The Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club will be able to allow more non-Covenant residents to play at the club as the Rancho Santa Fe Association board voted 5-1 in favor of expanding the sponsored membership category on July 5. RSF Association Vice President Allen Finkelson made the motion to expand the category from 25 to 35, less than the tennis club board’s requested 50 spots.
RSF Association Director Sharon Ruhnau voted against it and Director Steve Dunn was not present.
“I am certainly happy that the Association board had the confidence in giving us an expanded number because the sponsored memberships have brought energy into the club,” said RSF Tennis Club President Raj Tolani.
The item had been continued by the board from June, when the Association board asked that the tennis club conduct a vote of its membership on the potential increase. The vote was not conducted because RSF Association Manager Christy Whalen said it was determined it was not required. The tennis club had previously surveyed its members on the category and over 60 percent were in support.
RSF Association Director Mike Gallagher said he has always been supportive of the effort to expand the membership category as he believes it is in the best interest of the resident members of the club.
“The tennis club is a small organization with a relatively small revenue stream,” Gallagher said. “They have a need to find additional revenues in order to make this club healthy and viable financially.”
Gallagher said additionally, the club needs enough playing members to support the needs of resident members and to promote team play. Tolani said that there is a really good level of activity at the club right now with a lot of leagues and traveling teams.
RSF Association Director Rick Sapp encouraged the club to monitor court usage and should congestion occur, explore the need for a court reservation system to ensure that resident members can always access the facility.
Tolani said he agreed that it is important to maintain the “ambiance” of the club and ensure that courts are available when members want to play. The increased number of memberships gives the the board the flexibility to add members but it is also up to them to control it, to ensure the high quality of the club.
“I look at the increased memberships as an opportunity to give the board the tools to run the club as a nice, vibrant social and tennis club,” Tolani said.
With the sponsored membership category, non-residents pay a premium for the privilege of playing at the club. A member in good standing at the RSF Tennis Club can sponsor someone from outside the Covenant area and the member must be vetted and approved by the RSF Tennis Club board. The sponsored member pays an enrollment fee and more than double the monthly dues of regular Covenant resident members a year. Sponsored members cannot vote or hold offices but they are allowed to bring guests.
The current plan provides that if the Association decides to do away with the category, the sponsored members can keep their membership for two fiscal years. As part of his motion, Finkelson changed the “safe harbor” period from two years to one fiscal year.
Earlier in the year, the Association board took issue with the fact that the tennis club had a waiting list for the sponsored membership category where people paid a non-refundable deposit of $2,500 and were allowed to play tennis at the club in the meantime. RSF Association Treasurer Janet Danola wanted to make it clear that going forward people on the waiting list will no longer pay nor will they have playing privileges.
“I was very opposed to this,” said Finkelson, noting that he had made public statements that he would never support a change.
He said what changed his mind was learning that there are number of organizations and entities under the Association’s umbrella that offer a wide variety of access to non-residents for usage.
“I was persuaded that it was unfair to beat up on the tennis club at this point of time without further reflection on all the other entities that have access to our facilities,” Finkelson said.
He requested Association staff gather data on all of these organizations and entities and develop a rational approach to deal with the concept of non-residents.
As one example of other non-resident memberships, the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club recently discovered two categories of non-resident social memberships during an accounting review that no one really knew about. There are no records of the memberships in either the Association or Golf Club records, although an application form was found.
The two categories, one for former residents and one a sponsored-member category, allows non-residents access to the main clubhouse and snack bar but prohibits access to the player’s clubhouse. The members are charged a little over $400 a year and there are currently 36 sponsored guests and 40 non-resident members.
The RSF Golf Club board is currently reviewing the language for the categories as well as the current fee structure and will come back to the Association board with a formal presentation in the coming months.