Local golf course could close

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The island green at San Ramon Golf Club’s signature ninth hole could see its last golfers this month as the local course is teed up to be shuttered for good.

Sam Campopiano, Managing Editor

The San Ramon Golf Club could close this month if the new owners are not allowed to build housing.

If the city of San Ramon does not change the zoning of the San Ramon Golf Course to allow the new owners to build housing on part of the course by the end of the month, the new owners have pledged to close the golf course for good.

Ronald Richards and Michael Schlesinger are the owners of Tree City LLC, the company that purchased the San Ramon golf course in December 2015 for $9 million, more than double the original asking price.

Richards and Schlesinger made an agreement with the previous owners that the golf course would remain open for one year, an agreement that ends this month.

Richards and Schlesinger want the city to change the zoning from “agricultural” to “residential,” so they can build housing on the golf course. If the city council fails to meet their demands, Richards and Schlesinger pledge chain off and close the course indefinitely.

City council member Dave Hudson has said that this will be a long, arduous struggle between the city of San Ramon and the new owners.  In an interview with the Mercury News, Hudson said, “These guys didn’t buy this land to be a golf course. We’ll see who cracks first.”

As The Californian reported last June, the first major change made by the new ownership began in April 2016, with the closing of the swimming pool that accompanies the golf course.

This had a major impact on local swim teams, primarily the Aqua Bears, who had practiced and hosted swim meets at the golf course pool for many years.

The team has practiced at Dougherty Valley High School since the San Ramon pool closure.

The 125-acre golf course in San Ramon has been a center of activities and events since it opened in 1962.

The course hosts annual summer golf camps and a junior golf  academy, and served as the home for middle and high school golf teams to practice and compete. Its clubhouse is a popular location for weddings and other celebrations.

If Richards and Schlesinger are allowed to build houses on the golf course, it would not only affect the 325 homes in the area, but the rest of San Ramon too.  For many homes near the golf course, property values may plummet if the open space of the golf course is filled with houses.  Traffic also will most certainly increase due to the additional housing.

For the zoning designation to be changed, four out of five planning commissioners and four out of five city council members have to approve the change.  The new owners could also get the issue on the ballot and let the voters of San Ramon decide.

This is not the first time Richards and Schlesinger have purchased a golf course with the intention to build housing.  One of their previous purchases was the Escondido Golf Course in San Diego.

Not long after buying the golf course, Richards and Schlesinger had an altercation with some of the residents whose homes border the golf course.

The homeowners were unhappy when Richards and Schlesinger demanded they cut and trim their trees so that they did not hang over the fence.

As the dispute grew, Richards and Schlesinger retaliated against the homeowners by having truckloads of chicken manure dumped onto the golf course.

The manure caused pollution levels to rise to a “class five,” the level at which people start to gag.  When questioned about the manure, Richards and Schlesinger claimed the manure was only used as a fertilizer.

In San Ramon, a grassroots organization has formed to fight against Richards and Schlesinger called Stay the Course San Ramon (staythecoursesanramon.com).  Many of the members live near the golf course, where they and their children have learned and enjoyed playing golf for many years.

“We have had three monthly meetings, in which 300-350 people showed up,” said Joe Parsons, a member of Stay the Course San Ramon.  “We have elected a committee of nine representatives to be the voice of the people.”

Parsons said the Stay the Course San Ramon’s original goal was to keep Richards and Schlesinger from closing the golf course.

But because Richards and Schlesinger have already pledged to close the golf course, the organization has changed its main goal to preventing housing being built on the golf course.

“For members of the San Ramon community,” Parsons said, “the most important thing is to be aware of what’s going on.”

Parsons recommends subscribing to the website and staying updated.

All eyes now turn to the city council and the planning commissioners to determine the fate of the San Ramon Golf Club.