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RSF Association CDRC denies effort to increase density in the Covenant

The Rancho Santa Fe Association’s Covenant Design Review Committee (CDRC) recommended the denial of a Covenant modification to increase the density of the Rancho Santa Fe Villas development. The modification for the Villas, a proposed development of 35 casita homes on 39.42 acres off Del Dios Highway near El Camino Del Norte, will go on to the Rancho Santa Fe Association board for review in the coming months.

Back in 2011, the RSF Association denied a Covenant modification for a previous version of the project.

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A conceptual design for Rancho Santa Fe Villas. Courtesy

The developers Quantum Estates, are requesting a modification from Class A single family homes to Class B, to allow a maximum of 35 casita homes on the property, an increase over the potentially seven legally buildable lots on the property.The modification would effectively change the 2.86 minimum lot size in the Covenant to accommodate for the higher density, according to Association Building Commissioner Tom Farrar, as well as change the property’s site coverage from 20 percent to 50 percent coverage.

Modifications require 2/3 approval from the adjacent property owners by land area—Quantum has received 66.66 percent approval from the surrounding acreage. There were a total of 11 votes with one property representing over 40 percent. In order for the CDRC board to recommend approval of the modification, the board must make the findings that the property has adequately-sized building areas and suitable topography; the rural character remains protected; the welfare of the community is protected; and all of the lot lines conform to the regulatory code.

At the Sept. 25 hearing, all five members of the CDRC could not make any of those findings, voting 5-0 to recommend denial on each point, citing that there are no other lots this small in the Covenant and that the “cluster development” did not represent adequately-sized building areas on the challenging topography of the site.

“This (project) absolutely does not protect the rural character,” said CDRC board member Shaunna Salzetti-Kahn said.

“It’s a beautiful development but I think it would be a beautiful development in a lot of different places,” said CDRC member Janet McVeigh. “I don’t see it as looking rural.”

Matthew Peterson, a land use attorney representing the developers, said with the Villas they are proposing more than just homes but a lifestyle for residents who are seeking step-down style housing in the Covenant.

The smaller estate homes would range from 3,700 to 4,700-square- feet, predominantly one-story in the Lilian Rice and Wallace Neff architectural style with three-car garages. A multitude of services will be provided for the community’s residents, including landscape maintenance and housekeeping services—they will even wash residents’ cars.

Peterson said ideally they would place the project in the village area but there is not 40 acres anywhere else in the Covenant for Class B uses.

“This is really the only opportunity the Ranch has to do it and the demand is growing greatly,” Peterson said, noting 80 percent of the population is 65 or older and some people are finding a large two-story home on three acres no longer meets their needs

.“It would be an amenity to the neighborhood,” said architect Allard Jansen of the Villas project. “There’s such a movement toward downsizing and this would help keep members in the community.”

With the Villas, the developers will also privately fund the Del Dios and El Camino del Norte roundabout that has been approved for the intersection, remove the existing sewer pump and landscape the hillside with trees— investing $95 million into the Covenant.

“We want to work with the community and make sure we do it right,” said Peterson. “We think we can do it right.”

During the CDRC hearing, people spoke both in favor and in opposition of the Covenant modification, although more voices were in opposition.

Resident Scott Carl said this type of development is “abhorrent” to anyone who enjoys and appreciates living in the Covenant, as he has done since 1967. Longtime resident Holly Manion agreed.

“This will not work in the Covenant, this proposal changes everything we’ve fought to protect,” Manion said. “It does not belong in the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant.”

Those in opposition said that the development negatively impacts the rural ambiance of the community and will set a precedent for more developers to seek increased density.

“We have very limited resources with land and once we go into higher density development, our rural character is gone,” said resident Beth Nelson.

A representative from the Sahm Family Foundation who owns the adjacent property on Del Dios Highway spoke in favor of the development as did Doug Mulvey, who has been building homes in Rancho Santa Fe for over 35 years: “I do think there is a demand for this and it will be utilized in a reasonable fashion,” he said.

Villas neighbor Rick Manoogian said when he first heard about the project he was against it but after meeting with the developer and considering the improvements such as the roundabout, he changed his mind.

“I think it would be a big boost to the Ranch and I actually think it will help traffic,” Manoogian said.

The modification will now move on to the Rancho Santa Fe Association board for consideration—five of the seven Association members would have to vote against the CDRC’s recommendation for it to be approved. If the modification is approved, a petition of 100 signatures from Association members could force a Covenant-wide vote on the project.

Opponents said if the Association board does not follow the CDRC’s recommendation, a vote would be likely—278 residents signed a petition this summer to stop densification in Rancho Santa Fe, which included the Villas project as well as any increases proposed on the Mabee property on Calzada del Bosque and the Sahm property.

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