Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

Thursday, February 10, 2022

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

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

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

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

Unlike the process the game successfully navigated in January, the AB 1910 process will be the normal order for 1-year bills:

  • 30 day posting period during which no action can be taken on the bill;
  • Housing & Community Development Committee hearing;
  • Local Government Committee hearing;
  • Appropriations Committee hearing (May);
  • Floor vote;
  • Assuming the bill passes through all of the above, over to the Senate, where it will undergo a similarly dilatory process;
  • Assuming the bill passes through the same hoops in the Senate, over to the Governor for signature or veto.

“Dilatory” doesn’t mean that the California golf community has the luxury of time; quite the opposite. Golf merely has enough time to accomplish more than it was able to accomplish under the rushed 2-year process it navigated in January. Everything above takes time; that’s just the way these things go. And the clock has started to run.

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

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

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