The year in review for Rancho Santa Fe: A vote for transparency
2014 was a full one for Rancho Santa Fe. The Rancho Santa Fe Association went through a rocky election season, the removal and return of its board president and saw the departure of longtime Manager Pete Smith.
The word of the year was transparency, and voter registration saw a huge uptick as more and more community members sought to have their voices heard on a variety of issues.
A look at the year that was:
• Longtime resident Tom Clotfleter passes away at age 81. Clotfleter was born in 1932 at the Osuna Adobe and grew up exploring Rancho Santa Fe’s canyons and creeks. He co-founded The Country Friends, the RSF Book Club, and the Fourth of July parade, served on the Santa Fe Irrigation District board for 28 years and helped the Association purchase the McMorrow property, now known as the Arroyo property, as open space. At the May annual meeting, he was honored posthumously with a community service award.
• Mike Bardin enters his 10th year as Santa Fe Irrigation District manager.
•A petition signed by 120 members prompts a meeting about the status of the Association’s purchase of the RSF Garden Club after a year’s worth of negotiations appeared to have stalled. Director Heather Slosar moves to have another community-wide vote on the purchase, but it fails 3-4 with only Slosar, President Ann Boon and Craig McAllister voting for another vote.
• The RSF Association approves a resolution on Feb. 6 to buy the Garden Club for $2.4 million. Boon, Slosar and Craig McAllister vote against it, saying they felt the conditions of the sale had changed enough to warrant another vote. In the 2013 community-wide vote, 667 of 785 votes favored the sale.
A petition turned in on Feb. 27 singed by 177 people forces the second community-wide vote.
• A letter signed by 33 community members goes out after the Feb. 6 meeting in which Boon discussed the budget, employee compensation, transparency, requests for information and an error found in a 2011 form 990 tax return. The letter alleges that Boon’s actions at that meeting were inappropriate and disrespectful of the staff.
• RSF Association Manager Pete Smith goes on sick leave.
• On Feb. 20, Boon is removed as president of the RSF Association board in a 5-2 vote, with Boon and director Craig McAllister voting against the ouster. “The board lost confidence in Ann’s leadership and felt she was no longer the right person to run the board,” Vice President Rochelle Putnam said at the time.
• The Association replaces 7,000 linear feet of fencing along the lower half of the golf course that was falling down and rotted.
• The Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild celebrates 50 years in the community. Before the library existed, Rancho Santa Fe was served by the county bookmobile, which visited a couple of afternoons a month, and a small lending library at Bill and Emma’s Café, a soda fountain on Paseo Delicias.
The new library was built on the Ewing property, the old Post Office building on La Granada and Paseo Delicias, for rent of $150 a month. The rent was more than the county budget, leading to the formation of the Guild to supplement what the county could not provide. The formal opening for Rancho Santa Fe’s new little library was Feb. 29, 1964.
• The RSF Association seeks to establish a Compensation Committee to review employee contracts, oversee and authorize employee compensation packages, and approve the annual performance review of the Association manager.
• Residents begin to question the voter registration process, wondering why they have to register at all and why it isn’t an automatic right. Of a potential 3,200 voters, about 1,800 are registered to vote.
• The board approves a nine-month trial run of a village farmers market on Saturdays at El Tordo between Linea Del Cielo and Avenida de Acacias. The board grapples with locations after it is kicked out of the park, as well as potential interference with the Secret Car Club, which also meets on Saturday. McAllister abstains in the 6-1 vote.
• Boon sends a notice that she may take legal action unless she receives a retraction from 33 Covenant members for comments made in the February letter to the Association.
“I am hopeful that the authors will agree with me that the statements should not have been made,” Boon said in a statement. “I respect the right of every member to engage in spirited debate over the issues and I am not afraid of fair criticism of my views or my actions. “
• The Santa Fe Irrigation Board of Directors takes formal action to cut members’ pay and health benefits. The combined savings is $13,070.
• Pete Smith announces his retirement after a 23-year run in the Covenant. He was the manager of the Association for a little over 18 years, before that spending five years as the manager of the RSF Golf Club.
