Please send emails to the county:
Vote NO on San Geronimo Golf Coures deal
This beautiful jewel is set in the heart of our valley. It is a treasured recreation and community resource for over 2,000 San Geronimo families all Marin residents.
Act now--time is urgent! Please send your emails before Friday October 27.
- San Geronimo Valley Stewards request:
If Marin County takes title, the County must control the land, the purchase terms, and financing; and
- future uses must meet community needs, not be imposed by outside corporations or agencies.
- If public money is used to buy the Course, there must be:
full advance disclosure of sale and funding terms; and
- meaningful opportunity for public discussion.
- Now is not the time to lock in or prohibit future uses of the property.
Please send your emails by Friday October 27 to County officials and the addresses below.
Give them there are alternatives to the current proposal.
Explain the reasons this is a bad deal for the valley and the County.
County Supervisors meet and VOTE on Tuesday October 31.
Please send your email to these Addresses:
Supervisor Denis Rodoni DRodoni@marincounty.org
Supervisor Damon Connolly DConnolly@marincounty.org
Supervisor Judy Arnold JArnold@marincounty.org
Supervisor Katie Rice KRice@marincounty.org
Supervisor Kate Sears KSears@marincounty.org
Parks Director Max Korten MKorten@marincounty.org
You may edit, cut and paste this email, or draft your own opinion. We explain below the current proposal between County and TPL, other possible alternatives, and reasons the TPL deal is bad for the SG Valley and the County.
A. County Proposes Taxpayer Bailout of Private foundation, With Land Use Restrictions
In 2009, the golf course was purchased for $5,600,000 by the Lee Family and its partners. The Lee Family are responsible operators, have made habitat improvements approved by Spawn, and have contributed to the community. But one owner-partner wants his money out now. Mr. Lee received one offer for $8.8 million, but the deal fell apart.
Trust for Public land (TPL), a environmental private foundation, acquired an option to purchase San Geronimo Golf Course for $8.85 million, provided the sale closes by December 2017. It is unlikely TPL will exercise its option unless the County agrees to a taxpayer bail out of $8.85 million. The County proposes to sign a contract with by October 2017. The contract will obligate the County to pay TPL $3,910,000 from County general funds and Measure A park bonds. The County and TPL together will try to raise additional $4,940,000 by end of 2018.
Golden handcuffs: The $4,940,000 from TPL and other government or private sources will restrict future uses to "full restoration" of the land to its wild natural condition. Because TPL agreed to high price, application must be filed by October 31, 2017 for California Prop 1 water bonds funds. The water bonds prohibit golf, and make impossible any community waste water treatment, new fire station, or affordable housing on the site. The community garden and clubhouse uses are unknown. (Despite a public records request, we don't know the exact restrictions on future use. Other conditions may be imposed by any private non-profit group or any state agency that contributes to the bail out.)
B. The County Should Consider Other Possible Alternatives.
We will not lose this opportunity for public ownership, if the current TPL proposal is delayed or voted down on October 31. Surely the lawyers and real estate experts at TPL and the County can think of variations that would satisfy the current owners and retain the course as a community asset.
We should not NOW lock in or prohibit specific land uses. Let's take time to consider complimentary projects that could fit on the 157 acres. Some uses could be interim; other uses could make long term improvements. Here are some suggestions by Valley leaders:
- 1. Manage the owners' expectations and reduce the price to about $6 million. All partners could be repaid their initial investment. They will also have received the 8 years of positive cash flow from course operations. Compare: Stone Tree golf course in Novato (65 acres and clubhouse) sold for $2,291,000 in October 2014. At a reduced price, the County and TPL would not need Prop 1 water bonds with "no golf" and other restrictions.
2. County could pay for a one-year option to buy. An option could allow the County time to assemble the purchase price and buy the land directly (without TPL as middleman) by end of 2018. The option fee could accommodate owner-partners and help with course operation expenses for a year. The County could use the year to search for no "golden handcuffs" grants.
3. County can acquire title and make interim operations, with long term planning. Once the County acquires title to the land, Marin Parks agency must adequately budget maintenance costs (grass watering and mowing and vegetation management). While a future land use plan is developed with the community, Marin County could contract with a professional operator for interim use of golf and clubhouse operations. Similar actions saved McInnis Park in San Rafael, which now delivers $450,000 per year profit to the County.
4. TPL should withdraw its restrictions on land use. If TPL remains as a partner with County in the purchase, TPL should commit to a community process. The Course would continue to comply with current zoning (resort-recreation) and the 1997 SG Valley Community Plan (no substantial expansion of operations). The County could apply to California Fish &Wildlife agency for grants to pay for the environmental improvements that Spawn requested in its 2014 "Coho Friendly Habitat and Operations Plan for SG Golf Course."
C. Reasons the Current TPL Proposal is a Bad Deal for County and SG Valley.
- 1. The Golf Course is Essential for Fire Prevention and Emergency Response: The mowed and watered greens prevent wildfires from spreading and create defensible space in the Valley center. The flat terrain and parking lot is a tactical center for firefighters, equipment and helicopters. Ponds are a water source for fire fighting. Many of our 2,000 Valley families could shelter around the clubhouse in an emergency.
If "fully restored" to its wild land nature, 157 acres of tall grass and dry shrubs would be dangerous fire fuel. Our children at Lagunitas School (on the course border) would be at risk, as well as the Community Center (now a disaster relief site), and neighboring homes.
- 2. The Golf Course Increases Our Home Values. Every "for sale" sign in the SG Valley advertises the home is located near the beautiful golf course. The landscaped greens and recreation opportunities add to home values.
The average household income for San Geronimo is lower than other parts of Marin. Our homes are our main source of savings for kids college, old age care and other family priorities.
- 3. The Land Should Serve Community Needs. We don't need more open space. Over half the Valley acreage is owned by Marin County Open Space District, MMWD, or rural ranches.
Valley residents have suggested many uses for the 157 acres. Some uses could be complimentary to other purposes, some could be interim, other long term. In addition to golf, please consider these uses, or suggest others:
--Move the Woodacre Fire Station to the course parking area, with better road access for fire equipment. This could also open 2 acres in downtown Woodacre for low rise affordable housing.
--Design a Community Waste Water system for existing homes on the Flats that could fit somewhere on the 157 acres. Prop 1 water bonds can be used for this purpose.
--Retain or expand the community garden.
--You should suggest other ideas and let's get the best ones on the table.
4. Preserve Our Recreation Choices. Playing golf is not limited to old men (as Spawn has charged). San Geronimo Golf Course is the practice field for high school and youth teams. People should be able to chose their exercise without disparagement. Haven't we heard enough anger about the County's financial support for bike trails?
Charities in San Geronimo and throughout Marin use the course for fund-raiser tournaments. The clubhouse is often busy with family celebrations and meetings for local organizations .
5. Spawn will continue its lawsuits and bully homeowners. The TPL proposal hands Spawn a tremendous prize, and rewards its past behavior. Spawn would get 157 acres to work on salmon projects (with grants of taxpayer money), but Spawn would give nothing back to the community.
The current proposal has no incentive for Spawn to dismiss its lawsuits against the County, or to agree on a reasonable stream ordinance that permits families along the creeks to make small improvements to their older homes.
VOTE NO ON OCTOBER 31. LET'S WORK TOGETHER FOR BETTER ALTERNATIVES.