Adobe Creek neighbors teed off

In the past nine months since its abrupt closure, the once-pristine Adobe Creek Golf Course on the fringe of Petaluma’s east side has become a massive overgrown blight on the community, frustrating residents who own homes in an upscale subdivision surrounding the now-defunct amenity.

A large group of property owners from the 320-home Adobe Creek Homeowners Association gathered Tuesday at Casa Grande High School to urge city and county leaders to help them find a resolution to mounting issues, including rat infestations, weeds, declining property values, dust, trespassers and dying trees. A path forward isn’t clear, as the 100-acre course is split between county and city jurisdiction and is governed by several layers of highly-restrictive land use regulations that all but solidify its use as open space or golf course.

On Jan. 1, the course’s owners shuttered the 18-hole facility amid declining business and what operators said were insurmountable financial losses amounting to $200,000 annually. The course faced rising costs while seeing a steady decline in play despite efforts to stabilize the business, which included revamping facilities and marketing, operators said.

The fate of the course has been the focus of much speculation this year and emotions are running high as homeowners continue to wait for answers while the grounds are subject to minimal maintenance. While property owners Tuesday implored city and county leaders to take a more active role, both entities are limited in the scope of what they can accomplish.

“Neither me nor any of my colleagues question the importance of this issue for your neighborhood or for the community, in terms of preserving the integrity of an important neighborhood, and I’m sure I speak for Supervisor David Rabbitt as well,” City Councilman Mike Healy said at the meeting. “The challenge here isn’t whether it’s important, the challenge is … what can we meaningfully do about the current situation as it stands given the legal parameters?”

Talk at the meeting focused in part on a potential sale of the course to a development group who would operate it as a golf course, though details were scarce. Richard Coombs, a general partner in Adobe Investments and Rooster Run Golf Club, and his partner, Larry Wasem, did not respond to requests for comment. Both are also involved with the Airport Business Center, a separate entity that’s a major developer in the county.

The land within the city limits is governed by a zoning requirement enacted in 1989 mandating that public access and use of the golf course be preserved through 2039. It would be a tough sell to get a judge to force the property owners to keep the course running, City Attorney Eric Danly said.

Both the city and the county land are under an open space easement requiring the property be maintained with a golf course or open space use in perpetuity, barring other development.

Applications for changes in those restrictions could be considered by city officials, though Danly said nothing has been submitted to the city.

A Dec. 12 letter operators sent to homeowners suggested several options, including a private park managed by the homeowners association that would cost an estimated $96,000 a year for upkeep or a purchase of the golf course by the association for $3.52 million, equal to the developer’s current investment.

Such an agreement would cost residents an estimated $650,000 annually while the business would likely continue to bleed financially. Also proposed was a vineyard and winery with additional homes and a nine-hole golf course, among other options that were rebuked by the city.

Healy pointed out that city staff has been in contact with the property owners. If an issue becomes a public nuisance, defined as a health or safety hazard or interferes with the community’s quality of life, the city can issues notices of violation, accompanied by fines of $1,000 a day if the issue isn’t remedied.

Public safety personnel, including police, code enforcement and fire officials, continue to respond to complaints on the course, though they have been remedied, Code Enforcement Officer Joe Garcia said. Petaluma Police Lt. Ron Klien said he’s not aware of any arrests on the course, nor citations that have been issued. Calls have included reports of youth fishing in ponds on the course or walking across the facility, he said.

“It’s low level – there’s nothing criminal going on out there,” he said.

At this point, Danly said the course is in compliance with city codes, but officials will continue keep tabs on the situation. The county will do the same, said Deputy County Counsel Aldo Mercado. Danly said the city has offered to provide recycled water to the course for free in trade for continued maintenance, but haven’t heard a final answer.

“I continue to be hopeful, as I’m sure everyone else here, is that this potential sale goes through. If it doesn’t, I’m offering to engage in all-hands mediation with the city, county, homeowners and property owners to see if there’s a solution,” Healy said.

Sally Hanson, the homeowner’s association president, said it’s not clear what will come next.

“In all honesty, right now I don’t know (about a path forward). We’re really at a crossroads,” she said. “Where do we go from here, I’m not sure yet.”

William Vestal, who has lived in a house backing up to the 10th fairway on the course for 21 years, said he’d like to find a solution that’s in the best interest of all homeowners while still preserving the views and scenic nature of the course.

“We need to make sure the city and county don’t allow open space easement modification,” he said.

In the meantime, Hanson said the “anger level is very high.”

“People are frustrated, it’s their homes and many of us have been here for almost 25 years,” said Hanson, who has owned her home for 19 years. “It’s just a shame when you look out at your backyard or when we come in the front entry way it looks horrible.”

(Contact Hannah Beausang at

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