Click photo to enlarge
Greg Clark, left, of Pleasant Hill, and Steve Nelsen, of Lafayette, play at Pine Meadow Public Golf Course in Martinez, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

The Martinez group calling itself Friends of Pine Meadow should think about a different name. Christine Dean, who owns Pine Meadow Golf Course, says they've been anything but friends.

While she struggles to get out from under insurance premiums, taxes and maintenance costs that bathe the course in red ink, the Friends group has led a referendum drive to overturn a recent general plan amendment enabling her to sell to a developer. They say they want to preserve the "open space."

"What's really frustrating," Dean said, "is to hear that once the open space is gone it's gone. It's never, ever been open space. This property has been fully developed since 1898. It's been a ranch, a winery, a farmer's store. It's had a bar, a restaurant, a pro shop, a golf course. There's been a residence here since 1962. It's not open space."

Her frustration is palpable. She and her family have been foiled at every turn in their effort to sell the 27-acre property they inherited. When the golf course designed by her late father began struggling several years ago, she tried to sell it to the city. Then she suggested the city buy it and turn it into a park. If not a park, maybe a community center. The City Council always said no.

"My brother, sister and I decided the only thing we could do was sell it to a developer," she said.

DeNova Homes has visions for the property -- a 99-home subdivision, with 5 acres of hiking and biking trails -- but only if it's zoned residential. The city's Design Review Committee, Planning Commission and City Council dissected the issue before approving a general plan amendment. That's when the Friends of Pine Meadow stepped in, and confusion has since reigned.



The "friends," led by Tim Platt, argued that the property was described in the general plan as "permanent open space/recreational," and that's all it can be. Mayor Rob Schroder said it's unclear how Pine Meadow received this designation or what it was intended to mean. (Planning Manager Dina Tasini said the term isn't used today.) Schroder added that general plans are living documents that can be amended four times a year, and Martinez's 40-year-old plan needs updating.

Platt took his fight to people, circulating a petition to "save" Pine Meadow. If enough signatures are legit -- they're being validated now -- a special election to reverse the amendment could come as soon as August, at an estimated cost of $100,000.

But Dean wonders if people understood what they were signing. A referendum won't save anything; it just prevents her from selling.

"I've had people come up to me at the golf course and say, 'Hey, we signed your petition,'" she said. "They thought they were doing me a favor. My husband, my kids and I were holding signs saying please don't sign until you get all the facts."

Platt claims Martinez residents are passionate about their parks. Dean says she'd be happy to sell her property to the city for that purpose, but the city has shown no interest. Coincidentally, Martinez's largest public parks -- Hidden Valley/Hidden Lakes -- sprawl across 42 acres just about two blocks from the golf course.

For now, Dean is left to twist in the wind. She plans to close the golf course on March 31, because it's costing money to stay open. The city won't buy it, and she can't sell to a developer until the zoning issue is resolved.

If there are any friends of Pine Meadow, they haven't demonstrated that to its owner.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayarenewsgroup.com.