News


Council split on outsourcing golf course

City-run greens are $813,000 in the red over personnel and water costs

With a nearly $1 million deficit at Shoreline Golf links threatening the city budget, the City Council is split over whether to outsource the city-owned and operated golf course Tuesday.

City staff say that the golf course has been losing money ever since 2006, but has been getting by on its own reserve funding. City projections show that the course's $813,000 deficit will swallow the last of its reserves this year and begin eating into the city's cash-strapped general fund in fiscal year 2011-12.

Despite significant concern over the high cost of city employees who run the golf course, council members Margaret Abe-Koga, Jac Siegel and Laura Macias opposed outsourcing the operation Tuesday. Siegel said he feared that all of the course's workers would be laid off and then re-hired by a city contractor at half the pay. Council members Mike Kasperzak, John Inks and Tom Means all favored outsourcing the golf course as the only way to cut substantial staffing costs, which include city pensions and retirement health benefits.

Mayor Ronit Bryant was absent because she had broken her arm earlier that day, which left the council opinion split 3-3 during the study session.

"I think we really have to look at the outsourcing model as the way to make it viable," Kasperzak said. "Unless we think, as a body, we should be subsidizing golf."

Despite cutting six full-time positions, the cost of paying the union-organized employees at the golf course rose from $1.4 million to $2.1 million from 2000 to 2009, with average cost per employee increasing from $46,100 to $86,900 a year, including benefits. Maintenance workers are organized under the Service Employees International Union, while managers and pro-shop employees are organized under the EAGLES.

If outsourced, the consequence may be a decrease in maintenance of the course and poorer service. Longtime golfers said the course was designed by a world-class course designer to be a relatively difficult course, which appeals to more experienced golfers who might be seeking quality service.

"We aren't going to have a higher-quality golf course with lower-quality service and that is going to happen if we contract out," Macias said.

In an e-mail, SEIU president Chris Costanzo opposed outsourcing the golf course.

"Residents remember that we contracted out Shoreline Golf Links before," Costanzo said. "The cost was greater than expected and the quality was less than desired. We don't want to rehash the same mistakes again with outside groups that are not invested in our community."

In terms of being busy, the city-run Shoreline Golf Links is doing relatively well compared to numerous other Bay Area golf courses and operates at 77 percent capacity.

"We have not identified a disproportionately low amount of play as an issue," said City Manager Kevin Duggan Tuesday.

But compared to the golf courses in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale, Shoreline had the biggest decline in revenues from 2005 to 2009. Revenues remained flat in Palo Alto, declined by 5 percent in Sunnyvale and declined by 9 percent in Mountain View.

The report by senior analyst Rochelle Kiner says the city is considering a marketing campaign to bring in new players and more revenue. And according to the report, golf course employees are hopeful that recent success in reducing the numbers of geese and ducks on the course may bring in more players over the next year as well. The birds are known for tearing up the turf and fouling it with their feces.

"There isn't a golfer in Northern California that isn't aware of Shoreline's bird problem," said one golfer at Tuesday's meeting.

While the city concludes that the only real way to keep the operation from costing the city money is to cut expenses, there are also some accounting maneuvers being discussed to fill the nearly $1 million gap. The city could fold in $155,000 in lease revenue for Michaels at Shoreline, an eatery at the golf course. The city could cover the course's $431,000 costs for water, as other cities do. And the city could also stop charging the course $359,000 for "administrative overhead" to help fund the salaries of city management. These options were unpopular with the outsourcing proponents.

"This is a commercial enterprise and it should pay for itself," Kasperzak said. "Giving it free water means we'll have to charge that cost to somebody."

Shutting the course down wouldn't exactly save the city $813,000, some pointed out Tuesday. Much of its administrative overhead is "fixed costs" that would have to be a paid anyway, and the city still would have to pay for maintenance of that portion of Shoreline Park.

Council member Abe-Koga said the city "could justify" a subsidy for the golf course "coming from our Shoreline fund," a fund that collects property taxes from the businesses in the Shoreline area, including Google. The golf course is currently connected to the city's general fund, which funds core city services like firefighting and police.

The golf course was operated by a private company when it first opened in the 1980s and was taken over by the city in 1995 because of concerns about the course's care and the landfill underneath. After building up reserves, the golf course was a money-maker for the city for only three years up to 2005, making the city's general fund a total of $600,000 in revenue after paying its own bills.

