Residents debate golf club land

Photo by Tony Kukulich

Deer Ridge resident Peggy Bridges spoke at a public meeting to discuss the future of the Deer Ridge Golf Club property. The Deer Ridge course, owned by SunCoast Golf, Inc., closed suddenly in September 2019, and the city is beginning discussions with SunCoast regarding its plans for the property.

Brentwood residents turned out en masse this week to take a swing at suggesting what’s next for the Deer Ridge Golf Club property.

An estimated 200 residents packed the Brentwood Senior Center for the city-organized meeting soliciting resident input.

Deer Ridge Golf Club closed its doors in early September amid low demand for golfing and expensive maintenance issues, and will not reopen, said Brentwood Interim City Manager Terrence Grindall.

Grindall indicated the course’s owner, SunCoast Golf, Inc., is interested in selling the property for an unknown price, but concerns that it would operate at a loss diminish chances that it will reopen for golf.

As for what’s next for the land, the possibilities are wide, though city approval would be required for uses beyond a golf course or open space, Grindall said.

Grindall did not divulge potential buyers, if any exist, but noted whatever materializes must be self-supported, since the city has no money set aside for the endeavor.

“There are a lot of unknowns in this, but what often happens is the buyer buys it with conditions of what they want to do, and then the buyer gets approval from the city to do it,” Grindall said. “The city can play a role in guiding that process. There are a lot of what-ifs, but that is what I would like to see happen: have the city kind of shepherd this project.”

Just a handful of the potential future use ideas floated during the meeting include wildlife habitat without public access; a native vegetation park with trails; organic agriculture vineyards or orchards; water storage; parks and playgrounds; and the sale of the property to adjacent landowners to extend their backyards.

Large-lot residential development on the land was also thrown into the mix, but was quickly shot down by attendees — a message Grindall said he fully absorbed.

Other ideas were bandied about for the property’s clubhouse, including a restaurant, event center, church and private school.

“We have to keep control of our neighborhood — over our area — in such a way that we find a balance between the developers that have the money, the city and people like us who want to protect our investment,” said resident Victor Palombi.

Despite overt indications that the property is not likely to reopen as a golf course, several residents aren’t ready to let it go.

Resident Gary Thomas questioned why more wasn’t done to keep the facility open.

“Why hasn’t an organization like the Northern California Golf Association been brought in to help us save this golf course?” he asked. “Why didn’t we contact the East Bay Municipal Utility District, who leases their property to the East Bay Regional Park District for Redwood Canyon Public Golf Course in Castro Valley that has been in business since the mid-’60s? Why aren’t we taking examples from our neighbors to keep our community the way it is?”

Fellow resident Dennis Skuza said he’d be willing to provide monthly payments for the course to stay open.

“I would like the city to do a survey to see what percentage of people in Deer Ridge would like to keep it a golf course,” he said. “If the majority of people want to keep it a golf course, then the problem becomes one of funding.”

Attendee Rose Nemet suggested vineyards on the course property, but noted any associated increases in fire-related homeowners insurance should first be explored.

Resident  Rod Flohr latched onto the idea that the clubhouse could complement conversion of the property into a regional park.

“If the park district was going to be considering the property, I think we should keep the clubhouse as a parking lot with the rest of the property,” he said. “They would need to be able to charge for parking, which is one way they make revenue.”

Other attendees offered up other suggestions, including a water park; tennis courts; zip-line excursions; and the opportunity for people to roll down a fairway inside an air-filled plastic ball.

Grindall said the flood of input was valuable.

“I am going to process this information and think it through,” he said. “The next step would be for city staff to start discussing this with SunCoast to see whether there is potential for us to find a buyer for the site that can do something positive for the community.”

No timetable for the next steps was provided, but Grindall hinted that additional public meetings will be held.

Grindall also noted SunCoast has reopened the nearby Shadow Lakes Golf Club driving range, is working on reopening that course’s event center and is exploring the feasibility of reopening the course.

City officials are also continuing work to address any lingering code-enforcement concerns that have arisen in the wake of the Deer Ridge closure, Grindall said.

“They have received a number of citations from us, and they will continue to receive them,” he said.

SunCoast officials did not return requests for comment as of press time.

Residents are encouraged to contact the city with any new ideas for the Deer Ridge property. To provide input, visit www.bit.ly/30o3XUb.

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