The SCGA Public Affairs team had the joy of participating in a meeting of the Duarte City Council a couple of weeks ago in which a very preliminary proposal to repurpose a daily fee 9-hole executive golf course with driving range as an RV Park / storage facility was all but killed by a City Council that made clear that the rezoning necessary to repurpose the property would not be in the offing. Duarte is a 22,000-person bedroom community in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley, roughly 10 miles due east of Pasadena. The small golf facility in question (Rancho Duarte) sits atop a long-closed landfill, making it incompatible with much higher and better economic repurposing like housing or retail; however, for something like an RV park or storage facility very much so.
While no specific application had been filed or was even before Council that evening, the absentee owners of the golf facility were directed by Council to engage the local community before seeking the zone change that would allow them to sell the golf course to a developer for that RV park / storage facility. As a golf course it is worth little on the open market. As an RV park it has substantial resale value in this community. Stop and consider that for a moment – AS A GOLF COURSE IT HAS LITTLE ECONOMIC VALUE; AS AN RV PARK / STORAGE FACILITY IT IS WORTH MILLIONS TO ITS CURRENT GOLF COURSE OWNER – but only if it can be rezoned low grade commercial as opposed to open space/recreation. For that reason, one member of the City Council approached us (roughly 100 golfers, most of them juniors) after the meeting to remind us to remain vigilant. People tend not to give up when the subject is money.
What “saved” the golf course that night? All the things that cannot be counted financially that a golf facility like this brings to the life of the community in which it is located. In this case:
- The environmental, heat sink, and water table advantages of green space over hardscape.
- The quiet enjoyment provided to the neighborhood by having a green space in their midst as opposed to a parking lot with storage structures.
- A local junior program operated by an accomplished PGA golf professional who has taught Lizette Salas and Angel Yin among others and provides $2 per session junior golf programming on site in addition to a local competitive junior tour that offers playing opportunities in the region at a fraction of the cost of the others in the region – a program and tour that looks like the Asian/Latino population that makes up the City of Duarte.
- A community beyond local golfers and homeowners that showed up to indicate the value a golf course adds to a region beyond a local community, whether they play the game or not.
What didn’t “save” the golf course? Any hint of the economic benefit of the golf course. Indeed, just to make sure that it was clear to everyone in the room, SCGA included in its remarks that if it’s money that is the deciding metric (tax receipts too), the RV Park has the golf course beaten by a wide margin. But if it’s all the things that make living in Duarte a quality community experience, an RV park is no substitute for the multi-faceted value proposition represented by this little golf course. Getting that on the record at the dawn of what may be a continuing challenge if the Council Member who came up to us after the meeting is correct, was a strategic move to get out in front of what may be a more lucrative permitted use some other potential buyer may have in mind for these absentee owners who clearly want to get out from under ownership of the Rancho Duarte Golf Course. It also stimulated a little discussion of the city considering taking the property off their hands and turning it into a municipal asset.