AB 3192 [Muratsuchi; D-Torrance]

Monday, February 26, 2024

Article provided by the SCGA

We picked up this late entry into the 2024 Assembly pile just before we sent out last Wednesday’s Public Affairs Update – a report that was mostly about the way in which Mother Nature and the California Legislature had given us a breather “to focus less on the exigencies of the moment and more on the challenges of the longer term.” “Mostly” but not entirely, as we edited the Update just before sending to indicate that we had tagged AB 3192 for additional scrutiny with an eye toward coalescing SCGA’s partners in the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) around some kind of response.

That “additional scrutiny” has only heightened our resolve to proceed down this road.


AB 3192 [“Major Coastal Resorts Environmental Accountability Act”] would among other things prohibit the use of “any nonorganic pesticide or fertilizing material at a “major coastal resort” that per the Act is defined as a resort or hotel that meets all of the following:

  • Is composed of more than 300 guest rooms or units.
  • Includes or operates a golf course on the premises.
  • Is located in whole or in part in the coastal zone.
  • Is either of the following:
    • Located, in any part, within 100 meters of the mean high tide line of the sea.
    • Includes, is adjacent to, or is within 400 meters of, any part of any of the following:
      • An environmentally sensitive area.
      • A sensitive coastal resource area.
      • An area otherwise protected or preserved under state, federal, or local law, including, but not limited to, marine managed areas and marine protected areas as defined under Section 36602.
      • The habitat of a species protected under state, federal, or local law, including, but not limited to, species that are identified as endangered, threatened, rare, species of concern, or species of special concern by a state or federal agency, and special status species tracked by the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s California Natural Diversity Database.

Per the language of the bill:

“Pesticide” means a conventional pesticide with all active ingredients other than biological pesticides and antimicrobial pesticides, with conventional active ingredients generally produced synthetically, including synthetic chemicals that prevent, mitigate, destroy, or repel any pest or that act as a plant growth regulator, desiccant, defoliant, or nitrogen stabilizer, and shall include insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides, fungicides, and growth regulators.

A broad definition to say the least and certainly one that would include at least some of the products now permitted in California’s Coastal Zone. It’s important to remember that certain non-organic inputs permitted in the rest of California are already prohibited in the area deemed “coastal zone” and regulated as well as permitted separately by the California Coastal Commission.

There are additional proscriptions in the bill related to the use of single use plastics along with additional layers of oversight, stringent compliance audits, and a set of focused whistleblower protections for employees who report violations to state agencies. But it’s the blanket use of all “fertilizing materials” that is of concern to the golf community.


AB 3192 is almost identical to a bill (AB 1590) filed last session that imploded when brought before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee – “imploded” as in coming close to failing to get a second to the motion to move it out of committee, a motion that the bill’s author had to make when none of her colleagues saw fit to move it, and then receiving less than half of the votes required to move it. One of the members who stayed off the bill was none other than the author of this 3192 duplicate, who may be the author, but it’s clear from last year’s Committee hearing that the sponsor of the bill is Unite Here Local 11, and the target of the bill is not so much those resorts in the Coastal Zone and ONLY those resorts in the Coastal Zone that “include or operate a golf course on the premises” but one resort in the author’s District. Labor and this golf course have been enmeshed in a long running labor dispute, which we thought had subsided when the parties reached a settlement last year, but apparently not.

When the bill imploded in committee, it was made clear that both author and sponsor were open to working with many of the organizations that had filed letters opposing the bill unless amended as well as organizations that had filed letters opposing the bill. This wasn’t surprising given the numerous obvious questions that neither the bill’s author, its sponsor, nor its language could answer – questions driven by the bill’s many anomalies, including but hardly limited to its application only to resorts sporting golf courses but not stand-alone resorts or stand-alone golf courses in the Coastal Zone, its failure to define what it means to “include” a golf course, its failure to define what it means to “operate” a golf course, and its creation of a complicated regulatory structure to oversee what may only be six (6) resort properties in a state with 900 miles of coastline.

The slope here is slippery to say the least! The precedent created by the successful passage of this bill could open the door to discussion of the same blanket 100% prohibition on ALL “fertilizing materials” at all golf courses in the Coastal Zone and perhaps beyond. It could presage something much different and much more impactful than the cascade of restrictions the golf community has become accustomed to accommodating over the years – things such as the addition of more non-organics to the state’s list of prohibited substances, the creation of more invasive auditing protocols, the promulgation of rules that restrict previously unrestricted applications only to those directly licensed by the state, the issuance of reporting mandates requiring ever increasing detail, and the creation of new local, state, and federal discharge permits. The California golf community has managed to not just cope but prosper with all that. But the precedent of a blanket proscription on everything as apparently outlined in AB 3192 is another matter.

The California Alliance for Golf (CAG) cannot ignore AB 3192. First order of business is to acquire as much intelligence about the bill, its implications, its amenability to amendment, and its prospects for passage that the members of the Alliance can before determining what the wisest course moving forward might be. That is a process as iterative as it is collaborative; thus, we cannot provide anything more specific or definitive at this early moment other than to share that SCGA and its allied partners in the California Alliance for Golf will be taking the bill very seriously. And given that this may be the only bill in the 2024 hopper that merits such heightened scrutiny, we can still safely conclude that both Mother Nature and the California Legislature have given us a bit of a breather “to focus less on the exigencies of the moment and more on the challenges of the longer-term.”


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Article provided by the SCGA

Last Friday was the deadline for the filing of 2024 bills. Because 2024 is the second year of California’s two-year legislative session as well as a presidential election year, there were fewer bills filed this year than last. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t a lot of filings. California’s legislators like to file bills, many of them duplicative. It will take us a few more days to decipher the details of all of them and then determine which among those “details” are in bills that may have some measure of traction, but thus far, our sense is that unlike recent sessions in which the statewide golf community was confronted with impactful bills regarding subjects like independent contracting, non-organic inputs, subsidies to convert municipal golf courses to housing, weakening of Surplus Land Act protections, and prohibitions on the use of potable water for certain types of turf, this session looks benign in comparison, although there is one bill we’ve tagged – AB 3192 (Muratsuchi; D-Torrance) – that has our attention. It’s a version of a similar bill that in 2023 imploded at the Committee level. While there are other prohibitions in AB 3192, the proscription that affects golf, albeit ONLY those golf courses that are parts of resorts in California’s coastal zone, is a blanket prohibition on “the use of any nonorganic pesticide, as defined, or fertilizing material, as defined, at a major coastal resort.” While it would appear that only those golf courses that are tied by ownership to a resort are included in the prohibition, it’s not entirely clear.

There are additional bills dealing with some of the subjects above to be sure, albeit none that are in any way comparable to the two bills (AB 672 and AB 1910) that stimulated the game’s “Public Golf Endangerment Act” campaign or the game’s efforts to preserve a measure of independent contracting for those PGA golf professionals desirous of that status.

The California golf community should use the time-out to be proactive. The game’s issues with water, land use, and the public’s perceptions of both that spell the difference between good and bad outcomes in the public arena aren’t going to disappear during this brief respite.

If we do find disturbing nuggets in the 2024 pile of bills in addition to AB 3192, we’ll certainly let you know. We’re still culling through the deluge of late filings.

In the meantime, we would like to share a couple of bills that aim to begin the process of implementing the hundreds of millions of dollars of general fund allocations enunciated in Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-82-20 and spelled out in detail in the Governor’s November 2023 “Outdoors for All” initiative calling for the “equitable” provision of access to parks, programs, and nature – in plainer English known as directing investment in urban based needs and programs in addition to the more suburban and exurban needs that have tended to be the beneficiaries of these kinds of commitments cum allocations in California’s past.

