Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

May 22, 2023

In light of the Lower Basin states’ conservation proposal, the Biden Administration has announced that it is temporarily withdrawing the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) published last month so that it can fully analyze the effects of the proposal under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The United States Bureau of Reclamation will then publish an updated draft SEIS for public comment with the consensus-based proposal as an action alternative. Accordingly, the original May 30, 2023, deadline for the submission of comments on the draft SEIS is no longer in effect. The Department plans to finalize the SEIS process later this year.

The Arizona/California/Nevada proposal commits the three states to conserve at least 3 million-acre-feet of system water through the end of 2026, when the current operating guidelines are set to expire. Of those system conservation savings, 2.3-million-acre feet will be compensated through funding from last December’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which provided substantial monies to the three states to increase near-term water conservation, build long term system efficiency, and prevent the Colorado River System’s reservoirs from falling to critically low elevations that would threaten water deliveries and power production. Under this proposal, the remaining system conservation needed for sustainable operation will be achieved through voluntary, uncompensated reductions by the Lower Basin states.

Early next month, the federal government will formally advance the process for the development of new operating guidelines replacing the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead at the end of 2026. In the coming weeks, expect to see a Notice of Intent for the Environmental Impact Statement related to the post-2026 guidelines. With the three Lower Basin States having come to agreement on how to divvy up the savings necessary to protect the integrity of the Colorado Basin in the short run, both processes are going to proceed in tandem.

As we have been suggesting in all our reporting on this subject, the actions and statements of the three Reclamation States and the United States Government in recent months have all been about positioning themselves to come to precisely the consensus evidenced by today’s breakthrough. The precise details of that consensus – the amount of allocation ceded by each state and each agency within each state – remain to be worked out, but the outlines are clear for Southern California. The State Water Project allocation may be 100% for the first time in years, but we’ll be losing some of our Colorado River water between now and 2026, after which we may well lose even more. Given that golf’s portion of that loss will not be part of the “compensated” savings envisaged through federal largesse – you can fallow farmland; you can’t fallow golf courses – the need to keep reducing the game’s water footprint promises to become just that much more acute, as does the need for the game to make clear to policymakers that golf understands this fact to its very core.

Click here to read the joint letter filed today by the States of Arizona, California, and Nevada – a letter that was well enough received by the Biden Administration to cause the Bureau of Reclamation to withdraw the draconian SEIS it issued after January 31 came and went without agreement among the states on so much as a temporary salve to the Basin’s woes.

82 Grassroots Golf Organizations Awarded Grants

82 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative
Grant Program Provides Support to Organizations Dedicated to Increasing Golf Participation Among Underrepresented Populations in the Sport
To-Date, Grassroots Organizations Awarded 237 Grants Totaling $1.8 Million

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (May 16, 2023) – 82 grassroots golf organizations, charitable organizations or programs dedicated to increasing golf participation among those who are underrepresented in the sport, will receive a total of $750,000 in funding to further their efforts. These groups (*full list below) are being awarded grants through Make Golf Your Thingthe industry’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion to help make the sport more welcoming for all.

The grant program to date has provided 237 grants to 137 unique grassroots organizations, totaling more $1.8 million (May 2021: 43 grants totaling $150,000; Jan. 2022: 31 grants totaling $150,000, June 2022: 81 grants totaling $750,000, May 2023: 82 grants totaling $750,000). The program was established to support organizations dedicated to increasing participation among golf’s underrepresented populations –Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous communities, as well as women, LGBTQI+ individuals, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.  

“Diversity, equity, and Inclusion must be woven into the fabric of the game,” said Jay Monahan, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR and executive sponsor of the Make Golf Your Game area of commitment for Make Golf Your Thing. “This is not an easy task, and it requires all of us to participate fully. The industry coming together to broaden the reach of our great game is positively impacting communities in way none of us can do alone.”

“Diversity, equity, and Inclusion must be woven into the fabric of the game,” said Jay Monahan, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR and executive sponsor of the Make Golf Your Game area of commitment for Make Golf Your Thing. “This is not an easy task, and it requires all of us to participate fully. The industry coming together to broaden the reach of our great game is positively impacting communities in way none of us can do alone.” 

Formally launched in May 2021, Make Golf Your Thing is the industry’s movement to diversify all aspects of the sport. The movement is organized into three strategic focus areas for increasing diversity: Make Golf Your Game (participants), Make Golf Your Career (industry employees), and Make Golf Your Business (industry suppliers). The grant program is an ongoing centerpiece initiative within Make Golf Your Game.

The application period for this fourth phase of funding saw a record 122 applications. Each application was reviewed by a team of 24 volunteers who have extensive experience in expanding grassroots golf organizations. Grantees were selected based on population served, leadership, programming offered, growth potential, and sustainability.

Funding for the grant program is being administered by the American Golf Industry Coalition, a partnership among golf’s leading organizations to promote and advocate for the collective interests of the sport. Financial support for the program is led by a contingent of industry supporters that are committed to making the sport more welcoming and inclusive for all.

About Make Golf Your Thing
Make Golf Your Thing is a collaborative effort that reflects the industry’s commitment to making the sport more diverse, equitable and inclusive. This multi-faceted, multi-year movement intentionally works to invite more people to golf from all backgrounds, identities and abilities, whether you are playing, building a career or doing business with the industry. 

About the American Golf Industry Coalition
The American Golf Industry Coalition advocates on behalf of golf’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; environmental and sustainability initiatives; contributions to the economy (local and national); health and wellness benefits, as well as charitable giving. The organization unites the golf industry in pursuit of goals designed to enhance the vitality and diversity of both the business and recreational levels of the sport. The American Golf Industry Coalition is a division of the World Golf Foundation. To learn more, visit

