Published: 29 articles

Parks Heal the Spirit and Make Us Whole

Usually this Labor Day weekend is full of traditions that now are interrupted by this Covid virus. Whether we usually visit with extended family or friends, travel, barbecue or participate in one last summer blast, the shelter in place order disrupts our traditions and eliminates the positive impact these touch stones provide, leading to greater anxiety and sense of loss. Our parks can help us heal the spirit and make us whole.
Walking meditation, a simple walk without form or structure, can help lower anxiety and erase the sense of isolation and disconnection. Through the centuries, many have written of the joy and centering provided by walking in nature. William Shakespeare wrote, “the Earth has music for those who listen.” You can silence the “monkey mind” that fills our brains with anxieties from the uncertainties, with the quiet time by being present to the details-the rustling of the trees, the low hum of insects, and the chirp of the birds. 
The old sentinel trees of our parks have served as solace to others before us as they walked through the grief of losing loved ones to great world events—the Spanish flu, the World Wars and armed conflicts, and the diseases of an earlier time, polio, small pox, measles, diphtheria, cholera. These old trees have comforted and calmed when San Jose residents were laden with worries from the Great Depression, the Great Recession, the Panic of 1873 and innumerable downturns. We know now that the trees exude healing oils into the air that allow our anxious feelings to lessen and improve our immunity, giving us strength to keep moving forward. Today’s younger trees can offer us the same help today.
For those times when household togetherness overwhelms, parks can help.  “There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech,” Charles Spurgeon advised. A trip to a park can provide the quiet that allows us to find our way back to the love and affection for our family and housemates.

Activate SJ

This ambitious strategic plan will ensure that over the next 20 years our neighborhood parks are a favorite and nearby destination, our regional parks represent the best of San José, our community centers are true hubs for community life, and that we continue to provide safer, cleaner neighborhoods.

Attached are links two documents that give more detail to what this strategic plan is about.

[ActivateSJ Benchmarks]

[ActivateSJ Document]

Proceeds Sale of Youth Soccer Complex

A letter to Mayor Liccardo and City Councilmembers to direct all $20M unrestricted proceeds from the sale of the Public Soccer Complex land at 1123 Coleman to PRNS capital projects, selecting from the $320M infrastructure backlog as well as rehabilitation of sports fields throughout the City.

[Click here for the entire letter]

San Jose Light Tower

San Jose Parks Advocates opposes the use Arena Green Park for the Light Tower Corporation’s proposed art project.

We believe that :

  • The site analysis report ctains fatal flaws
  • The Arena Green Park site is too environmentally sensitive
  • The proposed use is not compatible with existing policies, plans, and studies of Arena Green Park and this planning area,
  • It will negatively impact the fundraising plan of a previously approved major city park redevelopment project, St. James and the Levitt Pavilion
  • The proposal is based on a flawed assumption that the Light Tower Corporation’s open, uncompensated art contest will lead to great art.
  • A “free gift” should not take park land from a park deficient area nor require the use of City Park Trust funds to produce the site analysis, provide uncompensated Senior Management time, nor should complete of the project require future park trust fund/development fees or Google Community benefit funds. We ask that the Council reject the site analysis and ask the proponents to fully fund their gift by compensating the city for all expenses and by buying a site rather than taking parkland from a park deficient area. San Jose Parks Advocates is an all-volunteer organization of neighborhood leaders and community members concerned about San Jose parks. Our mission is to bring parks into the public political consciousness, to make parks an issue in all discussions of civic priorities, neighborhood services, and community interactions with the City of San Jose. We envision a City where quality parks and trails for all of its residents is universally supported as a core City service. Civic leaders will develop, enhance, and maintain these spaces as a source of civic pride and essential to the health and quality of life of the residents, workers, and visitors.
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San Jose Parks Advocates April 18, 2018


Mollie Tobias, Program Manager, Volunteer services, City of San Jose

Pat Pizzo, Project Manager, Native Plant Islands, Fontana Park

Greg Pizzo, Los Paseos Neighborhood Association

Marsey Kahn and Jennifer Roberts, Thousand Oaks Park

Water Troubles: Soaring Costs, Old Irrigation Equipment, Stressed Trees, Unusable Turf

The City parks are using 20% less water than before the “Big Drought” and we can see it in stressed turf and trees. This year’s water costs are budgeted at $6 Million with another major rate increase is coming. Without enough water, weeds take over the turf creating tripping hazards, ground squirrels flourish, and trees weaken and die. The city’s public face looks ragged. PRNS needs money for water. There are solutions that use less water–smart irrigation controllers that respond to the weather; updated irrigation systems, improved turf with drought tolerant varieties, and bringing recycled water service to more parks.  These improvements take money.  And that’s where you can make a difference.

