THE PUBLIC GOLF ENDANGERMENT ACT DIED TODAY

May 19, 2022

AB 1910 was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee’s Suspense file today, killing it for the remainder of the 2022 legislative session.

When bill author Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) pulled the bill from the docket of the Assembly Local Government Committee April 6, we thought it might have been finished then. But as we pointed out at the time, there was still a chance that the bill could be heard in that committee and successfully passed out before the end of the month. And that’s exactly what happened; however, it only passed out per an agreement between Ms. Garcia and Assembly Member Bloom (D-Santa Monica) that the author amend the bill to substantially limit its scope in three very specific areas – areas backed up by credible metrics. That was a tall order in the compressed time frame between the April 27 Local Government Committee hearing and today’s Appropriations Suspense hearing. Whether a tall order not met, or evidence of the old adage that you can’t fix a bad bill, AB 1910 will not receive an Assembly floor vote before the May 27 deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin. It cannot be resurrected in 2022, except for an end of session gut-and-amend procedure that is virtually never pursued for bills held in Suspense.

There is much about this episode in terms of lessons learned and harbingers of things to come – much that we’ll be sharing, because there is much that the golf community will need to understand to cope with what we fully anticipate will be more predations upon golf’s space in urban California. No matter the issue, it’s all about the land. But that analysis can wait. For today, know that AB 1910 is dead for the rest of 2022.

And know that it is in large part dead due to the thousands of rank-and-file golfers who took the time to express their thoughts to their elected leaders, the unified response of California’s golf organizations, and the support of so many of golf’s national organizations. SCGA and the whole alphabet soup of golf’s leadership organizations may have made solid public policy arguments to counter the bill, but without the support of rank-and-file golfers, those arguments would have carried far less weight. The congratulations go to you!

CRAIG KESSLER l Director, Public Affairs
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOLF ASSOCIATION
3740 Cahuenga Blvd. l Studio City, CA l 91604
818/980-3630 ext. 320 l 310/941-4803 (cell) l scga.org
Your Passion. Our Purpose.

KEVIN FITZGERALD l Assistant Director, Public Affairs
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOLF ASSOCIATION
3740 Cahuenga Blvd. l Studio City, CA l 91604
818/980-3630 ext. 302 l 951/212-4464 (cell) l scga.org
Your Passion. Our Purpose.

SCGA Governmental Affairs *Update*

WATER

When we counseled “concern, not panic” regarding recent headlines about water allocation curtailments, we didn’t mean to diminish the seriousness of the moment; we meant only to assuage the many of you who read those headlines and concluded that golf courses in certain areas of the Southland, most particularly Ventura County, the San Fernando Valley, and parts of the San Gabriel Valley, would be restricted to irrigating one day a week come June 1.

Irrigating once per week in a hot and dry summer is tantamount to death for a golf course. The biology of turf is what it is. Residences and businesses can rip out turf in favor of California friendly drought tolerant palettes, but while golf can be played on less turf, it cannot be played on something other than turf. Parks, sports fields, and cemeteries fit the same mold, and that is why along with golf courses, they are routinely treated differently than ornamental or non-functional turf.

“Treated differently” doesn’t mean given carte blanche in a drought. It still means having to curtail water consumption, but it means curtailing consumption in ways more creative than day-of-week/time-of-day, one-size-fits-all methods. It means keeping 100% control over times and days of application while curtailing consumption – in other words cutting back in ways consistent with maintaining core functionality.

In those places where “golf and water task forces” that work directly with water providers have continued to meet regularly – e.g., Coachella Valley – SCGA is working with its allied partners to beef them up. In those places where such task forces have gone on hiatus since 2016 – e.g., Los Angeles – SCGA is working with its allied partners to reassemble and revitalize them.

We’re getting ready by getting in front of events. The ride promises to be bumpy this year, and golf has proven that it is well equipped to handle “bumpy.” But do consider what next year or the year after might portend if the next two precipitation years look anything like the last three. “Bumpy” will hardly suffice to describe that ride. But it’s something to begin contemplating now. Hope for better weather but begin planning for more of the same.

