Palo Alto looks to add playing fields to golf course | March 9, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 9, 2012

Palo Alto looks to add playing fields to golf course

City Council committee recommends major redesign of Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course

by Gennady Sheyner

The Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course would be dramatically redrawn and reduced by more than 10 acres to make way for new athletic fields under a reconfiguration plan that a City Council committee endorsed Tuesday evening, March 6.

The course is slated for major changes under a regional plan to calm the flood-prone San Francisquito Creek, which lies adjacent to the Embarcadero Road golf facility. The flood-protection plan offered by the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority — a coalition that includes Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and water officials from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties — proposes constructing a levee at the golf course to protect residents downstream from potential damage.

The flood-control plan would make some changes to the course inevitable, but the council's four-member Finance Committee Tuesday threw its unanimous support behind Option G — the most ambitious and transformative of the four alternatives on the table. The proposal would relocate 15 of the course's 18 holes, create 15 new greens and allocate about 10.5 acres at the 170-acre course for athletic fields.

Option G costs more than the other three options but also creates the greatest opportunity for the city to recoup its investment, according to an economic study the city commissioned. The city's golf-course consultant, Forrest Richardson, pegged this option's price tag at about $7 million. The other options range from $3.5 million to $5.9 million.

In backing Option G, the committee praised it as a great opportunity to leverage regional funds for a project that would both revitalize the 18-hole course, which was built in the 1950s and last remodeled in the mid-1970s, as well as add athletic fields, a pressing need in a city with a booming student population.

The city works regularly with 34 local sports clubs and nonprofits that represent about 25,000 participants, a recent city report stated. Demand is expected to grow due to year-round sports seasons, new housing developments, the growing number of girls in team sports and new sports organizations.

The $7 million price tag does not include the cost of building the fields, but it makes land available for these facilities. Vice Mayor Greg Scharff said he is hopeful the city could go out to the community to raise money for the new athletic facilities.

"I think we desperately need new playing fields," Scharff said. "We're creating land here by doing this, and I think we're getting a much, much better golf course."

Option G would generate about $1 million more in annual revenues than Option A once the city pays off the debt on the course, according to a study from the consultant, National Golf Foundation Consulting.

The project would involve closing the course from April 2013 to March 2014 and would include full replacement of the course's irrigation system and transformation of 43 acres to naturalized space, according to the city.

The decision by the creek authority to build a levee on the golf course is part of a long-awaited plan. The creek overflowed in a 1998 storm, causing damage to about 1,700 properties.


What do you think about the idea of adding athletic fields to the Palo Alto golf course? Share your opinion on Town Square, the community online discussion forum, on Palo Alto Online.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by Knucky, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2012 at 5:42 am

Just give them the driving range. The course doesn't even have to close down the driving range, the athletes will just have to be more aware.

Posted by Golfer, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 7, 2012 at 6:41 am

The report to the Finance Committee is here.
Web Link

Option G creates a remodeled 18-hole course that is 6,565 yards par 71 from the men's tees plus 3 playing fields across the street from the existing Baylands Recreation Center baseball diamond. All the walking trails would be connected plus improvements to the parking, wetlands, creek channel, and levee would be made.

No changes to the golf club house, driving range or airport area that I can see.

Option G looks good to me.

Posted by I thought the City was Broke, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 7, 2012 at 9:33 am

If the City is broke, where will they get the money for this and other luxury projects like a 9 Million Dollar Bike bridge. This City is rich, it's just a matter of priorities. Any nonsense we here about having to cut this or that or demand things fronm groups is ridiculous, they just want more money to pay for pet projects.

Posted by Barbara, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:42 am

Why is the City always in need of money for necessities, but can find millions for pet projects and playing fields? Ridiculous waste! Improve the golf course, yes! Beyond that, NO.

Posted by Hurry, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Just get it going already before there is another flood! What's it been, 14 years already?

