The Rancho Santa Fe Association did not post the notice of its Dec. 7 regular board meeting in the required four days in advance so the meeting was turned into a town hall, discussing non-action items and taking public comment. The board rescheduled its regular board meeting for Friday, Dec. 15.
At the impromptu town hall, RSF Association President Fred Wasserman made an official announcement that they have deferred taking action on the proposed regulations to prohibit short-term rentals in the Covenant.
“The rental regulations are not under consideration currently by the board,” Wasserman said.
Board member Allen Finkelson said they received a number of comments from the community during the 30-day public comment period, “a lot opposed, a lot in favor and a lot asking questions.”
Some of the comments in opposition were that the Association board was attempting to take away property rights, however, Finkelson said they are simply enforcing the protective Covenant. Finkelson said the Protective Covenant defines single-family dwellings as a home being occupied by a family and it is “quite clear” that the definition does not permit room rentals. He said the Covenant also makes it clear that members are not allowed to rent an accessory building like a guest house.
“Those rules are in the Covenant now so we’re not taking property rights away regarding those two things,” Finkelson said. “That was not invented by (this board) and we have an obligation to enforce that.”
Enforcement, he said, simply means the Association investigating if there are complaints of a Covenant violation.
Wasserman said speaks to another issue the Association has been working on: establishing a fee schedule to be able to enforce a fine if a member is not following the rules. Currently they are only able to take away golf, tennis and/or social club memberships and suspend their voting rights.
Questions on Association assessments
During public comment, Covenant member Alex Kaiser asked if the Association would be willing to make it a priority to address the inequity of its assessments.
Currently, per the Covenant, dues are determined based on the assessed value of one’s home as shown on tax rolls and not the property’s fair market value. Kaiser argued that due to Proposition 13, this has resulted in an inequity that is unfair — some members pay $100 a year while others are paying as much as $20,000 to $45,000 for the exact same services.
Proposition 13 tax reform, property tax value was rolled back and frozen at the 1976 assessed value level. Property tax increases on any given property were limited to no more than 2 percent per year as long as the property was not sold. Covenant lots or homes owned continuously since 1960 are assessed dues as low as $300 a year when fair market value is more like $14,000, Kaiser said.
Kaiser said if a home in a Prop 13 situation is left to a family member, the value remains the same and that family member enjoys that subsidy for however many years follow. “At some point it has to come to finality,” he said.
Earlier in the year it was rumored that a group of residents was considering a lawsuit against the Association to challenge how dues are assessed.
Kaiser said there is some legal precedence in a case regarding the Emerald Bay Community Association in Orange County in 1984. The court ruled that a similar provision establishing dues assessments based on assessed values would no longer be consistent with the intent of the framers of their protective covenant because Prop 13 caused a disparity between fair market value and assessed value.
“Prop 13 creates a variance that keeps growing and growing and it doesn’t stop itself,” Kaiser said.
Wasserman said that the issue has been raised in the past and the board does not have the resources to devote to the complicated issue at this time. He said it would be a major effort and one that would have to be initiated by members.
Finkelson said the Association relies on the Covenant to direct how properties are assessed and it would be difficult for the board to take a contrary position.
“It is not on the agenda of this board,” Wasserman said.
As part of his report, Building Commissioner Tom Farrar spoke about the Association’s efforts to enhance the village area through increasing the amount of parking. He said a lack of parking has been identified as one of the main issues leading to a lack of village retail and visitors.
“What staff is doing and continues to do is really trying to improve the supply of convenient parking and attract more retail land uses,” Farrar said.
This year the Association increased the number of village spaces by 21 due to the re-striping of El Tordo, creating angled parking.
The Association is also working with the San Diego County on creating a resident permit parking area. Farrar said the increase of short-term parking spaces tends to push parking into the residential areas, potentially creating a problem. The administration of a residential permit could be a solution for village homeowners.
The Association has also conducted a parking survey, making an effort to talk to all 42 businesses in the village about the number of employees they have and how many employee spaces they have to determine the parking shortage.
Farrar said their survey found 35 percent have no on-site parking, 72 percent have less than five designated spaces. Employee numbers range from two to 40.
The Association has looked at potential surplus parking lots at the Santa Fe Irrigation District, the R. Roger Rowe School and the Christian Science Fellowship, which has 48 spaces — unfortunately Farrar said none of the options have been promising.
Two years ago, the Association considered a lease with the church to provide spaces for village business employees but the idea was shelved after 82 percent of the businesses said that employees wouldn’t use the lot and walk.
Farrar said the Association will continue to look for solutions to the village parking problem, noting that there may be some areas to add more angled spaces.