Five RSF Association board candidates talk local issues at Annual Meeting

RSF Association annual meeting
The RSF Association annual meeting was held virtually on May 14. Top row: RSF Association Manager Christy Whalen, Courtney LeBeau and Lorraine Kent. Bottom row: Paul Seitz, Dan Comstock and Mark Simpson.
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association held its Annual Meeting virtually on May 14—typically a time for community members to mix and mingle as the Association wraps up the fiscal year and preps for a board election but for the second year in a row it was held online. A little over 70 participants tuned in on Zoom for a candidate forum with the five candidates who are vying for two available seats on the Association board. Ballots will be sent out after the meeting and will be due back on Monday, June 14 by 5 p.m.

At the meeting, candidates were given time to introduce themselves before taking member questions, the order determined by a random drawing.

Dan Comstock

Dan Comstock
Comstock, a Virginia native who graduated from the University of Virginia in 2005, has lived in Rancho Santa Fe for the last eight years. He runs his own own research/consulting business and has three young children, one at R. Roger Rowe School and one at Village Church Preschool.

“I’m running because I love this community,” Comstock said. “I’m all in, I’m raising my kids here.”

He has gotten involved in the community as a RSF Little League coach, serving on the RSF Golf Club board for three years. He is a member of the RSF Tennis Club and uses the trails in the Arroyo Preserve almost on daily basis so he said he is interested in maintaining the rural character of the community. Since moving to Rancho Santa Fe he has been through the Art Jury process and is looking to start a new home build in the Covenant in the next year.

In having conversations with longer-term Ranch residents, he said he was encouraged to run to get younger families involved in the activities of the Association. He said in the last five years and especially during the last year a lot of younger families have moved to Rancho Santa Fe.

“I think that they should have a voice on the Association board,” Comstock said. “I want to bring those people’s viewpoint to the forefront because they’re a growing demographic of the community.”

Lorraine Kent

Lorraine Kent
Kent has lived in the Covenant for 25 years and said she brings a unique perspective as a daily trail hiker, a past horse owner at Osuna Ranch, a past RSF Golf Club member and current pickleball member at the RSF Tennis Club. Having attended many board and committee meetings, she said she is well-versed on the Association’s governance.

“I lead with collaboration, fairness and integrity,” Kent said.

Kent said if elected she will work to represent the whole community’s best interest. As those interests are varied, she said she believes in transparency and community outreach, holding community votes on essential issues.

“I feel we need to engage the community and set priorities accordingly,” Kent said, suggesting a community-wide survey every four years to establish the board’s focus. “Rather than the board driving the focus, the community steers the direction.”

Kent said the biggest threat to the Ranch is density from within and outside the community.

“As neighboring communities build more homes along our borders we will continue to see an increase in traffic congestion and pressure to amend our Covenant bylaws thus impacting our community character and costing us more for infrastructure and resources,” Kent said.

Courtney LeBeau

Courtney LeBeau
LeBeau moved to the community 17 years ago for the R. Roger Rowe School for her two daughters, the sense of community and rural setting. She immediately got involved as a volunteer at the school, RSF Community Center, RSF Tennis Club, Rancho Riding Club and charity organizations. In 2014, she ran for the Rancho Riding Club board where she served two consecutive terms; after a break she is now in her third term. In 2016, she ran for the RSF Tennis Club board and is finishing her second term—she was president for two and a half years until January 2021.

“People who know me know I like to get things done,” LeBeau said.

At the tennis club she oversaw campus improvements, the growth of membership, the new pickleball membership and helped restructure the business due to AB-5, which converted all independent contractors to employers. They hired a new general manager last year and were able to keep the nets up for members to play safely during the COVID lockdown.

During her time at the clubs LeBeau has worked closely with Association staff and feels she will be a perfect fit, ready to jump right in.

Her goals include a 3-5 year strategic plan, setting wildfire evacuation plans, especially for older residents, and making sure the influx of new members feel welcomed into the community and “know about the incredible lifestyle and many opportunities to get involved.”

Paul Seitz

Paul Seitz

Seitz grew up in South Lake Tahoe and joined the Marine Corps right out of high school, serving his country for eight years. He worked as an overseas contractor before becoming interested in training horses. He said he moved to Rancho Santa Fe six years ago for the horse community, the beautiful golf course and amazing people.

“The reason I’m running for the Association board is because I’m committed to protecting what we love about this place and why we moved here,” Seitz said. “Improving upon the residents’ accessibility to the board is really important to me.”

