Facing the financial pressure caused by the low revenues of a public golf course, a $15 million debt, and the abundance of places to putt in the area, Glen Annie Golf Club is seeking other options. At a community meeting on Wednesday, July 23, golf course owner Valley Crest Companies announced a proposal to convert some of the course into housing and soccer fields.
The plan includes provisions to use the 161-acre golf course for nine 10-unit multi-family dwellings, 18 townhouses, and 67 single-family homes, with new entrances from Cathedral Oaks Road. The project’s recreational space consists of four soccer fields-a component of Goleta open space that has been considered inadequate since UCSB built graduate housing atop the soccer fields that once existed along El Colegio Road-and an 18-hole executive golf course around the bulk of the existing course. Two-thirds of the units proposed are of the “affordable by design” variety.
The alternative, according to John Dewey, a representative of Valley Crest, is to sell the property-which is currently zoned AG-2-40-as three individual 40-acre lots, nixing the soccer fields as an option, and forcing the closure of the existing Frog Bar & Grill. “I think it would be a tremendous loss, because the city needs the soccer fields, and the restaurant is a valuable community meeting space,” he said. Before moving forward, the conversion of the property would require annexation and rezoning by the City of Goleta.
Steve Chase, Goleta’s director of Planning and Environmental Services, said that since the plan is only a concept, a number of factors need to be considered before the Planning staff can make a recommendation to the City Council on whether or not an environmental study should be initiated for the project. Chase also noted that the potential land use conversion of the Shelby Trust property, which is ensconced in the southwest corner of the golf course, will also affect Goleta’s treatment of any project proposal that eventually materializes.
Because it operates mostly on reclaimed water-Dewey stated the course operates on 100 acre-feet of such water annually, and only 20 acre-feet of the potable variety-the golf course would also require annexation by the Goleta Water District and Goleta West Sanitary District if it were to become a viable residential parcel. “We’ve received positive feedback from LAFCO [Local Agency Formation Commission] and county staff,” said Dewey. “It’s up to the Goleta City Council to weigh the benefits of the recreational facilities with the impacts of some housing on the site.”
As it stands today, Dewey said the golf course is not a financially viable operation. “We’ve looked at private memberships, but the economic demand isn’t there. Every time we raise the price, our golfers go away.” Valley Crest has also attempted, in the past, to sell the course to Goleta and the county as a recreational amenity, but neither had the budget to purchase a property worth nearly $6 million.
The Environmental Defense Center and the Urban Creeks Council had sued the county in the mid ’90s, securing required mitigation of environmental impacts caused by construction of the golf course after six years of litigation. Today the golf course has approximately 16 acres of environmentally sensitive habitat area, which it spends about $200,000 per year to maintain and mitigate, but Eddie Harris of the Urban Creeks Council said restoring the creek bed needs much more work. Also causing concern in the environmental community is the fact that the new development would lie outside of Goleta’s current western urban limit boundary. “I see it as another domino,” said Harris. By all accounts, forward motion on a project of this scale could be years away.