More than 100 residents gathered on December 4 to weigh in on a proposal by Mayor Michael Tubbs that would end the city’s $850,000 annual subsidy of the Swenson and Van Buskirk golf courses, effectively closing them and making the land available for redevelopment. The public comment period was dominated by people supporting the golf courses, saying they are worth the city’s investment.
A standing-room-only crowd came to Stockton (Calif.) City Hall on December 4 in support of the city’s two golf courses, Swenson and Van Buskirk, during a special City Council meeting, Fox 40 of Stockton reported.
The city pays $850,000 per year to maintain Swenson and Van Buskirk golf courses. Mayor Michael Tubbs is proposing ending that subsidy, closing the golf courses and making the land available for mixed-use development, which would include some recreational activities other than golf, Fox 40 reported.
The mayor cites declining interest in golf, the cost of maintaining and upgrading the courses, and the opportunity to bring new jobs and revenue to the city as reasons to repurpose the land, Fox 40 reported.
The public comment period was dominated by people supporting the golf courses, saying golf has great community benefits that are worth the city’s investment. Some questioned the motives behind the development proposal. Some suggested improving and better promoting and utilizing the courses to generate more revenue out of them. Others point to the importance of the junior program that gives 400 Stockton area kids a healthy activity, Fox 40 reported.
City Manager Kurt Wilson said the golf courses need more than $20 million in renovations, repairs and the additions of the sorts of amenities that private courses offer. Without that investment, Wilson said, the courses will remain a drag on Stockton’s general fund, the Stockton (Calif.) Record reported.
Community Services Director John Alita issued a polite warning to the council members. “We may be needing to come back to the council if the current situation is maintained,” Alita said. “I don’t want the council members to be surprised should that come before you sometime in the near future.”
The council didn’t get its say until after 10 p.m. Councilman Jesús Andrade came out strongly in favor of options presented by the city that involved selling Swenson as real estate and converting Van Buskirk from a golf course into a regional recreation complex, the Record reported.
“Being the representative from south Stockton and seeing the opportunity we have in Van Buskirk is something that I will push for, it’s something that I need to jump on, it’s something that I believe will be transformational,” Andrade said.
Councilwoman Susan Lofthus’ district includes a sizable portion of Lincoln Unified, including several schools adjacent or near to Swenson. “I want Swenson to be where it’s at,” Lofthus said. “I want it to be what it is.”
Mayor Tubbs said the city would be better served by a Van Buskirk sports complex and major changes at Swenson. Several times Monday, Tubbs latched onto a council decision earlier Monday not to spend $500,000 of Measure M library and recreation sales-tax money annually to maintain Stockton’s 50 parks, the Record reported.
Tubbs compared that fiscally conservative decision to the ongoing payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to subsidize the golf course. “It’s completely ridiculous,” Tubbs said. “That just doesn’t compute or add up to me.”
Councilwoman Christina Fugazi spoke strongly against selling Swenson and also questioned whether a regional sports complex at Van Buskirk would succeed. Van Buskirk is “the least-used community center,” Fugazi said, and questioned why a sports complex would be any different from the golf course. She also said major housing development at Swenson would harm the environment, the Record reported.
Vice Mayor Elbert Holman said that in the aftermath of bankruptcy, he enjoys golf but enjoys a balanced city budget even more. “There’s an $850,000 subsidy that’s going toward an enterprise that is being underutilized,” Holman said, referring to the golf courses. “I’m just saying $850,000, that’s a subsidy that comes out of our general fund.
“I think it’s something that we need to talk about,” Holman said. “We may not do anything on Swenson. But I think it’s prudent on our part that we get all the information and then make a decision.”
Councilman Dan Wright focused his comments on Swenson, but dipped one toe into each side of the issue. “I don’t think housing is an appropriate solution (at Swenson),” Wright said. “I’m a hard no on that. The issue of, ‘Do we need to explore what we can do with the courses, do we need to gather more community input?’ I’m a hard yes on that.”
The golf course discussion was listed on the council agenda as an informational and discussion item, not requiring a vote at this time, Fox 40 reported.