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Golf course architect presents new plan

Original post made on Jan 27, 2012

Golf-course architect Forrest Richardson presented a new plan for reconfiguring Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, which would include three full-sized recreational fields, during a community meeting at Lucie Stern Community Center on Thursday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 27, 2012, 9:57 AM

Comments (27)

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Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 27, 2012 at 10:20 am

The fact that they make any money on this dumpy course is amazing. If it were a nice course, with it's closest competitor Shoreline, which is only slightly less dumpy, in this area it would become a real money maker. As long as the new profit number covers the cost over time, I'm all in favor of making the PA Muni course a destination. Presently, it's a joke.


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Posted by Barbara
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

DO improve our golf course, but forget about adding soccer fields, playgrounds, whatever. For a relatively small city, Palo Alto has more than enough parks and playing fields. If it's so necessary to have ongoing construction of buildings and now, lands, look to the Cubberley site for additional playing fields. Keep the golf course as it is - good for golfers, good for the animals and the environment!


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2012 at 10:52 am

I completely understand that the San Francisquito Creek levee improvement project necessitates that changes be made to the existing golf course. That is a done deal. The primary question for the citizens of Palo Alto is to what extent these changes will cost. Based on the current economic climate, I feel strongly that any work related to the golf course redesign should be kept to a minimum.

Our city leaders and elected officials have made it very clear for the past several years that the city is facing unprecedented financial difficulties and annual budget deficits. Many vital and very essential needs in infrastructure and public safety still exist. There has been recent discussion about proposing a bond measure to pay for these essential needs. Once again our city leaders come back to the tax payers, crying poor, and asking for more funds to cover the cost of work that should have already been planned and paid for. All this because they have allocated too many of our public dollars on non-essential projects and pursuits. We cannot let the golf course redesign become the latest example of irresponsible, frivolous spending. I do not want to hear our city leaders tell us about the financial crisis we are experiencing and how that justifies cuts in public safety and infrastructure, while in the same breath discuss spending millions on playgrounds, park improvements, electric vehicle charging stations, and bike bridges.

We need to display some fiscal responsibility and set some financial priorities. Whatever work that gets done at the golf course should cater to the most people as possible. I would like to see a scaled down version of the golf course configuration with adjoining athletic fields. That would definitely serve the most people and provide the greater good. Any course clubhouse should be kept as simple, basic, and inexpensive as possible. If this work must be done, then let's keep the cost down wherever possible. We don't need anything lavish because quite frankly we can't afford it. Let's pay for the civic work that has been neglected and needs get to done first, then we'll see what's left over to spend on these niche, non-essential pursuits.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2012 at 10:54 am

This is a tricky one.

Whereas we should be upgrading all our recreational facilities and making sure that they pay for themselves in the charges for use, golf courses and soccer facilities are things that residents use and appreciate, but the question has to be asked as to how these upgrades are going to be funded? If we are going to have to raise taxes to fund police buildings which are also essential, do we have money to spare for this?

Of course, we could stop funding the childrens theatre, destination Palo Alto, Public Art, 5 library services ....

Here we go again.


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Posted by Nick
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2012 at 10:55 am

PAW---can you get us access to a look at the plot plans, to see how each is configured?


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Posted by Jim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 27, 2012 at 11:01 am

I've always wondered why new playing fields would have to be placed on the golf course rather than in the new park being built. That seems to be the logical place since there is plenty of land available on what used to be the dump. Park enthusiasts, of course, would argue that playing fields would ruin "their" park, but if you go to most parks in the area (ie. Rengstorff or Cuesta in Mountain View), there are facilities for other sports. A public park should accommodate more than just a few folks who want to stroll around. As for the flood project on the golf course, there are other ways to control the flood problem (which happens rarely) than impacting the course.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2012 at 11:53 am

Tricky? I don't think there is anything tricky about it at all. We just need to keep it simple. As long as there's essential infrastructure and public safety needs that need to be paid, we don't need to be spending money on the fluff, or go to the tax payers with a hand out seeking additional funds. First things first. Priorities first.

