by: Ruarri Serpa
Oceanside CA- City Council approved a lease agreement for the land Osiders call “Goat Hill,” with John Ashworth, a local golf-apparel magnate. The two-year term calls for $3.6 million in improvements to the property, including an overhauled clubhouse, and additional community space.
“Now the work starts,” said Ashworth. “I see this as a ‘Central Park’ of Oceanside.”
Under the terms of the lease, Ashworth must meet specific funding and construction goals to be considered for a 30-year extension of the contract. Those milestones include securing $2.4 million, and beginning construction on the clubhouse within the first two years.
“Hopefully we’ll have shovels quickly. That clubhouse is so gross,” said Ashworth.
The agreement has been underway since 2012, and at a few points the talks almost fell through. According to Ashworth, his group stopped moving forward, and then the city stalled. “There was a period where I wrote it off,” said Ashworth.
In a report to City Council, city staff said that Ashworth lengthened negotiations by bringing a financial partner into his organization. The partner, Lyon Communities, made additional demands to the contract, which caused “significant delays.”
In December of 2013, City Council directed staff to pursue negotiations with Utah based San Diego USL Holdings, backed by soccer mogul Del Loy Hansen. At a bizarre Council meeting in March, voters lined up for three hours to voice their opposition to the soccer proposal, which would have created private fields, a stadium, and soccer academy.
“Soccer was what got people all fired up – it rallied the whole community.” said Ashworth. “It was probably one of the best things to happen.”
The soccer deal also pushed Ashworth to sever his relationship with Lyon Communities, and agree to the original terms proposed by the city.
In addition to the clubhouse renovations, Ashworth’s plan includes a kid’s course, night golfing, botanical garden, grass concert pavilion, and a community supported agriculture program operated by the Boys and Girls Club. The program would provide food for the clubhouse, and for local residents who purchase shares.
The city would start to see money after six years, with Ashworth paying 2 percent of gross revenues at Goat Hill into the city’s capital improvement fund. In the seventh year, Ashworth would pay rent set at 5 percent of gross revenue after $1 million.
One of the biggest problems facing Goat Hill is water, and the question of who would pay for the water was a challenge in negotiations. Hansen criticized Goat Hill for the greens being brown, and called it a “pile of rocks and dirt.” Ashworth and his supporters believe its a problem of management, and getting the right equipment in there. At the City Council meeting in March, one golfer showed a video of leaking pipes, and a sprinkler watering the road.
But with a nod towards the US Golf Association’s promotion of brown courses, Ashworth thinks that Goat Hill doesn’t need to have lush greens. “Brown is cool – we’ve got a lot of brown.”
Ruarri Serpa is a freelance reporter from Oceanside, CA. You can contact him directly at RuarriS@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @Ruarris