And under the heading, something to consider in the much longer term, take careful note of Metropolitan Water District General Manager Adel Hagekhalil’s comment in the Los Angeles Times last week about the critical need for “real investments in recycled water, real investments in storm water capture, real investments in storage. . . these are critical; we can’t conserve our way out of this.” For the golf community the question going forward isn’t whether those expensive infrastructure projects will be funded; it’s only a question of how they are going to be paid for. That’s why we were warm toward the mechanism that Los Angeles County’s Measure “W” on the 2020 ballot sanctioned – a parcel fee attaching only to that portion of a property that is non-permeable with credits for discharge permits. The drafters couldn’t have devised a more equitable, fact-based way for golf’s participation in the funding. Nonetheless, this is another cost factor that the game needs to embed into its longer-term business strategy.

But until those new storage mechanisms are in place, conservation remains the only effective tool to deal with drought.

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Speaking of the Coachella Valley, home to 120 golf courses, and “planning for more of the same,” the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) is initiating a Colorado River Water (CRW) Conservation Program for all of its canal customers – those that draw raw water from the Colorado River in lieu of pumping from the aquifer. Twenty-six (26) golf courses are among those customers.

The fact that CVWD is rolling this program out should inform desert golf courses that have become complacent that the time for complacency has passed. The Colorado River Basin has been experiencing historic drought conditions for over 20 years, during which time system storage has decreased from 95% full in 2000 to less than 35% today. CVWD, which has long resisted any discussion of curtailing the generous allocation accorded it by various federal compacts over the years, has been actively discussing with other Basin States how to do just that. If the Colorado River is to continue to be a reliable source for the states that have long possessed more allocations than there is water to allocate, there is no other choice.

As an initial step, CVWD is soliciting interest for a voluntary, temporary, and compensated water conservation program for canal water users that can demonstrate a reduction in Colorado River water use for 2022 and 2023. Although this program will need to be formally approved by the CVWD Board, it is envisioned that participants will be incentivized $200/acre-feet (net and funded by external agencies) based on water conserved against their historical water use over the most recent 5 – year period, and the Irrigation Water Availability Assessment (IWAA) will be waived during the participation period.

The program is anticipated to start on October 1, 2022, and end on December 31, 2023 (program may be extended subject to further discussion with funding partners). For information about the program one can:

  1. Attend CVWD’s public workshop on May 17, 2022, at 9 a.m. at CVWD’s Coachella Office (51501 Tyler Street, Coachella, CA 92236);
  2. Visit www.cvwd.org/ConserveCRW; or
  3. Contact CVWD at ConserveCRW@cvwd.org or (760) 398-2661 extension 2466.

No doubt we’ll be sharing more about such new incentive programs in the coming weeks and months. CVWD is contemplating more of them as we write these words, many of which will be discussed at the bimonthly meetings of the CVWD Golf & Water Task Force. Anyone interested in perhaps participating in this particular task force can contact either of us via E-mail: ckessler@scga.org or kfitzgerald@scga.org.

AB 1910

Given the thread by which this bill continues to hang, we’d be remiss if we didn’t first reiterate the status report we issued immediately after last Wednesday afternoon’s Assembly Local Government Committee meeting, followed by a verbatim transcript of the comments issued during that meeting that formed our initial assessment and the questions raised by both.

INITIAL ASSESSMENT (Condensed from last Wednesday’s “Update”)

With 5 members voting aye, 2 members voting nay, and 1 member abstaining (Boerner-Horvath; D-Oceanside), the Assembly Local Government Committee moved AB 1910 out of committee Wednesday. Sort of. The 5th member and deciding vote, Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who had expressed skepticism throughout, made clear that his deciding vote to move the bill out of committee was contingent on a pledge from bill author Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) to significantly reduce the scope of the bill by amending it in three (3) areas to his satisfaction before it reaches Appropriations; otherwise he has Ms. Garcia’s pledge to drop the bill in the 2022 session.