To equate this to a household budget, it would be like a family with a budget deficit having a difficult time paying the bills and faced with essential repairs on the house. That is not the time to buy a new car, install a swimming pool, or build an addition on the house. No. That's when you stop the unnecessary spending, tighten the budget, and make some sacrifices. That's how someone pays the bills and fixes the hole in the roof. After the essential work gets done, then you look at the budget to see if there's anything left over to spend on the more lavish stuff.

The city is behaving like the family with the budget problems, but rather than apply some fiscal responsibility and common sense, they continue to spend on the luxury projects, and then go out and get loans or expect their boss to give them a pay raise in order to pay for it. Enough already.


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Posted by Shut-It-Down
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm

The City needs to sell the property, and use that money to fund investment in the various infrastructure projects that are likely to cost between 1 billion and 2 billion dollars (when financing is considered).

There are too few Palo Altans playing at this course to command the use of over 500 million dollars of prime real estate.

Time to shut it down!


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm

will the proposed re-design be artistic and aesthetically pleasing ?
Isn't the current golf course considered to be historic???


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Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:35 pm

With respect to the new park - it was explained at the meeting that the dump site needed the hill contours for proper run-off and decomposition, so it was unsuitable for flat playing fields, unlike the already level golf course site.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Marrol

I don't think you read my post completely. The tricky part is because we think of recreational facilities as part of city infrastructure to a certain extent. I would rather this go ahead and the funds going to PACT, 5 libraries, etc. etc. stopped. I agree we can't afford it in this financial climate, but neither can we afford PACT, 5 libraries, etc. etc.

And as for selling the land, they would end up with more housing which we don't want as it would bring in more people to fill our schools, our meagre amenities and our dilapidated worn out streets.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I am all for cuts in the areas you mention as well as many others Resident. Although our recreational facilities should be viewed as a part of our overall infrastructure to a certain degree, I just feel that there are more pressing needs that should be addressed first. Our parks and recreation facilities have not broken down like many of our sidewalks, streets, sewage, and certain public buildings. Again, first things first.


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Posted by Kay Sabin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Why not stop renting out the fields for soccer to outside sources. If we did this we would have enough fields to handle Palo Alto players. Plus, Soccer is not a priority to new residents coming into Palo Alto, but golf seems to be their new sport.


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Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm

The fact that it makes a profit is very interesting and positive news. Any investment which can maintain or improve on that would be welcome.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2012 at 6:15 pm

The article states that the number of people using the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course has steadily declined. It is quite obvious that not enough Palo Alto citizens use the facility to justify any major expense on this project. We should not be catering to a niche activity that does not address the greater good, especially when we have so many other financial priorities. Priorities first people. We can't afford a luxury project like this when it's very apparent that we lack the public funds to pay for our essential civic needs. This kind of spending is precisely what got us into this mess to begin with.


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Posted by Mary Carlstead
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2012 at 6:45 pm

1. The Federal Government, a/k/a the Army Corps of Engineers has mandated that this drainage canal from San Francisquito Creek to the Bay be constructed. It will take out part of the golf course. It had been remodeled a few years ago to be an excellent tournament quality course.

2. The golf course is a recreational facility of long standing, and it is used by a broad spectrum of ages. Today there were little children with clubs on the putting green and taking lessons. The practice area was full. So was the course. It is popular with retirees - local and from elsewhere, the latter pay higher fees. It is used by school golf clubs.

3. It is wildly popular with new residents--- who had better chime in on this.

4. Palo Alto threw away a prime chance for revenue - a new performing arts center and/or convention center (Palo Alto has neither) that would have brought in revenue and visitors -- a Destination for Destination Palo Alto. Instead it built new soccer fields at the corner of Page Mill and El Camino, which has a lot of pollution from mega auto traffic. There was a huge amount of pressure from soccer advocates to build this for the children, packing the City Hall at the hearing. But I understand that many of the soccer time slots are given to out-of-town groups. Is this so?

