Rancho Santa Fe Association board member questions tennis club guest fee policy

The Rancho Santa Fe Association board had a discussion about the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club’s guest fee policy at its March 2 meeting.

The board was approving the tennis club’s new governing documents which included a resolution regarding the club’s managerial, operational and financial responsibility and plan of operation. RSF Association board member Allen Finkelson noted that this was the first time the tennis club has ever had a resolution establishing the club as an independent body — it had always operated that way but did not have the same pro-forma relationship with the Association as the golf club.

The documents were approved in a 6-1 vote with Mike Licosati voting against them as he believes that the tennis club’s guest policy is unfair and inconsistent with the golf club’s guest policy.

“They are consistent in the fact that both of them limit the number of times that an individual can appear as a guest to 12,” Finkelson said. “They are different in the respect that golf does not limit a Covenant resident from being a guest whereas tennis does limit a Covenant member from being a guest.”

The golf club’s policy is that regular members can bring the same guest up to 12 times per fiscal year. The fee is $120 for 18 holes Monday through Thursday and $130 for 18 holes Friday through Sunday.

For Covenant residents, the guest fee for limited playing privileges is $1,000 a year—about $80 a round, versus a $12 fee for non-residents.

“That to me belies logic,” Licosati said. “The Association membership owns the property the tennis club is on and to discriminate against residents and charge them more than non-residents to me is unfair and unconscionable and I doubt it would survive legal scrutiny.”

Licosati also took issue with the fact that employees of the tennis club are allowed to bring guests for no guest fee at all, so they can bring non-residents as guests for free but are not allowed to bring residents.

“I’m strongly against that policy,” Licosati said.

Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club President Dave Van Den Berg said the guest fee policy has been in existence for a very long time. The reason that the club does not allow Covenant members to be guests is that it could damage the club’s finances and membership, he said.

“If we put a provision in to allow them to just pay the guest fee $12, we would lose a significant amount of revenue to the club,” Van Den Berg said.

Van den Berg said over half of the membership really doesn’t even use the tennis club, they support the club but many don’t come out to play 12 times a year. If the club changed the policy and all of those members wanted to switch and be guests that just pay $12 a session, it would put the club is serious financial harm.

Licosati said he understands the financial issues facing the club and said there is a simple solution: put in a health club and pool. He said golf clubs are in decline across the country and many have added health clubs

In 2014, the Association members approved a $250,000 feasibility study on a Covenant Club at the golf and tennis club campus. Cost estimates came in higher than expected at $15.8 million and the plan stalled and never went to a community-wide vote as planned.

“Despite the financial problems, discriminating against residents is not the answer to this,” Licosati said. “Charging residents five times as much as non-residents is unjustifiable. I don’t see how this board could sanction that.”

Van Den Berg said he believes that the club is an asset for the community and still quite the deal when compared to clubs in the area — others charge dues of anywhere from $300 to $700 a month and Rancho Santa Fe’s is $100 a month (after a $3,750 initiation fee).

“That is a tremendous benefit to the people that live in the Covenant,” Van Den Berg said. “If we can’t attract people at $100 a month, compared to $500 and $700, I don’t know what else we can do.”

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