Media Contact:
Morgan Comer
American Golf Industry Coalition

Grassroots OrganizationCity/TownState
A Perfect Swing Foundation Inc.CharlotteNorth Carolina
Adaptive Golf Experience, Inc.BeaufortSouth Carolina
Advocates FoundationLos AngelesCalifornia
Black College Golf Coaches AssociationVestaviaAlabama
Black Heritage Tour (BHT) Golf Challenge, Inc.BoydsMaryland
Bob-O-Links Junior Golf ClubChicagoIllinois
Button HoleProvidenceRhode Island
Cameron Champ FoundationCitrus HeightsCalifornia
Chandler School of GolfDallasTexas
CitySwing FoundationWashingtonDistrict of Columbia
Dreams of Lois IncorporatedFayettevilleGeorgia
Empowerment Through GolfSan DiegoCalifornia
Fairways for WarriorsMinneolaFlorida
FairWays to Leadership, Inc.OrlandoFlorida
First Tee – Benton HarborBenton HarborMichigan
First Tee – Central FloridaOrlandoFlorida
First Tee – Central MississippiFlowoodMississippi
First Tee – LouisvilleLouisvilleKentucky
First Tee – North FloridaSt. AugustineFlorida
First Tee – Southeastern New MexicoRoswellNew Mexico
First Tee – TulsaTulsaOklahoma
First Tee — Upstate South CarolinaGreenvilleSouth Carolina
First Tee – Western New YorkBowmansvilleNew York
First Tee Eastern MichiganBurtonMichigan
First Tee Four CornersKirtlandNew Mexico
First Tee Greater TrentonTrentonNew Jersey
First Tee—Central CarolinaClemmonsNorth Carolina
Fore Alabama Kids FoundationBirminghamAlabama
Fore the LadiesSylvaniaOhio
Future SuccessorsAtlantaGeorgia
Gator Junior GolfGainesvilleFlorida
Girls Golf of Eastern Nebraska Western IowaOmahaNebraska
Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere FoundationMontezumaIowa
Golf For Life NFPNapervilleIllinois
Golf. My Future. My Game.WashingtonDistrict of Columbia
Greater Cleveland Junior Golf Scholarship FundBedfordOhio
Greenway FoundationAlamedaCalifornia
Harris Park Midtown Sports & Activity CenterKansas CityMissouri
Hi-Tee Junior Little League Golf ProgramRentonWashington
Hollywood Golf InstituteDetroitMichigan
Hurston Institute for Learning and DevelopmentMinneapolisMinnesota
I AM a Golfer FoundationDallasTexas
iGolf4VETS, Inc.RiverviewFlorida
Inland Golf AcademyRiversideCalifornia
Inner City Youth Golfers’, Inc.Palm Beach GardensFlorida
Jackson Park Golf AssociationChicagoIllinois
Journey Through 18HoustonTexas
Latina Golfers Association FoundationLos AngelesCalifornia
Little Birdies Mobile Golf AcademyMissouri CityTexas
Lone Star Golf AssociationHoustonTexas
Many High/Jr High Golf Team-ClubManyLouisiana
Matrix Human ServicesDetroitMichigan
Michigan Womens Golf AssociationDetroitMichigan
Midnight Golf ProgramBingham FarmsMichigan
Milwaukee Area Youth Golf Academy, Inc.GlendaleWisconsin
Moore-Myers Children’s FundJacksonvilleFlorida
National Golf Player Development FoundationGilbertArizona
Neurodiverse Family Haven (NFH)FairbanksAlaska
Next 18MilwaukeeWisconsin
Northern Nevada Youth Golf ProgramRenoNevada
ONE HUNDRED BLACK MEN of New York, Inc.New YorkNew York
Orlando Minority Youth Golf AssociationOrlandoFlorida
Par Excellence Youth Development (PEYD)HuntsvilleAlabama
Range Fore Hope FoundationBlythewoodSouth Carolina
Revelation GolfElk Grove VillageIllinois
She STEAMS Inc.McDonoughGeorgia
Sistas on the LinksRichmondCalifornia
SLgeeFoundationSilver SpringMaryland
Society 61 FoundationWoodland HillsCalifornia
Special Olympics PA, Three Rivers RegionPittsburghPennsylvania
Stand Up and Play FoundationVistaCalifornia
SwingPals, Inc.DurhamNorth Carolina
Ted Rhodes Foundation, Inc.ChicagoIllinois
The Caddie & Leadership AcademyKenoshaWisconsin
The GLOVe FoundationMobileAlabama
The Pinkney FoundationPittsburgCalifornia
U.S. Adaptive Golf AllianceWestmontIllinois
Upstate-Carolina Adaptive GolfGreenvilleSouth Carolina
West Penn Minority Jr Golf Association, Inc.MonroevillePennsylvania
Western States Junior Golf AssociationLas VegasNevada
Women in Golf Foundation, In.EllenwoodGeorgia
Women of Color GolfTampaFlorida


Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

May 11, 2023

The “suspense” round of legislative Appropriations hearings is scheduled for next week.  That is when the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees speed through hundreds of bills that have cleared their committees of reference to see which among them move to their respective floors and which are put on “suspense,” otherwise known as all but dead for the year.  The second round takes place in August when bills from the other house go through the same abbreviated process to see which among them move forward toward the Governor’s desk.

In short, this is the Legislature’s way of killing bills that too many of the members consider sufficiently controversial that they just don’t want to take a vote or issue a position thereon. 

Unlike recent sessions in which the California golf community had a compelling interest in amending, mitigating, or defeating certain bills, this session has offered up bills that merited watching for myriad reasons, but nothing particularly more than that.  There was one exception – AB 1590 (Friedman; D-Burbank), a bill that would have banned the use of all non-organic pesticides and fertilizers on golf courses owned and attached to large resorts in the California coastal zone. 

There may be no more than 6 such golf resorts in the state, but to the degree to which the subject of the bill was not resorts, but the application of approved fertilizers, the distance between applying to 6 courses and 60 courses would have been a very short and straight line.  The irony in this strange bill is that golf courses outside California’s coastal zone are already highly restricted in many of the non-organics used in other states, and golf courses within the coastal zone are restricted well over and above that by the California Coastal Commission and the State Agricultural Commissioner, among others. 

AB 1590 crashed before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee with a thud rarely heard for a bill of a clear “environmental” bent before that particular Committee.  It was an ill-conceived bill to be sure and one that had to make legislators with one or more of those 60 courses in their district nervous, but we still expected it to pass out of committee before perhaps dying when it got to Assembly Appropriations next week.  But we were spared the angst associated with having to wait.

The same cannot be said for certain bills that we have been watching with interest this session that deal very specifically with the unraveling of certain riparian and pre-1914 water rights that have long been untouchable – a pattern of reconsideration similar to the upending on the table in the Colorado Basin, where California’s senior rights are not likely to hold to the degree to which doing so could endanger the flow of drinking water to Phoenix and Tucson. 

  • AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan; D-Orinda) – Would authorize the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to fine farmers and others who “unlawfully” divert water that the agency deems injurious to the environment, which raises the following question:  Is a diversion “unlawful” if it violates the California Constitution’s invocation of the state’s ability to control the use of water for public benefit or is it “unlawful” if it exceeds the senior rights held by the diverter?  There is already a remedy for the latter under water law and the state’s codes, and that is why ACWA and others opposing the legislation are so adamant in their opposition, despite protestations from the bill’s supporters that AB 460 doesn’t obviate long-held senior water rights. 
  • AB 1337 (Wicks; D-Oakland) – Would give the Water Resources Control Board more authority to limit diversions from rivers by those who now hold the most senior water rights, including pre-1914 rights.
  • SB 389 (Allen; D-Santa Monica) – Considered a companion to AB 1337 to the degree to which it too upends certain longstanding senior water rights by giving the SWRCB specific authority to limit the holders of pre-1914 rights’ ability to divert water when deemed inconsistent with environmental needs as determined by the SWRCB.

These bills have passed out of their policy committees and are on their way to Appropriations.  The California Chamber of Commerce, the California Farm Bureau, and Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) have vigorously opposed them and tried to secure significant amendments – efforts thus far in vain.  In the past, whenever ACWA viscerally has opposed a water bill, that bill has generally died.  We’re watching to see whether the pattern holds, and these bills die in Appropriations, or whether we’ve arrived at the day long predicted when pre-1914 rights, senior arrangements, and the old arrangements like the “Law of the Colorado River” are forced to succumb to the realities of aridification.

These bills are not to be confused with those water, turf, and land use bills that we are also watching but watching much more to see how they play out in a way we believe will result in something that moves forward to the Governor’s desk after September 14 than how they fare in the two Appropriations Committees.  More about those in a future Update.