“It was a very, very hard decision to leave,” Smith said. “All of that time, I developed a really good rapport with a lot of the members, and they really became friends.”
• Solana Santa Fe teacher Becky Gauthier, who has been at the school for 21 years, is named its principal. She took over as interim principal in late 2013.
“Solana Santa Fe is an amazing place and I think that’s what made my decision easy,” Gauthier said. “Having opened the school, there’s a sense of ownership ... and I have a deep love for the school and staff. They are amazing and I’m truly honored to be their leader. We have amazing parents and they send us wonderful kids. We’re a small school and everyone takes care of each other; we’re a family.”
• One year after the Boston Marathon bombings, three Rancho Santa Fe runners return to take back the race: Dan Minteer, Omar Bouhaddou and Heidi Nevin. “When I found out later that I had qualified, I wanted to be part of the Boston Marathon and play a small role in showing the world that acts of terror will not destroy what is great in this country,” Minteer said.
• The RSF Association votes 7-0 in favor of granting condo owners RSF Golf Club membership rights. The Association believed that a community-wide vote would be required to change the club membership rights of condo owners, but upon review by staff and counsel, the rights may be granted by simply amending the Memorandum of Understanding between the Association and the club.
“It’s not just that the golf club is asking to drive more membership,” said newly appointed President Philip Wilkinson. “I think fundamentally it’s the right thing to do. If you pay an assessment, you should be able to join the golf club and you should have the right to vote.”
• A FedEx mailer goes out to the private homes of Association members regarding the Garden Club sale, alleging the deal hadn’t been properly vetted and that negotiations were “cloaked in secrecy.”
“There are so many things going on in this community that are unfair, unethical and really not Rancho Santa Fe,” said Helen DiZio, Garden Club president. “I’ve never seen it before … I hope we get through it really quickly.”
The authors of FedEx package, Mike Licosati and Alex Kaiser, speak out, saying they felt their mailer simply included important information that members needed for the vote.
They did not want to mail through the Association to avoid a disclaimer that was placed on a previous member mailer regarding voter registration.
Association Acting Manager Ivan Holler said that member mailings are not edited, but the last was unusual in that the mailer had created his own website for voter registration that was not affiliated with the Association.
• About 72 percent of the Covenant community — 1,945 members — is now registered to vote. The upcoming election has four people vying for two seats on the Association board: Boon, Kim Eggleston, Dom Addario and Susan Callahan.
•Voter registration reaches 77 percent: 2,070 of 2,700 eligible voters.
• Residents expressed confusion at the May 1 Association meeting about whether Manager Smith retired, resigned or was “run out” of his position, and what kind of compensation he received on his departure. As revealed at the May 8 annual meeting, Smith will receive severance pay that represents about 85 percent of his annual pay, paid over the next two fiscal years.
• A highly contentious election season features allegations of stolen campaign signs, nasty mailers and dirty rumors. At the annual meeting, candidate Eggleston remarks that he never dreamed his candidacy would evoke such hostility and the “flood of character assassinations” that occurred.
“I don’t know what is going on here, everything is just crazy,” agrees candidate Callahan. “I don’t understand how we’re getting to neighbor versus neighbor.”
President Wilkinson agrees that enough is enough and pleads for a stop to the negativity.
• In a close vote, Association membership turns down the $2.4 million purchase of the Garden Club, 638 votes in favor, and 659 votes against the purchase.
While the voter turnout is high, it’s slightly short of the highest ballot return on record, which was 1,314 votes.
• Almost like a premonition, resident Lisa Mallet expresses concerns about the fire hazard posed by dead and dying trees in the Covenant at the May 1 Association meeting.
“With the temperatures rising and rainfall declining, that makes us very vulnerable to fire,” Mallet warns. “It seems we have the money to buy another building (the Garden Club), but it makes no sense if the whole thing’s going to go up in flames.”
In a rare May Santa Ana wind event, San Diego is ablaze just 12 days later. Rancho Santa Fe homes are spared in the Bernardo Fire, which burns 1,548 acres, starting at the south end of 4S Ranch.
