As many of you have heard, the San Ramon Golf Course was purchased by a developer, Tree City LLC (Ronald Richards and Michael Schlesinger), in December 2015. The city council was made aware of this in January, 2016. Since that time the developer’s representatives have contacted the City of San Ramon planning staff.
Staff has indicated that the current zoning of “Golf Course”, which can be found in the SR Zoning Ordinance page 2-48, is a beneficial use to the community and a profitable use for an owner. In order to change the land use designation to allow ANY residential units to be built, a 4/5 vote of both the city planning commission AND city council would need to happen. There has been no development application of any kind made to the city of San Ramon for a zoning change to this property. That is the current status of this from a land use perspective.
The San Ramon Golf Course has been an important public recreational facility for decades. Generations of families have used the pool for the Aqua Bears swim team. On April 29th , the Aqua Bears leadership was made aware that the pool would be unavailable to them, just two days before the start of their season. Thanks to our hard working city staff, schedules are being reworked for the Aqua Bears to have their swim season at the Dougherty Valley pool. However, that was the first shot fired. ABC 7 link: http://abc7news.com/sports/east-bay-pools-closes-door-to-kids-swim-club/1317735/
In case you are not aware, here are links to other “deals” by Richards and Schlesinger: Escondido:
Las Vegas: http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/las-vegas/judge-orders-silverstone-turn-golf-course-water-again
Rancho Mirage: http://clubandresortbusiness.com/2015/11/05/nevada-california-judges-mandate-care-for-idle-golf-courses/
Obviously, not happy endings are costly to the city and the residents who were directly affected.
Until the developer submits a formal development application to the SR planning department, there is nothing the city can do. We have nuisance ordinances which are being reviewed and will be enforced diligently for all of our golf courses. The golf course is profitable and so he cannot claim an “economic taking” if we do not agree to change the zoning. That was the mistake Escondido made, the city council changed the zoning to “open space” and thus deprived him of “economic benefit” which a judge upheld; the “takings clause” is an important part of the 5th amendment to the US Constitution. The developer was allowed to build 270 homes.
One Council member very recently spoke with city staff and land use experts who say the same thing; appeasement is never enough. You could agree to develop units and keep the course open but in two years the course can be closed again for being “financially unviable”. Eventually they kill the golf course completely.
A major difference between the other courses purchased by Richards and Schleshinger is that the San Ramon Golf Course was profitable when purchased; the other courses were not. At the golf course now there are many actions taking place that would indicate Western Golf Properties (management company contracted by the owners to run the course) to begin the process of turning the course from profitable to a “financially unviable”.
The neighborhood is developing a plan of action to protect their quality of life. Next Door has been active; Scott Holder and his wife are leading the efforts. The residents residing near the golf course could use good legal help so if you or someone you know is willing to provide pro bono legal services, contact Scott through the Contact form on this site.
There is a telephone survey going around SR that “suggests” many things such as units for housing, improving facilities, changing council members, etc. These tactics will further alienate this developer to the community and its leaders. If you have any questions, please use the Contact form on this site.
So what’s next? This community is very tight knit and we do not like developers who disrespect our community values. So right now we wait to see what the next demeaning act will be. This looks to be the beginning of a long battle with an unethical person who has several of these projects on going in So Cal and Nevada.
Even if you may not be directly affected by this, please know that these actions hurt our entire community. It is time to stand up to developers who lack ethics or disrespect our community values.