Of 11 city-owned golf courses surveyed in the area, only Sunnyvale's golf course was entirely city-run, with the rest being almost entirely outsourced. Palo Alto is an exception -- it employs its own maintenance workers, although that city has recently proposed outsourcing those employees to save $450,000.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by b ob
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 28, 2010 at 5:34 pm

We use to play Shoreline weekly..............but no more !!!!!
(perhaps we are not alone).
With the amount of GOOSE feces on the course, WHO would want to play/slip there ?. Perhaps a person who works at a Sanitation Dept since they may be use to that environment.
The feces are prevelant throughout the Shoreline Park area also. It makes a walk around the golf course unpleasant and causes one to think twice about a meal at Michael's
Seems as though if you want the latest POOP in the Mt. View area you should head for Shoreline. You will certainly get it there !!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Golfer
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 28, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Yeah, no kidding, you spend more time cleaning up the poop off your shoes etc. than anything else.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by timeToOutsource
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm

50% increase in labor costs with reduced staffing? ouch. time to outsource.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2010 at 9:17 am

Isnt the golf course operated out of the Shoreline slush fund?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Caddyshack
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 29, 2010 at 10:39 am

It's not operated out of the North Bayshore fund. It's operated out of the general fund because in the good old days they were able to pull profits from the golf course into the rest of the city (rather than having to spend them in North Bayshore as they'd do if it were in that fund).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Realist
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 29, 2010 at 11:34 am

Then close it down. Its already a tremendous waste of land when only 4 people can use hundreds of yards of bay front land at a time for a price.
Its simple economics: Raise the price the golfers have to pay to cover the costs. If not enough people are willing to pay to support it, then
its only logical to close it down. Rip it all up and revert it back to burrowing owl habitat that many more users besides only golfers can enjoy. Why have this if nobody is using it and its loosing money?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm

USA is a registered user.

Turn it into hunting preserve. That would generate revenue, cut maintenance costs to about zero, and take care of the goose overpopulation problem while protecting the native owls.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I used to play there 25 times/year (over $1000 revenue) but stopped in 2009 because the greens were getting worse and worse and Sunnyvale hired a new person to run their grounds and he's done a terrific job improving the greens. I also hate all the bird poop everywhere. But for me, the lousy greens and degrading fairways are the key issue.

I'd come back to play the course if the quality improves again -- and the birds go away. The coots should all be killed; I love birds but those birds wouldn't even exist if the golf course weren't there. They just sit there and eat and poop until they die.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill Crawford
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Much mention has been made about the financial issues with Shoreline Golf Course. Much has also been said about the goose poop which from my own observation is really a problem.

I've heard from two different sources that the City is (or has)commissioned an artist to create a bronze figure of TWO GEESE to set upon the flag pole of the new Fire Station #5 (adjacent to the golf course) ....at a cost of about $55 THOUSAND DOLLARS.

This is really "for the birds!"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob Trygg
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Having played Shoreline since before it opened to the public, I'd say it's in as a good of condition now as I've ever experienced it. The bird problems are nothing compared to the past, and the overall condition of the greens and fairways is as good as I remember it ever being.

In case people haven't noticed, all businesses are feeling the effects of the current economy, not just golf courses. I thought that is what reserves were intended for - unforeseen circumstances.

Tearing up the course, or outsourcing it and letting the condition degrade, is a knee-jerk reaction that many will regret down the road.

Don't forget that during better times the golf course made a positive contribution to the city coffers. Let's not turn our back on it during these tough times.

Increased and improved marketing could do a lot to increase revenues, and if fee hikes are needed, so be it, but let's not ruin what so many people obviously enjoy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 29, 2010 at 6:23 pm

It seems there are a lot of nearby Golf Courses so we really don't need one in Mountain View. I would like to see this green area used for everyone and not just a few golfers. The green area in Shoreline Park is very small and using most of the current golf course for other uses similar to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco would be great. How to pay for this maybe consider asking local companies to construct and name recreation features.

By the way there is no bird problem at Michael's restaurant.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 29, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I'm not a golfer, but see no reason to close the course. I agree with Bob Trygg: "Increased and improved marketing could do a lot to increase revenues, and if fee hikes are needed, so be it, but let's not ruin what so many people obviously enjoy."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2010 at 11:23 pm

1. Does the city get revenue from Michaels for events - it's quite a good small meeting environment - maybe that could be leveraged - especially in off-hours when a business may need an offsite meeting and there aren't so many golfers around.

2. How about making a 9-hole putting green and an 18-hole crazy golf course (miniature golf with interesting features like tunnels) - for families.

3. Can you make money off golf contests with entry fees?

4. Is there an opportunity for corporate golf - a couple of hours for a 9-hole game with many people in a company league playing individually for a fee - you could have a quarterly league fee for up to 20 people in a company to play one after the other at a set time - say 3:30 to 5:30.

5. Many high tech people don't play golf - so how about having company team bonding days where you train first timers for a corporate fee - we once did one in Hawaii where a company paid for 3 lessons in the morning - driving range, putting and chipping out of bunkers, then in the afternoon everyone played a full round. In between people can have training seminars in Michaels.

