Santa Ana, Garden Grove Open Talks Over Willowick Golf Course

Santa Ana and Garden Grove will begin talks about the possible redevelopment of the 102.1-acre Willowick Golf Course, after both city councils voted to approve a memorandum of understanding and hold a joint study session about uses for the property.

For years officials, without success, have floated various plans for the golf course, which is owned by the city of Garden Grove but located in Santa Ana.

In 2008, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido announced talks to turn the property into an arena for the soccer team Chivas USA, but the negotiations died in 2011. Garden Grove officials, meanwhile, considered turning the property into a rock and roll-themed amusement park.

In 2015, Santa Ana city officials discussed purchasing the property and converting it into a large public park, as an antidote to the city’s lack of park space.

Now with a ground lease for the operation of the golf course expiring in 2019, and construction of the Orange County Streetcar expected to be complete in 2020, officials are approaching the discussions with some added urgency.

The golf course is near the Garden Grove-Santa Ana border, next to the Santa Ana River and east of Harbor Boulevard.

The 4.15 mile route of the OC Streetcar begins at the Santa Ana Metrolink train station, runs through downtown Santa Ana and ends at Harbor Boulevard and Westminster Avenue in Garden Grove. The route runs along a section of the former Pacific Electric railroad, which could connect Willowick Golf Course to the main streetcar route.

Revenues to the city from the golf course have generally declined over the past decade. The golf course brought in $435,000 in the 2014-15 fiscal year compared to $650,000 in 2007-2008, according to city budgets.

The one-page memorandum of understanding between the two cities provides few details, but requires the two cities to hold a joint study session where they will discuss next steps.

Santa Ana City Council members approved the agreement at their Sept. 17 meeting, followed by the Garden Grove City Council at their Sept. 26 meeting.

Asked whether selling the property to Santa Ana for a park is on the table, Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones said, “probably not realistically.”

Although Garden Grove has not done an appraisal of the site, in 2015 the city finance director told the Orange County Register that the property is worth at least $200 million, at $2 million per acre.

Jones said both cities should “resist the temptation” to try to decide how the golf course should be developed.

“I would really like to hear from the private market what they envision is feasible and what would work there,” Jones said. “I think all too often cities try to define their vision for the site and they artificially create a lot of limitations for it.”

Contact Thy Vo at or 415-484-9286. Follow her on twitter @thyanhvo.

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    Orange County Equestrian Center!

    LEO mounted enforcement home base
    Equestrian programs for at risk youth and for disabled kids.
    World class polo facility for Valencia Polo Club redux
    Yes, Garden Grove had this polo club in the 50s, until 1963.
    Will Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks played a chukker, or two.
    The facility would have a convention hall, meeting rooms.
    For conventions, weddings, birthdays.
    A Santa Barbara slash old mission design
    Olive trees, Valencia oranges landscape the perimeters
    Urban farm outskirts, to grow food for its restaurants
    Craft brewery, fun eateries, tack shop, feed store.

    Honor the past. Reimagined for the future.
    Our agricultural, equestrian past for future generations.
    Next to our beloved Santa Ana River, the lifeline of our County.

    Please. Thank you.

  • Rod Sims

    Parks are hangouts for weirdos and generate $0. Willowick is a perfect place to learn how to play golf at an affordable price. The golfers also keep undesirable people out. Any downturn in golf course revenue is symptomatic to the golf industry in general because of too few courses and exorbitant prices. Leave it as it is, but upgrade the facilities.

  • Margaret

    We need Affordable housing (for people that make $15,000-50,000/year).

    • Rod Sims

      We do, but destroying a golf course isn’t the way to accomplish it. They did that to imperial golf course in Brea and they built luxury homes. They built condos around Brea’s executive course, too. Neither was affordable

  • David Zenger

    Wow. Two of the best run cities in OC. Something really exciting and profitable for someone is bound to ensue.

  • George Y

    What are they doing with the money that comes in? They certainly aren’t spending it on the golf course itself! I’m not too sure that I would call it fairly cheap, considering the lack of maintenance on the course. You could probably kill yourself trying to stay on what’s left of the cart paths, and the fairways are hardly fair!

  • the714

    It would be a shame to lose Willowick, one of the few bargain golf options around. But if the land is really that valuable… you know all the cities in OC are on the lookout for their own version of the Great Park, i.e. a land use project that starts out with great fanfare as “park” or something that would actually improve quality of life, but inevitably ends up as condos and Costcos, greatly enriching the developer allies of whoever is on the current City Council.

    • Rod Sims

      Quite right

  • SA Resident

    I say turn it into a nice golf course and people will actually want to play there. The city of Santa Ana cannot maintain the parks they have now, why would they add another…it would just turn into another crime infested crap hole.

    • Rod Sims


  • LFOldTimer

    Why don’t they turn it into a huge homeless camp and invite the homeless from LA and San Diego Counties to join us in OC?

    Let Spitzer coordinate it so he can pander for more votes.