SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) — On the 18th fairway at Harding Park, protesters were shouting, “save Gleneagles! Save Gleneagles!”
“I’m not going to play any of the city courses until Gleneagles gets a fair shake,” said golfer Brian Scott
Gleneagles is a city-owned golf course in Visitation Valley.
Tom Hseih has run Gleneagles for the past ten years. His job is getting any easier.
“The golf course, when it was built here in 1962, was supposed to lift up this community,” said Tom Hseih. “Water went up 40$ suddenly in the last month,” he said.
Talks with the city to extend his lease have landed him in the rough.
“We have been forced to give our 30-day notice, because they wanted us to sign a lease that we think is not fair,” said Hsieh.
The city sees “fair” a bit differently.
“The current operator of the golf course is looking for the taxpayer to subsidize a significant portion of his operational costs,” said Sarah Ballard of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.
San Francisco actually owns 6 golf courses – each one operating under its own, unique lease with the city.
“Other golf courses in other neighborhoods receive so much support from the city,” said Hsieh.
But the city sees the result of different business deals.
“At the majority of our golf courses the department gets all of the greens fees, and in exchange maintains those golf courses,” said Ballard. “At Gleneagles, the department gets 7% of all revenue, and the greens are privately maintained.”
So, the debate over a 9-hole golf course now includes union protestors, calls for a jobs program and allegations of neighborhood favoritism.
The real issue might be as simple as how a city can manage the cost of operating 6 golf courses at a time when golf is losing more players than it’s gaining.
“People who have been here a long time want to hold on to their favorite community locations, places like Gleneagles,” said Hseih.
But that might just mean Gleneagles – under new management.
Hseih said his biggest challenge is soaring water costs. If he can’t work out a lease extension the city will be required to open Gleneagles up to new bids, for new management.