Association considers fine schedule for Covenant violations

The Rancho Santa Fe Association will soon have the ability to assess fines to members in violation of the Covenant, which it hasn’t been able to do since the document was drawn up in 1929. Per its governing documents, the only action the Association is able to take in the occurrence of a Covenant violation is to revoke a member’s privileges from the golf and tennis club or prohibit the member from voting in Covenant elections.

RSF Association President Fred Wasserman said he believes that the proposed new fine schedule will help tremendously with code enforcement by finally giving the Association some “teeth.” The proposed fines will be posted for 30 days for public review and comment and will be an action item on the board’s March agenda.

Association Building Commissioner Tom Farrar said that the fine schedule is the product of months of research and analyzing, to determine “fair and reasonable” fines.

Code enforcement hasn’t always been a priority of the Association, Farrar said, but over the past year having Senior Planner Roger Scherer working as a code enforcement officer has given them more opportunities to deal with violations.

The Association currently has 121 ongoing code enforcement cases.

“The vast majority are small in terms of the type of violation but while it may be small in our eyes, for the neighbor next door it’s not a small issue so we try to treat them all equally,” Farrar said.

Over the past year, Farrar said the Association has been able to resolve over 60 cases but the proposed fines will hopefully provide more incentive to resolve issues.

Some residents at the meeting were grateful to hear about the proposed “teeth” as they have been dealing with some serious issues with neighboring properties.

Covenant resident Stan Stine said he has suffered over $100,000 in damages to his property since 2016 due to drainage problems caused by his neighbor erecting a slope. The run-off of groundwater, mud and silt has caused flooding, sinkholes, mud-clogged and broken drain pipes, uprooted California pepper trees and caused the loss of 14 trees in his lemon grove, Stine said.

This was Stine’s third time coming before the Association board, having asked the board for help with the situation in November and December, as well as attending a Covenant Design Review Committee meeting. He said he believes there would be “teeth” in revoking his neighbor’s playing privileges as he is a golf club member.

The slope is part of the neighbor’s plans for a solar installation, pool and backyard update. Scherer said he has been working with the neighbor in question recently and issued a stop work notice for the solar project for review.

Resident Andrew Kaperonis complained that his neighbor has turned his home off of El Camino del Norte into a full-scale commercial trucking operation. He said there are six trucks on site and a 54-foot trailer that is constantly being worked on.

“Buses and trucks are in plain site from any room in our house,” said Kaperonis, noting that the noise often keeps his children awake.

Kaperonis said when the neighbor moved in February of last year, he put up a chain link fence with barbed wire near his equestrian arena. The neighbor has also converted his pool house into a dispatch office with eight full-time employees to manage the fleet that transports rescue animals.

“What he does with the dogs is wonderful but none of that occurs here, what this is is basically a trucking yard,” Kaperonis said.

Kaperonis has talked to his neighbor for almost a year and has made a complaint with the county, as well as to the state and OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The Association has been involved and Scherer said he has been out to the property three times since the Christmas holiday and has received multiple calls from other neighbors. He said the resident has been notified of the proposed new fine schedule and he has stated he will work on moving the trucks off and promised to remove the fence by Feb. 1.

“These two stories are beyond egregious,” said Director Mike Gallagher. “I hope we can look at these two cases expeditiously…and resolve these issues as fast as we possibly can.”

At this point, before the fine schedule is approved, the Association is only able to work with its existing rules. Farrar said it is rare that there are cases like those two and he said while it is true that Stine’s case has been dragged out for a long period of time, there is an additional ongoing legal battle between the neighbors that the Association has been sensitive to.

Kaperonis questioned his neighbor’s ability to run a commercial enterprise out of his home but as the board discussed during its proposal to regulate home-sharing, prohibiting commercial activity is a more difficult issue for the Association to handle as it is hard to define what constitutes operating a professional business.

“Someone who wakes up in the morning and goes to their office in their pajamas and does their business in front of their computer in their house is very different than having eight full-time employees showing up for work every morning,” Kaperonis argued.

Per the proposed regulation, once the code enforcement officer learns of a potential violation, there will be a process followed which includes courtesy noticing and working to resolve the issue. If the issue is not resolved, a board hearing will be scheduled where the board can vote to impose discipline — the member will be given 15-days notice of the hearing. Per the proposed rule, the fine must be paid within five days.

The “very specific” fine amounts were not made available.

“We’re not hoping to impose a lot of fines, we’re hoping to encourage people to be more cooperative with Roger from the beginning,” said Director Allen Finkelson.In addition, the board has also approved posting a new “nuisance and special event” regulation for public review and comment. The new rule aims to target residences that are being used as wedding venues or parties.

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