Write the Mayor, Councilmembers, and City Manager’s Office about Park’s Water Troubles

  1. Ask that the PRNS water budget reflect actual costs that include the upcoming rate increases, and automatically increment each year to reflect rate increases. Tell them it is unacceptable to force PRNS to get money for water by delaying the hiring of maintenance personnel and the purchase of replacement equipment such as mowers.  Water is critical to the infrastructure of parks–the trees, the playability of turf, and its aesthetic value. Tell them a water story from your park.
  2. Ask that the proposed November 2018 bond measure and the annual Capital Budget include money to install SMART irrigation controllers, repair and replace the irrigation systems, and replace and rehabilitate turf with drought-tolerant varieties in order to save the most water and money. Give examples of bad irrigation and drought impacts from your own park experience. Mention the dead trees killed by reduced watering and drought and the replacement trees you have planted that will need water. Tell them how usage has changed after turf became weedy. Ask that a long-term plan be developed.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


Council heard a report on the ranger program on April 17.  PRNS is switching to central dispatch instead of fixed post. There are more classifications: Top Dog, Asst. Top Dog, 4 supervisors, senior rangers, entry level. This ladder plus better salaries attracted more applicants and there are only a few vacancies. Now they are wondering whether rangers should be armed.  Multiple letters were received from current and former rangers and loved ones as well as members of national park association. They told stories of scary encounters in SJ and elsewhere. Councilmembers discussed the idea of moving rangers to police department. No report mentioned that there used to be a POLICE PARK PATROL  in addition to rangers.  A six month study is underway with PRNS, SJPD, SJFire, Water District, Housing, Fish and Game, CA Water Board, Environmental Department.  The interdisciplinary task force appears to be designed to deal with the waterways/rivers and illegal activities in the creek beds and not problems in the neighborhoods.

The task force plans to consult with Creek Clean-up groups, but do not plan to speak with neighborhood or regional park groups or users even though there are criminal incidents and user conflicts in those parks.

The task force will be

  • Defining and clarifying the main roles of a Park Ranger;
  • Defining the types and levels of service needed in creek areas, neighborhood parks, 
regional parks, and trails;
  • Identifying and addressing community and Park Ranger safety concerns;
  • Reviewing and analyzing the need for Park Rangers to be armed, relative to the necessary 
scope of services provided by the Park Ranger classification, and respond with a 
recommendation on this issue;
  • Defining the appropriate level of safety equipment for Park Rangers;
  • Reviewing Park Ranger training needs for part-time and full-time staff;
  • Defining the funding needs for the recommended Park Ranger Service delivery model; Delineating and designating Police and Park Ranger priority responses for various types of park safety conditions and incidents;
  • Identifying alternative options to the Park Ranger service delivery model and explore how identified alternatives would impact the Park Ranger Program and the City; and
  • Conducting an examination of whether the Park Ranger Program would fit existing community needs more efficiently by being placed under the supervision of the Police Department.

More info is available at City Council Agenda for April 17, Item 5.1

Community Budget Meetings and proposed budget

There will be FIVE meetings in the neighborhoods after the draft budget is released May 1. Then all of the departments will present to council during daytime hearings.  Mayor’s budget comes out June 1.

Go to the community budget meetings and talk about PARKS. Water.  The importance of parks in daily public life of the community. Tell your park story.

All meetings are 6 to 8 pm

Thursday May 10 at Pearl Library, 4270 Pearl Avenue

Monday May 14 at Environmental Innnovation Center 1608 Las Plumas

Thursday May 17 at Bascom Community Center 1000 S Bascom

Monday May 21 at Mt. Pleasant High School 1750 S White

Wednesday May 23 at Seven Trees Community Center 3590 Cas Dr.

Amenity Fees for Urban Villages

The council will have a study session on April 26 about development fees for the urban villages—the new high density housing that is planned for housing 400,000 new residents. Developers would like low fees, but amenities, like open space cost money. Earlier this month they learned in a study session the importance of public open space and daily public life  in creating community cohesion and attachment to a city. It is linked to happiness. It is important that the council be reminded of the importance of public open space near the new residents. Ask that fees be assigned to the urban villages for open space and that Park Trust Fund fees stay in the urban villages and not be used miles away from the new residents. The final council vote will be May 1 or May 8.  WRITE,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,


PRNS took over most of the HR tasks and was able to fill 40+ open positions in fall 2017. They continue to replace workers as they leave, get promoted, or go on leave. Since PRNS is no longer dependent on HR staffing to fill the jobs, maintenance should improve. There are NINE new positions approved in June 2017.  Park conditions were assessed in July and August 2017, so this year’s report does not reflect the increased staffing. For this reason, the department did not ask for more workers this year. Park conditions will be assessed again in Summer 2018.