The fire attacks the river valley canyon and splits and burns back north at Zumaque, similar to where a blaze consumed several homes in 2007’s Witch Creek Fire. Firefighters make a stand at El Sicamoro, battling flames that threatened a home.
According to Chief Tony Michel, a lot of their success is because of cooperation and combination of various resources, aircraft and personnel on the ground.
• The RSF Association approves the front nine of the Golf Club’s tree management plan, which had been highly controversial in 2013. Representatives from the Association’s Committee on the Natural Environment (CONE) and representatives from the club’s greens committee and board of governors worked together on a plan to best serve the community’s interests for golf playability and aesthetic quality.
The plan includes removing 32 trees, planting 30 replacement trees and removing 10.7 acres of turf, replacing it with native shrubs.
•The RSF Association approved bylaw changes to establish a permanent Compensation Committee at the May 15 meeting. An ad-hoc compensation committee has been working since August 2013 and in working with a human resources consultant, the committee recommends changes to vacation and sick policies that will save $1 million in the next five years.
• New “step down” housing is proposed on the 29-acre Mabee property on Calzada del Bosque and Via de la Valle. The preliminary design would consist of 46 age-restricted units and four estate lots, with a clubhouse for the units and five acres of open space with ponds, gardens and walkways. The home built in the 1970s would remain and be remodeled as a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse for residents.
• Santa Fe Irrigation District gives Mike Bardin a 5 percent raise in a 3-1 vote with board member John Ingalls voting against.
• R. Roger Rowe teacher Maureen Cassarino retires after 27 years teaching in the school and 20 years leading the Rancho Santa Fe Children’s Theater.
“Working in Rancho Santa Fe has been super rewarding. I’ve had so many opportunities to grow as a teacher and working in such a collaborative community, it has been a dream job,” Cassarino says. “I feel grateful to have been here.”
• The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe unveils plans for a new step-down housing project for the village, giving people the opportunity to live in a smaller home or downsize without giving up the Ranch lifestyle. The Inn proposes adding three neighborhoods to the 21 acres it owns in the village. Of the existing 99 units, 14 would be demolished and 30 added for a total of 115 units, a net gain of 16.
• Eggleston and Boon are elected to the RSF Association board, marking the end of one of the most hotly contested elections in Covenant history. Eggleston receives the most votes, with 823, and Boon receives 819. Candidate Dominic Addario receives 740 votes and Callahan receives 689.
A total of 1,544 ballots were cast in the election, the most in Ranch history.
“Kim and I are both very happy with the results, especially the huge voter turnout,” said Boon at the time of her re-election. “It shows that people throughout the community are engaged and interested in participating in the governance of Rancho Santa Fe. Kim and I look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working not only with the members of the board but with all the members of the community as well. The Association board has many projects on the table and Kim and I want to focus on the positive things we can all do together.”
• Boon is re-elected board president in a 4-3 vote. Directors Putnam, Wilkinson and Jerry Yahr vote against the motion. McAllister is voted in as vice president, 4-3, and Eggleston is named treasurer in a unanimous vote.
• Kathie Stillwater, also known as The Bug Lady, Mrs. Tallwater, Mrs. Watermelon and Mrs. Waterstill, retires after 35 years at the Village Preschool.
“Kathie was a really good friend to children who were shy, quiet or sad. It was funny to see this great tall person next to a 3-year-old and they’re making a connection,” said staff member Mary Floyd.
• The RSF Association approves a tree management plan for the back nine holes of the Golf Club, the removal of 56 trees, the replanting of 74 replacement trees and the elimination of more than 7.9 acres of turf.
• The Rancho Santa Fe School District receives the results from its interest survey on the possibility to rebuild the school gym: 54.3 percent of the community is not interested in supporting a bond on the November ballot at this time.
Options to rebuild the gym range from $19.2 million to $23.5 million. Of the survey’s respondents, 75.9 percent did not have elementary school-aged children and 81.2 percent did not have middle school-aged children. Thirty-eight percent of respondents are ages 50-64, and 31.5 percent are 65-plus.
