RSF Association looks to improve Art Jury consistency

The Rancho Santa Fe Associaion offices.
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association board continues to step up its oversight of Art Jury activities, taking seriously its role in ensuring consistency in Art Jury decisions on home building, landscaping and grading.

According to RSF Association President Mike Gallagher, there are areas where the board would like to see more consistency going forward. They have set up workshops on various topics with Art Jury members, Association directors and the building commissioner to promote better understanding. To improve communication, they have asked the current Art Jury President Bill Danola to present at board meetings on a regular basis on the kinds of projects that are going through and issues they are seeing arise.

At the board’s Feb. 4 meeting, RSF Association Vice President Sharon Ruhnau said that she views this effort as a longtime look at consistency, one that goes beyond any individual Art Jury’s term. The Art Jury is a volunteer board and members’ terms last three years.

“I think we’ve all seen projects here from the past that perhaps don’t exactly meet with our idea of what ought to be built in Rancho Santa Fe,” Ruhnau said. “We’re not looking to the past, we’re looking to the future…It’s important that we have consistent decisions and that we have them over a period of decades.”

Part of the movement toward consistency includes giving clearer guidance to applicants as well as the Art Jury. Everyone who submits a project to the Association gets a copy of the Protective Covenant, the Regulatory Code and the Design Guidelines and the three documents are not always in sync. The Association has been working for the past several years on updating the Regulatory Code and is beginning work on updating Residential Design Guidelines to better align them with the code.

To address the update of the design guidelines, Ruhnau said they hope to form an ad hoc group with the building commissioner, two members of the Art Jury, two from the board of directors and two members from the public. The ad hoc group is still in the planning stages.

The Regulatory Code updates continued at the Feb. 4 meeting, where the board approved (again) a solar system regulation and added the use of glass as an exterior material to be considered as a part of the building materials code update.

Gallagher said that there is a trend toward a greater use of glass in home-building to the point it becomes a predominant feature of a residence. The regulatory code on building materials will be able to address issues around the appropriate use of glass.

“We don’t want to bar people from having the ability to take advantage of their views or have indoor/outdoor rooms, it’s a matter of a fine balance between what becomes excessive and what is reasonable and that’s going to require a lot of thought,” Gallagher said.

A working draft on grading has also been prepared for review—the next step will be for the board to finalize the regulation in March and post it for public comment. The regulation addresses over-grading and slopes, encouraging more “natural-looking landform grading” to maintain the character of the community.

“This is a first example where the proposed regulation embraces and addresses some of the issues raised in the Residential Design Guidelines and puts them into the form of a regulation,” Ruhnau noted.

Due to the increase in building applications over the last year and the building department’s ongoing work to address the board’s strategic goals on Art Jury consistency and updating the Regulatory Code, Building Commissioner Maryam Babaki proposed the hiring of two consultants to help handle the workload.

At the meeting, the board approved a $68,000 agreement with the firm of Allard Jansen Architecture and Development to help address the regulatory code changes and a $10,000 contract with landscape architect Kirsten Larsen to provide support for application reviews.

RSF Association Director Laurel Lemarie and Ruhnau voted against the agreement with Allard Jansen due to questions about the cost and scope of services.