Council asked staff to prepare a list of projects for a possible bond measure. The Mayor wants to projects to save money.  Among other ideas, PRNS is proposing smart irrigation controllers that are linked together so that they can be handled all at once without travelling to each site to change watering schedules for the season. WATER is key to beautiful parks. Please write.

Los Lagos Golf Course – 2018–A White Paper

by San Jose Parks Advocates – 2018 January 29

[pdf version]

During the Great Recession of 2008-09 there was significant pressure on the City’s General Fund. Some members of council actively campaigned to close the two golf courses that were funded by Lease Revenue Bonds that are repaid by the General Fund. Los Lagos golf course did not perform at the rosy level predicted by the consultants when the golf course was constructed in 2000. The General Fund covered operating losses as well as debt service. Through the years of operation, there were multiple audits of the operations and seemingly endless memos on the subject. The most recent auditor report suggests that Los Lagos could be self-supporting for operational costs, but not debt service. More details are outlined in the consultant report on Public Outreach presented to the Parks Commission in June, 2017.

In March 2017, San Jose Parks Advocates invited the City Auditor to give a presentation on Los Lagos and her department’s analyses. City Park staff attended and answered questions. Our group identified a strong preference for continued use as open space or recreation and brainstormed questions for this white paper. The key question—: “What is the best use for this property?” Results follow.

Property Ownership Constraints

The requirement to replace the park land with like park land makes it nearly impossible to develop the land as anything but park land.

The golf course is chartered park land. It appears to have been acquired mostly with 1965 city bond proceeds and possibly with funds from the 1964 State Park Bond and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) open space program.

The golf course property is part of the original “Coyote River Parkway,” a joint County-City concept running from Williams Street to Anderson Dam. Conceived in the 1950s, it was included in the County’s 1965 General Plan and was part of the City of San Jose’s park bond in 1965. In 1964, a California state park bond was passed and the City and County jointly applied for funding for Coyote River Parkway. The State’s program required a 50% match and reimbursed. At the same time, the Federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) was administering the Land and Water Resource grant program for open space. HUD issued a list of City of San Jose Assessor Parcel Numbers that qualified for their funding. Examining California State archives, state budget publications, and newspaper report, we determined that the County won $4.5 Million on behalf of San Jose in the first year of grants. Roughly 112 acres of Los Lagos were acquired between 1967 and 1969. We believe most acres were acquired with San Jose bond proceeds and may have been partially reimbursed by the County as the dispersing agent for the state bond and HUD monies. One of the parcels appears to be a land swap for widening of Highway 101. The land Caltrans took was a chartered park parcel.

Importantly, California’s Park Preservation Law requires that park land that is transferred to a non-park use must be replaced by parkland that is similarly developed. (Public Resources Code 5400-5409). This 1971 law cover parks acquired previously. State grants also require that parkland must be replaced if taken out of park inventory. It takes an act of the legislature and approval of the California Park system with the replacement parcel specified. We found multiple legislative examples; all replacement parcels were nearby, i.e. within a mile. Similarly, the HUD Contract for San Jose requires replacement parkland in the nexus of the original park. These requirements are in addition to San Jose’s requirement that registered voters must approve the sale of the land. For these reasons, we do not think it is possible to convert the usage of this land to non-park use.

Prior Use and Plans

Some neighbors are interested in a high quality neighborhood park and community gardens. There is a fear of negative impacts of a poorly managed property.

In 1969, the City and County re-affirmed their joint commitment with a Coyote River Parkway Policy Statement covering Williams Street to Anderson Dam. A revised joint master plan was issued in 1972. Both agencies continued to apply for outside funding and acquire properties as funding permitted. All of present-day Los Lagos properties were acquired by 1980. The 1972 plan called for Los Lagos area to be a multi-use area: a greenbelt with picnic areas, free play meadows, amphitheater and multiuse terrace. Subsequently, a boating lagoon was envisioned. A golf course was targeted for the area near Singleton Road.

As a first step, Senter Park, a large neighborhood park, was built on the west side near present- day holes 4 and 6. Adjacent tracts were built in the 1970s and 1980s. A community garden was built. Long-time neighbors report extensive dumping, grass fires, and transient use. They fear a return to an unmanaged open space.

