Trees lost in storm; Rancho Santa Fe Association board approves forest study

RSF Association parks and recreation crew tackled down trees in the storm.
RSF Association parks and recreation crew tackled down trees in the storm.

The Rancho Santa Fe community “weathered the storm” as strong rainfall soaked San Diego Jan. 20-24.

“We had quite a busy four days,” said Christy Whalen, Rancho Santa Fe Association Covenant administrator and assistant manager during an update at the Feb. 2 board meeting.

The Rancho Santa Fe Patrol received 88 calls over the course of the storm, including seven streets that were flooded, three vehicles stuck in water, three downed powerlines, four collisions, two minor mudslides, traffic signs down and lots of high winds.

“When we get high winds in this community it sets off a lot of people’s alarms so there were a lot of home alarm calls as well,” Whalen said. “As our Patrol sergeant reported it: it was ‘general chaos.’”

The Association parks and recreation crew was also extremely busy during this time, Whalen said, helping clear the some 30-40 trees that had fallen down on Association properties.

“That does not count the probably hundreds of trees that went down on private properties in the Covenant,” Whalen said. “Our crew has done a great job over the last five years of identifying and removing diseased and dead trees, so I think it could have been a lot worse.”

Whalen said they were fortunate that most of the trees fell away from the roadway, although El Camino Real was closed for a time due to downed trees.

In neighboring Fairbanks Ranch, Facilities Manager Crescent Jakubs said they had four large eucalyptus trees and one pine fall down within the community, as well as one pine down outside along San Dieguito Road.

Jakubs said they had “extensive” water runoff through the community and some flooding through walkways and canyon areas, but no major damage or structural issues.

While the Covenant lost trees in the storm, the community planting event on Jan. 28 at the Osuna Ranch brought 35 new trees, planted by about 70 volunteer attendees.

The Association is also taking steps toward addressing the issue of dead and diseased trees in the Ranch. On Feb. 2, the board approved a Committee on the Natural Environment (CONE) request to conduct a forest health study. The Association approved contracts with environmental consulting firm Dudek and community tree advocate organization Tree San Diego to create the data-driven assessment of the Covenant’s trees.

The study will include maps, photos, spreadsheets and charts of the forest and summaries about composition, health, density and fire threat. It will also provide recommendations to address health and fire threat issues.

The Association will allocate $30,000 toward the $50,000 cost of the study. The rest will come from a $20,000 donation from the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.