Yesterday was National Golf Day.  Three hundred (300) golf course superintendents, PGA golf professionals, golf course owners, and leaders of the game’s national organizations descended on Capitol Hill to share 1) the game’s national legislative agenda with Senators and Representatives, and 2) the social, philanthropic, and environmental value golf courses provide for communities across the nation.

Much of that “national legislative agenda” is rendered irrelevant in California by virtue of an independent and much more rigorous regulatory structure – that and a set of interests cum priorities that often deviate from the national game.  Our national brethren seem to think that crowing about representing 0.003% of the GDP impresses law and policy makers, while our experience informs us that the economic argument is not only golf’s weakest argument, it is virtually always the strongest argument made by those who would turn the state’s golf courses into residential or commercial enterprises.  That was certainly the case re AB 672 and AB 1910, and it is the case every time the owner of a daily fee golf facility seeks the zoning changes necessary to turn their property into a housing tract or something as mundane as an RV park or storage center, just to cite a couple of very recent examples in Los Angeles County.  Yes, an RV park is a much higher and better economic use of land than most golf courses! 

However, there are parts of that national legislative agenda that are relevant in our state.  The lobbying our 300 brethren did yesterday on behalf of adding more dollars for turf research in the farm bill certainly benefitted the California golf community.  And after 17 years of pushing for legislation to remove the golf industry from what we’ve come to call the “sin list,” the “Coalition” that organizes National Golf Day has managed to finally secure a bill that would enable golf to benefit from federal emergency largesse when disaster in the form of flood, fire, or earthquake strikes, as well as benefit from certain community development programs that the game has long been denied access.  House Resolution 3124 (HR 3124), sponsored by New York Representative Claudia Tenney and co-sponsored by Monterey California’s Representative Jimmy Panetta would remove golf from the following provision of the Internal Revenue Code [144(c)(6)(B)]:

“No portion of the proceeds of such issue is to be used to provide (including the provision of land for) any private or commercial golf course, country club, massage parlor, hot tub facility, suntan facility, racetrack or other facility used for gambling, or any store the principal business of which is the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption off premises.”

Now, you see why golf has come to refer to its inclusion in this categorical exclusion as being on the “sin list.”  Indeed, it was the realization after Hurricane Katrina that golf was considered as offering the same the social utility of gambling barges, liquor stores, and massage parlors that prompted the creation of the Coalition that among other things now sponsors National Golf Day.

HR 3124 is a placeholder for now; it has yet to be populated with language.  But it’s a start, a hook if you will that we would hope would be pursued vigorously by the national organizations that set the agenda for the “American Golf Industry Coalition.”  Because it’s going to take a lot of work to turn this bill into law.    

National Golf Day is just that – one day.  We do the equivalent in California – a day when many of us traipse the halls of Sacramento.  But both are just one day.  It’s what you do the other 364 days that matters.     


We had the joy of participating in a meeting of the Duarte City Council a couple of weeks ago in which a very preliminary proposal to repurpose a daily fee 9-hole executive golf course cum driving range as an RV Park / storage facility was all but killed by a City Council that made clear that the rezoning necessary to repurpose the property would not be in the offing.  Duarte is a 22,000-person bedroom community in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley, roughly 10 miles due east of Pasadena.  The small golf facility in question (Rancho Duarte) sits atop a long-closed landfill, making it incompatible with much higher and better economic repurposing like housing or retail; however, for something like an RV park or storage facility very much so. 

While no specific application had been filed or was even before Council that evening, the absentee owners of the golf facility were directed by Council to engage the local community before seeking the zone change that would allow them to sell the golf course to a developer for that RV park / storage facility.  As a golf course it is worth little on the open market.  As an RV park it has substantial resale value in this community.  Stop and consider that for a moment – AS A GOLF COURSE IT HAS LITTLE ECONOMIC VALUE; AS AN RV PARK / STORAGE FACILITY IT IS WORTH MILLIONS TO ITS CURRENT GOLF COURSE OWNER – but only if it can be rezoned low grade commercial as opposed to open space/recreation.  For that reason, one member of the City Council approached us (roughly 100 golfers, most of them juniors) after the meeting to remind us to remain vigilant.  People tend not to give up when the subject is money.

What “saved” the golf course that night?  All the things that cannot be counted financially that a golf facility like this brings to the life of the community in which it is located.  In this case:

  • The environmental, heat sink, and water table advantages of green space over hardscape.
  • The quiet enjoyment provided to the neighborhood by having a green space in their midst as opposed to a parking lot cum storage structures.
  • A local junior program operated by an accomplished PGA golf professional who has taught Lizette Salas and Angel Yin among others and provides $2 per session junior golf programming on site in addition to a local competitive junior tour that offers playing opportunities in the region at a fraction of the cost of the others in the region – a program and tour that looks like the Asian/Latino population that makes up the City of Duarte.
  • A community beyond local golfers and homeowners that showed up to indicate the value a golf course adds to a region beyond a local community, whether they play the game or not.

What didn’t “save” the golf course?  Any hint of the economic benefit of the golf course.  Indeed, just to make sure that it was clear to everyone in the room, we included in our remarks that if it’s money that is the deciding metric (tax receipts too), the RV Park has the golf course beaten by a wide margin.  But if it’s all the things that make living in Duarte a quality community experience, an RV park is no substitute for the multi-faceted value proposition represented by this little golf course.  Getting that on the record at the dawn of what may be a continuing challenge if the Council Member who came up to us after the meeting is correct, was a strategic move to get out in front of what may be a more lucrative permitted use some other potential buyer may have in mind for these absentee owners who clearly want to get out from under ownership of the Rancho Duarte Golf Course.  It also stimulated a little discussion of the city considering taking the property off their hands and turning it into a municipal asset.


Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

Monday, April 24, 2023

To live in Southern California is not only to understand how it is possible to be on flood watch and drought watch at the same time, it is to understand also how it is possible to live during the greatest growth period in the game’s history in the most golf starved market in the United States while losing golf courses of all types and sizes.  We conservatively count thirty (30) facilities that have been closed, reduced, or are under threat of both in just the last few years. 

Yes, we staved off what could have been a feeding frenzy on municipal golf courses when we beat back Assembly Bills 672 and 1910.  But that didn’t slow market capitalism’s steady march of daily fee conversions to higher and better financial uses, and it didn’t stop environmentalism’s steady press for the repurposing of active recreational areas to passive uses. 

Maybe the owners of daily fee properties and the developers that repurposed them along with the city planners that facilitated the projects didn’t read all those economic impact reports the golf industry puts out about all the jobs, taxes, and multiplier economic benefits the game produces.  Or maybe they know of what they do, and what they’re doing is making a whole lot more money doing things other than golf.  Just maybe the value that golf courses bring to the communities in which they sit has little to do with the kind of value that can be counted the way economists count value and everything to do with the ways much more difficult to count – recreation, green space, heat relief, water resiliency, community centers, etc.  And just maybe it is those things that golf might be better pressed to spend its limited resources sharing with policy makers.      

California is not just the land of permanent drought; it’s the land of permanent contradiction, where exploding demand is met by shrinking supply and accusations that bots control Internet reservation systems.  How else can tee sheets be completely sold out 9 days in advance in less than 20 seconds, critics complain, never considering that it’s not the bots that are the problem; it’s the market that created their value that’s the problem. 

