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L.A. City Council rejects golf cart contract

Amid heavy lobbying, it decides not to award a 10-year contract to a new concessionaire. The current operator will continue on a month-to-month basis while the selection process starts over.

September 05, 2009|Maeve Reston

Los Angeles golfers who have complained about deteriorating carts on the city's seven public courses may not see changes any time soon.

After an intense lobbying effort, the City Council rejected the recommendation of the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners to award a 10-year contract for cart rentals to a new concessionaire, Sherman Oaks-based Ready Golf Centers. It was the city's third attempt in six years to choose a concessionaire through a competitive bidding process.

Councilman Dennis Zine said he had "never been lobbied so hard on an issue in eight years" as a council member. "I don't know what the hidden agenda is, but I question why so many lobbyists are involved," he said.

Barry A. Sanders, president of the park commissioners board, said the city's longtime golf cart operator, J.H. Kishi Co., will continue on a month-to-month contract while the panel starts over.

Kishi has expressed a willingness to make improvements, said Jon K. Mukri, head of the city's parks department. But he said the city was "back to status quo, except we can expect it to possibly get worse."

The council weighed in with three separate votes Friday. In an 8-6 vote, council members Richard Alarcon, Jose Huizar, Paul Koretz, Bernard C. Parks, Jan Perry, Ed Reyes, Greig Smith and Zine voted to reject the contract with Ready Golf Centers. In a second vote that was merely a recommendation, Alarcon, Huizar, Koretz, Parks, Perry, Reyes, Smith and Councilman Herb Wesson said parks commissioners should give Kishi a new five-year contract to allow the company to invest in improvements that have been difficult to finance under a month-to-month contract.

In a third vote, a council majority also recommended a new analysis of whether the city should assume operations of the golf cart rentals, a proposal favored by the Service Employees International Union, Local 721. Mukri said he has serious reservations about that idea in the midst of the city's financial crisis.

During a bidding process that evaluated the companies on six criteria, a panel of municipal golf officials from other cities concluded that Ready Golf's business plan was superior to that of Kishi, which has operated the city's golf cart rentals for more than three decades. But a number of council members noted that Ready Golf has not operated a golf cart business. Some council members also said they were troubled that Ready Golf was offering the city a 39% share of gross revenue when Kishi was offering 50%.

Harvey Englander, a lobbyist for Kishi, said he was pleased that the council "saw there were deficiencies" in the process of rating the bidders.

Jerold Neuman, Ready Golf's lobbyist, said the decision was a disappointment but that the company would continue seeking the business.


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