Okay, that may not have been “plainer English” as many would describe it. So, let us be blunt. There are two (2) bills in the 2024 file that take aim at the state’s propensity to expend disproportionate resources on the green space, environmental, and recreational tastes and preferences of affluent Californians by focusing more of those resources on California’s tightly packed urban areas that have long been deemed “park poor.” If you understand those places as precisely the places where the game of golf focuses virtually all of its developmental and “grow the game” resources (Team USA notwithstanding) as well as the places that were most endangered by the “Public Golf Endangerment Act,” suffice it to say you are a regular reader of these “Updates” and a follower of SCGA’s campaigns to increase the game’s societal benefit quotient among the 90% of the population that doesn’t play the game.

Two (2) bills in the 2024 hopper, one much better in our opinion than the other. The much better one is AB 2285 (Rendon; D-Lakewood). Its title:“Environmental protection: 30×30 goal: urban nature-based investments: parity.” Two (2) of its “key” declarations:

  1. It is the intent of the Legislature to codify the priorities identified in the November 2023 report of the Outdoors for All initiative“Providing Equitable Access to Parks and Nature,” and to encourage the Governor’s administration and the Legislature, when distributing resources towards conservation and restoration goals during future budgetary deliberations, to ensure parity in allocations toward urban nature-based investments.
  2. It is the intent of the Legislature to require state funding entities, including, but not limited to, state conservancies and the Wildlife Conservation Board, when programming and awarding funds to revise, modify, or amend guidelines as necessary to meet the 30×30 goal, to allow for urban nature-based projects on degraded lands to be eligible and competitive for state funds.

AB 2285 specifically references the massive “Parks Needs Assessment” study the County of Los Angeles completed in 2022 as having “piggybacked off the Governor’s and First Partner’s work on the 30×30 goal and “Outdoors for All” and prepared the 2022 Parks Needs Assessment Plus (PNA+) that identifies areas for Los Angeles-based environmental conservation and restoration that form the basis of the 30×30 goal. The three (3) findings the bill makes about the relationship between the author’s intent and this LA County “Assessment” is telling:PNA+ goes beyond traditional conservation models that involve the acquisition and protection of natural lands and reimagines the 30×30 goal through a more equity- and access-facing lens to direct funding and resources into the healing and conversion of blighted, degraded, and otherwise underutilized urban-based lands into green spaces and microhabitats promoting nature-based opportunities, access, and enhanced community and neighborhood aesthetics.Through thorough analysis, PNA+ identifies possible green space acquisition and restoration opportunities within the county and reveals a sharp contrast among regions in the county.PNA+ discovered that most of the available land for acquisition pursuant to the 30×30 goal was in the north County of Los Angeles, an area already rich in park and open-space resources as compared to the south County of Los Angeles, an area richer in diversity and more challenged economically, wherein the opportunities for 30×30 projects are confined to degraded and underutilized lands.

While AB 2285 is very intentional in terms of that component of the Governor’s Executive Order highlighting the need to focus on underserved communities/constituencies, the way in which Los Angeles County’s 2022 “Parks Needs Assessment” study is perfectly suited to effectuate that component of the Governor’s EO, and the need to direct more of the resources called for by the “30 by 30” aspiration contained in that EO (30% more public lands by 2030) to urban California, the “other” bill in the 2024 file that aims to begin the legislative effectuation of the Governor’s November 2023 “Outdoors for All” initiative is more oriented toward the environmental, biodiversity, and coastal aspects of Governor Newsom’s Order, so much so that much of the funding and priorities oversight envisaged therein is reposed in a statewide council dominated by the environmental interests that have long skewed heavily in favor of those kinds of “environmental” concerns (e.g., natural habitat, rewilding, and coastal restoration) that as LA County’s “Needs Assessment” study points out tend to direct public resources in directions opposite of the “equitable outdoor access” that forms one of the pillars of that same Gubernatorial Order.

That “second bill” is AB 2440 (Reyes; D-San Bernardino). It does not reference the Los Angeles County Park Needs Assessment that AB 2285 author Anthony Rendon declared an effectuation of the “equity” principle that suffused so much of the Governor’s “Outdoors for All” Executive Order. Nor does it put the same focus on urban specific investments. As such, it is the much weaker of the two bills in terms of focus on the “park poor” communities where so many of golf’s growth programs are located and dollars invested.

To the degree to which the Southern California golf community has managed to reposition the game in the minds of so many urban park departments and elected leaders as being heavily invested in the golf facilities, programs, and residents who live in these “park poor” communities, there are park departments and elected leaders prepared to invest some portion of the funds envisaged by these bills in municipal golf courses and municipal golf programs.

That discussion is there for the taking, and it is there because of the solid work SCGA has been doing in support of those communities for years, not just in terms of the work the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation has been doing, but as much in terms of just how much emphasis the SCGA has placed on the role that golf can play in those communities for both those who play the game and those who don’t. There are no toolboxes for that, no elevator speeches, no bullet point lists, no best practices – no shortcuts to the long hard work of translating high minded words into the kinds of deeds that convince those who live in those communities and those who represent them that SCGA does these things not out of any sense of “noblesse oblige, but rather because it intends to live the words behind the tag line, “Golf for All.”

It’s why we say as often as we can that our central task is not the parsing of bills and regulations, but rather the narrative that drives the views held by those who don’t play the game. If their view defines the game as too much land that uses too much water to serve the interests of the too few who have had too much for too long, the bills and regulations are not likely to break our way. If their view defines golf as environmental, social, charitable, and recreational contributors to the quality of the lives lived in the communities where golf courses are sited, golf will get fair treatment. The game may even get a few of the dollars envisaged by AB 2285, AB 2440, and other bills calculated to mitigate the dearth of resources dedicated to urban park/green space needs.

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Those interested in AB 2285 and AB 2440 as they were filled by their authors (unamended) can click here for a PDF version of AB 2285 and here for a PDF of 2440. Those interested in tracking the bills as they are amended and move through the legislative process can click here for direction.

The many more of you likely interested in AB 3192 can click here for a PDF version or click here to track it as it is amended and moves through the legislative process.

Of Water, State Budgets, and “Entertainment” Golf

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Article provided by Craig Kessler

It’s that time of year when we start to pay close heed to the status of the Sierra snowpack upon which so much of Southern California’s water needs continue to depend – a dependence that the region is busy working to reduce in favor of local supplies – e.g., storm water capture, aquifer replenishment, traditional recycling (non-potable), potable reuse, and desalination.

At the close of 2023 (December 31) things weren’t looking so good. But veterans of this exercise know that it is not where things stand in November/December but where they stand during the three winter months leading up to the all-important April 1 reading that really matters. December 31 – just 26% of the average for that date.

As of Monday (1/22) California was still below overall average; however, enough snow dropped on the Sierras in the three weeks between the New Year and January 22 that the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reported the snowpack at 55% of the average for that date. That would be 30% of the overall April 1 average if no more snow were to fall between now and then. Of course, more snow has fallen in the days since Monday and more snow is sure to fall, even if the amounts are disappointing.

To put these numbers in context, at this time last year the Sierra snowpack sat at 240% of historical average. That is why despite this year’s somewhat sluggish start, the state’s reservoirs remain well above historical averages. Shasta is currently at 115% of the average and 73% of total capacity. Oroville levels are 128% of the average and 72% of total capacity. Don Pedro reports 114% of average and 80% of total capacity. New Melones is 145% of the average at 83% of total capacity. That is pretty much the pattern across the state, although there are a few reservoirs still below historical averages.

Predicting Mother Nature is a fool’s errand, but it would appear that we are at least not going to suffer a drought year after last year’s incredible bounty. Whether winter 2024 will be average, above average, or below average remains to be seen. Whether ever increasing warming and drying conditions will yield another 3-year run like we suffered 2020-2022 also remains to be seen. But given what we have come to learn about the last quarter century, erring on the side of caution would seem to be in order. The Sierra Snowpack driven State Water Project is but half of Southern California’s import formula. The other half – the Colorado Basin – did not enjoy the same “bounty” as the Sierra Snowpack did last year and is not enjoying much of a resurgence this year either. As Sammy Roth reported this week in the highly informative “Boiling Point” newsletter that he produces on a weekly basis for the Los Angeles Times, “Federal scientists are projecting that Lake Mead — created by Hoover Dam, which interrupts the Colorado River not far from Las Vegas — will fall close to its lowest level ever by the end of 2025.”

