San Jose considers golf course sale

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Rancho Del Pueblo is considered a valuable asset to east San Jose residents.

"This is the only really affordable course around that I can play," said frequent player Dave Espinoza. "I'm not working, and for five bucks, I can come out here and play."

The city of San Jose sees its value, too. It is floating the idea of selling the 34-acre site to developers. San Jose is anticipating another $100 million budget deficit next year, and the nine-hole course lost over a quarter-million dollars last year.

"Libraries, community centers, golf courses, swimming pools -- they're all important, but when there's not enough money to go around, you have to make these very difficult choices," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

The course is popular with seniors. It's also home to a program called The First Tee, a youth program that teaches golf and fosters character development.

Three generations of the Espinoza family were golfing Wednesday. They believe The First Tee and the course have helped 12-year old grandson, Richard

"It's something to do," said grandfather Mel Espinoza. "Keep him clean, keep him out of the elements, you know."

However, Reed's staff points out the course has over $5 million in bond debt. Payments run close to $500,000 per year. Selling the course could clear that debt and a $21 million bond debt on Los Lagos, another city-owned course. The public will have a chance to voice its opinion at a community meeting Wednesday night.

Balancing the budget won't be easy or pain-free.

"I think closing fire stations and closing libraries is unacceptable, period," said district councilmember Xavier Campos. "So, I don't look at that as an option."

The city's third golf course, San Jose Municipal, is both debt-free and profitable.

To realize any savings for next year's budget, the golf course sale would have to happen by next spring. However, city leaders acknowledge it may take longer than that.

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