The “Coyote Creek Long-Range Land Utilization Task Force” of 1990 was citizen group created by the City to evaluate the density of developments along the creek between Story Road and Shady Oaks Park. The Los Lagos area was especially contentious: the taskforce wanted to preserve the riparian (creek side) habitat and a continuous trail network, but City Staff kept insisting upon the need to accommodate a golf course – far beyond the guidelines of simply defining low- or high-density development “bubbles”. Staff pressed to eliminate the riparian habitat and trail and have the golf course play back-and-forth across the creek channel. The Taskforce resisted, earning it the nickname “the Taskforce from Hell”. Eventually, the Taskforce was reduced to writing its own report to Council – with the golf-course up one side of the creek and back down the other, while preserving the riparian corridor and trail connectivity – since Staff insisted upon the cross-channel configuration. The Parks and Recreation Commission sided with the Taskforce, and Council confirmed the Task Force view, which eventually lead to the current Los Lagos configuration.1

In 2000, construction of Holes 13 and 14 in the northernmost parcels, forced the relocation of the Wildlife Center of Santa Clara Valley and a portion of the operations of the San Jose Conservation Corps. The community garden and Senter Park were removed. An odd-shaped remnant (now Lone Bluff Park near Capitol Expressway) was offered as a Vietnamese Cultural Garden. Ultimately, it became an ordinary odd-shaped neighborhood park. In 2017, neighbors who remember Senter Park on the west side report anger at the tiny odd-shaped Lone Bluff park. One Vietnamese neighbor wondered why “her country’s” memorial was removed.

Riparian Concerns and Flood Plain

We believe that flood control capacity is important to preserve; we agree with riparian advocates that the riparian corridor must be protected.

A map of the golf course’s original master plan indicates the 100 foot riparian setback. A portion of the driving range and parts of holes 13 and 14 on the east side are within the riparian setback. The golf cart trails intrude into the setback. Portions of the Coyote Creek multi-use trail was placed deep in the riparian habitat and there was significant controversy about the placement of the trail. A final decision moved the trail away from the golf course and closer to the creek, deep within the riparian habitat. After the riparian habitat was removed, mitigation of about 5 acres was performed off-site. Riparian advocates highlight this removal as a key impetus to pursue a riparian ordinance and improved Envision 2040 General Plan language that was not in place at the time of the golf course construction.

The 100-year flood line shows on the original master plan. The 2017 floods follow this line very closely. Flood waters covered Hole 9 (east side, near club house) and the west side Holes 3, 4, 6 (part), 13 (part) and 14. Water depth varied on the course from three to five feet. Within the channel, water depth was estimated at up to 15 feet. The water drained from the course over a three-day period and the course opened thereafter. The riparian corridor is very wide at Los Lagos and the captured water helped to save the neighborhoods downstream from further damage, i.e. at Rocksprings, at 28th Street and at the Mobile Home Parks downstream near Old Oakland Road.

1 The Taskforce drafted a Riparian Corridor Setback Policy for the park chain, which served as a prototype for the subsequently improved citywide riparian policy and ordinance.

On the western side, for two thirds of the length of the course, the 100-year flood plain line leaves less than 150 feet of land beyond the flood line, severely limiting the development potential of most of the western side. Increasing the width of usable area via levees and regrading would reduce the water carrying capacity, thereby impacting other downstream areas. The eastern portion of the golf course is less constrained by the flood plain. However, a bench of the original Coyote River channel is on the eastern side; it splits the property in the southern half.

Fiscal Analysis

The cost per round includes the debt service while it does not for any other sport; we believe this is wrong. Only operating subsidies and rate of recovery of operations should be used to evaluate the program; it should match how other city sports are evaluated.

Reducing the General Fund’s burden is laudable goal. Unfortunately, the original consultant reports in 1999 set up expectations that the debt service would be paid by the golf rounds. However, the original forecasts did not include the cost of Prevailing Wage which adds annual operating cost of over $300,000.

We note that the results show that the players’ fees exceeds the PRNS voluntary goal of 40% operating cost recovery. The 2015 city auditor report indicated an operating subsidy of $6 per round, or 90% cost recovery. No other sport reaches this standard of recovery. Only a few recreation classes and camps meet this level.

In the auditor’s 2015 report, debt service costs of the lease revenue bonds are reported at $30 cost per round. We believe this number also includes the debt service for the Coyote Creek trail passing through the golf course. No other sport or community center activity is evaluated based on the debt service carried through bond measures and through commercial paper used to finance city operations. The construction of the Los Lagos Golf Course is a sunk cost. It cannot be recovered. The debt service would remain even if the land were repurposed to another recreational program.

The quality of the Los Lagos program should be evaluated on metrics that are within the control of the council and the operator—operating costs and cost recovery. The rate of cost recovery should be evaluated in light of discounts and subsidies to various groups—e.g. seniors, youth.

In addition, Los Lagos Golf Course returns other benefits to the community—open space, habitat preservation, and flood control. These benefits are difficult to quantify on an annual basis but should be acknowledged in analysis of costs. The City’s Voluntary Prevailing Wage program adds costs but provides social value by increasing wages. The impact of this cost should be acknowledged in a report of cost per round subsidy.


We believe the Golf Course (or other proposed operations) should be evaluated by a more sophisticated demographic analysis and the needs of these various populations. Marketing opportunities exist for different demographic bands, including events other than just golf (or other proposed operation).