The National Golf Foundation (NGF) may be flooding the World Wide Web with reports of golf’s great growth spurt and judging by those packed public tee sheets (private club waiting lists too) the same holds true in Southern California.  But that growth will be impossible to sustain without places for all of them to play. 

It’s the elephant in golf’s room and just happens to be the subject of Craig Kessler’s Public Affairs piece in the Spring issue of SCGA’s hard copy magazine FORE, which just went up on SCGA’s website ( and is hitting members’ homes this week.  So, we are going to do something that we have never done in an SCGA Public Affairs Update – reprint the piece so that the many of you who don’t receive FORE can read it.  It puts a lot more meat on the bones summarized here.

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Golf’s “Struggle” To See What’s Under Its Nose

The USGA’s “Team USA” initiative may put more Americans on PGA leaderboards and American golfers on Olympic podiums, but here in Southern California we need to figure out how to accommodate an exploding golf population on fewer golf courses, a feat that is not really possible, or at least not possible at a price structure conducive to the game’s aspirations to diversify and grow its base. What was it that we all learned in Econ 101 about supply and demand? Many in golf act as though they missed that lesson. Blinders don’t change what’s in front of you; they just obscure it.

For those who thought that beating back the “Public Golf Endangerment Act” (AB 1910) beat back the game’s “development” problem, think again. For those who thought that the game’s development problem was just an urban problem, look deeper at what’s happening well outside California’s urban core. For those who thought that they could ignore the signpost known as zero daily-fee golf courses in the City of Los Angeles, take off the blinders. And for those who think that we’ll muddle through the drying out of the Colorado Basin without serious consequences for the Southern California golf community, kindly pay heed to what California’s six partners in the Colorado Compact have proposed.

AB 1910 may have been enough of a crude overreach that golf was able to awaken enough of the state’s 3.5 million golfers to a danger so obvious that even a community as complacent as golf was able to rally enough of its members to take action — a community that had been asleep at the legislative switch for so long that the opposition came as a genuine surprise to the proponents of the bill. Caveat: You can only surprise people once, particularly people who are active in politics. As the laws keep evolving to prefer housing over parks, open space and recreation, golf cannot be content to merely duplicate last year’s campaign and expect the same successful result.

Land Under Pressure

As for those who have suggested that the effort to repurpose golf courses is only a problem in densely packed urban areas where land is scarce, take a closer look at what is in the process of befalling Glen Annie GC in the Goleta area of Santa Barbara County. Glen Annie has long been zoned “agricultural,” along with the rest of the open space and avocado orchards surrounding it. Given that efforts to construct housing to meet the needs of an exploding student population at nearby UC Santa Barbara have long been met with failure in the planning processes of Santa Barbara County, the owners of Glen Annie understood that unless they preferred harvesting avocados to greens fees, any effort to develop their land for residential or commercial purposes was an exercise in futility.

Not anymore. Faced with the threat of the “builders remedies” that would follow from failing to offer up substantial tracts of land for housing development, the County of Santa Barbara moved to rezone substantial tracts of agricultural properties as residential in order to keep the State of California at bay.

Included among these agricultural tracts was Glen Annie. The same process of market capitalism that destroyed the daily fee market in the City of Los Angeles is now in the process of operating in rural Santa Barbara County, and by implication is likely to be duplicated in other rural communities that have failed to meet the state’s onerous new housing element requirements.

As for those who suggest that economic analyses of golf’s multiplier effects can save this particular day, let me suggest that only those who have not read the development proposals I have read could suggest such a thing. Current case in point: the repurposing of 75 of Los Angeles Royal Vista’s 157-acre 27-hole daily fee golf course in Los Angeles County’s unincorporated community of Walnut in the San Gabriel Valley. The county’s independent financial analysis of this massive housing development has concluded that repurposing will create new county revenues of $2.86 million per year, $1.82 million of which will go to the county’s general fund, as well as 1,852 jobs and the multiplier economic benefits that follow from adding hundreds of new households where now only day-tripping golfers add to the local economy.

The developers are throwing in a seven-acre public access park at their own expense, along with a series of trails through a housing complex, 20 percent of which qualifies as affordable. While this project is a particularly laudable one in terms of community amenities, in addition to the financial advantages and housing construction that are part of all of these project proposals, it’s not an outlier by any means. Golf will continue to lose out to them, even in an area of the nation that the NGF has declared the most golf-starved market in the continental United States.

Water Woes

Those who believe that the retrenchment of the Colorado Basin won’t affect a Southern California golf community long accustomed to a fixed and generous allocation guaranteed by senior rights and privileges need to take a close look at the methodology that California’s six partners in the Compact have proposed — an “evaporation” methodology that just happens to repose almost all the burden of ceding 2-4 million acre-feet of water on California.

While those six states don’t really believe that their proposed methodology will come to fruition, they have succeeded in making clear that the days of slavish adherence to all those past arrangements are over. A new day not yet determined and not knowable is upon us, but this much we do know: The “new day” won’t include the generous and disproportionate Colorado River allocation upon which California has long relied for its full complement of imports. It’s not a matter of whether, only of how much.

Whether at the federal or state level, these are signposts that should inform golf that a cascade of changes that are sure to eventually affect the game are in the offing.

See, Study, Act

These are some of the things that I see, hear, read, and confront that cause me to issue what can best be described here as a Jeremiad. Let me suggest that because he served for years as LPGA commissioner before being named CEO of the USGA, Mike Whan was uniquely positioned to see something about the way the American competitive game is organized to cause him to understand that unless something is done to change it in terms of developing young talent in a more organized and supportive way, the PGA Tour could easily lose much of its current stronghold on the American imagination, leading to a cascade of consequences that the business of the game would find troublesome.

Whan saw, studied, thought, and then acted. That is how I would describe the birth of Team USA. I can only hope that before it’s too late, some of the game’s leaders will see, study, think and then take the parallel actions necessary at the community level to do what other sports and recreational activities have long done: Recognized that absent the creation of amply funded facilities programs, golf is destined to lose the very playing fields it needs to sustain current levels of participation, let alone grow and diversify.

As George Orwell put it in his famous 1946 essay about our bottomless capacity to hold contradictory ideas in our heads at the same time, “To see what is in front of one’s nose takes a constant struggle.”

A little more “struggle” and a little less adherence to dogma might focus the game’s attention on what it needs most.

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Descending the pulpit, or if you prefer, signing off from the soapbox.

Colorado Basin: What’s going On?

Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

Thursday, April 13, 2023

A glance at the front page of Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times tells you all you need to know about where California stands with respect to water. The lead headline was “Deep snow adds months of flood risk.”  The headline just below and to its side was “Water cuts:  Varied or uniform?”

To live in Southern California, indeed, to live almost anywhere in the vast expanse of the American Southwest, is to understand how it is possible to face flood and drought at the same time.  The winter rains may have been torrential – 31 atmospheric rivers in all – and the Sierra snowpack may be at record levels, but the Colorado Basin that supplies Southern California’s second major source of imports remains in the throes of a dry period unequaled in 1,500 years.  And that is why the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation took the moment Tuesday to apply pressure to the three (3) states of the Lower Colorado Basin, the “Reclamation” states of Nevada, Arizona, and California, to come to some sort of negotiated agreement to cede as much as 2 million acre-feet of water between now and 2026, when all seven states in the Colorado Compact are going to be asked to negotiate as much as 4 million acre-feet of permanent givebacks to bring their collective allocations in sync with the River’s volumetric production. 

