Castlewood could consider selling Valley Course for new housing

Leaders mull options to address clubhouse's costly ADA concerns; sale to private firm also on table

Castlewood Country Club leaders and members are exploring options for addressing costly ADA compliance concerns with the clubhouse -- a list that includes offering up most of the Valley Course for housing development or selling the club to a private firm. (File photo)

Members of the Castlewood Country Club are facing some difficult decisions this summer.

The historic club, anchored by two 18-hole golf courses in addition to tennis, swimming and bocce, has been under pressure from Alameda County to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The current clubhouse was built in the mid-1970s after the original Phoebe Hearst estate burned down in 1972. The ADA took effect in 1990.

General Manager John Vest said Castlewood staff and the Board of Directors are exploring all options. The club hired an outside firm to evaluate the ADA issues and that company issued a 387-page report that is guiding the discussion of alternatives.

One option was revealed to members recently in a letter from new club president Kevin Wrenn, who took over the presidency in April -- offering up part of the Valley Course for housing development.

His letter said, "As you are aware, our club has ADA issues that could cost the club millions to rectify. The Board of Directors and the House Subcommittees have been studying a variety of options around ADA compliance at Castlewood and how to best fund the renovation or replacement of our clubhouse."

He noted that the membership could fund the improvements themselves, which could result in assessment of thousands of dollars to the 600 families who own equity memberships. There are 400 additional social members.

Wrenn wrote, "One other financing option we have been studying is a land development venture that Ponderosa Homes has submitted to Castlewood. Ponderosa has proposed to work in partnership with Castlewood to entitle a large portion of the Valley Golf Course for residential development."

The venture, if successful, could provide enough capital to potentially cover the ADA issues or replace the clubhouse.

"The purpose of my note is to inform you at this time Ponderosa Homes and Castlewood are exploring the feasibility of this proposed venture. Since public discussions will commence soon, the board wants to ensure our members are aware and hear about this proposed venture from us," Wrenn wrote.

"Prior to any recommendation to the membership, Ponderosa and the board want to understand the development potential of the property, the financial implications, the impact to our membership of the sale of the Valley Golf Course, and the potential willingness of the city of Pleasanton to entertain the annexation of the property into the city from the county of Alameda," he added.

The entitlement process and land plan would present challenges. The Union Pacific Railroad tracks run through the middle of the property, and it's bounded by the Arroyo de la Laguna on the west side (except for the third hole).

The directors and staff also are exploring selling the club to a private operating firm. This is the route the former owner of the Ruby Hill Country Club in Pleasanton took when he sold to the Arcis Golf.

Castlewood, in contrast to Ruby Hill, is an equity club. When purchasing a membership, currently priced at $15,000 for golf, equity in the club is included. At the club's height of popularity, memberships were selling for as much as $75,000.

The sale would eliminate the equity and change the club's status from nonprofit to for-profit, which could mean different pricing across the board. A sale would leave the buyer to solve the ADA issues in the clubhouse.

The directors are planning on a town hall meeting with members in June to lay out the options. The members will vote on which option to pursue.

The current clubhouse is 51,000 square feet and was the only choice in the valley for large events for decades. That changed when other large event venues opened in the Livermore Valley. Vest said they are working with architects on plans of between 35,000-40,000 square feet.

The ADA issues at Castlewood are in addition to the challenges faced by many golf clubs.

"All over the U.S. golf course rounds are down, courses closing. Revenue isn't where it used to be. The dynamics of golf have changed in general," Vest said.

A former club president told the annual meeting of the Castlewood Homeowners Association in February that traditionally about 80% of the homeowners were also equity members of the country club. He said that had dropped to about 50% and the club was working hard to maintain their green backyards.

Castlewood and Blackhawk Country Club are the only two 36-hole private facilities in the East Bay. Operating two courses requires a larger membership (800 would be comfortable) and what potential members are looking for has changed. The competition for new members is keen.

"Everyone I am talking to also is visiting other clubs," Vest said.

