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The Lakes at El Segundo golf course to be lit

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The proposed Lakes at El Segundo lounge, overlooking the three-story driving range. Rendering courtesy of City of El Segundo

by Jeff Mitchell

A long-delayed proposal to redevelop The Lakes at El Segundo golf course and driving range in El Segundo has been approved by the City Council despite threats by project opponents to circulate a referendum to block the project.

The council voted 4-1 on Oct. 5 to approve a redevelopment proposal for the Pacific Coast Highway 9-hole golf course from Topgolf International and CenterCal.

Departing Councilman Don Brann cast the sole dissenting vote. He argued that Topgolf will turn the traditional course into an alcohol- and entertainment-fueled venue that is out of keeping with the city’s family-oriented, residential atmosphere.

Of the nine residents who addressed the council, six strongly opposed the project. 

But members of the council majority said the proposal would transform the aging course, which has fallen into disrepair, into a revenue-generating recreation showcase.

Topgolf officials told the city that construction on the course could start in February and will require the course to be closed until sometime in the spring of 2021. The company is headquartered in Dallas and has dozens of golf facilities across the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia.

The agreement calls for CenterCal Properties to provide a loan to Topgolf and to hold the primary ground lease. Topgolf would sublease the site and oversee its redevelopment. Currently, Topgolf’s only California location is in the City of Roseville, near Sacramento.

El Segundo-based CenterCal is currently in litigation with the City of Redondo Beach over its unsuccessful effort to redevelop King Harbor.

As part of the deal, Topgolf has agreed to:

— Pay the city $1.3 million in annual lease payments plus 3 percent of gross alcohol sales, for an estimated $200,000 or more a year.

— Make a minimum of $40 million in capital improvements in The Lakes facility ($3 million of that to be spent directly on the golf course).

— Contribute $200,000 to a city community benefit fund.

— Contract with El Segundo Police and/or other local law enforcement agencies to provide security at the site.

— Deposit at least $200,000 into a back-up capital improvement fund.

— Create 500 full- and part-time staff jobs.

According to City Manager Scott Mitnick, The Lakes have operated at a deficit since opening in 1994. He also noted that 90 percent of those who regularly using the course are not El Segundo residents.

“This is an exceptional opportunity for El Segundo,” Mitnick said in an interview before the council vote. “It allows us to have a great golf and entertainment facility that will generate much-needed revenues for our city.”

“The Lakes were $5 million from the city to build. To date, none of those funds have been paid back,” Mitnick said. “It has yet to break even.”

Mitnick added that the deal requires Topgolf to provide range and course discounts for city residents and that minors will be assured discounts and access to the driving range.

CenterCal officials first pitched the redevelopment proposal in 2013 but the plans failed to garner council support until recently.

Topgolf plans to:

  • Build a new 2,500 square-foot clubhouse, plus an additional 1,000-square-feet of outdoor patio space.
  • Triple the size of the chipping and putting practice areas
  • Add lighting to the course for night play
  • Reduce the length of the course from the current 1,340 yards to 1,206 yards — mainly by shortening holes 1 and 9.
  • Add a new water hazard surrounding hole 3.
  • Build a three-level, high-tech driving range utilizing using microchipped balls for measuring the lengths of drives.
  • Sari and Councilman Don Brann will be making their final appearance in the annual El Segundo Holiday parade, at least as councilman and councilwife. Brann is resigning at the end of December because a new state law prohibits elected officials from also serving on the boards of charger schools. Brann serves on the Board of DaVinci School, which he helped found.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Brann accused his council colleagues of being greedy and sacrificing their integrity in exchange for the new revenues.

“City residents are telling me they don’t want what Topgolf is selling. They want The Lakes to remain low key, family-focused and peaceful,” Brann said.

Bran said he traveled to Roseville three times to check out the Topgolf facility there.

“Yes, it was a nice golf facility but it was also a giant sports bar,” Brann said, noting that The Lakes parcel was deeded to the city in 1994 by Chevron.

“This property was given to us for public recreation, not drinking,” he said.

Brann said based on telephone polling that he paid for in 2016 there is little support for the development. The poll, which Brann said surveyed 150 “high propensity” voters, showed that 49 percent opposed the Topgolf project, 40 percent approved and the balance was undecided.

Brann said that he believes El Segundo residents opposed to the deal will begin gathering signatures to force a referendum election on the redevelopment. Brann said petitioners will need to collect the signatures of at least 10 percent (1,200) of the city’s registered voters.

A now-closed Change.org online survey showed that 1,458 people opposed the project.

Devin Charhon, Topgolf’s director of real estate, declined to comment on the referendum effort but did praise the council’s decision.

“We are excited to have Council approval and are looking forward to the weeks and months ahead as we prepare to break ground on the project. We feel that this is the opportunity to save The Lakes. As you probably know, The Lakes has been operating at a financial deficit for quite some time so this project will create a win-win solution that will enhance a community amenity while making it financially viable into the future,” Charhon said in an email.

For more about the Topgolf proposal visit: https://docs.elsegundo.org/weblink8/0/doc/1096224/Electronic.aspx

Jeff Mitchell is a South Bay freelance journalist. Reach him at j.edward.mitchell@gmail.com 

 

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