The Bureau, very much in sync with the Biden White House, applied pressure by countering the options put forward in late January by six (6) of the seven (7) states on one hand and California on the other by offering three (3) “options” that provide a more focused framework for moving forward.  There are really only two options, given that one of them is the standard do nothing scenario. 

Under one of the two (2) do something options, the federal government would commandeer the Secretary of the Interior’s authority under “emergency conditions to provide for human health and safety” by issuing across-the-board cuts in equal percentages for both senior and junior rights holders that would amount to roughly 13% cuts in addition to the cuts agreed to by the three lower basin states (Nevada, Arizona, and California) back in 2019.  Given that California is the holder of the most senior of the senior rights associated directly with the myriad covenants and actions that taken together have come to be called the “law of the river,” this option would prove disproportionately impactful on California, particularly its agricultural sector.

Under the other of the do something options, the federal government would issue cuts based upon the existing rights and priorities under the “law of the river,” which would mean minimal or even no cuts for California and devastating cuts for Nevada and Arizona, particularly Arizona, as the aqueduct that brings drinking water to Phoenix and Tucson would likely be cut back to near zero. 

The across-the-board in equal amounts approach would no doubt cause California to litigate and at minimum cause undue harm through delay if nothing else.  The senior rights approach would put Arizona out of business.  The first option foolish; the second option unacceptable.

So, what’s going on?  Only the Department of the Interior, its Bureau of Reclamation, and the Biden White House know for sure, but all the smart money is on the following:  The federal government is making clear that it behooves California and the other six states to negotiate an acceptable compromise between a slavish adherence to an allocation formula inconsistent with what Mother Nature’s provision and a solution that vitiates all the prior agreements and arrangements upon which California in particular reasonably relied to create a water delivery infrastructure capable of supporting 40 million persons and the 5th largest economy in the world.  

There is a political wrinkle in here to consider.  As numerous pundits, politicos, and the New York Times have pointed out, Nevada and Arizona are very tight swing states with Senate seats up for election in 2024 that are held in one case by an incumbent Democrat and in the other an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats and with Electoral Votes in play that were in President Biden’s column by very slender margins in 2020.  Given California’s politics, there is no political downside to being rhetorically tough on California at the expense of Arizona and Nevada.   

Bottom line for golf in Central and Southern California:  While coping with the floods sure to come, prepare to begin coming to terms with the fact that one of the major sources of imported water is almost certain to be curtailed, first temporarily and then permanently.  This will mean different things in different places.  Such is always the case with water – it’s always about local conditions and supplies.  But it will mean something in almost every place that now imports water from the Colorado River.  And that means that in each one of those places the golf community needs to either remain engaged, or in many cases get engaged, with its local retailer and the City or Special District that oversees it to anticipate and then cope with that meaning.      

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Major Coastal Resorts Environmental Accountability Act
AB 1590 
 [Friedman; D-Burbank]
Introduced as a spot or placeholder bill on the final day to file bills in this year’s session (February 17), AB 1590 was populated with substantive content subsequent thereto that among many other things would “prohibit the use of any nonorganic pesticide, as defined, or fertilizing material, as defined, at a major coastal resort.” 

For the purposes of its provisions the bill defines a “major coastal resort” as a resort or hotel that meets all of the following:  1) Is composed of more than 300 guest rooms or units; 2) includes or operates a golf course on the premises; and 3) is located in whole or in part in the coastal zone. 

While many of the bill’s particulars are not entirely clear, they are clear about the proscription on the use of all nonorganic pesticides and fertilizers on a golf course that is part of a “major coastal resort” containing 300 or more guest rooms.  Whether the rooms and the golf course need be under the same ownership for the proscription to apply and/or whether the room count is an aggregate one or one restricted specifically to the golf course to which the rooms are attached – that is not clear, although it may become clear as the bill continues to be amended.

The bill has incurred significant opposition from the quarters one would expect, and any and all golf properties that might or might not come under the bill’s prohibitions are at minimum carefully watching the bill.  The California Alliance for Golf (CAG) is “watching” the bill and contemplating possible action.  Very few golf courses fit the bill’s particulars; however, the slope that would take the state from such proscriptions on large resorts cum golf functionality to proscriptions on all golf facilities within earshot of the “coastal zone” is a slippery one.  As some have discovered when trying to develop a golf property that is outside the coastal zone but somewhat contiguous to it, the California Coastal Commission often asserts jurisdiction thereover.     

Click here to read the bill as currently amended.

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Meet New SCGA Executive Director Mike Kelly

Click here to view SCGA’s new Executive Director Mike Kelly’s personalized message to the SCGA Public Affairs family.


Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

Monday, March 27, 2023

Mother Nature may be blessing us, and the state legislature may be giving us a rest, but the fundamentals that make the surcease so welcome remain firmly in place. 

First up, Mother Nature.

With the Northern Sierra snowpack at near record levels and likely to hit record levels before April 1, and the Southern Sierra snowpack already at record levels:

  • Governor Newsom has rescinded most of the elements of last year’s emergency drought order, including the call for all water suppliers to invoke Level 2 of their water shortage contingency plans, otherwise known as 20% reductions;
  • State Water Project allocations are up to 75% and likely to go higher after April 1;
  • MWD has rescinded the 35% curtailment order it issued to 7 million of its customers last June; and
  • The state’s two largest reservoirs are at 78 and 82 percent of capacity before the spring snowmelt; what 60 days ago was worry about running perilously short of water has been replaced by worry about flooding.

On the other hand, snowpack and surface water are but two of California’s sources of homegrown fresh water.  The other is groundwater.  And while you are likely aware that one great precipitation year doesn’t refill groundwater basins the same way that rain and snowmelt fill reservoirs, you may not be aware that the gains made in the wet years of the 20th Century were never enough to offset the pumping that occurred during the non-wet years in between.  Estimates of the amount of subsurface water California has lost since its entry into the American Union in 1850 range from 110 million acre-feet to 140 million acre-feet in just the Central Valley alone.  Other areas have fared better, but there have been long-term losses, nonetheless.  The great exception is the Coachella Valley, which has for the most part kept its aquifer in a state of replenishment. 

But hovering over both the Coachella Valley “exception” and the rest of Southern California is that other great source of imported water – the Colorado Basin.  One good year in California cannot and will not do much to raise the levels of those two mega-reservoirs known as Lake Mead and Lake Powell that supply water from the Colorado Basin.  The water levels in both, which are at roughly 28% of capacity, barely above “dead pool” in terms of their ability to generate electricity, won’t rise much based off this one wet winter.  And given that those levels were at 50% in 2014 when the state stared down its last spike in the current 20-year megadrought, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the federal government has directed the seven states that form the Colorado Compact to come to agreement on ceding some portion of their extant allotments now to tide the Basin over until 2026 when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation estimates that 2-4 million-acre-feet of allocation must be ceded on a permanent basis.  The hotter, drier conditions that have given rise to the worst drought in the Basin in 1,200 years aren’t receding anytime soon.