Reprieve – relief; use whatever term suits your fancy. Just make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of describing current hydrological conditions as something akin to surcease.

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In our last “Update” (1/8) we took a deep dive into the Legislative Analyst Office’s (LAO) scathing criticism of the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) proposed rule to effectuate the Governor’s “Making Conservation a California Way of Life” mandate. Technically, the rule is a regulatory framework to establish individualized efficiency goals for each Urban Retail Water Supplier in the state based upon the unique characteristics of the supplier’s service area along with the flexibility to implement locally appropriate solutions. More thematically, the rule represents a reprise of the successful 20% by 2020 campaign that had been launched in the 1st decade of the 21st Century through the same 3-pronged process of Gubernatorial Order followed in turn by legislation directing SWRCB and DWR (Department of Water Resources) to adopt regulations to enable it.

If you missed it or want to take another deep dive into its particulars, click here. Today we just want to highlight something of significance we failed to highlight two weeks ago.

Agriculture’s use of water has long been the 3rd rail of California water politics. Despite using the lion’s share of the state’s water and often using that share to grow highly water consumptive crops, it’s the state’s urban dwellers and their uses that have been the targets of conservation initiatives – first indoor uses and more recently outdoor uses. This LAO report takes dead aim at agricultural by suggesting that the savings to be achieved by ever more stringent urban conservation are not sufficient to merit continued ignorance of those agricultural practices that favor highly profitable water consumptive crops. This is a shift that bears watching for what it may portend in terms of easing some of the pressure on outdoor irrigation.

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No January “Update” would be complete without some mention of that first step in the state’s budget process known as the Governor’s initial budget submittal. Between now and when the budget is supposed to be finalized (June 15), there will be much dickering between the executive and legislative branches of government – dickering influenced by a lot of outside lobbying – but it is the Governor’s initial salvo that frames the process in terms of both realities and priorities.

As for the “realities,” by now everyone knows that last year’s near $100 billion surplus has evaporated into what the state’s nonpartisan budget analysts are calling a $68 billion deficit and Governor Newsom is pegging as a $38 billion deficit. Arguably, the only California “whiplash” greater than the one created by a warming/drying climate is the one caused by tax structure disproportionately dependent upon progressive levies upon income and capital gains. But that’s a subject for another day – one that it increasingly appears won’t come in California until it absolutely has to. Tax reform is another of those proverbial “3rd rails” of California politics.

As for “priorities,” we note that the Governor has proposed $3 billion in cuts to “climate change” programs and delays in anticipated expenditures for the University of California and California State University System, certain social welfare programs, and housing programs, including those targeted for college students and 1st time buyers. The Governor has also proposed to draw $13.1 billion from the $38 billion in the state’s “rainy day fund” in part to maintain commitments made the last two years to programs to reduce homelessness and extend Medi-Cal to all immigrants. As for raising taxes, the Governor has indicated fierce opposition, including opposition to Assembly Member Alex Lee’s (D-San Jose) proposed 1.5% “wealth tax” on amounts of “net worth” exceeding $50 million.

What might all this mean for California golf? The “realities” make it unlikely that we will see the kind of free money that AB 1910 offered cities/developers to develop municipal golf courses into housing complexes. But they also make it unlikely that we will see some of the generous conservation rebate and incentive programs we have enjoyed in recent years – at the state level, that is. Federal and ratepayer generated rebates/incentives should not be affected.

As for the “priorities,” your guess is as good as ours, although we do take note of the Governor’s willingness to incur the wrath of the myriad environmental organizations that have already begun to complain loudly about those $3 billion in proposed cuts to “climate change” initiatives.

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Much is being made this week at the NGCOA Business Conference and PGA Show in Orlando about just how well golf continues to perform post COVID. Most in golf expected a correction – not a return to pre-COVID numbers, but certainly a dip from the heights golf achieved when it was practically the only game in town in many places for a year or more.

But it now appears that 2023 was even better than 2022. We don’t track state numbers, let alone national numbers. But we do monitor the numbers published by municipalities. And despite a critical shortage that has led to the near impossibility in many places to secure a tee time any time of day, those numbers continue to go up. Of course, given the reality that it is all but impossible to construct a new public golf course anywhere in Southern California’s urban core, those numbers cannot go up unabated. Of course, the prices can. And if you are an owner/operator or someone who labors in the industry or someone in possession of a membership in an equity club, that is good news. If you are a daily fee player, not so much.

But that too is a subject for another day. Today’s subject is the increasingly discernible divergence between traditional golf’s continued growth and “entertainment” golf’s recent dip – a divergence that the Wall Street Journal highlighted last week as part of a much larger story about declines in multiple forms of those tech/electronic substitutes mimicking traditional games/sports that were supposed to overtake their original versions as modern tastes moved to all things electronic, fast, and short.

With the caveat that a discernible dip does not a trend make, what to make of this? But first another caveat. What follows is opinion, commentary if you will – informed opinion we hope, but opinion, nonetheless.

Perhaps the more grounded who have long cautioned about investing in things unproven at the expense of those things that have endured 500 + years were on to something. Perhaps the golf community might be wise to figure out what about 4 hours in nature with good friends far away from the hustle and bustle of the world and emails/virtual meetings playing a game that changes each day with the rhythms of nature offers something that few things in modern American life offer. And we might add, offer it at a price point much less expensive than many of the high tech/electronic substitutes that mimic traditional games/sports. And then maybe consider the lesson we all learned in economics 101 – that it is the unique niche that distinguishes one activity from another in a world filled with an almost unlimited supply of them. Sell what you are, not what you’re not. Promote what you uniquely offer, not what duplicates the offerings of others.

Golf resides in the domain of the long-distance run – staid, steady, and dependable. Perhaps a little more focus on strengths that have proven reliable for 500 + years and a little less obsession with newfangled gadgets is in order.

Or not. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.


Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Article provided by Craig Kessler

Back in early October we reported that the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) was set to hold its first public hearing on the Proposed Rule it published August 18 to effectuate what the Governor and others had termed “Making Conservation a California Way of Life.”

As to what this “Proposed Rule” aimed to achieve, we summarized it generally as a new regulatory framework to establish individualized efficiency goals for each Urban Retail Water Supplier in the state based upon the unique characteristics of the supplier’s service area along with the flexibility to implement locally appropriate solutions.

We also pointed out that the exercise amounted to a reprise of the successful 20% by 2020 campaign that had been launched in the 1st decade of the 21st Century through the same 3-pronged process of Gubernatorial Order followed in turn by legislation directing SWRCB and DWR (Department of Water Resources) to adopt regulations to enable the Order. More specifically, we pointed out that the authority for SWRCB’s envisaged Rule came from two (2) sources: 1) Legislation adopted in 2018 (AB 1668 and SB 606) directing the State Water Board to adopt efficiency standards and performance measures for commercial, industrial, and institutional water use; and 2) the Executive Branch’s August 2022 “Water Supply Strategy” summarizing four (4) broad areas of state action comprising the State’s coordinated strategy for continued water resiliency, the four (4) being: Developing new water supplies, expanding water storage capacity above and below ground by four million acre-feet, reducing demand (conservation), and improving forecasting, data, and management, including water rights modernization.

