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.