While California’s six other partners in the Colorado Compact don’t really believe their recent proposal to ignore senior water rights, past agreements, and federally sanctioned allocation formulas in favor an evaporation methodology that just happens to repose almost all the burden of ceding 2-4-million-acre-feet of water on California is going to come to fruition, they have succeeded in making clear that the days of slavish adherence to all those past arrangements that taken together have come to be known as the “Law of the River” are over.  A new day not yet determined and not knowable is upon us, but this much we do know:  That the “new day” won’t include the generous and disproportionate Colorado River allocation upon which California has long relied for its full complement of imports.  It’s not a matter of whether; just of how much. 

No doubt California will cede a portion of its current allocation within a framework that doesn’t concede any of its rights under the “Law of the River,” but it will cede a portion on some basis to bring the Basin upon which 40 million Americans rely into some semblance of stasis.  California has done just that before – most recently in the form of 2003’s Quantification Settlement Agreement in which the state permanently reduced its Colorado River water use by 800,000 acre-feet per year through various water management programs that turned out to be the largest agricultural-to-urban water conservation and transfer agreement in American history.  And California will do it again.  And that will have an impact separate and apart from what happens in the Sierra Nevada. 

But with the reprieve we just got in the form of record rains and snows, we’ve gained some time to harvest the fruits of some of the investments Southern California has made in constructing the water capture, storage, and conveyance mechanisms better suited to 21st Century realities than the 20th Century infrastructure that is no longer capable of meeting the needs of a 40-million person state that represents the 5th largest economy in the world – e.g., stormwater capture, aquifer replenishment, potable and non-potable reuse, desalination.  Example:  The parcel fee measure that 70% of Los Angeles County’s voters approved in 2018 to fund stormwater capture cum various forms of reuse. 

More specifically, golf can use the reprieve to gain the attention of policymakers and water wholesalers/retailers for the dispensations and programs capable of allowing for those kinds of long-term changes like re-grassing, turf removal, lake relining, and irrigation upgrades that taken together over time permanently reduce water consumption between drought emergencies.  Crises and emergencies crowd out long-term policy thinking in favor of short-term crisis management.  Moments like these are the only moments when golf can gain the attention of policymakers to entertain longer term strategies and tactics for aligning golf with what is really a state of permanent drought, or if you prefer, permanent deprivation, in an effort to keep the game an integral part of Southern California’s recreational lifestyle.  A “sunbelt” without golf is not much of a sunbelt. 

Next up, the 2023 legislative session.

There are no AB 672’s or 1910’s in this year’s queue of bills.  From that we can take some solace in having demonstrated in the last two legislative sessions that as the Los Angeles Times pointed out in its 2022 Sunday editorial on AB 1910:  While the housing crisis militates in strong favor of at least considering any and all ideas with the slightest possibility of ameliorating a critical housing shortage, the municipal golf courses are near the bottom of a long list of much better places to address it.  [Paraphrase, not a quote]

On the other hand . . . AB 1910 may have been enough of a crude overreach that golf was able to awaken enough of the state’s 3.5 million golfers to a danger so obvious that even a community as complacent as golf was able to rally enough of its members to take action – a community that had so long been asleep at the legislative switch that the opposition came as a genuine surprise to the proponents of the bill.  Caveat:  You only surprise once, particularly those who are active in politics.  As the laws keep evolving to prefer housing over parks, open space, and recreation, golf cannot rest content that it can merely duplicate last year’s campaign and expect the same successful result.

To that end we are tracking a slew of bills that continue to amend the Surplus Land Act to give affordable housing priority over open space/recreation, and we are tracking a slew of bills that bypass local control in favor of truncated ministerial approval processes for certain kinds of housing projects.

It’s not that any of these bills take aim at golf per se, but as a sector that encumbers substantial tracts of land in the hearts of many of California’s densest cities and suburbs, golf has to recognize that ONLY to the degree to which the communities in which these tracts are located consider those golf courses genuine community assets environmentally, socially, and otherwise will those tracts remain golf courses in the long term.  To suggest that the economic argument for their continued existence rings hollow is to understate the weakness of that argument.  One need only take a look at what constitutes the golf community in the City of Los Angeles, the nation’s 2nd largest city smack in the middle of the nation’s largest golf market, where the only golf that exists today is either private club or municipal.  Once the site of myriad daily fee golf courses, Los Angeles today is home to none.  That should tell one all one needs to know about the financial fecundity of golf versus the other kinds of land uses that have displaced it.  Yet it seems that we have to keep repeating it over and over again to crack through some of the game’s leadership organizations.

One bill of interest that doesn’t take aim at golf but poses dangers nonetheless is Chris Ward’s (D-San Diego) AB 68.  Click here to read the full text of the bill.  What piques our interest are the organizations sponsoring the bill – YIMBY (Yes in my Backyard), the group that sponsored and pushed the hardest for AB 1910, and The Nature Conservancy, a mainstream environmental organization that by virtue of this co-sponsorship has determined that solving the housing shortage by developing only in already densely settled urban environments represents a meld between the housing crisis and environmentalism – or as the title of last Friday’s op-ed in the Los Angeles Times co-authored by YIMBY’s Chief Operating Officer Melissa Breach and the Nature Conservancy’s Director of Sustainable and Resilient Communities Liz O’Donoghue more directly put the proposition:  “California’s housing shortage is an environmental problem.”

As we have written more than once and always with proper credit to James Carville, “it’s the land, stupid.”  It’s clear that this YIMBY/Nature Conservancy alliance that announces itself as “California’s housing shortage is an environmental problem” is not likely to consider a municipal golf course a park, green space, or environmental refuge for the purposes of preservation.  And we doubt they’ll see much wisdom in continuing to tax private equity golf clubs in tony urban neighborhoods as open space.  But as we learned in last year’s AB 1910 episode, there are many urban legislators who don’t share their view of golf, and it is to those legislators that golf must continue to conduct itself to make true a narrative that positions golf courses as community assets environmentally, socially, and otherwise.  Make “true” with deeds, not with “spin” as some sort of public relations yarn. 

As for the fate of AB 68 in the 2023 session suffice it to say that the California Building Industry, which was silent during the AB 1910 episode, has called the bill a “housing killer,” and the California Chamber of Commerce has put it on its 2023 short list of “job killers.”  We’ll be watching to see what Assembly Housing & Community Development Committee Chair Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) does with it.  The Oakland Assemblymember, who many find the odds-on favorite to assume the Chairmanship of the Assembly Budget Committee when Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) assumes the Speakership from Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) in July, was a vocal supporter of AB 1910 and opposes moving from 6% to 7% the percentage of California land mass dedicated to developed space. 

Of the water bills with traction in the 2023 session, bills like Laura Friedman’s (D-Burbank) effort to curtail the use of potable irrigation on non-functional turf (AB 1572 & 1573), none seek to recategorize golf as non-functional or to take golf out of the class of “Special Landscape Areas” (SLA’s) that in California law protect the use of turf in parks, cemeteries, sports fields, and golf courses.  But we track them nonetheless, because there are organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that persist in trying to change the biological needs (evapotranspiration factor) of turf through legislative/regulatory fiat.  Again, golf’s response cannot be to simply oppose such things, but as golf has done with the California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) in its continuing updates of the state’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO), propose regulatory paradigms that guarantee the game’s use of less water in ways consistent as opposed to inconsistent with nature, biology, and sound agronomic/business practices. 

