A bill in the California Legislature is proposing to convert California public golf courses into affordable housing.

Palm Desert is home to numerous gated communities and some of the world most fabulous golf courses and resorts, but could its award-winning Desert Willow become a homeless shelter and compound for low-income housing?

A bill in the California Legislature authored by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) is proposing to convert California public/municipal golf courses into affordable housing. Assembly Bill 672 provides $50 million in developer subsidies to redevelop California’s municipal golf courses into affordable housing complexes.

Yes, it’s a real thing. Assembly Bill 672 says:

Publicly owned golf courses: conversion: affordable housing.

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 governments that make publicly owned golf courses available for housing and publicly accessible open spaces, as specified.

Golfweek reported the bill would:

• Remove municipal golf courses from protections of the Public Park Preservation Act.

• Provide an exemption to the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA.

• Make it easier to rezone public open-space land for housing.

Assemblywoman Garcia’s AB 672 “Fact Sheet” below states, “Golf courses proliferate in and around California’s urban centers. As golf declines, the state can craft a ‘grand bargain’ to encourage redevelopment of golf courses in a way that promotes equity and affordability, and fights climate change.”

Palm Desert Councilmember Gina Nestande, always pro-business and pro tourism can’t support this bill, and her husband, former Assemblymember Brian Nestande, isn’t likely thrilled with it either.

But it will happen if California State Assembly Woman Garcia has her way! What about La Quinta’s SilverRock Resort? The city of La Quinta has poured millions in tax dollars into the course and as beautiful as it is can you image what great views homeless campers will have if Garcia gets her legislation passed and signed by the Governor?

Having lived in La Quinta’s scenic cove for more than a decade plus I just can’t imagine John Peña, a long-serving former mayor and a low handicap golfer, wanting to toss the keys to SilverRock golf resort and clubhouse to his housing department. Current Mayor Linda Evans whose entire council service has been backing this resort can’t be doing cartwheels in support.

The city of Indio owns the only nine-hole public course that is famous for its lighted nighttime golf. If this course becomes a homeless camp, it will already have lights that will help make the would be shelter better. Just trying to see the bright side here.

Indio City Councilmember Glenn Miller, also a golfer, and a compassionate conservative, hasn’t voiced his opinion on Ms. Garcia’s bill.  This course is adjacent to one of the Chandi Group USA AM-PMs. A  Dunkin’, Home Depot and Food 4 Less are also nearby.

Indian Wells, also a favorite place that I have lived in the desert, has two 18-hole public golf courses and a clubhouse. Former Indian Wells Mayor Richard Oliphant, the father of the two courses and the Indian Wells Tennis Center won’t be a fan of this proposed law. Can’t imagine a great lawyer and Mayor like Dana Reed wanting to see his city’s golf Mecca turned into a homeless Mecca just yet either.

That clubhouse might just end up being a space for those in need of a shelter that offers a gourmet kitchen and 36 holes of golf and is adjacent to some high-end resorts.

Assembly Bill 672 is a real live bill! Will Palm Desert, La Quinta, and Indio join forces to oppose AB 672? How about Riverside County?

What if anything will this board do to take a position on the bill. Former Assembly Majority Leader V. Manuel Perez is the elected Supervisor for the District with more golf courses in it than any in California.

Where will Chad Mayes and Eduardo Garcia be on AB 672. Have they been asking cities and county leaders what they think? Likely they aren’t yet focused on the legislation since they are in recess.

The city of Riverside has had a 9-hole course surrounded by Fairmount Park. Former City Manager Bradley J. Hudson cleaned up the park and its fishing pond during his administration, yet it has been the scene of homeless campers for many years.

Where will the city of Riverside be on this Assembly Bill and where will Sabrina Cervantes be? Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, a native of the Coachella Valley and daughter of former Coachella Mayor Greg Cervantes, understands the importance of golf tourism as well as anyone. So does Riverside City Councilmember Clarissa Cervantes.

Where does the California Chamber of Commerce stand? Local chambers will likely have a take and they will be expressing it. You can take that to bank!

This bill could provide, if signed into law, the ability to navigate around existing law regarding parks, provide grants to cities in search of converting courses into homeless shelters, and more.

Homelessness has reached epic proportions in the Golden State. Public health and safety are also impacted. As the state, county, and city scramble to fix a serious problem with task forces and well-meaning not for profits getting legislation that is designed to reduce or relocate the homeless, nothing seems to help.

One thing for sure is that residents want a compassionate solution, and they want to be able to walk safely in streets and towns across the golden state.

Regional government bodies, populated by city and county elected officials are also trying to develop solutions. This proposed law might just pass and might just be signed.

Californians needs to be heard on this bill and others. Make sure you reach out to your legislators in Sacramento. Also ask your county and city elected officials if they are for or against AB 672. These elected officials serve you and always appreciate hearing from you.

Public housing and homelessness are yet to be solved in California.

Image Sources

  • Indio Golf Course: City of Indio