Reports about Los Lagos provide simple analysis of who is playing, with age and gender as the focus. Ethnicity is not recorded. We observed play on a Saturday and during a weekend afternoon. Seniors tend to be white. Middle age players tend to be evenly split among the three largest ethnic groups. Youth players from the high schools reflected the demographics of participating high schools.

Seniors reported the advantages of Los Lagos. The individual holes are shorter matching their strength. In addition, the terrain of the holes is gentle and more compatible with hip and knee replacements. Other public courses have holes that are too long and/or terrain that is difficult to navigate for those with replaced hips and knees. Retired County Planner Don Weden speaks regularly on the upcoming tidal wave of seniors. The peak of the “baby boom” is just reaching retirement age. The City’s community centers have been adding “Active Adult” options for people over 55, reflecting this growing band of active older folks. This suggests that Los Lagos is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this demographic trend.

The City has joined the 8 to 80 Cities movement—creating cities for all. Founder Gil Penalosa spoke recently at several engagements in San Jose including the San Jose Public Life Summit, sharing exciting ideas for involving more ages and abilities in the public space.

The Los Lagos Golf Course already provides opportunities for users age 8 to 80. Through creative scheduling of diverse events, the property could also attract broader demographics than a traditional golf course operation. The current operator has been experimenting with community events: holidays, National Night Out, free concerts, movie nights, and more.

We believe that an advanced demographic analysis of San Jose’s current and forecasted population would help to identify marketing opportunities.

Prevailing Wage: a city invented program for service contracts

We believe that the City’s self-created Prevailing Wage Program for Services should be re- evaluated prior to releasing an RFP for a new golf course operator. When evaluating costs, the council should receive reports on the impact of the City’s self-created Prevailing Wage for services requirements in order to understand costs and social benefits of this Prevailing Wage program. Specific job titles and their rates should be re-evaluated to more accurately describe the work and reflect city and industry practices.

Prevailing Wage is the name a prior city council chose to label the city’s self-created program to mandate pay scales for operators of the golf course and some other outside vendors providing city services. This has led to confusion with the California state-mandated Prevailing Wage program for construction contracts. The California state program was designed to make construction contract bids equitable and prevent wage theft and fraudulent bidding practices. The state provides the salary/wage rate data for a variety of construction jobs.

Shortly before Los Lagos opened, the City Council invented a San Jose only “prevailing wage program” for service contracts as a method to address what the Council believed was the inadequate state minimum wage law. The city’s self-created Prevailing wage program is NOT the Living Wage policy. It is not the state’s mandated Prevailing wage program for construction contracts. The San Jose Prevailing Wage program for services was implemented prior to San Jose’s Living Wage policy.

San Jose staff created a Prevailing wage schedule for the golf course. Data from private golf courses was not available, so they depended on public course data and other methods that are not readily transparent. The city audits the compliance of the vendor.

The City Auditor’s reports highlight the impact of the city’s self-created Prevailing Wage program on Los Lagos golf course; Prevailing Wage increases the personnel operating cost by about 20%. The Auditor concluded that city’s self-created Prevailing Wage for services contributes significantly to the inability of Los Lagos Golf Course to fully cover the cost of operations. The San Jose Prevailing wage cost is between 50 and 100% of the operating subsidy, depending on the year.

The current City-created Prevailing Wage rate scale contains at least one major anomaly—the mower pay rate. The people who mow the lawn are paid $44.93 per hour. PRNS staff explained that the city’s Prevailing Wage categorizes these workers as “heavy equipment” operators, i.e. bulldozers, excavators, backhoes, cranes. At Los Lagos, there is a $18 per hour pay differential between mowers and grounds workers. At the City of San Jose and at the other CourseCo courses, there is no pay differential between mowers and course workers. At Los Lagos, the highly paid mowers are sent home as soon as mowing is complete, working only 75% of the year with very few hours during the winter. The pay differential for these two mowing jobs alone add $18,000 to the cost of operating Los Lagos.

The City’s self-created Prevailing Wage program for services turned out to be a critical problem for the new softball complex which attracted only one operator bid. The single bidder refused to pay the city’s self-created Prevailing Wage program wages. Consequently, City staff will be the operator. Vendors did not bid on the aquatic program citing the City’s self-created Prevailing Wage program. This suggests that Prevailing Wage provisions might prevent some vendors from bidding on a future golf contract—leading to city staff operating the course.

Importantly, if the city is forced to operate the golf courses as an unintended consequence of the current self-created Prevailing Wage program for services, there will be the difficulty of hiring the key personnel needed. For example, the turf and greens manager is a very specialized and highly compensated professional who is critical for the consumer perception of course maintenance. The city may find recruitment of these individuals to city employment more difficult than an industry vendor. City staff should estimate the cost of city staff operating the course prior to releasing an RFP.

Alternative Uses to Lower Impact to General Fund

The continued operation of the golf course appears to be the most viable for limiting impact to the General Fund.

