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RSF Association requests Tennis Club take vote on sponsored memberships

The Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club is looking to increase its sponsored memberships.
(Rob McKenzie)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association again held off on approving the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club’s request to increase its sponsored membership category. The board last reviewed the club’s request in April to have the flexibility to bring in more players who reside outside of the Covenant, increasing the category from 25 non-resident members to 50.

The board requested that the tennis club conduct a vote of its membership on the potential increase and come back before the board in August or September when it has been accomplished.

“You need to confirm that it’s what the membership wants, in a structured way so there’s no challenge to the issue,” said outgoing RSF Association President Fred Wasserman.

The sponsored membership category was first approved by the RSF Association board in February 2015, allowing non-residents to join as playing partners for members and pay a premium for the privilege of playing in the Covenant club. With the category, 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. Recently the club raised dues for members by $50 across the board and sponsored memberships went up $180, bringing it to $2,680 a year. Sponsored members cannot vote or hold offices but they are allowed to bring guests, a point that some board members questioned. The guest fee is the same for all RSF Tennis Club members at $12 and the number of times a guest can play is limited.

Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club President Raj Tolani said the club board has evaluated the program very carefully—it has been successful in increasing the vitality and financial viability of the club as well as providing for more compatibility and competitive play.

“I believe the tennis board has the best interest of the community in mind,” Tolani said.

He said he believes that the tennis club already has a mandate to offer the sponsored memberships, based on a survey of the members that showed over 60 percent were in support.

The club currently has 361 active members and 31 are sponsored through the 25 existing memberships (which includes family memberships) and 10 on the waiting list. In April the Association board took issue with the fact that those on the waiting list paid a non-refundable deposit of $2,500 and have been allowed to play tennis at the club in the meantime.

Tolani said by increasing the category, he does not think that they will be adding 25 new members right away. Of the 10 on the wait list, Tolani said one has purchased a home in the Covenant and one has opted out.

“Essentially I think this community needs a viable tennis club,” Tolani said. “Given the population of the community and the percentage of people who play tennis, you don’t have the financial viability to run this club.”

The membership category allows the tennis club board to preserve a valuable community asset, he said.

RSF Association Treasurer Janet Danola and Director Rick Sapp said they have heard some complaints that the sponsored memberships are not opened up to the full club and that spots are quickly filled by players sponsored by members of the tennis club board.

As a tennis club member, Sapp said he was never notified of the plan to add memberships nor did he receive a survey. “I’m a member and I haven’t had the opportunity to weigh in,” Sapp said.

Tolani said notice of the survey was posted to the club bulletin board and the survey was emailed to all members.

In the Association board members’ conversations, they initially wanted to request that the club purchase a reservation management system to be able to evaluate the finances, court usage and look at what the club really needs before they made their decision.

Director Steve Dunn said he did not believe it was in the Association board’s purview to tell the tennis board how to run their operation, as long as it was being run consistently and in favor of the members of the Association.

“I think we’re overplaying this,” said Dunn. “This isn’t a brand new topic, it’s operational right now. Everyone at the tennis club knows about it, it’s been discussed for the last six months, it’s not like it’s a big surprise.”

Dunn said no one has asked for survey results nor have they received a petition to stop the sponsored memberships.Speaking in favor of requiring a tennis club vote, Sapp said the Association board just wants to ensure that what is essentially a change in the tennis club’s plan of operations is being made in the most open and efficient way.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to communicate with your membership,” agreed Director Mike Gallagher.


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