Part 2: 2017 Rancho Santa Fe Year in Review


Below is Part 2 of the 2017 Rancho Santa Fe Year in Review, which covers the second six months of the year.


-The 36th annual Fourth of July Parade hits the streets of Rancho Santa Fe.

-The San Dieguito Union High School District continued to face questions on how it plans to address the issue of the ATP portables. In August, the board found a solution by moving the program into three classrooms at La Costa Canyon High School. The district also formed a Special Education Task Force to engage in a long-term strategic planning process for special education services.

-Rancho Santa Fe was treated to seven happy and heartwarming pop-up art installations throughout the summer. The mystery artist, who claims, in fact, not to be an artist at all, said he was hoping to share messages of love, hope, peace and empathy with the community.

“The art was a simple gesture of gratitude and thankfulness and meant as a give back to the community I live in every day,” the artist said. “Hope, love, peace, empathy and happiness are the guiding themes to each piece.”

One of the artist’s works was inspired by a dying Canary Island Palm Tree on El Apajo—he created a girl made of willow hugging the tree.The tree’s heart was made of grape vines that slowly pulsated until the last day of the sculpture when the light when out for the entire night.

By fall, long after the pop-up art had gone, the dead tree had been removed.

-A SDG&E infrastructure upgrade project began in July, making improvements to the substation on Via de Santa Fe and bringing new poles, wires, connections and transformers. A total of 120 wooden poles will be replaced with fire-resistant steel poles, bringing the transmission lines from 4 kV to 12 kV. Phase one of the work was expected to be complete by December and phase two is expected to begin in January 2018 and take 11 months, completing in November 2018.

-The RSF School District board approved the renewal of a policy on continued enrollment of children whose parents are temporarily not residing in the district.

The policy was adopted by the board in 2008 to address a very limited exception to the rule set forth by the California Legislature that only parents or legal guardians who actually reside in the district may enroll their children in the district. The policy provides a limited exception during the period when the parent or guardian will be temporarily residing outside the district due to renovation or construction work, provided the resident had lived in the district for at least three years.

In July, board member Scott Kahn made an announcement about his own residency status — he has been a permanent resident of Rancho Santa Fe for six years and he recently purchased land in Rancho Santa Fe to build a new home. He had been renting but the rental property was sold and he was unable to find a suitable living arrangement in the district. As a result, Kahn will be living temporarily outside the district for seven to 10 months while his new home is built and plans to immediately move in once construction is completed.


-The RSF Association approved a 4,466-square-foot building on the vacant lot on El Tordo and La Granada that will serve as the home of the new and expanded Rancho Santa Fe Pharmacy. The pharmacy will move across the street to the new building next to Rancho Santa Fe Flowers and Gifts.

“It completely enhances the intersection,” said architect Allard Jansen, noting that the building will feature a shaded arcade, tiled alcoves along the La Granada frontage and 12 rooftop parking spaces.

-Ponsaty’s restaurant in the village closed on Aug. 13 and re-opened days later as Nick & G’s, with a revamped menu and freshened-up look.

-The first residential parcel at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe was sold to RSF resident LaDonna Monsees for $4.5 million. Monsees has lived in Rancho Santa Fe for 17 years and has a vested interest in the community, serving as the chair of the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s Village Revitalization Task Force. Moses aims to develop the three casitas on the 1.88-acre property into step-down housing. She also plans to expand the walking path on La Gracia and underground two unsightly power poles on the street.

-Director Mike Licosati resigned from the RSF Association board after moving full-time into his family’s new home in Solana Beach. Licosati had served on the board since 2014.

-Rancho Santa Fe’s Secret Car Club Saturday meet-ups were discontinued. The popular club, which was not truly a secret, brought classic cars and people together in the village on weekend mornings.

“Watching the group this past Saturday I found that the ‘feel’ of the group has changed. A number of the cars showing up are not members of the group and the close knit social feel has disappeared,” wrote founder Chris Erickson. “I have decided after several discussions to discontinue the Saturday meets in Rancho Santa Fe. Indefinitely.”

A new group, Rancho Santa Fe Cars and Coffee took over in the village in the fall, gathering every Saturday morning although there have been some complaints about the new group.

-RSF School District board approved a strategic plan for the arts after a year of reflection to determine the best path for visual and performing arts at R. Roger Rowe School

-The descendents of early Rancho Santa Fe settler Juan Maria Osuna returned to the Osuna Ranch to relive a 181-year-old chapter in their family’s heritage. Nate Larson, whose fourth great-grandfather was Osuna, brought his grandmother Marie Lawson to the ranch for her 95th birthday on Aug. 12—Lawson’s mother Frances Osuna was born in the Osuna Adobe in 1903.