Various golf course memos have suggested a variety of alternatives including, 1) sell a portion for housing and pay off debt, 2) close course and operate as open space, 3) build soccer complex, 4) build a cricket field, 5) convert to disk golf course, and 6) continue operation of the golf course, explore ways for improved profitability and community involvement.

Option 1: Sell for Residential Development

The land was acquired by park bond funds, with some a mixture of local, state and Federal monies. City requires expensive registered voter ballots to approve the sale. Further, state law requires replacement of the park with comparable land nearby, i.e. through taking other land. State legislative action is required for state-funded lands. In addition, the Park Preservation Act of 1971 severely limits sales of any parkland to public agencies, requiring replacement parkland no matter the source of funding. It appears that there would be no net cash generated by a sale to pay off the debt and the remnant and replacement lands would still have to be managed or operated.

Option 2: Operate as Open Space or Regional Natural Parkland

Some expressed interest in operating the land as a natural space with walking trails and a few picnic areas. With this option, the lease revenue debt would remain and there would be very limited income from parking revenue or picnic reservations. Some amenities could be installed that might generate some modest rental income but that would incur capital costs. City staff estimated maintenance and ranger costs at $1.5M to $1.8 M in an email to SJ Parks Advocates. This is three times the current cost of net operating loss Los Lagos Golf Course.

Option 3: Build and Operate a Soccer Complex

This option considers building a soccer complex that would be attractive for tournaments and help meet the need for additional sports fields. Tournament fees and rentals would help cover the cost of operation. Tournament fees and rentals would help cover the cost of operation. Tournaments may attract out-of-towners who rent hotel rooms. Currently, many San Jose residents attend tournaments in the Central Valley due to a lack of facilities nearby.

We investigated some popular soccer complex tournament venues. Typically, these sites have 2 or more adult sized artificial turf fields and then another 8 or more full-size turf fields that can be split for youth games. Typical size is 40 acres with adjacent parking of 10 acres. The newer complexes also include a playground/park and food service. Newer complexes are fully self- contained with single point entry. Several new complexes have been built in the Central Valley in order to attract Bay Area business. They are within day trip driving distance but also offer low cost camping and motel alternatives. Older complexes are smaller and have fewer fields. Some complexes contract with nearby schools to extend the number of fields available for tournaments, e.g. Davis.

There is some data the Morgan Hill sports complex had positive impact to their hotel industry. They have 11 fields with 325 parking spaces and 26 acres land-banked for possible future expansion. Currently, there is an RFP for operators with proposals due in mid-February, 2018.

A soccer complex at Los Lagos would require paying off the lease revenue bonds and incurring additional debt to build the complex. A future bond could shift the cost directly to the taxpayer instead of the General Fund. It is not clear whether the lease revenue bond could be paid by bond proceeds.

The east side of Los Lagos is large enough for a few fields with modest grading. However, building a complete complex would require very extensive grading due to the historic Coyote Creek bank in the terrain. The flood plain and riparian setback would complicate field arrangement. The parking lot would need to be expanded significantly to meet the needs of tournament play. The west side of Los Lagos is more narrow. Field construction would require extensive grading due to the ancient bank. The riparian setback and flood plain severely constrain the available space to generally south of the Coyote Creek crossing. Direct vehicular access to the west side is limited and through residential neighborhoods. The walking distance from the east side across the bridge over Coyote River makes locating a soccer field on the west bank unattractive to families. The appended map shows the riparian setback, floodplain, and sample fields.

Operating costs would depend on the size of the complex. For guidance, the new soccer complex is estimated to cost about $750,000 per year to operate. There would be additional costs related to managing the remnants of the golf course, whether opened as a public park or maintained as natural open space.

The benefits to the hotel industry may be limited. San Jose’s large population may fill many tournament slots. The proximity and ease of access to many Bay Area cities may encourage players to commute home rather than stay overnight.

At community meetings, the soccer community did not make a showing. When the idea of soccer fields was presented, neighborhood residents reacted negatively and pointed to the problems associated with the Tully Ball fields which are nearby.

Option 4: Cricket field

A cricket field uses about 10 acres for field and parking. Grading and construction costs would be incurred. It would generate limited income and would not cover its operation cost. There would be maintenance and ranger costs for the remnant land created by carving a cricket field out of the golf course. It would exceed the current operating loss of Los Lagos. The debt service for the cricket field construction and Los Lagos would remain.

Option 5: Disk golf course

This growing low cost sport could use the golf course as is. The course could be allowed to “go wild” and O & M costs would be lowered to around $1.5M per year. There are several free courses nearby. However, it is unlikely that disk golfers would pay a fee to use this course; if a fee were implemented, it would not be anywhere near $51 per round paid by golfers.

