The first steps of renovation are underway for Palo Alto’s Baylands Golf Course, after the city’s finance committee approved the plans for improvements last month. Project advocates say the $8-million project will generate local construction jobs and turn the course into a “must-play” location.
The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, a government agent servicing communities in the Silicon Valley, is behind the project. Officials there are in the process of choosing the company that will provide nearly 365,000 cubic yards of soil for the renovations. Despite the large amount of soil being imported, the course will remain open until construction begins in summer 2014.
The authority plans to reconfigure all 18 holes on the course and update the driving range and practice facilities. The authority predicts that these changes will increase the numbers of rounds golfers play each year by as as many as 10,000. In 2012, golfers played 65,000 rounds, but officials predict that could jump to 75,700 by 2018.
The Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, located off of Embarcadero Road, welcomes golfers of all skill levels and is open to the general public. The course has hosted a number of leagues and local tournaments since it opened in 1956, and authority officials hope the course’s transformation will attract golfers from other cities as well.
As a part of the renovations, officials will construct a new Youth Golf Skill Development Area alongside Embarcadero Road. This area is being developed with input from a local non-profit organization, First Tee Silicon Valley. The Skill Development Area’s primary purpose is to attract young golfers, but it will also be used for seniors’, men’s and women’s groups, and beginning player lessons.
Under the current plan, the city of Palo Alto would pay for a majority of the construction costs, estimated at $8.1 million. Roughly $5 million of that will come from city-issued “Certificate of Participation” bonds. The authority will pay the remaining $3.1 million.
Palo Alto City Council member Greg Schmid at an April 16 finance committee meeting questioned the financial security of the proposed changes, noting that there was “a risk of losing public funds.”
Schmid was alone in his reservations. “It is an investment we are making,” said Palo Alto’s Chief Financial Officer Lalo Perez. The finance committee agreed with the authority’s projection that the new golf course will increase revenue in the long run.
Some Palo Alto City Council members present expressed concern about the environmental impact of the renovations. Of the 850 trees on the golf course now, only 150 will remain after the project is complete. However, the authority assured council members that the net impact on the environment would be positive and that the trees most iconic to the Bayland’s landscape would be preserved.
Additionally, the proposal calls for native Baylands plants that fit in with the local ecosystem and can survive the golf course environment. Despite the loss of 700 trees, the added plants and greenery will result in an overall increase in oxygen transfer along the course, the authority said.
The authority plans to transport nearly half a million cubic yards of soil to the Baylands for both the golf course renovations and a separate flood control project.
The flood control project would increase the flow capacity of the San Francisquito Creek, protecting the people and property located along the urban section of the creek from San Francisco Bay to Highway 101. Previous flood events have significantly damaged the communities alongside the creek, so this project is the highest priority in the authority’s flood management efforts. The imported soil will be used to widen the creek and facilitate the removal of abandoned levees.
The authority staff plan to stockpile the imported soil on the golf course in a location that has received environmental clearance. However, the stockpiling will force the relocation of several holes current holes on the golf course, a process that will cause a projected seven to ten percent loss in revenue. These losses will potentially be offset by an estimated $1 million the city gains by charging fees for the stockpiling of imported soil.