5. I know from experience that soccer was a consuming activity for our family through the 8th grade for one then another went on to the Paly girls soccer team in the 1979-1982 . But after 8th grade, no more AYSO. Life happens, they grow up, and have different interests. Trust me. On the other hand........

6. Golf is enjoyed at our course by all ages, an increasingly younger group to seniors in their 60's , 70's and 80's - and my husband in his 80's got another hole-in-one last year. And he walks, doesn't use a cart. Golf can be enjoyed even by those with some disabilities and health problems who ride a cart, get fresh air and sun and get outside and have fun.

7. LIttle can be built or developed in that area. The "water table' of the Bay is so high that one doesn't have to excavate very far down to hit water - a lot of water.

8. Unlike many sports - golf here in California can be played all year round. It is not seasonal like many sports. Baseball is not a winter sport.

9. Anyone from anyplace can play tennis on any of Palo Alto's courts - even the ones lit up at night with now expensive electricity. And the bowling alley is gone - and that was popular with seniors - in fact , all ages, Great for junior high birthday parties.

If Palo Alto has money to build another walkway over Highway 101 and all the other feel-good projects currently on the table, it has the money if necessary to
preserve and protect a prime recreational asset. Most cities would be happy to have one like it. Palo Alto contributed $250,00 to the National "Seniors games" a few years ago - and the Senior games golf tournament was held at our course. To those who want to 'close it down, borrow a club and try it. You may like it and get 'hooked on golf'. However, this problem was caused by the Federal Government's mandate. ANNA ESCHOO, ARE YOU LISTENING??


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Posted by Ellen
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm

As a senior who likes to play golf, there are simply not many affordable courses left for those of us who are not millionaires. I'm in favor of updating the course if the funds could be raised. Maybe some of Palo Alto's more well to do residents could help out with this and the new course could be named after them.


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Posted by Mary Carlstead
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2012 at 3:47 am

Correction: The city gave $250,000 to the Senior Games....not $250,00. It was, I think, three years ago.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2012 at 9:52 am

Mary, I understand the golf course will have to undergo some changes due to the San Francisquito Creek levee project, but again, we must be sensible and consider the affordability of any improvements beyond the very basic. I also believe that this is a perfect opportunity for the city to remake the area as recreational facility that would reach the most people. A scaled down version of the golf configuration with adjoining athletic fields would certainly serve a wider spectrum.

Why should this become a multi-use facility? Quite simply, as many golfers as there may or may not be, there are many more people that would utilize athletic fields. You said yourself in your first point that the golf course had been remodeled a few years ago as an excellent tournament quality course. If that was the case, then why has golf at this facility been gradually declining as this article states? You also claim that the course is "wildly popular" with new residents, that seniors take full advantage of the facility, and that the practice areas are filled. Again, why have the real numbers shown that the number of people using the course have declined? It doesn't add up. What does make sense is that during this very difficult financial period the last thing we need to do is allocate lavish spending on something like a golf course which is statistically used by a small, declining number of our citizens.

You also mention that the city doesn't have the money for "feel good" projects such as the bike bridge. On that point I agree with you. It is also very apparent however that a golf course redesign that includes anything beyond a very basic, adequate level is also a feel good project. So no Mary, the city does not have the money for a project like this. It's that simple. They do not have the money to pay for vital and essential infrastructure and public safety needs. That is why they have floated the idea of proposing a bond measure that would increase our taxes to pay for those essential needs. Really? Are they serious?

Failing to have a sensible financial plan and setting priorities is precisely what got us into this mess. Our public dollars that should have already paid for these essential needs were spent frivolously and irresponsibly on niche projects and fluff. Our city leaders have not demonstrated the ability to make the necessary cuts in non-essential areas that could help pay for these basic needs without another tax service. They spend and spend on luxury items that we can't afford, bury us in debt and budget deficits, and then have the gall to return to the tax payers asking for more money. We can't keep bailing them out. Maybe if the trough runs dry they will learn and begin to spend our public dollars more responsibly in the future.


