RSF Association questions residency status of SFID board member

Santa Fe Irrigation District offices.
Santa Fe Irrigation District offices.
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association believes that Rancho Santa Fe is not being represented fairly on the Santa Fe Irrigation District. On March 9, the Association sent letters to San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and the California State Water Control board alleging that a member of the local water agency board is serving “illegally” because he does not reside within the water district.

“We would like fair, equitable and reasonable representation,” said RSF Association Manager Christy Whalen.

For the record:

2:37 p.m. March 25, 2020A previous version of this article stated that Division 1 includes Fairbanks Ranch. It does not include Fairbanks Ranch but the western part of the Covenant and a small percentage of properties in Solana Beach. Fairbanks Ranch is included in Division 3 which is represented by Director Marlene King, who also represents the rest of the Covenant.

According to the letters, the Association was informed by neighbors that Santa Fe Irrigation District (SFID) Director Ken Dunford has moved from his home in Rancho Santa Fe to an area outside of the SFID service area. Dunford has been on the board for 18 years, elected to represent District 1 which includes Rancho Santa Fe. He currently serves as the board’s vice president and his four-year term is up for election this November.

According to the Association’s letter, California Water Code law states that water district directors must be residents of their divisions through the length of their entire term.

“Despite the residency requirement in the water code, Mr. Dunford has continued to attend or call into SFID board meetings, vote and collect compensation for sitting on the board,” the letter states.

The Association and its members have raised these concerns with the SFID board, the SFID board president and the SFID general manager but have been told that the director’s continuation on the board and his voting were not “illegal.”

“We disagree. We believe Mr. Dunford’s actions are illegal, his votes are invalid, and he should be removed from his position and replaced by a resident of Division 1,” the letter stated.

The SFID did not have a comment as of press time.

The RSF Association has been an active voice protesting SFID water rate increases—in 2018 the RSF Association filed a lawsuit alleging that the district’s rate plan does not comply with state law and that the rate structure unfairly penalizes Covenant members with higher water rates because their larger properties require more water for irrigation.