The original Castlewood was the Hacienda del Pozo de Verona, built by George and Phoebe Hearst. The 53-room home, designed by Julia Morgan, was Phoebe Hearst's home from 1891 to 1919. She sold it to a group of businessmen in 1924 who formed the Castlewood Country Club.

Ponderosa has built thousands of homes throughout the Tri-Valley and the Bay Area over the past 40 years. The firm is based in Pleasanton and has built many neighborhoods in the city.

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30 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on May 15, 2018 at 10:18 pm

This smells to high heaven. What about making it a public course? What about the city buying the land? The HILL course isn't long enough to host any major Amatuer or Professional events. This is devistating news for the town of Pleasanton.

I can't wait for the City Council to alighn with the developers and BUILD BABY BUILD. My only hope is the Castlewood Members object vigourously and the Happy Valley and other surrounding neighbors finally put their foot down on over housing.

The developers can't help themselves and want to sell the Pleasanton lifestyle while turning it in to San Jose.

Next up The Alameda County Fair Property.

3 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on May 15, 2018 at 11:17 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

Ugh, I hope you’re wrong.

I’d watch out for that conversion, if you’re an equity holder. Often, there will be funds disbursed somehow to the board.

1 person likes this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on May 15, 2018 at 11:24 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

Also, given that Castlewood is outside of the city limits, what control does the city have? I know it’s in the planning area and sphere of influence, but I don’t think the city can directly zone the land. Anyone know?

4 people like this
Posted by get used to it
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2018 at 8:24 am

more and more government regulations, looks like they really don't have any other choice... sad

13 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Val Vista
on May 16, 2018 at 10:11 am

I agree with Joe make the lower course a semi public course people will come to play as long as it is not overly priced. Also why don’t you promote more jr golf programs that will bring in more people later but it’s a start

5 people like this
Posted by Carl M.
a resident of Birdland
on May 16, 2018 at 10:25 am

To quote a great man..."Country clubs and cemeteries are the biggest wasters of prime real estate!"

-Al Czervik

Just think of all the tax revenue the city could soak from that development. I know they already are drooling over the possibility.

1 person likes this
Posted by Charlie Brown
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on May 16, 2018 at 10:44 am


4 people like this
Posted by Billie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 16, 2018 at 10:45 am

Personally I would like to see the fairgrounds developed into affordable housing. The fairgrounds are under utilized and the location would be perfect for housing. We should annex it.

4 people like this
Posted by Spudly
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on May 16, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Sounds ok to me. I would buy a house there.

Czervik would have added...I'll build 200 condos over there with plenty of parking!

8 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on May 16, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Jack is a registered user.

Sounds like the baby's going out with the bathwater on this one... Cut off your nose to spite your face... How many cliches are there for, "dumbest idea I've ever heard?"

14 people like this
Posted by mike guintard
a resident of Castlewood
on May 16, 2018 at 5:58 pm

it's all about the money...what a shame..the club started to go downhill when the membership made the decision to rebuild the club in the
"new" california style, instead of keeping the style in Julia Morgan's original plans.. I would assess the members whatever it takes to cover the the cost of getting the club to code..the members can afford it.. I hate to see the changes in my club and in my town... long live the 50's and 60's.

9 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of West of Foothill
on May 17, 2018 at 8:37 am

My parents joined Castlewood Country Club in 1971 - the new clubhouse had already been built, so your article isn't 100% correct. Please remember we have the Museum on Main in your backyard for such fact-finding. It is a shame about more housing, but clearly the club needs more paying members to keep up with the expenses. If I could go back in time and had the money and influence, it would have been fantastic to rebuild the Heart estate as close to the original as possible and have it preserved for historical purposes for the City and let all the tourists enjoy the site, just as the Heart Castle in San Simeon.