We summarized the Proposed Rule very specifically as requiring suppliers to annually calculate their objective, defined as the sum of efficiency budgets for a subset of urban water uses, i.e., residential indoor water use, residential outdoor water use, real water loss and commercial, industrial, and institutional landscapes with dedicated irrigation meters. Each efficiency budget would be calculated using a statewide efficiency standard and local service area characteristics such as population, climate, and landscape area. Where relevant, suppliers would be permitted to include in their objective “variances” for unique uses, or a bonus incentive for potable recycled water use. Suppliers would need to meet the overall objective, not each individual budget. It would ONLY be “Urban Retail Water Suppliers” – not individual households or businesses – that would be held to the annual “urban water use objectives” developed thereby.

We concluded that early October “Update” with the obvious: That most of California’s golf courses are served by “Urban Retail Water Suppliers,” and just as 20% by 2020 proved impactful to the California golf community in terms both of access and price, this reprise of that same exercise would prove just as impactful.

SWRCB posted the “Proposed Rule” in August, conducted a mammoth public hearing on it in October, and the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) issued its “assessment” of it last week. In between a large number of water providers issued their assessment of it, and the comments were not warm to say the least.

Neither was the assessment of the LAO.

Rather than summarize the LAO’s critical assessment, we share the following conclusions drawn verbatim from the LAO’s Executive Summary:

SWRCB’s Proposed Regulations Create Implementation Challenges and Go Beyond What Legislation Requires or DWR Recommends. We find that SWRCB’s proposed regulations will create challenges for water suppliers in several key ways, in many cases without compelling justifications. Specifically, the proposed regulations:Add Complexity. The performance measures suppliers must implement for commercial customers are unnecessarily complex, lack clarity in places, and will be administratively burdensome to implement. Outdoor water use by these customers represents only a small fraction (less than 3 percent) of the state’s total water use. Any savings achieved would be small and come at a large cost to suppliers.Could Be Difficult to Achieve. Although suppliers only have to achieve an aggregate WUO {water use objective} — and not each of the individual standards for indoor and outdoor use— SWRCB proposes such stringent standards for outdoor use that suppliers will not have much “wiggle room” in complying. That is, suppliers may necessarily have to achieve each individual standard if they hope to achieve their overall WUOs.Add Significant Costs. The new framework is estimated to result in cumulative costs in the low tens of billions of dollars from 2025 through 2040. These costs will be borne primarily by suppliers, wastewater agencies, and customers. Particularly in the near term, suppliers’ costs will increase as they attempt to implement the new requirements, such as from providing incentives for residents to make behavioral changes like converting their lawns to more drought tolerant landscapes. Whether the benefits of the new rules ultimately will outweigh the costs is unclear. While an assessment from SWRCB estimates a cumulative net benefit of $2.5 billion, an independent review conducted by a private consulting firm—which raises credible questions about SWRCB’s estimates—projects net costs of $7.4 billion. Moreover, even if benefits outweigh costs in the long run, whether they merit the amount of work and costs to implement the requirements as currently proposed is uncertain.Could Disproportionately Affect Lower-Income Customers. To cover added costs and offset potential revenue reductions from selling less water, suppliers likely will have to increase customer rates. This could adversely impact lower-income customers, who may have more trouble affording the increases and may have less ability to further reduce water use to compensate. Existing constitutional rules make it difficult for suppliers to offer rate assistance programs.Build in Aggressive Timelines. Although the requirements are phased in over multiple years, the timeline for full implementation may be too aggressive given the number of changes that will have to occur to achieve the level of conservation envisioned. In addition, although SWRCB is two years behind adopting final rules, suppliers’ deadlines (which are set in statute) have not been correspondingly adjusted.

Even Modest Water Savings Could Help with Resilience but Will Depend on How the State Manages Those Savings. SWRCB estimates the state could conserve about 440,000 acre-feet of water annually at full implementation, which represents about 1 percent of total state water use. Although this amount of water conservation is modest, it could increase the state’s overall drought resilience if it helps align demand with lower water supplies in dry years. In wet years, the water potentially could be stored for use during drought periods. However, the 2018 legislation did not address how to track and manage these potential water savings. Doing so will be key to maximizing the benefits of these conservation efforts. Urban water savings during wet years will only help local suppliers and/or the state better manage and meet California’s water needs during periods of drought if they are targeted effectively.

Recommendations for Legislative Consideration. To ease suppliers’ administrative burden and potentially reduce costs, we recommend the Legislature use its oversight authority to make several changes to the framework in the near term as well as at key milestones over the coming years. In early 2024, the Legislature could direct SWRCB to simplify several aspects of the framework, such as requirements concerning suppliers’ commercial customers. We also suggest that the Legislature require DWR to provide more technical assistance to suppliers, direct SWRCB to make several of the proposed requirements less stringent (such as the residential outdoor standard), consider how to target state funding to assist lower-income customers, and extend some of the deadlines for suppliers to ensure they can actually achieve the framework’s goals. Finally, to increase the state’s resilience during droughts, we recommend the Legislature develop a strategy to manage and take advantage of any water saved due to these regulations. This is a fundamental step in ensuring that water conserved during wet years is effectively helping to meet the state’s ultimate goals.

We offer three (3) thoughts in conclusion: 1) The details here are great, but that’s where the devils and angels always reside, 2) the disciplining virtues of practicality and reasonableness routinely surface to temper overweening aspiration, and 3) the wise words of MWD General Manager Adel Hagekhalil come to mind: Conservation will always be a key tool in California’s water resiliency toolbox, but if it is the only tool, California fails.


Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Article provided by Craig Kessler

When asked what we do, our standard response is that we operate in all the places where the game of golf and public policy intersect. That’s a lot of places, many of them filled with interests and issues that aren’t always warm to golf’s cause. Because every day we are on the front lines of those unfriendly intersections, we feel obligated to inform those whose lives and jobs aren’t consumed by the red flags that we so routinely confront of the ways in which those other “interests and issues” have the potential to cause golf grief. We end up sounding like modern day Cassandras or Jeremiahs, upsetting everyone with all sorts of warnings, exuding a view of the world that is implacably hostile to the game and those who play it.

Well, that is our job. But that is only half our job. The other half – arguably the more important half – is to explain how such hyper vigilance can enable the golf community to effectively pursue its own interests and issues in those same intersections – not just in a reactive way by overcoming those not so warmly inclined toward us, but in a proactive way by projecting a societal value proposition that causes more and more to have warm feelings about the game and its value to the communities in which it is played, as much if not more so for those who don’t play the game than those who do.

With all that said, or more accurately written, we want to use our last Update of 2023 to share a few recent events at local and state levels that indicate that golf has been making progress in that vein – our way of ending the year with a message redolent of the Holidays. Not to worry; once the calendar turns 2024, we’ll get back to the Jeremiads!

2021’s AB 672 and 2022’s AB 1910 let us know that are indeed people in government who don’t think golf merits the land atop which it sits. More specifically, there are people who believe golf doesn’t merit membership in the public park/recreation community that includes ball fields, picnic areas, swimming pools, tennis courts, pickleball courts, trail systems (equine included), nature preserves, land conservancies, etc. But more importantly, it let us know that there were more in government who believe in the social utility of the public golf courses in their districts, and they believed that before we initiated “The Public Golf Endangerment Act” campaign. That campaign firmed up some of those a priori beliefs and perhaps persuaded others to share them; however, don’t get the idea that this will dissuade those who thought those two bills were good ideas from continuing to believe what they believe about the game’s social utility, dissuade the powerful YIMBY lobby from continuing to pursue the notion of converting golf courses to housing, or dissuade libertarian editorial boards from railing against the very legitimacy of golf’s encumbrance of publicly owned parkland.