Option 6: Golf course

Continue operation as a golf course. Increase marketing to community. Provide community- oriented events. Rent space for weddings, luncheons, events.

Elitism Argument

All kinds of sports should be available for all kinds of people. More expensive sports or activities sponsored by the city should have opportunities for discounts or scholarships.

Some materials indicate a dislike for golf as a “rich man’s” sport that the city should not subsidize. We note that the course provides discounted rates to youth and seniors. There are lower fees on select days. Public golf courses like Los Lagos allow the sport to be available to middle income residents; private courses are available to higher income persons only.

The General Plan’s housing element highlights the need for all kinds of housing. The City subsidizes the higher cost of streets, sewers and lights in order to provide the executive housing neighborhoods for its higher income residents. The original Los Lagos master plan indicated the importance of meeting the recreation needs of the managerial folks the city was trying to recruit in order to encourage businesses to relocate. The golf course was seen as one tool. We don’t know whether it is as important now as it was in 1999, but it may be.


We believe that the continued operation of Los Lagos Golf Course is in the best interest of the City. It provides the most revenue and lowest impact to the General Fund. It provides open space, significant flood protection and meets the needs of citizens for a life-long sport.

In addition, the social benefits of exercise for users, open space for those in surrounding neighborhoods, flood control for those downstream, and habitat preservation are all worthy and outweigh the modest operating subsidy which would be greater if Los Lagos were used for anything else. As the alternatives analysis shows, only this high fee sport allows the operation of such a large mid-city open space at such a low net operating cost.

Figure 1. Los Lagos golf course. Adapted from EIR. Red line is as built trail alignment. Blue wavy line is 100-year flood plain and conforms closely to February 2017 flood. Green lines are riparian border and setback. Soccer field dimensions are included for scale. Grey dashed line shows slope from original creek bank.

Park Impact Fees and Los Lagos Golf Course’s Future..


will be heard at Park Commission this week and then to Council later this month.  Lower park impact fees for high rises are triggering deep concerns.  The staff report on Los Lagos Golf Course seems to open the door to repurposing the property.

Park Impact Fees are paid by developers to compensate the community for the impact of new residents. The fees are used to buy new parkland and make major repairs–a key tool in keeping the park system afloat. For ten years, a 50% discount program for residential high-rises covered downtown. Every time the discount was renewed and expanded, the rationale was thadowntown had a high water table and was an unproven market–discounts were needed to attract developers.  Now downtown high-rises are booming. The development community convinced council to measure the number of residents in their units and Parks staff surveyed two rental high rises, finding 1.5 residents per unit, lower than the rate currently charged. The proposal includes several features we are troubled by:

1. Staff surveyed only two rental high rises in downtown. This would fix the rate at 1.5 residents for all high rises no matter what product they contain: studio or 3-bedroom.

2. The new rate is proposed for citywide–not just downtown.  All future high-rises in urban villages or along transit corridors would pay fees based on these downtown rentals–even though the areas are park deficient (unlike downtown) and may not be at all like these downtown rental high-rises.

3.  No community outreach on the lower fees was conducted. Only the development community heard about these changes.  Urban village advocates have been blindsided and worry about the future of their plans. Changes to the park impact fee structure were scheduled as part of the Greenprint Update due out in Spring 2018. Why were these accelerated?  We think it should be part of a transparent Greenprint update.

4. Diridon Station Area Plan advocates oppose the extension of the current high rise discount program into this part of downtown west of highway 87. These lands are the future “Googleville” and they wonder why the richest corporation in the world and its partners can’t afford to pay full fees to improve this former industrial area into a livable and vibrant community with walking trails, and a park for the thousands of planned residents and workers. Old Downtown has large parks but Googleville does not.

These changes were buried in a routine fee update. The Parks Commission saw through the ruse last November and rejected it all–the discount and the routine changes. Parks staff has brought the item back for this week so that the Commission can decide whether they can any of these: the routine changes, the lower high-rise fees, or the expansion of downtown discounting to the Googleville area. Here’s a link to the staff report–Item VIIA

The Parks Commission meets on Wednesday at 5:30 pm. The Council is expected to hear the item on December 19. Email your thoughts to Parks Commission and Council.
Parks Commission
City Council

Diridon Station Area plan west of downtown showing the green walking trails. This is the site of Googleville. A pending proposal expands high-rise discounts to this area and all urban villages putting green space at risk. (Yes, this older map still shows the baseball stadium). Courtesy: SPUR

Los Lagos Golf Course

The outreach results, constraints, and options for the future of Los Lagos Golf Course will be presented this Wednesday December 6 to the Parks Commission. Council is worried about the cost of debt payment and the on-going operating cost. Generally, community meetings supported the golf course.  The land is constrained by riparian/creek setbacks, and the rules of the state grants the funded the land. The dimensions make a soccer complex infeasible. Benefits are highlighted: an enormous flood plain to catch last winter’s waters, and an operator monitor the homeless problem and keeping the area clear of dumping.  The staff suggests council could revisit the Prevailing Wage requirement (which is normally applied only to construction contracts) and look at other ways to make the destination more of a community park.  Trends in golf are summarized.  Staff is asking for direction from the council, which could include pursuing state legislative relief to sell the property.