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Posted by Jim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm

The golf course is and has almost always been profitable for the city and its citizens whether they play or do not play golf.
The golfers have always paid for everything. In 1998 the city borrowed money by selling bonds based on the full faith and credit of The City of Palo Alto. The golfers our paying this back at the rate of $550,000 per year. There is about $3.5 million remaining to be paid which will be paid off by the year 2018.

Profitwise the revenue paid by golfers is about $3 million per year and the costs of maintenance is a little over $2 million leaving and operating profit of about $900,000. The $550,000 debt payment is paid from this operating profit.

Over the last 7 years the golfers have paid all the costs and the debt and returned a cash flow of about $2 million to the city. Making a better facility will hopefully increase the revenue and profit. My target is 80,000 rounds and a profit of $1.2 million per year in 2018 when the debt is retired. This profit can happen if we do not do something to screw it up.

There is insufficient parking to handle fields plus golf. In addition
a problem with playing fields adjoining the course will be the noise. Players will run around yelling and whistles will be blowing and this will be a major problem on the weekends when the most play occurs. Many golfers will very likely stay away and our target of 80,000 rounds will not be met.

We have a golden opportunity to use JPA money + approximately $1 million +/- to create an improved course which should draw more play and thus more profit. The beauty of it is the golfers will pay for it not the citizens of Palo Alto.

Adding playing fields to the mix will cost $3 million or more and will most likely reduce the profit potential of the course. I am not privy to all the inner workings of the current playing field issue. I go by Duveneck and Addison schools and the fields at El camino and Page mill and do not see these fields (expecially the two grammer schools) being used very much. We do have the high schools and Cubberley plus the three Junior high schools and all the grammar schools. The city should move heaven and earth to keep Cubberley.
The reservoir project will release the field back to use plus the El camino Park will be both for baseball and soccer/rugby/La Crosse etc in 2013.

I do not see the wisdom of $ 3 million for more fields which are likely to hurt the potential of our golf course.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm

The potential of the golf course is exactly what I'm talking about Jim. Despite the last remodel of the course the number of people using the facility has gradually been dwindling. This according to the people in the know apparently. The best indicator of future performance in most cases is past performance, and sadly, the outlook for an expanded course design is grim. Besides, the city does not have the money to invest in this project. That's the bottom line. I'm not opposed to maintaining some form of a golf course, but any notion of making it bigger and better is out of the question. The final design should address only adequate needs to keep it operational.


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Posted by jim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 29, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Sorry Marrol but the point is the course haws never had a design that appeals to most golfers. THE REVAMPING DONE IN 1998 WAS COSMETIC AND DID NOT CHANGE THE HOLES TO CREATE INTEREST. tHE OVERWHELMING COMMENT BY GOLFERS WAS "SAME OLD S--- WITH OUT THE WOOD CHIPS" The course is a "drive and splat course" no thinking or strategy needed. Other courses are maintained better and are more interesting to play. The course is also too long for the ladies. There are several ladies clubs but getting new members has been difficult because of the length along with the poor quality. Length can be fixed but interest requires revamping. Sunnyvale - Poplar Creek - Spring Valley - Santa Clara - Santa Teresa etc etc etc are all stealing our golfers because they are better courses.

MORE IMPORTANT - THE CITY DOES NOT PAY FOR IMPROVEMENTS - THE GOLFERS PAY - THE CITY ONLY ADVANCES THE MONEY ONLY WHICH IS PAID BACK BY THE GOLFERS.....

Today I went looking for potential soccer players and soccer fields (real and potential. I found soccer being played only at the El Camino/ Page Mill fields. It seems that soccer players only want to play at the nice fields just as golfers prefer to play at good courses.