On the other hand, the “hand” that should give us cause to believe that the game’s unified effort to make its case for social, community, and environmental value is gaining traction, here are a few things that have transpired in just the last 30 days to brighten your Holiday spirits:The Azusa Planning Commission approved an application to reopen 9 of Azusa Greens’ 18 holes, its driving range, and a limited F/B function. Closed since 2020, the daily fee facility that nurtured Lizette Salas and played host to a San Gabriel Valley Junior Golf Association that for years offered high quality/low-cost junior golf programming will again offer affordable, accessible golf in a region in dire need of it. Because the course is privately held, many assumed that public golf would entirely disappear from the City of Azusa, but because the residents of Azusa and their elected representatives made clear the value they placed on the presence of publicly accessible golf in their city, the new owners of the property determined to propose the retention of substantial golf along with some much needed housing – exactly the kind of compromise arrangement that golf routinely supports.The County of Los Angeles and Plenitude announced that they would be parting ways February 1, ending all efforts to commercially repurpose the county’s Victoria Park Golf Course in Carson. On that date Touchstone, an experienced, respected GOLF management company, will assume management of the facility. In early January, the county will conduct an evening community meeting where the county and Touchstone will explain what this means going immediately forward in terms of restoring the facility to a measure of playability as well as what might be in the offing longer term. What six years ago seemed to presage the elimination of all golf at this 180-acre parkland parcel is now a discussion of how much golf to maintain at the site.The San Diego Planning Commission approved an amendment to its Mission Bay Master Plan that maximized “active” recreation in the 4,000-acre park, included among those active recreational amenities the Mission Bay Golf Course and Practice Facility. While there are a few “devils” in the details of what is now a very generic plan, given the golf community’s robust engagement in the public processes and meetings that the city has held over the last 8 months, we are confident that those “devils” will be worked out very much to the satisfaction of the San Diego public golf community. What began as a campaign by some to convert the entire parcel into wetlands and others as a campaign to “rewild” much of it is ending a process that made clear that San Diegans treasure their active recreation, including but certainly not limited to golf.The comment period closes January 2 on the City of Los Angeles’ Draft Sepulveda Basin Vision Plan. As reported in a previous Update, a “Plan” that initially proposed three options regarding the Basin’s 54 holes of regulation length city-owned/operated public golf – the elimination of 9, 18, or 27 holes – in its final Draft form out for comment maintains all 54 holes and proposes to “improve” 18 of them. As with Azusa, Los Angeles County, and San Diego, another example of an organized golf community doing nothing more than getting into the arena and stating the FACTS of its case and finding that it persuades communities and office holders.The City of Camarillo rejected a proposal to redevelop the privately held daily fee 18-hole regulation Camarillo Springs Golf Course as a 12-hole course and practice facility along with housing, a project that SCGA endorsed because it offered what is still in our opinion the only route to maintaining some golf on the site; however, the rejection was due entirely to a desire to maintain all 18 holes of golf, not an objection to the substantial golf component contained therein. The degree to which the Camarillo City Council comes to understand the proposal or some modified version of it as the only feasible way to keep regulation golf on the site is the degree to which it is likely that some version of the proposal wends its way back for consideration. But again, another solid example of how communities and elected leaders view golf courses as assets – social, recreational, environmental, and communitarian.

These are but five (5) very recent examples – three in the municipal sector, two in the daily fee sector. There were many more in 2023. Taken together, they should embolden the game to stay the course in continuing to proudly project its societal value proposition and do so more as happy warriors than shopworn cynics.

At the state level we take note that Governor Newsom seems to be taking a page out of his predecessor’s book. Jerry Brown always defined his role as steering the ship of state back to the middle – steering a little right or a little left when necessary to keep things flowing down the middle. Of course, in California that usually requires a rightward steer, albeit not always. And that is what we can discern from a series of recent Gubernatorial moves in recent weeks, to wit:Consistent with the Governor Newsom’s “Water Supply Strategy” and with the full support of the Governor’s Administration the California Department of Water Resources has just approved the Delta Water Conveyance (Sacramento River Tunnel Project) over objections from environmental groups that the money would be better spent on alternative means of weaning the state off exports. This puts the Governor in line with the Southern California Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and other water agencies that argue for a “one water” strategy that does a bit of everything to achieve greater water supply resiliency, including projects that siphon water southward from the Delta to farms and cities. While a key tool in every sector’s toolbox, conservation alone will not suffice.With a budget deficit now determined to be $68 billion, Governor Newsom has let it be known that he will be seeking major changes to the bill raising the minimum wages of health care workers to $25 that he signed just a couple of months ago – an indicator of greater caution as the state continues to address what its body politic has identified as too wide a gap between wages and prices.The life of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant on California’s Central Coast has been extended yet again to 2030 in deference to the Administration’s fear that a warming/drying climate runs the risk of ramping up power needs that simply cannot be met by some of the “greener” methods the state is rapidly trying to develop to displace reliance upon fossil fuels, e.g., wind and solar power – a clear indicator that a certain balance will maintain as the state aims at a carbon free future.Despite opposition and lawsuits, the state continues to move to forward on the huge Sites Reservoir – again, confirming that when it comes down to it, the current Administration is not sufficiently confident in alternative storage methodologies to abandon above surface storage entirely.

Unlike our municipal/daily fee facility examples, these are not the kinds of issues the golf community elects to engage in, but they are the issues the golf community tracks closely to determine what to expect with respect to those issues that do directly affect golf. They are the bellwether issues that can inform the game as to the efficacy of some of the bills routinely filed each session that the game would find alarming were they to find their way to the state’s Codes. There is no point in wasting energy on matters highly unlikely to gain traction. There is no point in unduly alarming folks either. There are occasions when it is necessary to call the game to action – e.g., AB 1910 – but that is the exception, not the rule. And if the game can continue along a trajectory of slowly but surely advancing the societal value proposition of the game beyond the ranks of the converted to the ranks of the 90% who don’t play golf, the exception can become just that much more exceptional.

Let’s not focus so much on the defeat of the two “Public Golf Endangerment Acts” that we lose sight of how well golf has fared regarding a number of other important legislative and regulatory issues in recent years. From the exceptions in AB 5 and AB 2257 that allow for independent contracting teaching to the licensed applicator permissions in the legislation making neonicotinoids banned substances to the specific reference to “golf courses” as part of the exempt recreational community in this year’s proscription on the use of potable water to irrigate “non-functional” turf (AB 1572), golf has fared well.

Also, let’s not focus so much on the challenges posed by aridification that we lose sight of just how well the game has fared in working with its water providers to lower its water footprint in ways consistent with sound agronomic and business practices, making it possible to weather multiple droughts by remaining in the good graces of providers while maintaining access to the water necessary to remain in business.

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That is our Holiday message, and it is one of optimism. Yes, some of the challenges are daunting. Yes, there are those that just don’t like our game and oppose it at every turn. Yes, there are problems that can at times seem intractable. But golf has proven over and over again that if it will organize itself around its many strengths, tackle the arduous work of communicating those strengths to all who will listen, and never succumb to cynicism and defeatism, it can not only survive, but thrive.

Happy Holidays. See you in the New Year.


DECEMBER 18, 2023

The California Alliance for Golf (CAG), the “United Voice for Golf” in the Golden State, recently held its 2023 general membership meeting with representation from nearly all major allied golf organizations within the state.

Election of CAG board officers was held, and by unanimous vote the following individuals were re-elected to serve another one-year term: James “Jim” Ferrin, CGGS, as president, Len Dumas, PGA, as vice president, and Azucena Maldonado, LGA, as secretary.

“I look forward to continue serving the organization in a leadership role,” said President Ferrin, “as there’s still plenty of work ahead for the Alliance as we continue to protect and advocate for the California golf industry. We have made significant headway in recent years, thanks to the support of the CAG board of directors and the allied organizations they represent, as well as from public golfers at the grassroots level. We are committed to raising our visibility and our voices, not just in Sacramento but at the local and regional levels too.”

CAG’s advocacy efforts focus on a variety of areas that impact the business of golf. They include: water resources, land use, environmental leadership and sustainability, preservation of community recreation and programs that benefit veterans, youth, women, and seniors.

To learn more about the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) visit: https://cagolf.org/about-us/mission-statement/  and to support CAG during this season of giving visit: https://cagolf.org/join-us/.

