In a gesture that sounds almost too good to be true, the owners of the financially failing Glen Annie Golf Course are offering the Santa Barbara school district free affordable housing for teachers.
The owners of the golf course located just outside the Goleta city limits north of Cathedral Oaks Road are looking to develop houses on their land to stop the financial bleeding that has plagued the 18-hole course since it opened a decade ago.
To do so, however, they must convince Goleta officials that the changes they wish to make would be beneficial to the public.
Among the proposed changes would be to give to the school district about 15 unattached townhomes, which the district, acting as the property owner, would sell to teachers and other district staff members at below-market rates. The primary targets would be teachers at Dos Pueblos High, which is located across the street from the golf course.
“If we can say a portion of these units are dedicated to teachers, it makes us look good,” John Dewey, a consultant representing the golf course, told the school board during its regular meeting Tuesday night. “And it’s in the best interest of the community.”
Affordable housing for teachers and other school district staff has become a major concern for the board. Some school officials fear an impending crisis of experience will bedevil local classrooms as more and more Baby Boomers retire and are replaced by young teachers who, unlike their predecessors, will never be able to afford a home in Santa Barbara.
As a result, the school board for years has been trying to decide whether to build affordable housing on some of the unused land it owns. The process has been catatonically slow, and some feel the district would be better off reaping the financial benefits of selling the land for market-rate homes rather than try to assess how many affordable homes to build for teachers.
But the situation posed by the golf course is different, because the district does not own the land. This means that, aside from deciphering whether they are even interested in taking up the offer, school board members would not be burdened by having to choose from a similar set of endlessly complicated options, officials said.
Board members Tuesday seemed intrigued, if guardedly skeptical.
“It is unique, certainly in this board’s experience, to have a developer really think about the needs of the school district,” board member Kate Parker said.
“I want to know what the downside for the district would be,” said school board member Annette Cordero.
Superintendent Brian Sarvis answered by saying he couldn’t think of one, aside from having to form a foundation or a nonprofit entity to manage the property.
“I mean this is quite an opportunity to the district,” he said, adding, as a joke, “I asked John to bring a contract in tonight.”
Nothing, however, can happen without the approval of the Goleta City Council.
Dewey, the Glen Annie spokesman, said he is hoping the council will vote to annex the land and allow the golf course to redevelop. He said city leaders already have indicated strong interest in doing so, largely because they believe it would benefit Goleta.
All told, the development on the 160-acre property would include about 250 homes, with roughly 60 of them affordable and the others sold at market rate.
It also would include five soccer fields and several trails for hiking. The golf course, meanwhile, would be reduced to an 18-hole executive-style course, cutting its current size in half.
As it is, the golf course is losing up to $1.5 million a year, Dewey said. The owners had intially hoped to lure around 85,000 golfers every year, but the true figure has been less than half that amount, he said.
Despite the reported interest from Goleta officials, he added, “I’ll be completely frank with you: We might be shot down by the City Council when we ask them for the thumbs up in the next three to six months.”
If that happens, he said, the “fallback alternative” is to close the course and sell the land.
“We think if we get to that point, we lose and the community will lose on a very unique opportunity,” he said.