- Palma de la Reina, the final piece of the Whispering Palms master plan drafted back in 1962 opens. The mixed-use project on Cancha de Golf includes 54 apartments and retail and commercial tenants. In 2018, the center is set to welcome Cappuccino, an Italian coffee house with a gourmet convenient market from the owners of the village’s Rancho Santa Fe Bistro.


-More than 60 rescued dogs and cats from Texas arrive at Helen Woodward Animal Center to make room at Houston shelters for animals displaced during Hurricane Harvey

-Marti Ritto resigned from the RSF School board after serving on the board for seven years. The board elected to fill Ritto’s vacancy through an appointment process rather than a special election.

-The new Earl Warren Middle School opens in Solana Beach.

-The village gets new parking with the addition of 12 new angled parking spaces and 10 are new marked parallel spaces on El Tordo and La Gracia. Residents had to get used to the change of El Tordo now being a one-way street in that portion.

-The RSF Association’s Trails and Recreation committee completed the arduous task of completing a comprehensive rail map for the community. According to Trails and Recreation Chair Daniel Bunn, the last time the map was updated was nearly 12 years ago. The process has taken nearly five years with an exhaustive check of every easement in the 60-mile system.

-The Fairbanks Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe Invasive Plant Removal and Stream Enhancement Project started in September,a project to remove highly flammable and invasive plants like Arundo donax (giant cane), eucalyptus, tamarisk, pampas grass and palm trees that have infested the area, leading to increased fire risk and degrading the native habitat.

Following the Witch Creek Fire in 2007, the invasive non-native vegetation has grown back in greater numbers between the communities of Fairbanks Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe, and the project is a huge collaborative undertaking to reduce those potential fire hazards. The goal is to remove all substantial stands of these invasive species by 2022.

The project is a partnership between the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, the California Native Plant Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the Fairbanks Ranch Association, the Rancho Santa Fe Association, Rancho Santa Fe Fire Department and local homeowners.

“The project is a really good example of how a tragic event like the Witch Creek Fire and all of the fires after it can bring together a lot of different groups and people to work together to do something positive, reducing fire risk and enhancing the native habitat,” said Jack Hughes, conservation manager for the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy.

- R. Roger Rowe teachers marched and wore red in solidarity to raise awareness about ongoing negotiations between the Rancho Santa Fe Faculty Association and the school district.


-October marked the 10th anniversary of the Witch Creek Fire that blazed through Rancho Santa Fe.

-RSF Association voters overwhelmingly approved one gigabit internet service provided by the RSF Connect fiber optic network. The project received 799 “yes” votes and 141 “no” votes. With the favorable advisory vote, the Association will now construct and own the 65-70 mile-long fiber backbone and contract with an internet service provider to operate the network.

“An 85 percent approval is astounding,” said RSF Association President Fred Wasserman. “It shows that we’re moving in the right direction for this community.”

The Association should have a permit sometime in January and begin construction in the first quarter of 2018. The project will take 18 to 24 months to construct.

-The RSF School board gave direction for the district to explore the feasibility of pursuing a potential general obligation bond in 2018. Additionally, the board approved issuing a request for qualifications and proposals for an architectural firm to review and update the district’s facilities master plan.

-The RSF School board interviewed five candidates for its board vacancy and appointed attorney and new Rancho Santa Fe resident Jon Yonemitsu to the board.

-It took six secret ballots but the RSF Association board appointed Mike Gallagher to fill its board vacancy. Gallagher has been a Rancho Santa Fe resident since 2005, retiring to the community with his wife Linda. Gallagher has a 36-year background in the consumer packaged goods industry, including serving as the CEO of Playtex Products from 1995 to 2004. Gallagher will fill the remainder of Licosati’s term, which expires in June 2018. Fred Wasserman’s seat will also be up for election in the spring.


-The Breeders’ Cup comes to Del Mar.

-The RSF Association proposed new regulations prohibiting vacation rentals in the Covenant. The Covenant regulations are very specific that owners are not allowed to rent out guest homes, however, it is silent on renting out an entire residence or room. The proposed rule prohibits vacation rentals as defined by anything less than 30 consecutive days; it prohibits advertisement of short-term rentals; it requires that a lease be for an entire dwelling and not merely for a portion of a dwelling or guest house; and members who rent dwellings subject to the regulation must notify the Association manager in writing with the names of all occupants, the make, model and license number of all occupants’ vehicles, the telephone number and the e-mail for the tenants, the number and type of pets kept by the occupants and a complete copy of the lease and “any other information reasonably needed by the manager.”