6. Advertise the driving range and have contests, gift vouchers and special lessons (like 5 days a week lunch hour lessons) on it - its quicker to play the driving range than to have a full game and that might atract more people with limited time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. T
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 30, 2010 at 3:26 am

I used to play Shoreline when residents got a big discount. From a design standpoint it is one of the best munis in the area, far superior to Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and San Jose.

It just got too expensive and the poop didn't help. I still use the practice facility.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 30, 2010 at 3:12 pm

I can imagine the congestion and parking problems if the golf course was converted to miniature golf or some another use than ias a gold course. I am not a golfer, but the points about waiting for the economy to pick up make good sense. The traffic flow in and out of the boat launch area, the lakeside cafe, and the golf course in managable now. Increase usability = widen the roads, more parking etc. etc. Makes no sense. Leave it as is!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I wasn't suggesting getting rid of the current golf course - just leveraging the sport and making golf accessible for all ages and budgets and branding it as a golf center.

If parking is a problem then charge - Mountain View residents and workers could have free permits.

After all there is a gatehouse that seems to watch for dogs and windsurfing boards and is hardly ever staffed. One could use that to good effect to issue parking permits and day passes per car for non-residents and let those who come on bikes, roller blades and on foot go free.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Golfer
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 1, 2010 at 5:41 pm

For moment there I thought you were going to say the City could put up a bunch of Wii stations out there in lieu of the poopy course.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 1, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Salaries have increase from $46,000 to $87,000 over 9 years is a healthy increase for union employees, especially if that doesn't take into account the health benefits and pensions City employees also receive.

Couple that with the fact the course currently operates at 77% capacity suggests a problem with the balance sheet.

Outsourcing would help, but if your fixed costs are high, then you need to increase earnings too. Multi use areas might help.

The times I've gone to the course, the bird poop problem was really evident, enough for me not to stay. If the City is looking to increase golfing or any family related activities there, the poop problem needs to be addressed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by How about
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 2, 2010 at 2:00 am

The employee cost is not the issue. That is what the cities up and down the state are saying in attempts to find reasons to cut any penny they can from their employees that work hard to keep them looking good. In this case maybe the city should stop spending money on projects that are not needed or land it can not develop. BMH oh my, moffett blvd land and lets not forget a church for a future youth center that benefits maybe a handful. Like in the movie "Dave" when his friend says, "Who does your accounting around here."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sean
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 2, 2010 at 7:14 am

No kidding. The City puts a Senior Center, a Child Care Center, and now wants a Youth Center right in the middle of the ghetto and in an area where the crime rate is the highest. If's all part of the city's socialist agenda--one where golf has no place!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 2, 2010 at 10:03 am

Did you read the entire article? The entire "loss" of $800k is due to water ( which is provided at no charge by other cities to their courses) and this phantom "admin charge" ($350k) to run the city -- which has nothing to do with the golf course and is still there even if you tear the golf course up.

In other words, killing the golf course guarantees a $350k loss every year forever. Meanwhile, leaving it there breaks even now and returns to making money as the economy improves.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Leslie M
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 5, 2010 at 2:37 pm

How could the city have let these deficits continue for so many years. Sadly this is mismanagement by the city to have not stopped the red ink two years ago.

Also an average salary of $86k for a marginally maintained course is unbelievable. Most people in this valley have taken pay reductions in the past year. So pay reductions or outsourcing is necessary.

Also Micheals needs a make over. The lobby has a mismatch of furniture and you smell the bathroom or bathroom chemicals as soon as you walk into the lobby. It would not take much to improve it.

Shoreline and the Michaels building are worth keeping let's not neglect them because we are over paying employees, some of whom are not performing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 6, 2010 at 12:47 pm

"Did you read the entire article? The entire "loss" of $800k is due to water ( which is provided at no charge by other cities to their courses) and this phantom "admin charge" ($350k) to run the city -- which has nothing to do with the golf course and is still there even if you tear the golf course up.

In other words, killing the golf course guarantees a $350k loss every year forever. Meanwhile, leaving it there breaks even now and returns to making money as the economy improves."

---------

Yes, I read the entire article. However, considering your comments, I question whether you did.

1. The expenditure for water is $431k, as opposed to the "$800k" figure you stated.

2. The administrative overhead is a charge cities and other large parent companies will place on satellite businesses to cover costs for purchasing, payroll, and maintenance done by the parent company. As the employees are City workers, and the land is City owned, its completely reasonable to have overhead costs associated with it. Also, it is not accurate to assume that this cost is fixed, regardless of how the land is used, as it depends on the services provided by the parent company, in this case, the City.

3. Contrary to your statement that the course currently breaks even, it has been steadily losing money since 2005, and assuming it will make money in the future is just that, an assumption.

