By Alfredo Santana
MONTEBELLO — The city’s golf course will feature a new clubhouse and a dog park as part of its undergoing renovation to make it financially self-sustaining and more accessible to the community.
By a 5-0 vote, the City Council last month approved construction of the $7.25 million permanent clubhouse, in contrast to an alternate cheaper but temporary facility estimated to cost $5 million less.
The structure will incur an additional $362,500 in construction contingency fees plus replacement of fences and electrical gear, raising the total golf course renovation cost to $28.9 million, according to public documents.
Before the council vote, Mayor David Torres and Mayor Pro Tem Scarlet Peralta argued that the new facility aligns with the goal to make the golf course a venue that generates money, as opposed to being subsidized.
Approval of a new clubhouse arrives as the third of three phases of reconstruction at the municipal golf course, a property blamed by state auditors as a top economic liability in the city’s quest to recover a viable financial status.
Until last year, the Montebello Municipal Golf Course had an 18-hole layout and received millions in city subsidies to keep it running.
Peralta said the permanent clubhouse would add to the amenities brought forth by the redesigned golf course and makes sense as a long-term investment.
“The clubhouse would complement new developments, and generate additional revenues for the city,” Peralta said. “Having to develop something temporary to tear it down is not the smarter thing to use our funds,”
The current clubhouse is leased as an events venue for music concerts, corporate conferences, weddings and private parties, in addition to serving as a facility that has hosted citizenship ceremonies.
Renovation blueprints call for a more compact nine-hole golf course and a three-deck Topgolf complex with food retailers, wine bars, high-tech ball tracers and television monitors with channels that broadcast pro tournaments.
In a related item, the council voted 4-1 to build a community dog park inside the golf course with surplus land developers already identified.
The new site would be build near the ninth hole, using a segment of land currently used by a parking lot near Via San Clemente.
Designing a dog park arrives as an answer to years-long petitions from residents to add free open spaces for fun and have a public place for their pets to run and exercise, Peralta said.
“These elements make an ideal and very inexpensive opportunity for the city to develop a reasonable dog park for the community to enjoy,” Peralta said.
Peralta thanked two public speakers who pushed the council to leverage more open spaces for residents, in contrast with redesigns within the perimeter aimed at improving the city’s coffers.
“We need to begin really addressing the needs and amenities that can be developed in the area that our community members can really use, recreationally and enjoy without having to [pay] out-of-pocket fees,” she said.
The project is something residents want and support in various social media outlets, Peralta pointed, and would replace visits to parks that pose safety issues for dogs and their owners who exercise them daily from 5 to 8 p.m.
A week after a ceremonial groundbreaking for construction of the Topgolf venue, Torres said the city is on a path to reimagining the meaning of recreation and play.
He supported the dog park concept, because it represents “the opportunity to start on projects that fundamentally address some of the morale and pride in our city.”
That said, Torres pushed to fund the dog park’s construction with cash from the Home 2 Suites Hilton hotel located within the golf property.
He said he recently spoke with City Manager Rene Bobadilla, who told him about $5 million in revenues from the hotel and money leftover from paying issuance of municipal bonds can be appropriated to back the dog park.
Also, he suggested proceeds from the $15 million sale of the San Gabriel Valley Water Company could be used if needed.
Assistant City Manager Arlene Salazar told Torres that all Home2 Suites revenues plus the money from the San Gabriel Valley Water Company will be eventually accounted for in the general fund.
Councilwoman Angie Jimenez voted against the dog park.
Jimenez said she was troubled that new investments would be approved for the new space despite the lack of allocations to lift two neglected parks located in South Montebello.
“While our community does need a dog park, I also feel that my community in the southside needs a lot more attention, particularly at Holifield Park,” Jimenez said.
She blamed the park’s worsening conditions on previous administrations.
“We are running ahead of the game here. This is again, very troubling,” Jimenez said.
In response, Peralta urged her colleagues to support the dog park because future city councils may have a different vision for the available plot of land.
And Torres said it was important for the council to consider the dog park a positive space for all residents, and not as a project that would benefit a certain district.
“I think we really should be approaching with solutions, and instead of talking about the disparities in our communities, really talk about how to find funding to ensure opportunities for our communities,” Torres said.
Torres pledged to work with Jimenez to identify resources to improve public infrastructure and services in Districts 4 and 5.