18 people like this
Posted by Withheld
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 17, 2018 at 8:50 am

This has to be a joke, right? Build more housing and no mention of the overcrowded schools. Oh, that's right, the city will once again say that the demographic isn't "family with schoolage children".....
I guess Pleasanton parents enjoy having 30+ kids/classroom.
And to the comments about building on the Fairgrounds? Really???? That fairgrounds is in use almost every weekend! Goodguys, Alameda County Fair, Quilt Show, dog show, boat show, cat show, rv show, driver training, and so on and so on! Have you ever tried to drive east or west on Bernal when there is an event going on there???? It should take me 8 minutes to get to 680 and the other day when there was a festival going on it took my :45!

3 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Castlewood
on May 17, 2018 at 8:51 am

Let the public in time... it's really not that "special" of a course.. kinda gimmicky if you ask me. Dont go full public obviously...but let some non-prime tee times go.

12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on May 17, 2018 at 9:41 am

Why should we care how much it costs them? They are not officially in Pleasanton and we gain no revenue from them so let them pay for the upgrades themselves. If they choose to add homes, and kids to the school system, they should be assessed fees for that if they intend to use Pleasanton schools. No subsidies for people who choose to live in a private community and now think the public should pay to bring their bad choices up to code.

3 people like this
Posted by Come in
a resident of Castlewood
on May 17, 2018 at 9:56 am

Castle wood children have been going to Pleasanton schools as long as there have been Pleasanton schools. You should ask the district for names of children attending who don’t live in Pleasanton. You will be surprised by the number. Fairgrounds is underutilized and is in a bad location.

2 people like this
Posted by keeknlinda
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 17, 2018 at 10:07 am

keeknlinda is a registered user.

And the Arroyo runs through it. Upstream development has already resulted in costly, very costly, damage to homes along the Arroyo de la Laguna to the south of Verona bridge. Property owners lost substantial portions of their properties as a result, and government regulations dictated a more expensive repair than could have been used. Lawsuits are pending, Zone 7 water wholesaler for the region had to undertake an emergency solution for which all it's customers will end up paying for in increased water rates and development fees. Sorry, but this sounds like a "we win, you lose" proposition.

22 people like this
Posted by Former Castlewood Resident
a resident of Castlewood
on May 17, 2018 at 12:55 pm

I think you ALL are missing the point here!
The county pressuring Castlewood to comply with ADA rules that came after they built the new structure is ludicrous. This ADA compliance issue is a scam used by lawyers to extract $$ from property owners and now the county is pushing a none-issue to comply with Federal laws that have been abused? really? How many old historic sites/structures do you know that comply with ADA issues. The county and city need to form a strong position to exempt the club from these nonsense issue and let a great part of Pleasanton history remain as is. They are giving great excuse to developers and club board/management to even consider such ridiculous options.

3 people like this
Posted by Andy Capp
a resident of Birdland
on May 18, 2018 at 11:07 am

Former Resident, what don't you know about the ADA is it is a discriminating piece of legislation entitling access to ALL the only scam is the one used by serial litigants for their personal gain.
the following excerpt is taken from the ADA with the same wording for CALlF BUILDING CODE:
206.2.15 Golf Facilities. At least one accessible route shall connect accessible elements and spaces with the boundary of the golf course. In addition, accessible routes serving galf car rental areas, bag drop areas, course weather shelters, course toilet rooms and practice putting greens, practice teeing grounds and teeing stations at driving range shall comply.

Like this comment
Posted by Thutson Howell lll
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 19, 2018 at 6:40 pm

Thutson Howell lll is a registered user.

Oh this dreadfull. Lovey and I would be horrified if the commoners encroached upon our beloved refuge.
If this plan is implemented we shall immediately cancel our membership.

Lovey and I will have to spend more time on my yacht away from this nonsense.

4 people like this
Posted by B
a resident of Stoneridge
on May 20, 2018 at 3:17 pm

The Valley Course sold to a developer with entitled lots would be worth about $500k/lot. For 100 homes that would be $50MM. For 200 homes talking $100MM. You can fix a lot of ADA problems with that. This is about money not ADA issues. If stacked and packed you could jam far more homes than that. This makes Lund Ranch the kids pool.