The last thing I'll point out is that its reasonable for the City to pass on water costs to the course if is to be expected to run as a bonifide business concern. That water isn't free. If the course doesn't pay for it, then the City will, which means the City's budget now gets hit with this cost and consequently existing City services will have to cut even more to balance the budget. Also, the annual cost in water of $431k, is less than the $450k cost SAVINGS received from outsourcing the work. In other words, according to the article, outsourcing alone would more than pay for the water used.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 6, 2010 at 2:25 pm

"The employee cost is not the issue. That is what the cities up and down the state are saying in attempts to find reasons to cut any penny they can from their employees that work hard to keep them looking good. In this case maybe the city should stop spending money on projects that are not needed or land it can not develop. BMH oh my, moffett blvd land and lets not forget a church for a future youth center that benefits maybe a handful. Like in the movie "Dave" when his friend says, "Who does your accounting around here."

-------------------

Especially for union workers that have guaranteed increases and ever increasing benefits, how is employee cost NOT an issue? Labor makes up a huge chunk of any operating budget, especially for those organizations that are service related. The 2nd most expensive cost for the golf course is water at $430k, but bear in mind that the SAVINGS from outsourcing the staff alone, exceed this amount.

Assuming that City workers are hard working and effective is just as narrow-minded and delusional as assuming they are lazy and slow. The fact remains that since 2005, the course has lost money. At 77% capacity, there isn't a lot of room to grow the business, without raising fees. With employee costs continuing to rise, profit growth will need to be maintained consistently to keep up.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just a mom
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Just close the golf course! It is a shame for the city of Mountain View to lose money on the golf course, when a Silicon Valley city has many schools scoring below californian standards!
Is golfing more important than educating! Shame on you city of Mountain View.

A disappointed tax payer!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 8, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Folks,

Just like the rest of Shoreline, there is old landfill under the golf course. If it is not maintained as a golf course, it needs to be maintained FOREVER as something else. We don't charge for use of the rest of Shoreline Park, except for the concert venue, but we could, like Palo Alto has considered for Foothill.

Golfers seem to be of two unlike minds: Some want to play cheaply, regardless of conditions, while others prefer to play less, pay more, and have a better experience. I'm the latter. I'd rather drive to Monterey or Rohnert Park than play Shoreline (ten minutes away). The water based course design and setting within the regional park has encouraged runaway wildlife population growth (so that the birds and critters are effectively no longer wild). Whatever land use survives on top of the landfill, better wildlife management will be needed at significant cost.

By the way, "Just a Mom" since the City does not fund schools, what kind of redistribution would you propose, whether or not the golf course survives?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on Jul 27, 2010 at 5:11 pm

What has the City done to promote the golf course?

Decisions seem to be made by individuals who have no business background.

A potential premier golf course in the middle of money rich Silicon Valley and you can't make money???

Sounds like a lack of business acumen.

Filling in the lakes, sounds like a great idea to get rid of the current water fowl population and speed up the pace of play. The goose poop and high number of mudhens is what keeps people from playing this course. Get rid of the birds/poop and golfers will flock back to this wonderful course.

"Golfing is down nationwide..." So is housing, but not in Silicon Valley! There is plenty of money waiting to be spent on golf at this perfectly placed golf course.

"Google" "Shoreline golf"...you get a golf course somewhere in Iowa!!!! Some tiny little place in Iowa has a website and a course right in the middle of Silicon Valley doesn't???!!!! Want to tell me who is running the golf course????

Seems like you don't need a management company, you need new management!!

Fill in the lakes, this will clean up the golf course. It will allow the maintenance staff to get back to maintaining the course rather than cleaning up crap.

Fill in the lake in front of Michaels Restaurant (or part of it) and create a lighted miniature golf course and maybe a self-contained batting cage. This will bring young kids, families, teens looking for a hangout at night, more business to Michaels, more new customers to discover Shoreline Golf.

Expand the driving range. Make it more interesting! Some fun targets, for kids to try and hit. Remember the old carnival shooting gallery. Golf doesn't always have to be serious. Pipe some music to the driving range in the evening.

Promote the golf course to local businesses. Have a Google sponsored golf tournament.

Do something other than put a golf course there and wait for people to find it.

Business 101!

How is the city going to feel when a management company comes in and starts making money hand over fist and the city is left with its small portion of the pie?

The City of Mountain View has a major opportunity if they just worked a little harder.

Let's just keep outsourcing the entire country!

What department is next to get outsourced??? The Finance department?? Downtown Theater?

How about rolling up your sleeves and getting busy.

Outsourcing is waving a white flag at the problem. What else will you be waving the white flag at??

Don't take the easy way out! How about a little good old fashioned American no how? How about a little creative thinking?




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