Wed. Dec. 6 Parks Commission 5:30 pm
Thurs. Dec 14 Council Neighborhood Services Committee 1:30 pm
Tues. Jan 9 City Council Meeting 1:30 pm (actual item probably after 3 pm)

The staff report is attached to Item VII D of this week’s Park Commission.

What do you think should be done with Los Lagos Golf course?
Reach out to the Neighborhood Services Committee members before Dec. 14. Send an email.

To All Our Park Advocates–thank-you for what you do.  Please share these newsletters as appropriate and add to our email list.  Check us out on Facebook:  San Jose Parks Advocates.  There are many news updates and fine pictures.  Send pictures to share to

Jean Dresden

Fall Quarterly Meeting – San Jose Parks Advocates

Wednesday November 8, 2017

Calabasas Library Community Room – 7pm

1230 South Blaney Avenue near Rainbow Ave.

We’ll learn about grass root organizing from an award-winning expert, Deb Kramer of Keep Coyote Beautiful.

Followed by an introduction to POPOs—privately owned public open spaces. Then we’ll set this year’s advocacy agenda.

[Click here for Flyer]

Positive Budget News

Park Advocates efforts paid off this year as the City Council approved this 2017-18 budget.  Nine new “boots on the ground” positions were added to the maintenance division. With new hiring procedures led by Park staff, the backlog of 41 vacancies is disappearing quickly.  It’s not clear how the new positions will be allocated–staff memos to council emphasized poor park conditions data driving the need for additional staff. The Friends of the Rosegarden revealed in July that their garden is getting one of these new positions full-time.  This was surprising since this park is in pretty good shape, receives extra staffing as a regional park and the Mayor turned down a budget request in June for additional Rosegarden staffing. Park Director Angel Rios declined to provide a written statement about how the department will allocate these new maintenance positions.  Continuing concerns about equity of resource distribution are amplified. The Greenprint Steering Committee made extensive suggestions in their second meeting on how to improve the park conditions report and how to take into account the usage levels some parks receive.  All parks deserve to be safe and clean–not just famous parks. 

Soccer Fields–will they ever be built?

Plans for a Guadalupe Gardens soccer complex appear to be on hold.  Because the site is an airport safety zone, Caltrans Airport Division issued a letter of opposition last spring which was announced at an Airport Commission meeting. Work on the first steps of an EIR has stopped. No public status report has gone to council.

The alternate site on Coleman Ave is still available, but the favorable construction bid has expired and

Parks Department does not have enough money to build it with remaining bond money.

The Memoranda of Understanding with the Quakes included making good any shortfall if the Guadalupe Gardens site fell through. Park staff says negotiations are underway and a memo to council will come out this fall. The Guadalupe proposal included Avaya Stadium parking and practice fields for the Quakes.The Park Bond was approved in 2000.

Yes, it makes a difference…

Last June, a volunteer complained that going to meetings didn’t matter and refused to ask others to come to a final budget meeting. At that final meeting, some passionate supporters of another program made a last-ditch plea for funding–they won $150,000 which came partially from taking away a position from Parks.  Yes, it makes a difference whether Parks Advocates go to council budget meetings.  On any given Tuesday, the council gives and the council takes away.

Wow! Emma Prusch Farm Partnerships

A recent trip to Prusch Park revealed many public-private partnerships. Veggielution runs a farm and teaches healthy nutrition. The UC Master Gardeners have fruit orchards. The Rare Fruit society has a tree collection. 4-H has youth programs. Horseback riding is offered; it’s wildly popular.  There’s a preschool that involves the children with farm animals and plants. The Friendship Forest has collection of trees that celebrate international sister cities. The Prusch Foundation helps fund the park.  There’s lots going on.  Here’s a link to the Master Gardener’s page about Prusch.

Upcoming event: Bio-Blitz in Overfelt Gardens

Join us for a free, family oriented nature exploration event in Overfelt Gardens Park – children ages 4 and up are welcome. Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society staff and volunteers will show you how to use a smart phone app (iNaturalist). Enjoy birds, flowers, butterflies, more. Co-sponsored by Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, San Jose Parks Advocates and Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society.


Capital Budget FY 2017-18

San Jose Parks Advocates offers these comments on the proposed operating and capital budgets for FY 2017-18. Thank-you for the transparency and prompt posting of all proposals. Members of our group attended many of the budget meetings throughout the City and asked and received answers to their questions.

[Entire Letter to the Mayor & City Council]