SCGA Governmental Affairs

“PUBLIC GOLF ENDANGERMENT ACT” IT’S AMENDED, STRONGER THAN EVER, AND DOCKETED FOR HEARING NEXT WED.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

When AB 672 author Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) announced over the Holidays that she would be leaving her Assembly seat at the end of 2022 in order to pursue a run against Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia for the newly created 42nd Congressional District, we waited to see whether her enthusiasm for continuing to pursue the “Act” might be diminished.


We didn’t have to wait long. Within 2 hours of the opening of the 2022 legislative session yesterday afternoon she again amended the bill and got it docketed on next week’s agenda of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, making much more likely than not that she at least thinks she has the votes to move AB 672 past this first of many legislative hurdles – the next two being the Assembly Appropriations Committee and very likely the Local Governance Committee as well.

Certain changes in the composition of the Housing and Community Development Committee as well the Assembly Appropriations Committee are positive developments to the degree to which the bill does something in 2022 in its new and very improved form that it failed to do in 2021 – get out of its 1st committee of reference.

We emphasize that “1st committee of reference” comment, because any and all bills have to pass through multiple junctures on their way to becoming law – multiple junctures in two separate houses of the legislature and a final one in the form of either a Gubernatorial signature or veto. This is why SCGA jumped out quickly once Ms. Garcia substantially amended this “Public Golf Endangerment Act” on September 9 to remake it in a form that we concluded was considerably more politically palatable and thus saleable than its initial iteration. We had a strong sense that we were likely to be in for a much longer fight in 2022 than 2021. Yesterday’s round of amendments/refinements only served to validate that conclusion. Many of SCGA’s allied associations and organizations agreed, given how many of them have followed suit by also moving quickly in their own niches.

As for how yesterday’s amendments changed the bill, the key change is embodied in the Legislative Counsel’s new opening description:
Existing law establishes the Department of Housing and Community Development and requires it to, among other things, administer various programs intended to fund the acquisition of property to develop or preserve affordable housing. This bill would, upon appropriation by the Legislature, require the department to administer a program to provide incentives in the form of grants to local agencies that enter into a development agreement to convert a golf course owned by the local agency into housing and publicly accessible open space, as specified.”

Gone is the previous reference to a $50 million appropriation. In its place is an open-ended mechanism that kicks the funding can down the road and does so by tapping into an existing law that establishes grants for local agencies wishing to acquire property for the purpose of either developing or preserving affordable housing – in this case (existing municipal golf courses) only development. Also in its place is a requirement that a local agency enter into a development agreement for the purpose of creating affordable housing per specific requirements in following sections of the revised “Act.” A cynic might suggest that this is a “developer’s bill,” but not being cynics, we would never suggest such a thing.

There are other details, including one that makes clear that the 15% open space requirement cannot be fulfilled by any golf-related function, but this is the gist of the “Act” as now amended and moving forward to the Housing and Community Development Committee next week. The bottom line is that AB 672 still offers public money as an incentive to redevelop municipal golf courses and ONLY municipal golf courses as housing tracts. No other park, open space, recreation, land preserve, etc., need apply. Only parkland golf, which represents 22% of California’s golf stock, 45% of California’s golf play, and roughly 90% of California’s junior and developmental programs, is served up for development – and with financial incentives for the developers added into the mix.

In short, much has changed, but nothing in terms of the need to continue forward with what SCGA has termed a “save public golf” campaign – a campaign designed to inform, engage, and activate golfers to make their views on the bill known to their elected leaders.

SCGA and all of its allied partners in the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) have filed their formal letters of opposition with the Housing Committee and are prepared to testify to the extent that COVID restrictions and a packed legislative calendar permit. Others, including non-golf organizations, have followed suit. But as this “Act” that SCGA has identified as the most damaging bill re golf to be filed in more than a generation moves through the long legislative process, nothing will prove more important than the following: Legislators hearing from their individual constituents and golf stakeholders in their districts that they consider this singling out of golf for expulsion from the park/recreation/open space community to cause considerably more harm than any possible good that might come from adding a handful of new housing units to California’s woefully low housing stock. We will continue repeating the following words as long as this bill remains alive: This has nothing to do with housing.

Speaking of informing, engaging, and activating, click here to do all three.

For those who revel in the details, click here to read the Public Golf Endangerment Act as it is now amended and on its way to the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee next Wednesday.

We close this opening update of 2022 by noting two (2) things: 1) This update is now a “Public Affairs” update because SCGA Governmental Affairs is now SCGA Public Affairs, and 2) December’s trove of rain and snow, to the degree to which is followed up in January, February and March with merely average precipitation, may have given us a reprieve from what had been shaping up as some very difficult and challenging times in 2022. With emphasis on the word, “reprieve.” One good year, let alone one good month, isn’t going to change this dynamic enough to obviate the game’s need to continue reducing its water footprint.

Happy New Year!

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Are you interested in becoming an advocate for golf in California? The CGCOA is seeking amateur golfers who are passionate about protecting the game of golf and promoting public policies that enable golf to flourish in California. Take the next step to becoming an advocate for golf by completing the attached Golf is Good Ambassador Application.

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