Arco sale final link in Goleta golf course projectJuly 14, 1998
By MORGAN GREEN
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
After six years of planning and political disputes, the seaside Dos Pueblos Golf Links project just outside urban Goleta appears to be moving toward reality.
The 27-hole golf course site located on 208 acres west of Goleta, is being sold by Arco Oil and Gas Co. to a pair of well-established development corporations which intend to build and operate the links.
The buyers also are wrapping up confidential, multimillion-dollar negotiations for service from the Goleta Water District - a critical final step to open the way for the golf course's construction. The water utility is expected to grant the service request July 28. Officials are seeking about $4.4 million for the hookup - a controversial matter because ``regular'' customers would pay more.
The buyerevelopers are Patriot American Hospitality Inc., which controls 460 hotels and resorts from the Caribbean to Russia, and Capital Pacific Holdings Inc., a housing company currently developing 45 subdivisions in three Western states, according to information from Hoover's Company profiles. Both development corporations are publicly traded.``The two entities have formed a venture...and yes, they're intended to develop the golf course,'' said Whitt Hollis, a Dudek and Associates agent and former Arco executive who is now representing the buyers.
Monday, Hollis declined to reveal the purchase price, or to comment on the water service negotiations.
On the seller's side, Arco is wrapping up removal of the last vestiges of decades of oil production on the property to clear the way for the links. The golf course, initially proposed by Arco, was estimated to cost about $10 million in 1993.
The links - like the nearby $200 million Santa Barbara Club Resort and Spa project now under construction - promise to drastically change the suburban character and economics of western Goleta. And like the Santa Barbara Spa, the links project faced hard-fought court challenges after winning approval by the county and state.
The stiff opposition was rooted in environmental protection and beach access worries by some civic activist groups. They also feared that the golf links - on agricultural land - would encourage future development interests to politically pry Goleta's western urban limit line open, exposing areas around the course and down the rest of the scenic Gaviota Coast to suburban sprawl.
Those anxieties remain, and some golf course opponents are expected to turn out when the links' water service and site annexation are taken up for consideration by the utility's board.
The golf links and clubhouse are planned for rolling blufftop acreage along two-plus miles between Highway 101 and the ocean. Plans call for two public beach access trails, one at each end of the property. The site is within a mile of the beachfront Santa Barbara Spa.
The two massive projects are neighbors, but remain separate entities, Hollis said.
The links are being designed by former pro golfer Ben Crenshaw and his partner Bill Coore, Hollis said. On the drawing board are a nine-hole, par-three ``executive course'' and a full-size course.
The fairways are to replace 50-year-old Arco oil well sites. The last vestiges of 30 wells and pipelines and tanks have been removed. The remaining buildings will be taken out during the next few weeks, Hollis said. Arco has applied for a county permit to begin a soil cleanup project that will wrap up its departure from the property. That plan has triggered no substantial public criticism.
But bringing 226 acre-feet of water a year onto the property for the fairways and greens probably will. It was a matter that drew loud outcries from some Goleta slow-growth advocates last year, who claimed Arco was getting special treatment.
The water district board maintained a drought-era policy that gave financial incentives for Arco to irrigate its property by tapping into Goleta's $23-million water reclamation plant at odd hours.
Under the Low-Impact Reclaimed Water Customer policy, Arco would have had to pay about $3 million for the initial hookup - about $2 million less than a regular customer, according to some estimates.
Prolonged internal water district disputes over the issue led to the 1997 resignation of long-time district general manager Robert Paul. Now, water officials say they ``are much more comfortable'' because the utility is seeking about $4.4 million in fees. That's much closer to the normal customer charge which would be about $5.1 million, said water district counsel Russell Ruiz.
The district also must annex part of the Arco site in order to provide service. About half lies outside the utility's current urban service boundary, Ruiz said.
Boundaries are trip-wire issues in Goleta. In 1997, cityhood proponents cut the Arco site out of a proposed incorporation plan because expanding the existing urban zone to include it was considered too politically divisive.