What the opposing parties title the California Assembly bill now known as AB1910 is maybe the best indication of how differently the two sides see it.
Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) introduced a bill called “Incentivize Conversion: Accessible Open Space & Affordable Housing” that she co-authored. The law is referred to as “The Public Golf Endangerment Act” by officials from several golf groups in the state who oppose it.
The law is currently in its third iteration, and it would allow municipally owned golf courses in the state to be converted into affordable housing. Last year, Garcia introduced the bill, then known as AB672, but it never made it out of the first committee. In January, the bill was reintroduced and passed through two committees before stalling and dying in the assembly’s appropriations committee.
Garcia has reintroduced the law under a new number, but with the same core goals as the legislation introduced last year and in January. The bill would enable the state to turn municipal golf facilities into affordable housing. The bill’s previous version focused on municipal courses in densely populated urban areas, but the current version might allow any municipal course in the state to be developed. Garcia’s commitment to the issue is demonstrated by the fact that she has introduced the bill three times.
AB 672, a measure in California to redevelop municipal golf courses, has stalled, but golf officials foresee additional obstacles.
“Studies reveal that low-income and minority neighborhoods lack access to open space and housing security,” Garcia wrote in a tweet from her Assembly District 58 account. Garcia is also leaving the legislature to run for a newly created congressional seat in the United States. “#AB1910 will assist to address these two inequities by ensuring that everyone is safely housed AND has access to open space to play.”
Arguing for the game’s future
The golf industry has made compelling arguments against the bill, such as how a municipal golf course may be a community’s hub of recreational activity, rather than merely a location to hit a little bucket of balls or play nine holes every now and again. Other than the belief that Garcia’s plan circumvents the state’s Park Protection Act and potentially reduce the number of courses in the state, the sport’s prominent figures point out two key difficulties with his proposal.
First, it’s clear that groups like the Southern California Golf Association and the PGA of Southern California believe the law is aimed solely at golf, as the draft legislation makes no mention of converting soccer complexes, recreational baseball stadiums, or tennis facilities. Only golf courses are listed specifically.
In an emailed statement to SCGA members concerning the bill’s reintroduction this week, Craig Kessler, director of public affairs for the Southern California Golf Association, stated, “The ONLY ‘accessible open space’ targeted is golf.” “That is obvious from the Assembly Member’s tweet on the matter. A gigantic golf ball dominates the scene; there is no open space or homes – just a golf ball and nothing else, and it is a well-known brand.”
The second concept is that by focusing on municipal golf courses first, the door to proposing development of additional golf courses in the state could be opened in the future.
“Public parkland golf courses (municipal) account for 22.3 percent of California’s golf stock; but, the line from this law is a straight one to the state’s daily fee and private club facilities, for reasons we have discussed in detail several times over the previous year,” Kessler wrote. “It’s all about the land that all three types of course lie atop, and golf’s continued validity to use that land as it has for more than a century in both circumstances.”
Even as the state’s golf authorities rejoice over the bill’s two prior failures, they must recognize that this third attempt at passage may not be the last. The SCGA, SCPGA, California Alliance for Golf, and golfers themselves must continue to emphasize that golf courses, especially municipal golf courses, are vital to communities in general, not just golfers.
The attacks will continue, and the defense will have to keep up.