An ambitious regional plan to calm the flood-prone San Francisquito Creek could mean dramatic changes for golfers teeing up at the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course.
The plan, which is being spearheaded by the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (which includes officials from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the San Mateo Flood Control District), involves building a levee that would encroach onto the golf course. This would mean modification to at least six and possibly as many as 12 holes at the 18-hole course, according to a new report from Rob de Geus, the city's golf manager.
The City Council will discuss the flood-control project and possible ways to reconfigure the golf course at its meeting tonight (Monday). The main question that the council will try to answer is: Should the city focus exclusively on flood control or should it take advantage of the creek-calming project to substantially upgrade the course.
Flood control around the creek emerged as a hot topic in the three cities in 1998, when the water overflowing from the creek caused significant damage to neighborhoods in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park (Palo Alto officials estimate the damage at $28 million in the city alone). Since then, the creek authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been performing separate studies to devise ways to improve flood protection.
Earlier this year, the creek authority hired the firm Forrest Richardson & Associates to come up with a reconfiguration design for the golf course that would accommodate the new levee. The firm came up with six options -- one focusing solely on readjusting the holes to fit the new levee and five others that would create more substantial changes to the course. The most conservative design would create five new greens and reconfigure at least six holes while the most ambitious one calls for 12 new greens and 12 reconfigured holes, according to a report Richardson will present tonight.
The cost of pursuing the six design options remains unknown, though the firm estimates that the cheapest alternative would cost about $3.6 million while one of the more substantial design proposals would cost about $4.1 million. Staff plans to present more detailed cost projections at a later meeting.
Though most of the cost would be picked up by the creek authority, Palo Alto would chip in more funds if it chooses to pursue one of the more complex alternatives, according to de Geus. The flood-control work, he wrote, "will be funded mostly or entirely by the SFCJPA depending on the Golf Course design chosen.
"That is, if the City chooses to take this opportunity to enhance the golf course beyond what is required to mitigate the flood control work the City will need to find additional funding sources to pay for the incremental difference in costs," de Geus wrote.
The council's debate over the future of the golf course is coming at a time when the facility is facing a gradual decline in usage. According to a 2008 economic study by the firm Economics Research Associates (ERA) the numbers played at the course dipped from about 90,000 in 2000 to 76,240 in 2007 -- a 16 percent decline. The report also found, however, that conditions at Bay Area golf courses have somewhat stabilized over the final two years of the studied period -- a trend that has given the consultants some reason for optimism.
"Over the next five-to-ten year period, the regional golf market is expected to continue to gradually improve as the 'baby boom' population ages in-place and limited expansion of the inventory of public golf courses occurs," the ERA report stated.
The council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.