7 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on May 20, 2018 at 5:27 pm

The statement that this is being driven by "... pressure from Alameda County to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act" smells fishy. Alameda County does not have the authority to enforce the ADA on behalf of the federal government. Local governments are not responsible for retroactively enforcing ADA accessibility requirements on private property, they only enforce State accessibility requirements when someone takes out a building permit for new construction or modifications.

See: Web Link

Which includes the statement:

"The enforcement of state codes is the responsibility of state or local officials – usually through plan reviews and building inspections. The ADA relies on the traditional method of civil rights enforcement through litigation in federal courts. Local officials do not have the authority to enforce the ADA on behalf of the federal government."

5 people like this
Posted by Jtjh
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 20, 2018 at 6:04 pm

Thank you, Andy Capp and Anonymous, for the ADA information.

The cynical reader might perhaps conclude that the decision to sell the land for development has already been made and the plan is to use ADA compliance problems to justify it. Watch this space.

7 people like this
Posted by Former Castlewood Resident
a resident of Castlewood
on May 21, 2018 at 10:14 am

Andy Capp and anonymous, as a landlord and former board member of many clubs like Castlewood, I am well aware of ADA laws and extensive abuses around it ! The club is always pulling permit for various projects from the county and it is during this process that the county is now putting their foot down on ADA issues. One has to ask why now and not 5 years ago, or 10 years ago during the recession? Why is this a hot issue again. I am very compassionate about the needs of our disabled citizens, but some common sense need to be applied also about old structures and history that are associated with the club. There are plenty of public and private golf courses within our 5-10 mile radius to serve our disabled folks- why can't we leave this alone as part of city/county heritage? Is this the case where the need of the minority is going to dictate the wishes of the majority? I find it ludicrous and absurd.

2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on May 21, 2018 at 12:05 pm

@ FCR -- "There are plenty of public and private golf courses within our 5-10 mile radius to serve our disabled folks- why can't we leave this alone as part of city/county heritage?"

Oh please. You people want your privileged private country club that tries to keep everyone out. Now you want to be exempted from the laws that all of us are required to obey. You are not so special that any part of your private club should be allowed to operate outside of the law.

Yes, the county and the City will check for permits and appropriate compliance with building code any time you apply for another permit. That's a good thing. No one needs to live next to a firetrap of a house and we don't need to allow a private club to avoid compliance with laws that benefit everyone, not just the disabled.

4 people like this
Posted by Mehoff
a resident of Downtown
on May 21, 2018 at 9:38 pm

We all complain about the over crowding and traffic , boom in the new housing going up. Vote all these realtor city council folks out of office NOW !! This small town is no longer small. What happen to perserving of historical sites? Throw that out the window , greed has taken over. Nice knowing you good ole Pleasanton..

6 people like this
Posted by Former Castlewood Resident
a resident of Castlewood
on May 22, 2018 at 10:24 am

@Resident - Once again you are missing the big picture and fail to understand the impact of pushing for this 'Compliance' none sense!
I am NOT a member of the club and have never been- just lived in Castlewood because it was so quiet and serene. Selling that course to a developer is a traffic and congestion disaster that will also destroy a beautiful part of our past and natural beauty. This has nothing to do with 'private club and exclusivity' and everything to do with protecting the environment and part of Pleasanton history!
You need to step out of your own zone and think what the major ramification of this issue will be! People like you will then start complaining about the traffic and congestion not realizing your limited views made this disaster happen !

1 person likes this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on May 23, 2018 at 8:03 am

Grumpy is a registered user.

Another option is to request annexation into Pleasanton, rezoning the lower course, and as a part of that work out a deal as a part of that to find the funds for the upgrade. I could imagine something as simple as allowing the clubhouse building itself to become public property with a leaseback for private events and course operations. But since ADA conversions are not really that expensive comparatively, you could probably do much less and get a good deal providing the funds. Or why not do a special assessment from the homeowners even?

It seems to be that this is an attempt to extort their way out of having to do ADA conversion, or profit off of excess development. And if it is the later, it will surely backfire as the joke will be in Castlewood residents.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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