The California Alliance for Golf


Monday, November 27, 2023

Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

Last week new Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) issued next term’s committee assignments, including the chairs of each respective committee. While much has been written about who is in, who is out, and what it all portends for the 2024 legislative term and beyond to the degree to which it is highly likely that Speaker Rivas will be Speaker for many years to come, here is what we think it means very specifically for the game and industry of golf in California.

Other than the general northward tilt that going from a Southern California based Speakership in the form of Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) to a Northern California based Speakership in the form of Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), what golf needs to pay closest attention to is the way in which the entire Assembly reorganization represented a huge victory for YIMBY (Yes in my Backyard).

To refresh your memories, YIMBY is the organization that pushed hard for AB 1910, the bill that would have provided massive subsidies and planning shortcuts to developers and cities seeking to repurpose municipal golf courses as housing complexes with a certain affordable housing component – the “Public Golf Endangerment Act” or “Park Endangerment Act” as SCGA and the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) tagged it in what turned out to be a successful effort to kill the bill in its House of Origin.

We already knew that Rivas would be warm toward obviating local control in favor of fast-tracking anything purporting to facilitate the construction of affordable housing by the way in which he rushed so many such bills when he assumed the Speakership at the end of the 2023 session.

But last week’s committee assignments made clear that “warm” is sure to turn to “hot” in the 2024 legislative session. Rivas has elevated multiple pro-housing members and demoted others who have demonstrated fealty to local control, which can only mean that next year’s session is sure to be very aggressively pro-housing per state obviations and pre-emptions.

Cal Matters Capitol reporter Ben Christopher quotes YIMBY spokesperson Matthew Lewis in a November 22 story as follows: “Speaker Rivas has been consistent in his leadership on housing and also his desire to make the Legislature a place that passes more transformative housing policy; from our perspective these committee assignments pretty much reflect that.” “About as good as it gets,” Christopher further quotes Lewis.

What YIMBY finds “about as good as it gets” is the ascension of Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) to the Chair of the Appropriations Committee along with the ascension of Chris Ward (D-San Diego) to the Chair of the Housing Committee. Wicks was warm toward AB 1910. Ward dismissed the significance of AB 1910 despite having a District containing multiple municipal golf courses, content that courses such as Coronado Municipal and Torrey Pines were not likely to be affected. Of course, facilities like Mission Bay, already a subject of “wilders” pushing to turn it into wetlands, would very much have been affected.

Being a housing advocate is not the point. Most if not all of those lawmakers who found AB 1910 a flawed piece of legislation are/were also affordable housing advocates. It’s just that they agreed with the Los Angeles Times that municipally owned parkland in park poor communities was about the last place the state ought to be looking to solve its housing shortage, municipal golf courses very much included.

2022-2023 Assembly Appropriations Chair Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), who most definitely did not support AB 1910 and ultimately held it in the 2022 session, has not only been displaced as Chair; he has been removed entirely from the Committee. Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Oceanside), who stayed off AB 672 and AB 1910 when they came before the Local Government Committee, hasn’t been given any plum chairmanships in the 2024 session.

Combine all of the above with that disturbing July 5 editorial carried by the nine (9) newspapers of the Southern California News Group advocating for the resurrection of AB 1910 in the 2024 legislative session, and it’s clear what the California golf community needs to keep a close eye on in 2024. Keep a close eye on and remember that you only surprise people once – smart people anyway, and YIMBY is a very smart, very politically savvy, and very well-funded group.

The National Golf Foundation (NGF) long ago identified urban Southern California as the most golf starved region of the country – the most golfers chasing the fewest golf holes. If anything, the supply to demand ratio has worsened since the NGF made that identification. Supply is slightly down and holds zero prospect for increasing given the prohibitive cost of land. Demand is way up and contrary to many who thought it would slide a bit once COVID was behind us, it appears that those brought into the game or back to the game during the pandemic are sticking with it. If today’s limited supply is further limited by a feeding frenzy on the state’s public stock, particularly the portion of it that has long served as the game’s growth engine, well, we don’t need to connect the dots.

For all you policy wonks, here are some of the key 2024 Assembly Leadership Roles and Committee Chairs:

Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) as Speaker
Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Davis) as Majority Leader
Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) as Assistant Majority Leader
Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) as Speaker Pro Tempore.
Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) as Assistant Majority Leader.
Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) as Majority Whip
Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) as Chair of the Appropriations Committee
Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) as Chair of the Budget Committee
Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) as Chair of the Public Safety Committee
Chris Ward (D-San Diego) as Chair of the Housing Committee
Liz Ortega (D-San Leandro) as Chair of the Labor/Employment Committee
Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City) as Chair of the Transportation Committee
Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) as Chair of the Judiciary Committee.
Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) as Chair of Governmental Organization.
Alex Lee (D-San Jose) as Chair of Human Services.
Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) as Chair of Privacy and Consumer Protection.
Diane Papan (D-San Mateo) as Chair of Water, Parks and Wildlife.
Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) as Chair of Health Committee.
Juan Carrillo (D-Palmdale) as Chair of the Local Government Committee

Enjoy the Holidays and then strap yourselves in for what promises to be a bumpy ride as we figure out what this new era in the Assembly means for the California golf community. Not necessarily “bumpy” as in ominous; just bumpy as in unknowable.


Monday, October 20, 2023

Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

he Director penned an article in SCGA’s hard copy magazine FORE entitled, The Era of Recycled Water May be Drawing to a Close.” The kind of recycled water used for outdoor irrigation, that is – nonpotable reuse.

The reason: The effluent used to produce that traditional form of recycled water was going to soon be routinely used to create drinking water – a process known as potable reuse. In addition, more of that effluent was going to be used to recharge aquifers. Indeed, both processes had already begun by October 2017. Orange County had already pioneered a potable reuse facility in Fountain Valley, and Los Angeles Water & Power had already begun dedicating effluent to the recharging of the large aquifer sitting beneath the Northeastern San Fernando Valley.

Fast forward to Fall 2023, and the Southern California Metropolitan Water District is on track to open the largest potable reuse facility in 2032 in the heart of the LA Harbor area, and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has embarked upon the Rulemaking process necessary to amend Title 22 of the State Water Code to “adopt regulations governing the use of municipal wastewater to produce water that is used to augment a source of supply for a public water system’s drinking water treatment plant or placed into a public water system’s drinking water distribution system.” As SWRCB puts it in its “Initial Statement of Reasons” for the new Rules, the benefits include providing safe drinking water, a safe drinking water supply for Californians, a relatively reliable, drought-proof, and sustainable option for drinking water, and an additional means for increased beneficial use of recycled water.

The effluent to provide golf’s recycled water is going to be increasingly dedicated to potable reuse, making the admonition we issued in that 2017 FORE story more relevant than ever:

Now would be the time to consider the upshot of all of this — not just for those golf courses that had hoped to gain recycled access at some future time, but for those golf courses whose recycled contracts will be coming up for renewal. It behooves the former class of golf courses to begin contemplating what comes next in an environment sure to become increasingly hostile to “watering golf courses with drinking water.” It behooves the latter class to approach their water suppliers with entreaties to extend extant contracts before they come due.

And it behooves all of us to pay closer heed to those who preach the need to think in blocks of time longer than the next quarter.

Those with enormous appetites for detail can read the SWRCB’s entire “Initial Statement of Reasons” by clicking here. The only update to that October 2017 FORE story we would issue today would be to change the title ever so slightly to “The Era of Recycled Water is Fast Closing.”

There are still opportunities to secure access, but they won’t be there for long, and not just due to the expansion of direct potable reuse, but due also to the competition for limited resources posed by the myriad other ways of expanding local supplies such as stormwater capture, aquifer recharge, and desalination.

