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Friday, March 29, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

How high's the water mamma?

(Johnny Cash's song about Lake Merced)

The rich won another round yesterday. Big time. The Board of Supervisors' Finance Committee unanimously passed a measure to spend 60 million dollars on a plan to make Harding & Fleming Golf Courses affordable to only the wealthy and a very few token black kids.

Stymied in an earlier effort to hand the course over to Arnold Palmer Inc., who wanted to take the course private, the same band of view-grabbing (as in the Cliff House), horse-evicting (as in Golden Gate Stables), harbor-poaching (as in the Marina) plutocrats got what they wanted anyway. When faced, in earlier hearings, with opponents who said the courses (which were profitable but which the city had allowed intentionally to deteriorate) could be kept open while needed repairs were made from normal course revenues … all the while keeping the prices low enough for a little old lady without a trust fund to play every day if she wanted … reacting to those hearings, the rich end-ran the slow, dumb & nearly blind politicians.

Rec & Park’s boss, Elizabeth Goldstein – don't hold anyone to that 60m figure either: the Independent reported Goldstein spent 200 grand on a 10 grand concrete path in another park – Goldstein simply closed the golf course (as she did the stables) and sold all the equipment. Facing yet another fait accompli, the board fell in like 10 little indians & a squaw.

Well, they've yet to vote as a “deliberative” unit (& I use the term with increasing generosity) … but, you watch. The vote will be 11-0.

Willie's gnomes organized this one beautifully. To vote against it, you'd have to be opposed to a major network TV shot of Tiger Woods lining up a long tournament-winning putt with the sun setting in the Pacific over one shoulder & the 10 little black kids allowed on the course watching over the other shoulder. Nobody was willing to do that at Finance.

How do you cover the nut? Pay the bills? Bring home the bacon?

Well, the Palmer people were going to charge really high greens fees. The new plan calls for charging really high greens fees.

Get it?

The plutocrats wanted a course to match Augusta. The poor wanted a course they could afford to play. The rich, of course, won.

How much will it actually cost to play the course? Rec & Park brought out a number of “possible” fee schedules. The low end for the average golfer was $28 weekdays & $45 weekends. Locals. When your dad comes to visit, he will pay at least $88 for a round of golf on a weekday.

Oh, there will be discounts. Up to 10 percent of the rounds could be discounted. At full capacity, about a dozen people a day would play at reduced rates. That would be 5,000 of 50,000 rounds yearly.

Of course, rates can change & the Board of Supervisors would have nothing to say about that. Setting the rates is left to the Rec & Park Commission upon advisement by a citizens' advisory group. I'm wondering how many of those folks will have a gold card or something that says they (& perhaps a friend or two) will get to play for free. Forever. A reward for ridding the place of the duffers with the scuffed shoes. It's a “friends” thing. Friends of the Library don't pay to throw parties at the library, do they? Y'all think the “Friends” of the New DeYoung are gonna pay to throw parties on Dee Dee Wilsey's new roof deck? Gotta be some kind of recognition for their part in reaming us.

"How high's the water, momma?"

So, the Board is stuck with the bill … forever. When someone asked a bean counter how long the course would have to make over 4 million a year to cover the bills, the guy did one of those combination surprised & amused expressions you give a dumb question from a slow child. He shrugged. His answer to the fool who thought the bills might eventually get paid & the prices reduced (remember the Golden Gate Bridge?): "In perpetuity."

Having been slammed for questioning the bill, no one asked about the effect upon Lake Merced. A member of the audience did, but his question was not addressed other than a bubble-headed nod from 7th District supe Tony Hall who agreed to make certain God filled the lake for PGA years (I guess).

That was kind of odd. Hall just spent a couple of years working on a weak-ass 50-year agreement that's supposed to raise the level of Lake Merced. The document calls for lots of promises and has no teeth. Golf courses & cemeteries & the entire city of Daly City agree to slack up on their suck job of the aquifer that feeds all. The agreement did not mention Harding or Fleming Golf Courses, which draw from the same supply.

While promising an entire new irrigation system, new greens & lush surroundings, no one touched what would happen if too many people in Daly City flushed their toilets during the PGA's tri-yearly bash. The answer is that you'd get what my plumber calls a “back flow” in which the aquifer starts sucking in salt water from the Pacific & everything turns an interesting shade of dead.

Ya think that will stop them? Nope. The rich are persistent. That's how they got rich. My guess is that around 2020, we'll be looking at a golf course of around a thousand acres or so made up entirely of Astroturf and plastic trees. Hey, it all looks real on TV.

walk it off: sobone@juno.com

[F. Richard Allen offers his take on the proposed renovations in Golf California.com].