In addition to maintenance of 100% local control over any decision to repurpose a parkland golf course as affordable housing per a requirement that the resultant housing be at least 25% of the finished development and the finished development be at least 15% open space, the only publicly-owned golf properties subject to qualification under the program must meet the following limiting conditions: 1) The subject golf property must be deemed “underutilized;” 2) the subject golf property must be in a community that rises to a certain level of “population density;” and 3) the subject property must be in a community deemed “park poor,” albeit it is not entirely clear what Bloom meant by the “park poor” admonition. And per Wednesday’s discussion, all three limiting conditions or criteria are to be “objectively measured” in order to pass muster.

TRANSCRIPT OF ASSEMBLY MEMBER BLOOM’S COMMENTS

“Thank you Madam Chair and I apologize for being late and I apologize for walking in on the middle of this important discussion. But as I think Assembly Member Garcia has already mentioned she and I have been discussing this bill and I want to thank her for working with me and listening to my concerns. I expressed concerns about singling out golf courses, in fact I think I voiced those concerns at the last hearing on this issue, especially municipal golf courses that serve as important recreational areas for the public, something that I completely understand. But as I hope all of you know one of my great priorities and abiding priorities since I was elected in 2012, and I think one of the reasons I was sent to Sacramento was to work on the housing crisis and try to find ways which by necessity have to be creative ways to solving the housing crisis. So, I want to again thank the author for her willingness to narrow the bill based on three criteria that we’ve agreed on. But I want to point out we’ve agreed on a broad set of criteria we now need to agree on the metrics for those criteria, and that’s not going to be easy, but I’m committed to doing that in good faith and I know that the author is as well. The three criteria we’ve agreed upon are to one limit the consideration of golf courses to areas that exceed a certain population density – we have to determine what that density will be. We would also limit this to golf courses that are underutilized or underused and again that’s a term of art and we will have to determine what that means. And finally, we would limit it to areas that are considered park poor and exactly what that means again is something we need to work out. I do hope that we’ll be able to work these criteria out and the metrics along with them and I expect that we will hopefully be able to do that before the Suspense Hearing, and I appreciate your commitment that if we’re not able to work out those criteria that you will park the bill. If and when we do work out the criteria the amendments would be taken in the next committee – the amendments that we agree to, and the author is nodding. Again, I want to say that housing is a critical need in the state of California and my thinking on this is that if we have golf courses, there may be none, if we have golf courses that are being underutilized however we end up defining that, then perhaps there is a better and greater purpose that we can put that land to. It’s not that I want golf courses to be underutilized, but if they are then I think we should consider them for this use. The LA Times ran an editorial as you, for those of you who are interested in this issue probably know, encouraging us to think creatively about a creative bill. This is the author’s attempt to find a way to provide for more housing and to the extent that we can honor that direction and not have a significant impact on the golfing public that’s something I think we should do.”

OVERRIDING/COMPELLING QUESTIONS

What do “underutilized,” “population density,” and “park poor” mean in concrete terms? What are the metrics of each? How are they to be “objectively measured?” Those are the devils of these particular details – devils to be hashed out between now and the Appropriations Suspense hearing. Who or what will serve as the final arbiter of whether real meat can be put on the bones of these three vague admonitions? That’s not entirely clear. What is clear is that at least in terms of what might constitute an “underutilized” or “underperforming” publicly owned golf course, that is an area of specific subject matter expertise that is not likely to be found among the staffs of Assembly Member Bloom, Assembly Member Garcia, or the Assembly Local Government Committee.

And if these “questions” are not answered to the satisfaction of either Mr. Bloom or Assembly Appropriations in the compressed time frame available (May 27 is the deadline for bills to pass out of their houses of origin), what does that mean in terms of Ms. Garcia’s pledge on the Assembly record to “park” the bill for 2022?

The next 3 weeks promise to be as impactful as they are interesting. Stay tuned.

CRAIG KESSLER l Director, Public Affairs
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOLF ASSOCIATION
3740 Cahuenga Blvd. l Studio City, CA l 91604
818/980-3630 ext. 320 l 310/941-4803 (cell) l scga.org
Your Passion. Our Purpose.

KEVIN FITZGERALD l Assistant Director, Public Affairs
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOLF ASSOCIATION
3740 Cahuenga Blvd. l Studio City, CA l 91604
818/980-3630 ext. 302 l 951/212-4464 (cell) l scga.org
Your Passion. Our Purpose.