However, there is one water bill, or more accurately companion bills in the Assembly and Senate, that don’t have traction in our opinion but bear close scrutiny for what they portend.  At this point Assembly Member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s (D-Portola Valley) AB 460 and Senator Ben Allen’s (D-Redondo Beach) SB 389 are more the opening of a conversation than an effort to get something passed of substantial impact this year.  And that’s the point – this year.  The conversation it opens, and we might add actually opened at the policy committee level as more tutorial than bill vetting, is in sync with so much else that suffuses the moment in water law, legislation, regulation, and just plain discussion.

While the details of both are complicated, suffice it to conclude, as have most legal and academic analyses, that AB 460 and SB 389 would undermine existing legal protections for pre-1914 and riparian water rights and result in significant changes to how California’s water rights system are administered – rights and arrangements as sacred and established if not more firmly established than parallel rights and arrangements held by California in the Colorado Compact. 

Click here to read the 8-page “Adapting Water Rights to our 21st Century Climate” document that was used by the Water Parks & Wildlife Committee to introduce AB 460 to the members at their February 28 “informational hearing.”  It’s a veritable rewrite of much of California’s water law. 

Whether the Colorado Basin or certain longstanding water rights, the facts on the climatological ground are going to increasingly govern who gets what when and how than rights accorded and laws firmly established in a past that has been overtaken by new realities.  The process promises to be painful and acrimonious to say the least, but golf fails to pay close heed and engage in the discussion at its great peril. 

Engage in the discussion and get proactively involved at every level thereof, that is.  And while we’re at it, perhaps use the reprieve Mother Nature has blessed us with and the surcease from virulent anti-golf legislation that last year’s successful AB 1910 has earned us to take a hard look at just how well prepared the game is to deal with the “fundamental” challenges that remain so firmly in place. 

California Alliance for Golf Receives 2023 NGCOA Champion Award

Jay Karen, CEO of the NGCOA (left) and Tom Brooks, CGCS, President of the NGCOA (right) present the 2023 Champion Award to California Alliance for Golf representative Craig Kessler, SCGA Dir. of Governmental Affairs. The ceremony took place in conjunction with the association’s 2023 Golf Business Conference held in Orlando, FL.(Photo Credit: McLendon Photography)

The California Alliance for Golf (CAG) is pleased to announce the organization was
named recipient of the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) Champion

This award is bestowed upon individuals or entities who’ve succeeded in working on
behalf of a group of owners – locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally – and have
garnered significant victory for the golf industry. In 2022, through its advocacy efforts,
the Alliance was successful in helping defeat California Assembly Bill 672 and
Assembly Bill 1910, proposed legislation that would have converted California public
golf courses into housing projects. A successful awareness and letter writing campaign
to legislative leaders throughout the state proved to be beneficial.

Accepting the prestigious industry award was CAG Legislative Committee Chair Craig
Kessler, Director of Government Relations for the Southern California Golf Association
(SCGA), who was on hand at the awards ceremony held in conjunction with the 2023
Golf Business Conference in Orlando, FL.

Click here to view a video produced by the NGCOA highlighting the work of the
California Alliance for Golf.

Each year, the NGCOA recognizes the most outstanding members of the past year, and
the individuals and organizations that have helped preserve the tradition of the game
while embracing the challenges and opportunities of the golf business.
“All the nominees put forth this year are exceptional examples of our industry’s finest,”
said Tom Brooks, President of the NGCOA Board of Directors. “The winners exemplify
their importance to their community, and our sport and industry. We proudly
congratulate those who were selected for this year’s NGCOA awards.”

Also receiving the Champion Award in 2023 was U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) for
his involvement in the establishment of the Paycheck Protection Program.


Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Not all of the 19th Century rules governing the rhythms of California’s legislative session are without value. The one requiring that bills must sit idle for a minimum of 30 days after filing is one of them. This gives everyone plenty of time to sift through the roughly 2,500 bills that were filed for consideration this session, most of which were filed within 10 days of last Friday’s deadline.

Upon completion of our “sift,” we’ll have a solid idea not only of which bills to track, but also which bills among those have traction. Many of the 2,500 filings are more performative than substantive, although today’s performance is often positioning for tomorrow’s traction. And that too merits tracking in terms of paying close heed to the arguments raised and the arguers who raise them.

Here are the early returns from Friday’s deadline. We are sure to find more in the coming week.

AB-363 Pesticides: neonicotinoids for nonagricultural use: reevaluation: regulations. [Bauer-Kahan; D-San Ramon]
This bill would require the department, by July 1, 2024, to publish a reevaluation of the latest science regarding the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides, as defined, on pollinating insects, aquatic ecosystems, and human health when used for the nonagricultural protection of outdoor ornamental plants, trees, and turf, and, by July 1, 2026, to adopt regulations governing that use that are necessary to protect the health of honeybees, native bees, and other pollinating insects, aquatic ecosystems, and human health, as provided. [Click here to read a PDF version of the entire bill]

A stronger bill in terms of outright banning the use of neonicotinoids for nonagricultural use was vetoed by Governor Newsom last year. His veto message expressed concern about circumventing the state’s regulatory process while the Department of Pesticide Regulation was considering new regulations pertaining to both agricultural and nonagricultural uses.

Although the pollinators the bill aims to protect do not feast on turf, neonics do play a role in golf course turf management. Their loss would leave a hole in the game’s pest control toolbox. However, their use in golf is much more akin to the agricultural application that is being exempted than it is to the urban/suburban backyard use that would seem to be the aim of the bill’s co-sponsor Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) did make this point in its veto plea to Governor Newsom. Whether that plea proved dispositive, or part of a greater compelling argument from similarly situated sectors, may remain to be seen in the 2023 legislative session, where no doubt GCSAA and its allied partners within the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) will make the same plea for a parallel exemption for a golf course use restricted to licensed applicators and more closely regulated than required by current practice. It’s important to note that CAG is not opposed to restrictions upon neonicotinoids; it merely questions a blunderbuss approach that ensnares harmless applications.

AB-1572 Potable water: nonfunctional turf. [Friedman; D-Burbank]
This bill would make legislative findings and declarations concerning water use, including that the use of potable water to irrigate nonfunctional turf is wasteful and incompatible with state policy relating to climate change, water conservation, and reduced reliance on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem. The bill would direct all appropriate state agencies to encourage and support the elimination of irrigation of nonfunctional turf with potable water. This bill would prohibit the use of potable water, as defined, for the irrigation of nonfunctional turf located on commercial, industrial, municipal, institutional, and multifamily residential properties, as specified.

This is one of two bills (AB 1573 in addition) that Assembly Member Friedman has filed to make clear the state’s desire to phase out the use of potable water to irrigate those categories of turf deemed nonfunctional. As part of the class of “Special Landscape Areas (SLA’s),” golf along with parks, sports fields, and cemeteries are considered “functional” turf.

AB 1573 clearly maintains this, stating emphatically, “Nonfunctional turf” means turf that is solely ornamental and not regularly used for human recreational purposes or for civic or community events. Nonfunctional turf does not include sports fields and turf that is regularly used for human recreational purposes or for civic or community events.”

However, AB 1572 makes special reference to one longtime member of the SLA class in a way amenable to interpretation as opening others to excision: “Nonfunctional turf” means any turf that is not located in areas designated by a property owner or a government agency for recreational use or public assembly. Nonfunctional turf does not include turf located in cemeteries.