For those of you who want to see just how prescient that October 2017 FORE was, you can click here to read an archived version of it on the SCGA website


Our last “Update” detailed the one piece of water legislation (AB 1572 – Proscription upon the use of potable water to irrigate nonfunctional turf) that we considered the most positively impactful to the statewide golf community to get signed into law in the 2023 legislative session – “positively impactful” because golf is specifically referenced as “recreational” and/or “functional” turf exempt from the proscription, language sure to be copied and pasted into all sorts of future bills and regulations, not just at the state level, but at the local and regional levels as well.

Previous updates detailed what we believe to be the opening of a long process to upend the senior water rights conferred in 1850, 1873, and 1913 to reflect the radically changed circumstances of modernity – that opening being SB 389, a new law that gives the state the data and reach it will need to determine whether a water right is valid, otherwise understood by many as the first step to enforcing or vitiating those rights. AB 460 and AB 1337 are parallels that didn’t quite make it through the 2023 session but are in process of being substantially amended to make credible 2-year bill runs in January 2024. We’ll be eagerly watching. Whether they make it through that tight window or not, we expect them and other similar bills to be filed and refiled in the 2024 session and beyond.

Another bright spot for golf was AB 363 – a bill signed into law that establishes neonicotinoids as substances banned unless applied by “licensed applicators.” The 2022 version of the bill, which was vetoed by Governor Newsom, allowed application only by agricultural licensed applicators. The signed 2023 version allows application by all licensed applicators, which allows the California golf community to continue their use, which though limited, can be important at certain times and in certain places. Kudos to the GCSAA, which lobbied hard for the 2023 version that Governor Newsom signed.

As we suggested in an earlier “Update” entitled, “Heeding Labor’s Roar,” California is in the throes of a massive recalibration of the rules governing worker’s wages, benefits, and rights in strong favor of labor. The “roar” didn’t extend all the way to SB 799 becoming law, because Governor Newsom vetoed the last-minute gut-and-amend bill that would have granted striking workers unemployment benefits. But here are the bills the Governor did sign in the 2023 session:

AB 1 – Collective bargaining: legislature. Enacted the Legislature Employer-Employee Relations Act, to provide employees of the Legislature, except certain specified categories of excluded employees, the right to form, join, and participate in the activities of employee organizations of their own choosing for the purpose of representation on all matters of employer-employee relations.

AB 621 – Workers’ compensation: special death benefit. Expands an exemption to include state safety members, peace officers, and firefighters for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who are members of Bargaining Unit 8 and would apply the exemption for these employees retroactively to January 1, 2019, for injuries not previously claimed or resolved.

AB 1228 – Gives raises to fast food workers – $20/hr.

SB 332 – Minor league baseball player bargaining agreement. Ensures a collective bargaining agreement for minor league baseball, guaranteeing better wages and benefits for more than 360 California minor league players, such as housing, health care, and compensation, including in the regular season, spring training, and the off-season.

SB 497 – Reduces retaliation against workers who have filed wage claim or unequal wage complaint.

SB 525 – $25/hr. Healthcare workers.

SB 616 – Add paid sick days. Amends California’s paid sick leave law to expand mandatory paid sick leave from three days or twenty-four hours to five days or forty hours.

Expect more of the same in 2024. While golf has punched way above its political weight on those matters directly related to the game, e.g., AB 672, AB 1910, and AB 2257 in previous legislative sessions and AB 1572 and AB 363 in the just concluded 2023 session, it isn’t a productive use of golf’s limited time and even more limited resources to engage as heavily on bills that affect all businesses in California. The game is irrelevant in a space dominated by the California Chamber of Commerce, various local/regional business chambers and roundtables, not to mention specific sectors that dwarf golf in economic reach and impact. However, it often makes sense to support the efforts of these larger entities through membership in their ranks or as part of large diverse coalitions, so long as the effort doesn’t otherwise detract from the game’s greater framing and positioning strategies.


A local example but an instructive one in a long string of examples of how a golf association can amass the facts of the matter as opposed to a version of them provided by those intent on repurposing golf course land for their preferred use, make those facts known to the decision-makers, and then rally its members and member clubs behind those “facts” to get a verdict in the public arena favorable to golf’s cause.

To the many SCGA members who responded to SCGA’s call to action about the “Sepulveda Basin Vision Plan” we are happy to inform you that the City of Los Angeles’ “Draft Plan” is now out for public comment and contains 54 holes of golf with a suggestion that 18 of them (Woodley Lakes) be upgraded and refreshed.

A ”Plan” that began with options to eliminate 9, 18, or 27 holes of municipal/public golf in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley has concluded with the maintenance of 54 holes that are to be improved in three (3) ways: 1) The “refresh/upgrade” of Woodley Lakes, 2) the re-routing of those holes on the Encino Golf Course that are the first to flood when the LA River’s waters are diverted during heavy rainfall events, and 3) the repurposing of the unused acreage surrounding much of the three Basin golf courses as natural habitat.

The ”Plan” is now so beneficial to this bulwark of San Fernando Valley public golf that the SCGA was able to issue a hearty endorsement of it in the Los Angeles Daily News.

The SCGA will issue a formal comment to that effect along with a suggestion that we believe will be well received to consider the construction of a junior golf/developmental golf similar to the Tregnan Golf Academy in Griffith Park within the footprint of the current Woodley Lakes Golf Course – a “comment” that we also believe will have the full support of the city’s Recreation and Park Department.

Those of you with appetite for reviewing the full 272-page “Draft Plan” thereon can click here to review the Homepage of the website the city has created for the project. The Homepage connects you both to the full “Plan” and a simple electronic form that allows you to seamlessly and very quickly issue your own comments upon it, something we highly encourage you to do. It’s important that golfers make clear the need to maintain 54 holes of desperately needed public golf in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. No doubt there will be those who issue comments about reducing that existing golf. And consider throwing in the need for a junior golf developmental facility while you’re at it.

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

Often attributed to Albert Einstein, who many say wrote it on a blackboard in his Princeton office, its origin is much older than that. However, in this exact form, it appeared in a seminal sociology textbook in 1963 and has been quoted repeatedly since to highlight the fact that certain important matters are simply not amenable to quantification.

And nothing could be truer of what we lump under the general term, “advocacy.” Advocacy operates in ALL the places where the game and public policy intersect. That’s a lot of places – legislatures, regulatory agencies, city councils, boards of supervisors, special districts, water wholesalers, water retailers, planning commissions, advisory commissions, chambers of commerce, allied advocacy organizations, non-governmental organizations of various stripes, and last but hardly least, all forms of media. Not just a lot of places, but a lot of broad issues – water, environment, taxes, land use, labor, etc. And the places and issues are less about transactions than relationships, which are less amenable to quantification than most other things. And not so much personal relationships as business/professional relationships predicated on respect, trust, and credibility. Those of you skeptical of anything having to do with government may find it hard to believe, but one’s word is indeed one’s bond in that realm.

There are no charts, graphs, lists, or sets of metrics capable of providing snapshots of the shape shifting and nuance represented by the sum total of this. There are broad themes, narratives, and overarching strategies, but they too are not amenable to simple quantification.

And there is no better example of the principle than Assembly Bill 1572 (Friedman; D-Burbank). Signed into law by Governor Newsom over the weekend, the bill proscribes the use of potable water to irrigate non-functional turf not directly attached to personal residences. The bill won the overt support of the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) based almost entirely on the appearance of two simple words in the section that defines the “recreational use areas” exempt from the proscription. We have highlighted those two words in the following AB 1572 excerpt:

Recreational use area” means an area designated by a property owner or a governmental agency to accommodate human foot traffic for recreation, including, but not limited to, sports fields, golf courses, playgrounds, picnic grounds, or pet exercise areas. This recreation may be either formal or informal.”

To the degree to which there are likely to be those who may continue to argue that golf is a nonfunctional or non-recreational use of turf, the language embedded in this law argues very definitively otherwise. To the degree to which language like this is often cut and pasted in future legislation, this is the language that will function as the default position for that legislation, putting those arguing otherwise in the position of having the burden of proving why the language merits changing – always a tough hill to climb.

