What's the deal with Orange County coastal rich guys in the real estate game killing inland golf courses? Given the preponderance of Orange County coastal rich guys on Orange County coastal golf courses, you'd think links everywhere would be sacred. Guess not. Last month I brought you the story (without realizing my former colleague Spencer Kornhaber already brought you the story three years earlier) of Dan Harkey, the husband of Dana Point Republican politician-for-life wannabe Diane Harkey, letting Palm Springs Country Club fall into disrepair while the historic course was on his Point Center Financial watch.
Spencer for hire:
On Harkeys' Watch, a Golf Course Rots
Now we discover some Orange County developers have let a Rialto golf course rot–and this time it hits close to home. Well, close to my former home.
I used to work nights and live in Fontana. Don't worry, I recovered. Eventually. Actually, it was a sweet deal because while everyone else was at work, I'd head over to nearby El Rancho Verde Golf Course to hit balls most mornings. Eventually I got so bored doing that, I'd squeeze in nine or 18 holes before heading off to work in the early afternoon. I believe I did this so often the starter let me on free a couple times. It was not like there was anyone around to care.
After getting to know the course quite well, I would hit from the blue tees. I shot my lowest round ever there, an 85 being what I'm telling myself now, although it may have been an 88 that's had three strokes shaved off along with my memory. It was definitely in the 80s, something I've only done a couple times. The other time came playing there against my dad, and I recall him becoming so disgusted he threw his clubs. Actually, he did that most times we played.
Anyway, El Rancho Verde Golf Course has always been near and dear to my heart, not so near and dear I'd actually drive all the way out there, into that oppressive heat and smog, to play it again since moving to the mild OC. As if …
I couldn't if I wanted to anyway, according to a report from Jim Steinberg, who covers business for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (which is composed of half of the newspaper I used to toil at while playing the Rialto course) and the San Bernardino Sun.
The 50-year-old course and its public country club, which had hosted professional tournaments back in the day, closed two years ago this month when landowner Lytle Creek Development Co. revealed it could no longer afford to subsidize its losses. It obviously can't afford to keep the place up either, as you can see in the photo that accompanies Steinberg's story.
The reporter informs that the city code enforcement department has given the developer until the end of this month to remove weeds and dead trees from the now-dead golf course that had me thinking if I just practiced a little more I might make the senior tour some day. Keep in mind that might have been heat stroke-induced thinking.
The administrative citation can carry a fine of up to $80,000, Robert Watson, Rialto's code enforcement supervisor, reportedly told Steinberg.
Lytle Creek is the name of an unincorporated community in the foothills just above Rialto. (I should tell you about the wildfire I covered up there some time.) The development company had a massive residential project planned there that U.S. Rep. Joe Baca (D-Rialto) tried to get state and federal regulators out of the way of.
But the development company is not actually based in Lytle Creek, Rialto or San Bernardino County, for that matter. It's based in Irvine.
Lytle Creek Development Co. is a subsidiary of CapRock Partners. And who is behind the company up there on Main and Macarthur? According to the online company bios, you don't get much more Orange County than this:
CEO Gerald Pharris: “Jerry received both a BA and MBA from the University of Southern California. He serves on the Board of Directors for various organizations including Hidden Harvest and the Forum of Christian Business Leaders while also serving on the American Diabetes Association of Orange County's Father's Day Council. He is an active member of Mariners Church and lives with his wife of over thirty-nine years in Newport Beach.”
Co-founder Patrick Daniels: “He and his wife, Denise, have been married 24 years and live in Newport Coast, California with their two children. Mr. Daniels is active in his community through his activities at Mariners Church other non-profit board level duties.”
Partner Jonathan Pharris: “Jonathan is a graduate of The Masters Program and is actively involved in the Barnabas Group. He lives with his wife and four children in Ladera Ranch.”
Partner James Gill: “Prior to Buchanan Street Partners, Jim held a corporate position with the Phoenix Suns professional basketball organization for five plus years. Jim holds an MBA from Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business as well as a Bachelor of Science from Arizona State. He lives with his wife and three children in Ladera Ranch.”
Late last month, the city of Rialto sent a contractor in to clear out weeds to create a 100-yard buffer between the jungle of a golf course and upscale homes nearby. It was only the second times weeds have been cut there since the links closed, according to neighbors. The development company had nothing to do with the latest work.
“With fire season,” the fire chief explained to Steinberg, “we couldn't wait.”
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.