NEW NAME; SAME THREAT (AB 1910)

How clubs and organizations in particular can help in the 1st phase of the game’s allied effort to beat back this bill for a 3rd and final time.

As you know, Assembly Member Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) has refiled most of the contents of the AB 672 iteration that died in Appropriations in January. The title is the same; however, the author is calling it the following: “Incentivize Conversion: Accessible Open Space & Affordable Housing.” We’re still calling it what it is – The Public Golf Endangerment Act or depending on the audience sometimes “The Park and Open Space Endangerment Act.” The new number is 1910. To read it online click here. To read a PDF version of it click here.

AB 1910 is in its gestation period through March 14; that is, no action can be taken until then. But after March 14 the “action” promises to be fast and furious – the 1st phase of the “action” that is. That phase: Hearings before the two Assembly policy committees of reference (Housing & Community Development and Local Government).

Golf clubs can have an outsized impact upon that 1st phase by filing letters with those two committees. But in order to do so they must act quickly! That’s why SCGA has made it easy. Click here to access the simple form letter that SCGA has prepared for a club or organization to execute. Because the process for filing formal committee letters is a convoluted one, SCGA will handle the filing for clubs and organizations during this 1st important phase of the game’s allied effort to beat back this bill for the 3rd and what is likely the last time. E-mail signed, executed letters to kfitzgerald@scga.org. SCGA Public Affairs will make sure your club’s letter gets to the committees in time to be impactful.

SCGA executed a soft opening to this 1st phase of the effort late last Thursday. The above information has appeared on the “Public Golf Endangerment Act” landing page at www.scga.org since then. Early this week (Monday or Tuesday) a harder opening in the form of this same information cum form letter will go out to the officers and directors of SCGA’s clubs in their monthly “Club Digest” e-publication.

The World Golf Foundation (WGF) has contacted the state’s First Tee Chapters to encourage them to participate in this 1st phase of the campaign by executing and returning policy committee letters to SCGA. The Golf Course Superintendents Association and California Golf Course Owners Association have sent out action alerts to their membership bases. California’s two PGA Sections will soon follow suit, as we anticipate will the state’s other leadership organizations. The National Golf Foundation (NGF) is close to completing a comprehensive redux of the California public golf market for filing with the two policy committees, which promises to be a total rebuke of the false information about “underutilized golf courses” that AB 1910 author Cristina Garcia has been spreading around the Capitol.

Over the weekend the NCGA tweeted out a blogpost that ran February 14 highlighting several PGA Tour Professionals giving testimonials regarding the role municipal golf played in their respective journeys – along with a lot of solid information to clubs and individual golfers as to how they might make their voices heard. Click here to view the NCGA blog.

It’s important to flood the two policy committees of reference (Housing and Community Development & Local Government) with as many organizational “oppose” letters as possible. Time is short. Both committees can schedule their hearings any time after March 14. They must pass the bill out of committee no later than April 29. We have no control over when they’re heard, nor will we have much advance warning. And we have little time to collect and file these letters, which is why this 1st phase of the game’s allied campaign is focusing so intently on executing and filing them. There will be time thereafter to gin up the generic “contact your legislator” protocol that SCGA (and others) promoted December 6 through the bill’s failure to pass Appropriations January 20. AB 1910 must again pass muster with Assembly Appropriations, and that has to happen before May 20 in order to move 1910 to an Assembly floor vote, and that’s exactly what every phase of the game’s allied strategy is focused on preventing, albeit even a successful floor vote presages the same gauntlet for AB 1910 in the Senate.

Now would be the time to get those club and organizational letters executed and returned to the SCGA (kfitzgerald@scga.org) for filing with the policy committees.

While clubs and organizations do their part, the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) will be doing its part by providing both policy committees with a very deep policy and legal dive into why AB 1910 is just bad public policy, something sure to cause great harm to the state’s park and open space stock while doing next to nothing to mitigate a housing shortage that ALL agree requires immediate redress. As we have said from day one of this saga, this is NOT about housing. It’s about singling out one and only one of California’s parks/open-green space activities for differential treatment. If it were about golf playing its part in a shared sacrifice scheme that might actually put some small dent in the state’s acute housing shortage, this would be a very different matter.

