California assembly bill aims to convert golf courses into housing complexes

Photo courtesy of Jeff Whyte/Adobe Stock

 

Last February, a California state assemblywoman introduced a bill that would strip municipal golf courses statewide of their protections as public parks and pave the way for their conversion into housing developments for low-income families.

Almost a year later, the bill is still working its way through the assembly. It targets golf courses in high-density areas with few parks, and the bill would render them exempt from the Public Park Preservation Act and the California Environmental Quality Act. The bill, formally known as AB 672, was introduced by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), who argues that municipal golf courses are an inefficient use of government funds.

“In my district, the City of Bell Gardens, one of the most densely populated and park poor cities in LA County, is expected to build hundreds of new housing units in the near future,” said Garcia. “AB 672 is a sensible and creative public policy answer to the housing and open space crisis and puts our tax dollars to better use in communities like mine.”

Part of the bill reads as follows:

“Upon appropriation by the Legislature of fifty million dollars ($50,000,000) 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.”

The Northern California Golf Association and the Southern California Golf Association are leading the fight against the bill.

“The fees and charges [at municipal golf courses] routinely cover all the costs of operation, all the costs of replenishing the infrastructure,” said Craig Kessler, governmental affairs director for the SCGA. “$12 million every year goes 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.”

“Golf courses preserve open space, sequester carbon, provide habitat, promote biodiversity and allow rainwater to get into groundwater basins,” said the NCGA. “Municipal golf courses provide these benefits almost entirely in densely packed urban environments where they are most needed, and in communities disproportionately identified as ‘park poor.’ Converting them to hardscape exacerbates both problems.”

Other criticisms of the bill include the impact on jobs statewide as well as existing vendor contracts. A vote is scheduled for late January, and the NCGA urges citizens to reach out to their representatives to make their voices heard.

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