Walter Hays school has a potential field available north of the tennis courts. why is it not being outfitted for soccer
Jordan Middle4 School has room for at least 3 fields which were there when I weent to school there - but there was nobody there.
Duveneck school - same thing
Addison school - same thing
Palo Alto High School - the area including the baseball field used to be set up to have footbal practice and Physical Education soccer and football play on two areas of the field which is now covered by fences. In my day you ran out your home runs - you did not have fences blocking everything up.
Eleanor Pardee Park has space for soccer - maybe not a full size field but plenty adequate for younger kids

THE POINT: I found 4 possibilities to create fields and 5 fields not being used. Do you really want to spend $3 million dollars in the land of geese when the fields we have are not being used nor developed?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2012 at 7:26 pm

This is not soccer season, by and large. Check again September to November. There are not enough fields for practice for all the AYSO, teams because of the number of other teams, particularly late in the season when it is dark by 6.00 pm to have two shifts of practices because we don't have lights.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 29, 2012 at 9:25 pm

We can't afford it Jim, whether the funds are front loaded or not. This is especially true for a pursuit that caters to a relatively small number of our citizens, that according to the experts has been declining over the past several years. It's a dicey investment and risk that we simply can't afford to take, period.

You will also note that I never called for a removal of the golf course. Not once. All I'm proposing is that the final configuration be kept very basic, simple, and most of all, as affordable as possible. Any thought of a lavish new facility and clubhouse should be abandoned at once. Our city has far too many priorities in the area of infrastructure and public safety that have been neglected.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 30, 2012 at 10:58 am

A new club house facility would be a money-maker. Ask Mt. View re: Shoreline.
Michael's restaurant, meeting rooms, and banquet rooms are very popular- for group luncheons, weddings, funeral there. The restaurant is great and inexpensive and wildly popular for weekday lunch and on weekends. The Lakeshore restaurant along the lake is also jammed in good weather. Palo Alto has/had no 'vision'. Mt. View turned a dump into a park, golf course, restaurants, kite flying area...and many more areas are being built.

Public golf courses are 'regional facilities' like libraries, tennis courts, and swimming pools.. If you say that golf numbers are declining (it is going back up after the recession) then maybe Palo Altans should get healthier, turn off the obsession with lap tops, I-phones, I Pads and go outside and smell the sunshine. There has to be some reason to live in this town - given traffic, ABAG, overcrowded schools and on and on. It's called QUALITY OF LIFE. And by the way what is the percentage of Palo Altans over the age of fourteen who play soccer and baseball? There is plenty of space in the PAUSD for soccer fields.


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Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2012 at 11:14 am

With respect to use of the soccer fields - the city closes a number of the grass fields during the winter months, and most residential areas do not allow lights so there is a limited time when they can be used. The fields that are open, are booked during the time of day when they can be used.

For numbers:
Over the last 10 years the number of golf rounds has decreased 13%.

In that same period of time, Palo Alto Soccer Club grew from 10 teams to 45 teams, an increase of around 500 new players (total 650). Another club (PSV Union) also started during that time period, adding perhaps another 200 players. Stanford Soccer Club has increased the number of teams over that time as well. AYSO has about 2000 players in their fall season. There are another 500 adult soccer players.

There has been an incredible expansion in the number of youth teams wanting to play field sports over the last 10 years, at the same time there has been a gentle decline in the number of golf rounds played.

If the golf community truly wants to open up to a more diverse membership, i.e. younger and ethnically diverse, they should welcome playing fields that will bring that demographic to their doorstep.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Under ideal economic circumstances Community Center Bob I would agree with you wholeheartedly. However, as long as the city is facing annual budget deficits and unable to allocate funds for vital infrastructure and public safety needs, this is not the time to talk about a lavish golf course remodel. This would be just another example of irresponsible spending, especially for an activity whose number of participants has been on the steady decline for a decade. It's time for the city to set some financial priorities. A lavish golf course remodel is way down on the list. It's not a need, it's a want.


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