SCGA Affairs Update

IT’S BACK!
“PUBLIC GOLF ENDANGERMENT ACT”
THIRD AND FINAL AT BAT

As expected, at 9:00 PM Wednesday night Assembly Member Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) refiled most of the contents of the AB 672 iteration that died in Appropriations just a few weeks ago.  The title is the same; however the author is calling it the following:  “Incentivize Conversion:  Accessible Open Space & Affordable Housing.”  We’re still calling it what it is – The Public Golf Endangerment Act.  The new number is 1910.  To read it online click here.  To read a PDF version of it click here.

The author’s title may be very different, but the guts are practically the same.  The ONLY “accessible open space” targeted is golf.  The Assembly Member’s Tweet on the subject makes that clear.  A very large golf ball appears prominently; not open space or housing – a golf ball and little else, a popular name brand no less.

Ms. Garcia’s first two swings at golf’s stake in the parks/recreation/open space/public amenity community were whiffs.  Strike one:  The February 2021 version failed to make it to Committee.  Strike two:  The January 2022 revision that the Member tried to rush through as a 2-year bill failed to pass muster at Assembly Appropriations. 

AB 1910 is the Member’s 3rd swing at golf.  Given that Ms. Garcia has announced her intention to leave the Assembly at the end of 2022 to pursue California’s 42nd Congressional District seat, this will be her final swing.  Of course, any other member of either the Assembly or Senate is free to pick up where she left off in 2023 with a new version of the same old swing – something that cannot be controlled but can be mitigated to the degree to which this 3rd swing is another whiff.

Unlike the process the game successfully navigated in January, the AB 1910 process will be the normal order for 1-year bills:30 day posting period during which no action can be taken on the bill;Housing & Community Development Committee hearing;Local Government Committee hearing;Appropriations Committee hearing (May);Floor vote;Assuming the bill passes through all of the above, over to the Senate, where it will undergo a similarly dilatory process;Assuming the bill passes through the same hoops in the Senate, over to the Governor for signature or veto.“Dilatory” doesn’t mean that the California golf community has the luxury of time; quite the opposite.  Golf merely has enough time to accomplish more than it was able to accomplish under the rushed 2-year process it navigated in January.  Everything above takes time; that’s just the way these things go.  And the clock has started to run.

Outreach is well underway.  The California Alliance for Golf (CAG) contemplates next steps first thing tomorrow (Friday) morning.  Rank and file golfers and SCGA members will certainly be soon engaged in the way they were during the bill’s 2nd at-bat.  Indeed, they were largely responsible for the whiff! 

Here’s a thought.  Shouldn’t the “Public Golf Endangerment Act” really be called the “Public Park and Open Space Endangerment Act?”  Once incentives are offered to carve up one kind of public park, won’t there be a run on carving up other kinds of parks – one step at a time until there’s precious little green space left?  Environmental organizations call what Ms. Garcia is doing here “piecemealing” – the toleration of small insults that in and of themselves don’t rise to the level of environmental harm, but when taken together amount to a level of harm not to be tolerated under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  In this case the harm is to parks, open space, and green space. 

We have made the following point ad nauseum.  But some things bear constant repetition.  Public parkland golf courses (municipal) are 22.3% of California’s golf stock; however, for reasons we have outlined in detail many times over the last year, the line from this bill is a straight one to the state’s daily fee and private club facilities.  In both cases, it’s all about the land all the three species of course sit atop, and golf’s continuing legitimacy to employ that land as it has for more than a century. 

Read More for Current Updates
CRAIG KESSLER l Director, Public Affairs
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOLF ASSOCIATION
3740 Cahuenga Blvd. l Studio City, CA l 91604
818/980-3630 ext. 320 l 310/941-4803 (cell) l scga.org
Your Passion. Our Purpose.

KEVIN FITZGERALD l Assistant Director, Public Affairs
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOLF ASSOCIATION
3740 Cahuenga Blvd. l Studio City, CA l 91604
818/980-3630 ext. 302 l 951/212-4464 (cell) l scga.org
Your Passion. Our Purpose.

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