We hope you understand that things like this happen due ONLY to years of focused effort to position the game in a certain way in a public mind that is all inclusive, not specific – a long distance run characterized more by strategy than tactics, not a transaction characterized by simple notions of reduction, e.g., bullet points, talking points, and toolkits.

We hope you also understand that the degree to which we are so routinely able to report positive outcomes in the places where the game and public policy intersect is the degree to which we have been able to work with the game’s allied organizations and stakeholders to advance the game’s value proposition to the 90% of the population that does not play golf. Just as diplomacy is the art of bridging differences between adversaries, advocacy is the art of finding common ground among strangers.

One in a series of occasional looks at the backstory. Next up: A full look at the 2023 legislative session’s front story.


Monday, October 2, 2023

Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is set this Wednesday to open its first public hearing on the Proposed Rule it published August 18 to effectuate what the Governor and others have termed “Making Conservation a California Way of Life.” The Board will open that hearing with a 4-hour staff presentation, which should give you some idea of just how epochal the Rule purports to be. Those with enormous appetites for detail can click here to read it.

What is “Making Conservation a California Way of Life?” It is many things, but in simple terms it is a new regulatory framework that establishes individualized efficiency goals for each Urban Retail Water Supplier. These goals are based on the unique characteristics of the supplier’s service area and give suppliers the flexibility to implement locally appropriate solutions, a feature that makes this epochal moment an improvement over some of the State’s past one-size-fits-all moments. Once implemented, these goals are expected to reduce urban water use by more than 400-thousand-acre feet by 2030. Given that most of the state’s golf stock is served by Urban Water Districts, golf’s stake in all this is obvious if not always direct.

The proposed regulation would require suppliers to annually calculate their objective, which is the sum of efficiency budgets for a subset of urban water uses: residential indoor water use, residential outdoor water use, real water loss and commercial, industrial, and institutional landscapes with dedicated irrigation meters. Each efficiency budget will be calculated using a statewide efficiency standard and local service area characteristics such as population, climate, and landscape area. Where relevant, suppliers may also include in their objective “variances” for unique uses, or a bonus incentive for potable recycled water use. Suppliers would need to meet the overall objective, not each individual budget. It is only “Urban Retail Water Suppliers” – not individual households or businesses – that will be held to the annual “urban water use objectives” developed thereby.

Why is SWRCB adopting this epochal Rule? While the State did for the most part achieve most of the goals it set for itself in the 20% by 2020 Rule adopted in the 1st decade of this Century, continued drought, wide swings in Sierra snow deposition, and the rapid aridification of the Colorado Basin have made it necessary to adopt another set of long-term goals to ensure the State’s ability to deliver the water necessary to sustain life, health, business, agriculture, and recreation at levels consistent with the expectation of population growth.

The authority for SWRCB’s envisaged Rule comes from two (2) sources: 1) Legislation adopted in 2018 (AB 1668 and SB 606) directing the State Water Board to adopt efficiency standards and performance measures for commercial, industrial, and institutional water use; and 2) the Executive Branch’s August 2022 “Water Supply Strategy” summarizing the four (4) broad areas of state action comprising the State’s coordinated strategy for continued water resiliency:

1.Developing new water supplies.

2.Expanding water storage capacity above and below ground by four million acre-feet.

3.Reducing demand.

4.Improving forecasting, data, and management, including water rights modernization.

The last point is bolded to emphasize a point we’ve made repeatedly about what we find to be the most important takeaway from the just completed 2023 legislative session – that the unraveling of those water rights long-held (since 1850, 1873, and 1913 to be precise) and long considered sacred has only just begun. Again, while not always directly related to golf, particularly in the short term, this is all certainly impactful to the degree to which the final destination of that unraveling is sure to affect golf’s access to water – and to the price of that access.

The first two strategies – developing new water supplies and expanding storage capacity – are gravy for a water consumptive sector like golf. The last strategy with its ancillary goal of “modernizing” water rights is in its infancy but bears close scrutiny and no doubt at some point perhaps even some narrow intervention. It’s the third strategy – reducing demand – that demands golf’s attention in the SWRCB Rulemaking just now getting into high gear to ensure that golf continues to be categorized as a “special” or “large landscape” meriting biologically appropriate plant factors in state regulations (e.g., MWELO), a “functional” use of turf meriting the continued use of potable water where non-potable sources are unavailable, and a “recreational” use the same as parks and sports fields to keep it firmly in that class of public amenity that can only be provided on turf. Of course, to do that, golf will have to not only continue, but double down on, its commitment to reducing its water footprint. This demands investment in new technologies, new practices, and new grasses, as well as the research that is the sine qua non of all three.


“If you have a creative idea for saving water on your golf course, we have a rebate program for you,” announced the Metropolitan Water District’s (MWD) Gary Tilkian at last month’s golf and water networking session in downtown Los Angeles, where leaders of the golf community met with leaders of MWD, Los Angeles Water & Power, Long Beach Water, and other water providers to collaborate on ways to further reduce the game’s water footprint.

Formally called the “Water Savings Investment Program” (WISP), the MWD program differs from traditional rebate programs in that it is performance based. You don’t get paid up front. You get paid as you demonstrate that your “creative idea” saves water.

How the program works:The application must be approved before the project is deployed or installed to ensure funding eligibility.Projects must save at least 10 million gallons of water over ten years.Projects cannot be new construction.Customers require at least three years of water use history to establish a baseline before the project is deployed.Projects cannot replace potable water with another water source as a water-saving method.

Los Angeles Water & Power (LADWP) has a parallel program it calls its “Technical Assistance Program” or TAP for short. At the networking session LADWP Conservation Manager Mark Gentili explained the program the way his agency explains it on its website.

“Sometimes one size doesn’t fit all. Commercial, industrial, institutional, and multi-family customers may benefit from a customized approach to reducing their water use and costs. . . The program offers up to $2,000,000 in financial incentives for pre-approved equipment and products that demonstrate water savings.”

Once a golf course upgrades its irrigation system, removes turf, replaces nozzles, and pursues the investments for which traditional rebates and financial incentives are available, it runs out of cards to play in a game of water footprint reduction that golf has to keep playing if it hopes to thrive in an environment in which supplies from the Sierra Nevada are subject to wide swings and supplies from the Colorado River are guaranteed to be significantly curtailed.

SCGA helped organize this networking session to help spread the word; there are customized, golf specific programs that major water agencies are eager to work with golf to craft and then fund. To that end, the session was capped off by a presentation to Brentwood Country Club of a 1st installment of what is “on track” to eventually be a $67,000.00 rebate for a soil-based conservation program that is anything but “traditional” to the golf industry.

Many of MWD’s retailers – e.g., LADWP – offer parallel “performance based” incentives, which allows a golf course to receive additional monies for the same program – double dip as it were.

The session was sufficiently successful that MWD has decided to take the same show on the road to San Diego County to join forces with the San Diego County Water Authority, San Diego Public Utilities, and whatever other MWD member agencies care to participate to share the same good news about these programs. SCGA will certainly do what it can to help coordinate, facilitate, and advertise the event.

We can report that parallel thinking is going on right now in the Coachella Valley, where the CVWD Golf & Water Task Force is working to craft rebate programs that incentivize more than just turf removal.

For more information about the MWD program click here. For further information about the LADWP program click here. If you’re reading this from San Diego County, stay tuned. The SCGA will keep you informed. If you’re reading this from the Coachella Valley, follow the progress of the Golf & Water Task Force that meets regularly with the Coachella Valley Water District – that and the constant updating from the Hi-Lo Chapter GCSAA.

These more “creative” or “performance based” incentive programs may seem small, but today’s “small” often becomes tomorrow’s large. And they can never become large unless they start small. Everything golf does in terms of conservation is a long-distance run, not a sprint.

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