As a sector defined in too many minds as too much land that uses too much water to serve the too few who have had too much for too long, golf would be wise to take note of this potential opening and recognize that in a Capitol sure to be consumed with a permanent loss of Colorado River allocation, there may be legislators keen to consider excising certain disfavored members of the current SLA Class. We don’t suggest that Laura Friedman is in that group. She harbors no hostility toward the California golf community; indeed, she has been warm to golf. But given the moment, the environmental community’s strong support of these bills, palpable hostility to golf among a minority of legislators, and the increasing realization that Mother Nature not only didn’t but isn’t capable of bailing out a long overallocated Colorado Basin in the throes of its worst drought in 1,500 years – well, suffice it to say golf beware.

Click here to read AB 1572. Click here to read AB 1573.

SB-423 Land use: streamlined housing approvals: multifamily housing developments. [Wiener; D-San Francisco]

This bill would authorize the Department of General Services to act in the place of a locality or local government, at the discretion of that department, for purposes of the ministerial, streamlined review for development on property owned by or leased to the state. The bill would delete the January 1, 2026, repeal date, thereby making these provisions operative indefinitely.

This bill would modify the above-described objective planning standards, including by deleting the standard that prohibits a multifamily housing development from being subject to the streamlined, ministerial approval process if the development is located in a coastal zone, and by providing an alternative definition for “affordable housing costs” for a development that dedicates 100% of units, exclusive of a manager’s unit or units, to lower income households. The bill would, among other modifications, delete the objective planning standards requiring development proponents to pay at least the general prevailing rate of per diem wages and utilize a skilled and trained workforce and would instead require a development proponent to certify to the local government that certain wage and labor standards will be met, including a requirement that all construction workers be paid at least the general prevailing rate of wages, as specified. [Click here to read the Legislative Counsel’s Summary. The bill is excruciatingly detailed; those with such appetite can click here to read the full bill]

This bill, for which there is a companion version in the Assembly from Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland, Chair of Housing Committee), promises to be one of the most scrutinized and consequential bills in the 2023 hopper. The way we would boil down its 39 pages is as follows. The controlling piece of legislation regarding the incentivization of affordable housing, SB 35, also authored by Senator Wiener, has proven nettlesome in part due to what developers find two key obstacles: 1) A too high percentage “affordable” requirement, and 2) a set of labor standards that make “affordability” unattainable. SB 423 purports to solve the 2nd obstacle in a way that renders the 1st obstacle moot. While it has secured the endorsement of some sectors of California’s labor community, most notably the Carpenters, it has thus far incurred the opposition of the Building Trades, presaging in our view a replay of last year’s drama concerning Buffy Wicks’ AB 2011, which managed at the last minute to find the sweet spot of common ground to earn the support of the Building Trades and become law – in the minds of many political commentators and soothsayers an epochal achievement that contains the promise of actually constructing housing in this housing starved state.

While we don’t see or anticipate any direct assaults on California’s golf stock like AB 672 or 1910 in this session and are gratified that Cristina Garcia’s old Assembly District is now represented by Blanca Pacheco (D-Downey), a member of the Latina Golfers Association, we trust you understand the wisdom in tracking any and all bills that take control over planning decisions away from local cities and repose them in Sacramento – and repose them by right per the truncated permitting processes euphemistically referred to as “ministerial.”

Golf cannot escape nor much mitigate its encumbrance of large swaths of contiguous land in precisely those urban/suburban enclaves ripe for housing. Any who doubt just how critical the state deems its housing shortage need only read the state’s latest report card. Bills like SB 423 are going to keep coming quickly and furiously for as long as Californians of all stripes, locations, and political affiliations identify housing as their number one concern. So are the bills that keep moving housing up and open space/recreation down in the Surplus Land Act’s assignments of priority.

While golf can prevent being singled out among the many other land uses also ripe for housing, it cannot stop the stampede toward those obviations of local control and those assignments of priority capable of breaking the logjam that has long prevented the state from meeting its residents’ housing needs, albeit if California keeps hemorrhaging 500,000 souls, we may be closer to meeting our housing needs than we think. Of course, there are serious consequences to any city, region, or state that becomes hollowed out.

What golf can do is everything within its power to make real a community value proposition not founded on an economic metric guaranteed to make a compelling case for housing and other commercial uses, otherwise known as the traditional economic impact report (spoiler alert: Golf lags far behind other uses in terms of employment generation, tax generation, and economic multiplier effects), but founded upon the many quality of life, quality of environment, and quality of community values the game uniquely provides the places in which golf courses are located.

Call us foolish if you like but as persons responsible for getting results in a rather tough environment, we find it wise to lead with strengths, not weaknesses, albeit we do very much take our weaknesses into account with every strength we project.

EPA Enters Formal Partnership with Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) to Promote Environmental Stewardship, Environmental Justice, Public Health, and STEM Education

Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed a partnership agreement Monday (September 19) with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) pledging a commitment to environmental stewardship and environmental sustainability on golf courses everywhere.

“Our biggest advances in protecting human health and the environment come from working together,” said EPA Mid Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz.  “This partnership with GCSAA will go a long way in benefitting surrounding communities while also enhancing our ongoing dedication to greenspaces, clean water and healthy air.”

During an event at the Langston Municipal Golf Course in Washington, D.C., officials from EPA and GCSAA signed a Memorandum of Understanding that enhances their joint commitment to share information on environmental issues, to promote best practices, to address industry challenges in a joint effort to protect and enhance the environment.

“This partnership between the EPA and GCSAA is the culmination of decades of collaboration and environmental stewardship on golf courses,” said GCSAA Chief Executive Officer Rhett Evans. “By implementing science-based best management practices, golf course superintendents have made theses public greenspaces more sustainable than ever before.”

The MOU outlines partnership opportunities for the following priority EPA areas:

  • Environmental Stewardship, including controlling stormwater run-off and sustainability
  • Environmental Justice
  • Improved pollinator sites
  • Children’s and Public Health
  • Environmental and STEM Education

As the allied California golf community argued successfully during the AB 1910 controversy, well-managed golf courses provide significant community benefits through the creation of community greenspaces that provide recreational opportunities, health benefits, heat sinks, fire breaks, wildlife habitats, all while preventing destructive stormwater run-off into neighboring communities.

As the allied California golf community demonstrated successfully at last month’s golf & water summit, golf always seeks collaborative partnerships with its regulators to achieve goals both hold in common, chief among them steadily reducing the game’s water footprint over time, integrating golf courses into the fabric of their surrounding communities, and as much as the game has done the last 20 years to significantly reduce its water consumption, not resting on that laurel, but using that record of innovation and accomplishment to innovate and accomplish much more in the next 20 years to ensure that golf remains a large component of California’s recreational community.  Not as a “do good” proposition, but a survival proposition.   

Invest – innovate – collaborate.

And just as the GCSAA is doing all three in partnership with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the allied Southern California golf community continues to do the same with the region’s large water wholesalers and retailers. 

Well done GCSAA!  You keep punching well above your organizational weight in the public policy arena, and we here in Southern California recognize and appreciate it.

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Join CAG today and help us establish a strong and dynamic presence in Sacramento so we can participate in regulatory processes affecting the Golf Industry. [READ MORE.]