On February 12, the Golden Hill Planning Committee unanimously voted to deny support of a proposed extension of the Balboa Golf Course clubhouse. All present members of the community advisory group took issue with the proposal's lack of funding for a pedestrian pathway along the length of Golf Course Drive, the only point of access to the hillside clubhouse.
The vote was held following continuation of a discussion held during the GHPC's July meeting, when the proposed clubhouse redesign was first presented by managers from the city's Public Works Department. At that time, the GHPC requested the proposal be amended to include a pedestrian path, as well as inclusion of bicycle lanes.
Currently, Golf Course Drive has neither. The scenic half-mile road accesses the golf course from 26th Street in Golden Hill and turns into Date Street when it crosses 28th in South Park. A traffic study commissioned by the project's architect indicated as many as 4000 cars per day use the street, more than 80 percent of them as a conduit between neighborhoods rather than to access the golf course.
The newly revised proposal, presented Wednesday, included a six-foot sidewalk and the adding of sharrows, street markings that indicate bicycles share the lane fully with cars.
However, project manager Todd Schmit and project officer Kevin Oliver said the estimated cost of the sidewalk and sharrows would be $750,000, which would not be funded as part of the project's 12-million-dollar budget.
Without funding, the pedestrian pathway would be put on indefinite hold while project planning moved forward, pending approval by the Park and Recreation Board.
Schmit indicated the Golf Enterprise Fund, which would be paying for the new development, would or could not be used for improvements to Golf Course Drive, which also cannot be funded by the city's Street Division because it is considered a park road.
While private developers would be required to provide pedestrian-access considerations, work on the public golf course seems to exist in a bureaucratic gray area, where the project does not seem to be accountable for maintenance or improvements to its access road.
Regarding the proposed sidewalk, Oliver told the committee, "Show me the money and I'll build it," suggesting cheaper alternates might be more viable, including closing off the road's eastern outlet at 28th.
A spokesperson from the city later said the legal considerations of Enterprise Funds paying to improve the road is still under review by the city attorney’s office, and that the city will continue to look for funding alternatives.
Advocating for the existing proposal were golf course manager Lew Millburn and Balboa Men’s Club president Al Bruton.
Millburn reported that while its use has been on the rise in recent years, Balboa Golf Course still operates at a loss, subsidized by the more profitable course at Torrey Pines. He said the new construction would help make Balboa more self-sufficient by providing updated facilities, including an events center that could be rented for weddings and other non-golf events.
The proposed construction would refurbish the existing clubhouse, which was declared a historic landmark in 2000. This building would house administrative offices and an expanded pro shop.
A new building would include banquet rooms and a new home for the "19th Hole" restaurant. Bruton pointed out the golf course's “million dollar view" of downtown and the Coronado bridge would create the demand for both the restaurant and banquet-room events.
Committee members responded with dissatisfaction that investment in the clubhouse properties, which would increase automobile use of Golf Course Drive by as much at 17 percent, neglected consideration for neighborhood pedestrians and cyclists who regularly use the winding road and might be at greater risk with increased traffic.
Citing a neighborhood survey wherein local residents prioritized pedestrian safety over golf-course improvements, committee chair Ruchell Alvarez said, "This is a major safety concern for the community."
While committee members' views seemed mixed in regard to the community value of the project itself, they were in agreement that major investments to the golf course should also benefit the neighborhood that hosts it.
Basically, the GHPC wants a sidewalk for their troubles, the golf course guys don't want to pay for it. But nobody's willing to say so on record, so they dance around funding legality and safety requirements.
The Park and Recreation Board will ultimately approve or reject the proposal, taking the recommendation of the GHPC into consideration. The Park board will take up the item at their March meeting.