• A new car and a new officer for the RSF Patrol are made possible through the Local Agency Formation Commission, activating the Rancho Santa Fe Community Service District’s latent powers to provide security, in addition to the other services they provide. The Patrol had not seen a staff increase for 12 years, since the 2001-02 fiscal year.
• The San Dieguito Union High School District allows all 190 waitlisted freshmen into their school of choice after parents complain that students were not being accepted into neighborhood schools of San Dieguito and Canyon Crest academies. A committee is formed to look at different ways the district can enroll its students.
• The committee exploring a potential pool and fitness center for Rancho Santa Fe zeroes in on a workable location and comes up with a tentative price tag. A site between the Player’s Club of the RSF Golf Club and the tennis club is presented at a July 15 meeting, as well as a potential $10 million-$15 million price tag.
• Rancho Santa Fe Library welcomes new branch manager Haley Kwon. Kwon replaces Caryl Andrews, who was transferred to Poway.
“It’s a smaller branch so I can be much more thoughtful and much more participatory, sharing ideas with the staff and the community about what they’d like to see more of in the collection and in the programs,” Kwon said.
• The RSF Golf Club moves up its turf removal project after finding out that it can get a $1,620,000 rebate for the project from the Metropolitan Water District. Originally the turf removal was scheduled to be done over two years, but the club expects to complete the entire project within 160 days, a deadline of Dec. 24.
• The Covenant Design Review Committee makes procedural changes to the way it does business, hoping for a more streamlined and transparent CDRC. With the changes, applicants and consultants are allowed to be present during the committee’s discussion and recommendations, meetings are open to all members, not just the involved parties, and the final application step is now be performed administratively instead of at a scheduled meeting.
In September, Building Commissioner Robert Green reports that the changes have had a positive effect.
“We want it to be inviting,” Wilkinson says of the CDRC. “We want to find a way to say yes.”
• The Association begins to audio-record meetings to promote transparency.
• The RSF Garden Club goes up for sale.
• Cindy Schaub, RSF School District;s assistant superintendent of educational services, leaves for a new position in the South Bay Union School District after eight years in the district. Rather than fill her position, the district elects to give new duties to principals Kim Pinkerton and Garrett Corduan.
• Horizon Prep dedicates five new grammar school classrooms. Donor contributions have allowed the Rancho Santa Fe private school to grow from 14 green cottages to a school with 29 state-of-the-art classrooms and more to come.
• The RSF Association finance committee discusses the Osuna Ranch, including the possibility of subdividing the 24.5-acre property. During election season, some residents raise questions about the purchase, arguing that it had never been vetted by the finance committee and that the intent to buy the property lacked critical facts. There was additional criticism that only 38 percent of the property’s horse facility boarders are Covenant residents.
In a possible subdivision, the Association could maintain the adobe portion of the property. While the adobe is now protected with historical designations, the consensus of the Osuna Committee is that members would like to see the whole property stay in its natural setting. The Amigos de Osuna continue to raise funds to complete work planned for the site, which includes an adobe restoration, an event lawn, an outdoor kitchen, picnic and passive areas and open space trails estimated to cost around $875,000.
• Bill Gates purchases Rancho Paseana, the 229-acre horse facility previously owned by Jenny Craig for $18 million.
• The RSF School District holds several community meetings to help parents deal with frustrations with the new Common Core State Standards that took effect in the fall. Common Core completely changes the way students learn and teachers teach, especially in math: Classrooms emphasize collaboration, creativity and critical thinking; students master concepts on a deeper level at their own pace.
Parents say they feel lost when their child comes home with homework they do not understand; others feel that the standards aren’t high enough or that their children are losing some of the basics as math learning moves away from rote memorization.
Superintendent Delaney said that nothing is being omitted from the curriculum; it’s just being taught to students in a different way.
“We’ve gone into this very thoughtfully…it’s a process and if we see something’s not good for kids, we won’t do it,” Delaney said.
• Rancho Days returns with a variety of community gatherings and events, including the revival of an old tradition: an all-American pie-eating contest at the RSF Library.
• R. Roger Rowe parent Linda Leong requests the RSF School Board bring back Spanish for grades K-5, presenting trustees with a petition signed by 60 parents. The board is scheduled to hear a report from Superintendent Delaney at the Jan. 8, 2015 meeting.