-Torrey Pines High School broke ground on the new performing arts center, 43 years in the making. The curtains are set to rise on the new $24 million performing arts center in 2019, which will feature a performing arts center building and music/dance building linked by a central plaza designed as a small outdoor performing space.

-Rancho Santa Fe’s Osuna Adobe was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places as one of the oldest historic adobes in California. The National Register, administered by the National Park Service part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, is the official list of buildings and sites that are worthy of preservation due to their significance in American history, architecture and culture. The adobe, located on the Rancho Santa Fe Association-owned Osuna Ranch on Via de Santa Fe, dates back to the 1830s and was home to the first mayor of San Diego. After the adobe fell into disrepair in the 1920s, it was remodeled by Rancho Santa Fe architect Lilian Rice.

-The Santa Fe Irrigation District board approved a 4 percent rate increase, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The 3-1 decision, with director David Petree casting the lone “no” vote, will require the district to scale back its 10-year capital improvement plan by 25 percent, to $45 million from $60 million.

-The long-lamented porta potty at Rancho Santa Fe’s Richardson Field will soon be gone for good as the Association has approved the construction of a permament restroom facility inside the snack bar on the fields on Rambla De Las Flores.

-A couple of patriotic R. Roger Rowe School third graders, Madison Stine and Grace Miller, raised $2,295, plus a matching $2,295 check from Grace’s family, to send two World War II veterans from San Diego to Washington D.C. on an Honor Flight in May 2018. Honor Flight San Diego, a nonprofit branch of a nationwide network, transports America’s veterans free of charge to Washington D.C. to visit the memorials that honor their service and sacrifice of themselves and their friends. To thank the girls, Honor Flight had World War II veteran Val Valentine pay a visit to the school. Valentine turned 93 on Christmas Day. -The RSF Faculty Association and the RSF School District were able to reach an agreement, closing contract negotiations for the 2017-2018 school year. The board agreed to a one-time, on-salary schedule payment equal to 2 percent for classified and certificated employees, as well as a one-time 2 percent on-salary schedule payment for both employee groups.

-The RSF Tennis Club recently made a $310,000 contribution toward Rady Children’s Hospital’s planned Copley Psychiatric Emergency Department, which aims to be the region’s first pediatric psychiatric emergency department and one of very few in the nation to serve the unique needs of young patients with mental and behavioral health challenges.

In just four days, 50 members of the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club pledged more than $67,000. With matching funds from the Copley Foundation and Earnest Rady, plus an anonymous donor pledging $100,000, the club was able to present a $310,000 check to Rady Children’s Foundation. The donation was the first part of a five-year commitment to the Copley Psychiatric Emergency Department initiative — the club has also named Rady the beneficiary of April’s RSF Pro Am Invitational, the club’s signature charity event.


-A special election was called for April 24, 2018 to fill the vacant RSF School board seat . A petition of 110 signatures was submitted to the San Diego County Superintendent of Schools objecting to the school board’s appointment process — the first successful petition of this kind in San Diego County since 1994. As a result of the petition effort, board member Jon Yonemitsu’s provisional appointment was officially terminated on Dec. 15.

-The San Dieguito Union High School District board completed its transition from a at-large election method to by-trustee voting areas. After public input, the board selected the “Cranberry 1” map out of eight options on the table. The transition to by-trustee areas was undertaken in response to threats of costly litigation for violations of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

-After reviewing a large amount of public input received, the RSF Association board decided to delay its consideration of a new regulation prohibiting short-term housing in the Covenant. A future date for reconsideration of the regulation has not been determined.

-Volunteers poured into the Del Mar Fairgrounds to lend a helping hand and supplies for the horses displaced by the Lilac Fire on Dec. 7. Many horses had been evacuated from the San Luis Rey Downs, a training facility in Bonsall that housed 500 thoroughbreds. Three-quarters of San Luis Rey was destroyed and nearly 50 thoroughbreds died.

By the evening of Dec. 12, when officials wound down their volunteer response, more than 3,000 volunteers had applied to help out. The pile of donated clothing was huge and food donations totaled several tons.

“The support from the community was absolutely overwhelming,” said Russ Penniman, president of the 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors.