RSF Association approves regulatory code updates on solar, roofs

RSF Association offices
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association is moving forward with updates to its regulatory code regarding chapters on roofs and solar and is considering an amendment about lot coverage of new construction. At the Dec. 5 meeting, the board approved posting the first two proposed changes for a 30-day review of the membership.

The Association and Art Jury have been working on regulatory code revisions since 2017 in order to correct errors, omissions and weaknesses and make the document fairer, consistent and more enforceable. Last December, updates were put on hold until a new building commissioner was brought on board, however, in February, the board informally permitted the Art Jury to continue on in its review. Building Commissioner Maryam Babaki was hired in August and got to work immediately, bringing forward these first two codes that she said seemed to take priority over the others.

“We hope to bring more in the coming year,” Babaki said.

In 1997 due to new fire regulations regarding wood shake roofs, the Association created a master permit with a pre-approved list of materials to expedite the conversion from wood shake roofs to fire-resistant roofs. The proposed amendment will eliminate master permits and pre-approved roof systems and will allow the Art Jury to review roof applications prior to approval.

According to Art Jury member Janet McVeigh, currently people can choose whatever they want from the pre-approved list and the Art Jury does not get to weigh in on color, size or other aesthetic concerns. As roofs define and enhance community character and architecture, McVeigh said the committee wants to make sure that the roof meets all the requirements aesthetically.

“A lot of roofs that were on the pre-approved list are not the ones you want, they do not look authentic,” McVeigh told the board.

The board vote for the amendment was not unanimous, with Director Laurel Lemarie opposed. Lemarie said she thinks there should be a delay because she said a lot of people still have wood shake—she only just converted her own roof. Voting in favor, President Rick Sapp said residents have had 22 years to make the change utilizing the master permit.

California is the first state to require solar power on new homes and a new mandate will take effect in 2020. As Babaki said, the state allows homeowners associations to impose reasonable restrictions on solar energy systems and the board approved introducing its new regulatory code.

Currently solar is addressed by the Art Jury through guidelines that state preferences for ground-mounted versus roof-mounted systems, screening and heights. At the meeting, McVeigh asked the board to hold off on approving and posting the new regulation to give the Art Jury a chance to review the code and make “substantial” comments. The board wanted to get the code in place to inform homeowners about the new law.

“The Art Jury has been very remiss with being up-to-date with what California law actually is,” said Director Sharon Ruhnau, noting that state regulations have been in place since 2015 that all structures be solar-ready yet since then not one project has been or even been requested by the committee to be solar-ready.

“This is coming in January, we can’t just ignore it,” Ruhnau said. “We need to get behind this and move forward.”

Lot coverage
While it was not on the agenda for the board to approve any changes regarding lot coverage on Dec. 5, the board’s discussion leaned in favor of making adjustments to prevent over-development in the Ranch.

Babaki said right now there are trends in new home construction in the Ranch for bigger homes, more accessory structures and “excessive” hardscape.

“On the average, homes that are getting rebuilt are 33 percent bigger than they originally were,” Babaki said. “And that does not include the paved area, the tennis courts, the pools and all the accessory structures.”

The Association is looking at changing the definition of structures that are included in its calculation of lot coverage, which is capped at 20 percent. Currently, calculations include only covered roof areas—that does not include tennis courts, swimming pools, walkways and driveways.

Director Bill Strong pointed out that a tennis court is between 7,000 to 8,000 square feet with a 10-foot fence—“It is both visible and has a lot of coverage and should be included in the percentage,” he said. “The procedure is so out of wack that it needs some fixing.”

McVeigh said the Art Jury has been trying to get tennis courts, pools and ponds included in the 20 percent calculation of lot coverage for the last year and a half. “We should just be doing that right now, honestly,” she said.

Based on the current coverage area calculations, McVeigh said exceeding 20 percent rarely happens and is not always relevant due to the large size of many lots in the Covenant. However, it does become an issue with smaller lots and with the bigger projects the Art Jury is seeing coming through.

“There has been a few occasions, if you included everything like tennis courts and water features, it would exceed 20 percent,” Babaki said.

In the new calculation, the Association could opt to include tennis and sports courts, pools, spas and water features and/or all paved areas including walkways, patios and driveways. McVeigh said she would be reluctant to include driveways as it could become problematic due to fire department requirements as well as topography challenges on lots.

Ruhnau and Strong, board liaisons to the Art Jury, both advocated moving quickly on this change to protect the rural aspects of Rancho Santa Fe as there are several “questionable” projects that are going through the Art Jury process right now.

“The sooner we can address this, the better,” Ruhnau said.