• Ballots are mailed on whether the RSF Association should spend $350,000 to professionally plan a pool and fitness facility. The committee announces that residents Fred and Genta Luddy have agreed to fund 10 percent of the overall project costs.
• The RSF Association receives a preliminary proposal from AT&T to improve high-speed Internet and wireless communications in the Covenant. Time Warner and Cox Cable are also interested in submitting proposals. The Association also meets with ExteNet, the utility that owns the Distributed Antenna Network in Rancho Santa Fe, about possible enhancements to their network, such as stand-alone antennas. The installation of stand-alone antennas would require a modification to the Wireless Community Master Plan.
• McNally’s Antiques downsizes into a smaller village shop after 18 years, leaving an empty space at Paseo Delicias and La Granada.
• Torrey Pines High School mourns the loss of a beloved teacher, Scott Chodorow, who passes away Nov. 1 after a battle with cancer. Known simply as “Coach C,” he is described by many as the heart of Torrey Pines.
• Rancho Santa Fe makes national headlines after a report by the State Water Resources Control Board states that the community has the highest home water use in California.
• On Nov. 20, threats posted on social media lead to scary campus lockdowns at Torrey Pines and Canyon Crest Academy. Two teens are quickly arrested in connection with the threats.
• The Garden Club announces its agreement to sell the clubhouse to Bruce Kleege of Garden Club RSF LCC, a longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident, who wishes to keep the club building for the community’s use. Members then have a month to vote on the potential sale, which 94 percent approved. The Attorney General of California must also approve the sale.
• After the Nov. 4 election, Maureen “Mo” Muir is elected to the San Dieguito Union School District board, with incumbents John Salazar and Amy Herman. Longtime board member Barbara Groth finishes fourth. Voters also re-elect Todd Frank and Marti Ritto to the RSF School District Board.
John Tanner, Laurel LeMarie and Bill Hinchy are elected to the RSF CSD board, and incumbents John Tanner and Tucker Stine are elected to the RSF Fire Protection District Board. Marlene King is elected to the Santa Fe Irrigation Board.
• The farmers market planned for the village becomes “quite stuck” on the proposed El Tordo location with the county. The farmers market committee starts preliminary talks with the RSF School District about hosting the market in its front parking lot, potentially on Sunday mornings.
• The community votes 762 to 713 on whether the Association should spend funds for a professional planning phase for the pool and health club. A total of 1,483 ballots are received.
• The Association approves new membership categories for the RSF Tennis Club to help boost membership, generate more dues revenue and maintain the health and vitality of the community asset. The categories include allowing current golf club members to join for a reduced enrollment, allowing former members to rejoin without further enrollment fees, and extended family memberships to bring those who are already regularly using the club into the fold and have them paying dues.
The tennis club also receives funding to help with marketing, and a more user-friendly website.
• The RSF Association names William Overton as its new Manager. Overton comes to Rancho Santa Fe from the Desert Mountain Master and Village Associations in Cave Creek, Ariz. His first day will be Jan. 28, 2015.
• Todd Frank is elected president of the RSF School Board, Tyler Seltzer is elected vice president and Marti Ritto is elected board clerk. Beth Hergesheimer is elected president of the San Dieguito Union School Board, Herman was elected vice president and John Salazar elected clerk. Vicki King is elected president of the Solana Beach School District board, Debra Schade as vice president and Julie Union as clerk.
• The Inn at Rancho Santa starts a new holiday tradition with an ice skating rink on the lawn. The rink is used to celebrate the Inn’s Olde Fashioned Christmas as well as The Chabad Jewish Center of RSF’s Hanukkah celebration.
• The David H. Brooks Memorial Fountain is dedicated at the RSF Historical Society’s La Flecha House. Longtime friends Peppy and Norman Bahr initiate the project to honor Brooks, an active historical society board member who passed away Dec. 22, 2013.
“We are grateful to our members and friends of David Brooks for making this beautiful fountain possible,” says John Vreeburg, RSFHS president.
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