The struggling Verdugo Hills Golf Course is getting a facelift and new management, giving new hope to residents who want to save the 60-acre site from residential development.
On Monday, course owners Snowball West Investors replaced the former manager and four other staffers. Plans are in the works to improve the grounds, add beer and wine at the restaurant, lower greens fees and lure tournaments to the 18-hole course.
"I'd like to get the prices reduced, get people out here and get the population back up," said John Mascarenas, a longtime Verdugo Hills worker who became manager Monday. "I want to make this the friendliest place you can come and enjoy your time."
Snowball West investor and spokesman Michael Hoberman said Snowball continues to seek approval from the Los Angeles City Council for 229 homes on the roughly 60-acre property, and that a final environmental report was recently filed with the city.
"The golf course for years has been losing money. This is an attempt to improve it, reduce the loss or maybe turn a profit," Hoberman said.
But, he added, "As long as it is a golf course, we'd like it to be as good as possible and to have as many people use it as possible."
Upgrades will include a new paint job, as well as improved equipment for the driving range and links, Hoberman added.
Tiffany Casper, owner of Tee's on the Green, remodeled the golf course restaurant last year and said she has applied for a beer and wine license and plans to make fresh changes to the menu.
Organizations including Glendale-Crescenta Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment — or V.O.I.C.E. — the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council and the Sunland-Tujunga Alliance have argued against residential development, saying it would cause congestion, ruin views and take away recreational opportunities.
Hoberman said he is open to meeting with community groups and discussing alternatives.
"We're happy to have it preserved as a golf course, open space or park. We've never received any formal proposal of any kind, but we're open to anything.
"If they want to save the golf course, the way to do it is to work with the city and the state and other groups, put together a package and figure out a way together to buy it, or buy most of it."
He said home builder MWH Development is no longer involved with the project.
While the city's review process grinds on, golf course supporters said they were excited about the a makeover.
Karen Zimmermann, a member of V.O.I.C.E. and the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee, had a one-word reaction to the shift. "Delighted."
"The community wants the golf course to be a viable, productive source of recreation," she said.
Visitors play about 50 rounds of golf at Verdugo Hills on weekdays and 70 to 80 on weekends, Mascarenas said.
Business fell off when owners announced development plans six years ago and has never recovered, as people thought the course's fate was sealed, he added.
"I want to get out to the community and say, 'Hey listen, if you guys really want to save this golf course, you want to come down and participate in it," Mascarenas said. "That will be the way to save this place."
Hoberman encouraged people interested in the future of the site to contact him at VerdugoHillsGolfCourse@yahoo.com or (818) 881-7488.