Posted by commonsense, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Seriously? Playing fields for kids is a pet project but spending money on the golf course is fiscal discipline? You should be in politics

Posted by Jim Mayer, a resident of University South
on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I am glad that I only bet on golf and race horses. I have been analyzing what would be best for the golf course. Option G was a last minute option to soothe the soccer group. In a million years I would never have believed that this option would be the chosen one.
The first thing that should be done is prepare an adequate practice area with a new putting green, a chipping/pitching green and some decent bunkers for practice. The practice area and range will be the only thing available to local golfers until the golf course is reopened in 201???. If this is done it will help support the pro shop and the PGA golf instructors while the course is renovated. I am sure the Director of Golf and Head Professional will have many ideas of what would help them continue with their golf lessons.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm

1) Most children who play soccer through the AYSO leagues drop out when they get into high school unless they join PALY or Gunn jr. or varsity team.
2) Traditionally,soccer is not a multi-season sport. It is primarily autumn or even winter in northern California. So who plays 'all year round'? Probably the out-of-Palo Alto adult soccer teams.
3) A prime piece of PA real estate -the corner of El Camino and Page Mill was given over to appease the soccer moms.,.Remember the dramatic cries of "For the
chillllllren" from then Mayor Judy Kleinberg with the council chamber packed with
T-shirt wearing chanting grade schoolers. Heart rendering.
4) The city has put a lot of $$$$ into "Destination Palo Alto" -but 'downtown is NOT the only destination around here.The golf course DOES make money. Non-local residents AND amany visitors play there.
5) Golf balls don't always go where one desires....even "Tiger' goes into the "rough". So who is responsible for any injury if a child in clunked with a wayward
ball. The player" The City? The architect?
6) And nothing will annoy a golfer more than a squadron of children - and parents cheering heartily when he/she wants to putt or drive concentrate in getting out of a sand trap or whatever. At no place will you see a golf course adjacent to a soccer field!! Once again part of the Council 'caved in'. Let's hope that things get better,the higher up this issue goes.

Posted by youngfather, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:05 pm

One can tell that everyone else here before me is an old person, and not interested in the kids in Palo Alto. Play fields will be more than welcome for most residents, just like HSR will be a great benefit to Palo Alto and region. We need more fields! plus, I pay more property tax than you baby boomer.

Posted by bottomless pit, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2012 at 12:31 pm

The reason we always need more fields is that most of the people using our fields are not Palo Altans. If we build more, they will just keep coming in from farther and farther away. We need a responsible budget.

Posted by option G parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm

playing fields do bring in groups, athletes, organizations, etc. from "outside" Palo Alto, but that's OK -- the city issues permits and charges fees for the use of the athletic fields. Sound business model for the city, beneficial to atheletic communities at large. That is why option G will generate revenue.

golf and atheletic fields can co-exist if there is enough land. I can't see how the sounds from an athletic field nearby can by any less distracting than the 50 geese/playing hole density that exists at the Palo Alto Muni, but hey, that's just my opinion.

I like the idea of the the city generating more revenue from rental of more athletic field space, and the land can serve more "users", whether from in-town or out. Golf is an elitist sport (which I love and wish I could play more of, if I didn't have to spend as much time on my job and with my kids). Golf-only land will serve the few, golf and athletic field land will serve many.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2012 at 9:29 am

I agree that the final plan should definitely include athletic fields. No reason why this parcel should not be re-developed to serve as many people as possible. It only makes sense. Additionally, this project should be pursued with a tight budget in mind. We are still very much in the midst of a financial crisis and facing annual budget deficits. This is not the time to pour public dollars into anything elaborate. The clubhouse and pro shop should only serve the basic function. The city cannot afford anything beyond that, if even that.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm

I think the number of athletes per square foot who use playing fields is quite a bit higher than the number of golfers. And I'm pretty sure that the majority of those athletes are local, given that one has to provide utility account numbers to prove residency in order to get field space. As a soccer parent who visits a LOT of other fields, I can assure you that Palo Alto is seriously lacking comparatively speaking. And in mild California, soccer is most definitely a year round sport. Now, shall we cater to the leisure set or set an example for our youth... The ones who get to pick our nursing home?

Posted by resident of PA, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2012 at 11:56 am

Burlingame built a combined soccer/golf area on the bay side of 101. When I've been there, both golf and soccer seem to be going on (or eating in the cafe). It may be worth looking at for a comparison - it's not like similar projects have never been done.