers kill bill to encourage affordable housing development on golf courses

By MADISON HIRNEISEN

THE CENTER SQUARE

(The Center Square) — A bill that would have created an incentive program giving grants to cities to turn public golf courses into housing met its demise Thursday before the Assembly Appropriations Committee when lawmakers refused to move the bill forward.

The 1910 Assembly Bill, authored by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, proposed to establish an incentive program to provide grants to local agencies that entered into development agreements to convert a municipally owned golf course into a combination of affordable housing and open space.

The measure came during the pending Appropriations Committee hearing on Thursday. During the hearing, lawmakers on the committee advanced hundreds of bills while withholding others without a vote — thus killing the bill without giving a reason for not passing the measure.

The committee gave no official reason for its decision to kill AB 1910, but the measure met with strong opposition. More than 80 groups have registered against the bill; many were statewide golf leagues and associations.

Ms Garcia told The Center Square on Friday that she was “very disappointed” that the bill had not moved forward, especially as California faces an ongoing housing crisis. Under AB 1910, cities and counties would not be required to convert public yards to housing, but they could be eligible for grants if they chose to do so.

At a committee hearing in March, Ms. Garcia told lawmakers she saw AB 1910 as an opportunity to expand housing options and open space in dense areas of the state, like her own community. .

California has about 1,100 golf courses, of which about 250 are locally owned, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. With the average size of a golf course being 150 acres, an analysis by the Housing Committee estimated that “the space owned by California’s municipally owned golf courses could hold approximately 375,000 housing units” at a moderate density of 10 units per acre.

“It’s disappointing that we don’t have this tool in the toolbox,” Ms. Garcia said. “It won’t solve all of our solutions, but if we’re going to solve the housing crisis we have and all that comes with it, we need to allow ideas like this to thrive.”

Opponents of the bill had previously testified that the bill “singled out” golf courses, adding that building housing on public land could threaten recreational opportunities for the public.

“AB 1910 unfairly singles out golf courses, ignoring the many benefits golf brings to communities, and threatens to further reduce the limited open space and outdoor recreation opportunities currently available to California families,” the Golf Course wrote. Owners Association in opposition.

Matthew Lewis, director of communications for California YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard), said the bill’s disappearance reveals the political influence of the golf community.

“The power of the golf community is truly amazing,” Mr. Lewis told The Center Square. “I think what we see here is a demonstration of that power.”

Mr Lewis later added that expanding housing options on public land remains an important consideration for lawmakers, noting that even if a city chooses to build housing on part of a public golf course , the land could still exist for golfers. utilize.

Because this is her last year in parliament, Ms Garcia said she would not be able to reintroduce this legislation but hopes someone else will “take over” to continue the discussion. It is the second time this proposal has not passed the appropriations committee, as Ms Garcia introduced a similar measure in 2021 which was killed in committee.

Michael C. Ford