No green at city's golf course

Operation set to lose up to $1.5 million; outsourcing is next step

The City Council said Tuesday that the best way to figure out whether to outsource the golf course operation is to ask private operators and the city to compete in a bidding process.

That's what the council directed city staff to do in a study session Tuesday on Shoreline Golf Links. The course is running a growing deficit, estimated between $900,000 and $1.5 million next year, and has burned through reserves this year. Council member Margaret Abe-Koga was the only opponent to what she apparently thought was a reckless rush to cut costs.

"Why didn't we talk about this four or five years ago?" she said.

A city survey of 18-hole golf courses in the area found that privately operated courses at Palo Alto and Santa Clara were paying half of Shoreline's $1.8 million in employee costs, while Sunnyvale, the only other city-run course in the bunch, was spending $400,000 less on employee pay.

The city is still working on a way to cut costs at the course without outsourcing, but that plan will be compared in detail with bids from private operators to manage the course, according to council direction Tuesday.

The city's golf course employees, represented by the Service Employees International Union, are caught in the middle of the problem, and Community Services Director Dave Muela said he could not say that their pay could be lowered enough to make the course viable. However, a reduction in the number of personnel is on the table, he said.

If outsourced, as many as 11 union employees could be out of a job, said council member Mike Kasperzak, depending on whether the private operator hires them back.

The city will not be asking for bids to lease the golf course, only to manage it. Such agreements typically last five years, and cities pay the operator a fee to operate the course. But the city would still be largely responsible for the course's budget. It's the most popular method of outsourcing city-owned courses in the Bay Area and "would afford us easier access to the golf course for ongoing maintenance" of the landfill underneath, Muela said.

Muela added that the need to close down sections of the golf course to maintain the landfill caused tension with a golf course operator who leased the course until 1995. The course opened in 1983.

Operators will also be asked to bid on running the pro shop only, as some City Council members believe that may be enough to cut costs.

To reduce costs, the city has not filled two vacancies in the pro shop where there were five full time employees selling golf gear and offering lessons. A maintenance worker position has also been left vacant.

With $4 million in expenses this year and only $3.2 million in revenues, the city-run course has run out of reserves. Without changes it may begin taking as much as $1.5 million from the general fund in June, leaving less for core city services like the library and police.


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Posted by mv golfer
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 27, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Shoreline links has one of the best property in the area. It's a pity they couldn't even break even. We need a new head pro (operator) who knows how to balance the budget, keep the course in good condition and knows how to promote the golf course.

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Posted by Rossta
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 27, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Rossta is a registered user.

Seems the golf course WAS making money - at least that is what I remember after the city took it over. So, what has changed? It would be nice if the article could talk about how busy they are. Last time I played out there, I couldn't get on until mid afternoon as just a 2-some. Without the facts, we are left second guessing.

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Posted by dunno
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 27, 2011 at 3:44 pm

maybe you shouldn't pay the golf pro ($100,086), his assistant ($106,807), and his assistants assistant ($76,794) more than your city attorney ($88,012) lol

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Posted by Wow
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 27, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Are those the real salaries? Wow, I'm in the wrong business!

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Posted by Mark C.
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jan 27, 2011 at 4:50 pm

From what I understand, City "charges" golf course for items they would still have to pay for to maintain the land even if the golf course wasn't there.

City "charges" the golf course an excessive administration course that seems to be a made up number.

City charges the golf course for free water.

When all is said and done, the golf course actually isn't losing money!

Be careful with outsourcing, today it is the golf course that is being reviewed.

How long before other city departments and employees can be replaced by outsourcing?

If this were a typical company, the person in charge of running the golf course would have been fired and a new person brought in to increase revenues and profits. Municipalities just keep the same people in place until they retire. The Peter Principle is in full effect.

The last time the golf course was outsourced, it cost the city $7 million in a lawsuit!!! (It was only $5 million but since we don't check facts anymore and exaggerate the truth I figure I would go with the $7mil figure)

Do something about the bird crap and people will come back to this great golf course (then you won't have to worry about losing money).

Funny how story says Council considering outsourcing just Golf Shop operations.

Those people are the face of the golf course. A couple of guys in golf shop make it a real pleasure to go to the golf course. After all of the cuts, there are only a few employees left in the shop and according to published salaries, don't make all that much compared to guys who cut the grass.

I think the thought there is....Council members campaign funds receive $$$ from SEIU so keeping maintenance workers is council members taking care of their contributors.

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Posted by Mr. T
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 27, 2011 at 7:23 pm

It's a shame that Shoreline has had such a troubled history. This was a very good municipal course design and I played it frequently when it opened. Then it got too expensive relative to the other courses, the maintenance was terrible (especially the greens and bunkers) and the bird poop made it unplayable.

We just need the operators to make this layout an enjoyable place to play again. Make it affordable, get a greens crew that is competent and get rid of the bird poop. Then, I'll come back.

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Posted by vfree
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 27, 2011 at 8:01 pm

I hope they open the bidding to the City of Sunnyvale and Palo Alto. They seem to have figured this out.

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Posted by saywhat
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 28, 2011 at 8:02 am

What does Sunnyvale and Palo Alto have figured out? Sunnyvale is still City run and Palo Alto just went out to contract. Palo Alto's overall finances are a complete mess compared to Mtn View's so you can't even compare them. Think before you type.

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Posted by Max
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 28, 2011 at 8:09 pm

It's easy to balance budget:
1. Cut the total compensation package of all operators by half. Why you pay 6 figure salary to job that a high schooler can perform?
2. If they don't agree, let their grandma teach them the principle of live by means then Layoff all of them and replace them with contractors paid by hour. Remember all the bloody parasites of Ford and GM?
3. If the city still can't balance the budget, close it and lease half to Google to build condos for Google employees who contribute to the city tax revenue. Leave half to build a swimming pool, a sports complex.

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Posted by Raiding District at Work?
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I'm confused, isn't Shoreline in the Redevelopment District? Why should all that money come out of the City general fund?

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Posted by Kristine
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 29, 2011 at 12:06 pm

you could make it a hunting area on certain hours for canadian geese and the like and fix two problems in one.

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Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 29, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Only recently did Sunnyvale stop outsourcing. PA has always outsourced pro shop and made money. Failure to contain costs is why golf courses run into trouble

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Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm

No Green At City's Golf Course
Operation Set To Lose Up To $1.5 Million
According to this article the city has indicated this facility is growing a deficit estimated to be between $900,000 and $1.5 million dollars next year and has consumed whatever reserves it had this year.
Your article indicates council member Margaret Abe-Koga was the only council present that thought it would be reckless to rush to cut costs. It also indicates she made a statement regarding as to why this problem wasn’t addressed four or five years ago. The question that should be asked is, How are we going to address this issue now? Discussing why it wasn’t addressed four or five doesn’t solve the problem today.
In my opinion the following questions should be asked;
How many people who use this facility are Mountain View residents? Could the $900,000 to $1.5 million estimated be better spent for Mountain View residents? Is this facility even feasible to keep open with Palo Alto and Sunnyvale Golf Courses in such close proximity? If it does remain open, how do we get our employee operating cost in line with other cities? Should the whole facility be given to the San Francisco National Wildlife Refuge? (Most of the adjacent property already does……………
Due to the fact that Margaret Abe-Koga received campaign funds from city employees unions shouldn’t she recues herself from voting on any issue effects them? Sooner or later our city council will have to deal with city wide program deficits. Are they then going to say, “Why didn't we talk about this four or five years ago?"

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