As Seitz purchased an 85-year-old horse ranch, he said he ran into numerous challenges and gained a better understanding of what it takes to get things done in the Covenant. He would like to work to improve and streamline residents’ interactions with the Association so they can be more more efficient with their project. He would also like to see better communication and making information more readily available for residents.

“In the Marines, I led troops through the most dangerous places,” he said. “I know how to navigate through tough times and maximize efficiency and accomplish goals. I’m not afraid to stand up to my peers to protect the community and its best interests.”

Mark Simpson

Mark Simpson

Simpson called himself “the new guy here” as a relatively new Ranch resident. A San Diego State University graduate, it took him 40 years to get back down to San Diego, he and his wife moved from the Bay Area.

In his career, Simpson taught secondary education and coached varsity basketball, tennis and golf, where he said he gained the valuable skills of patience and teamwork. He started his own construction business and spent 30 years developing his business, which he said gives him the knowledge of how to work successfully with private entities, local governments and utilities.

“I think we have opportunities here at the Ranch to make this even better,” Simpson said, giving for example the Osuna Ranch property, undergrounding utilities and village revitalization.

Simpson said he believes that the Osuna is underutilized and would like to survey people to see what uses they would like to see there. In the village, he would like to engage the village landowners to encourage a broader spectrum of businesses: “I don’t believe that the revitalization of the downtown village is undoable.”

Simpson said he would also like to strengthen the relationship between the golf club and Association and improve communication.

“With the skillset I possess and some of the things I’ve done in my career I think I’m a good fit to get those things done,” Simpson said.

Candidate Q&A
Several community member questions focused on golf club issues, such as the financial relationship between the RSF Golf Club and the Association as they work toward a renovation of the clubhouse restaurant.

The candidates all believed that the golf club should be financially responsible for its own day-to-day golf operations but the relationship seemed to change in 2019 when the Association entered the joint agreement to share the cost of the golf club restaurant: “It changed things in a way that make it murky,” Seitz said.

The joint golf club and Association committee, formed in December 2018, is tasked with the potential renovation of the clubhouse and restaurant and overseeing the operational aspects of the restaurant.

All candidates supported the joint cost-sharing agreement for the restaurant: “I think it’s only fair that if everybody’s going to be able to use it, that we split the cost,” LeBeau said.

When it came to the joint committee, Simpson said in the age of social media there is a lot of “distorted” information that can get circulated. “Communication has to be pretty clear,” he said, noting residents should have ability to find out correct and factual information about any potential projects, the costs and who’s paying for what.

Comstock agreed that more definitive communications coming out of the committee could help resolve some of the issues.

“I always assume good intent, these are people trying to make the restaurant better and fund the restaurant in the appropriate, fair way,” Comstock said.

Kent said she would also like to see more oversight of the committee and for it to be more representative of the 72% of the community who do not belong to the golf club. In its current form the committee has three members representing the Association and three from the golf club, however, only one member does not belong to the club.

One member question asked candidates how they would revitalize the downtown village, which “falls flat” with a lack of attractions to draw the community in.

“That is a tough one,” LeBeau said. “When I first moved here we had the grocery store, had a yogurt shop, a sandwich shop, a small gift shop. With the rent of the privately-owned buildings it becomes a difficult situation because they’ve driven the rent up so much that we can’t have this anymore.”

She said the Association could explore the feasibility of purchasing property but they cannot dictate private owner’s rent.

Simpson again stressed getting the property owners together to share the community’s perspectives and the opportunities they have to build something special. He said as the world is going more virtual, there might not be the need for brick and mortar real estate offices and banks—“The last thing we want is more vacant spaces.”

Seitz agreed that as they can’t set the rents, the talks with property owners would hopefully entice them to bring some “flair” to town: “The best thing about COVID is I saw more people walking through town than I’ve seen in the six years I’ve been here.”

In her response, Kent said the Association board should have a strategy to present the community with options and potential costs and have the community vote where they want to put their money. She said options could include purchasing property, providing grants to get the kinds of businesses in the area that the community wants, joint ventures with property owners and short-term subsidies until businesses can get going. Another one used in the past has been land use variances such as those granted to the Gateway project (the proposed commercial building on the gas station property) and the new pharmacy building on the vacant lot on El Tordo and La Granada, both approved back in 2017. Kent acknowledged that variances are the cheapest option but maybe not always best for the community.

With his communications background, Comstock said he would love to see the Association highlight village businesses and encourage members to go there, so those that do come to town are able to last.

He used for example Cork & Knife, the wine and cheese store that opened in the back of Nick and G’s, talking up their to-go charcuterie board and wine selection.

“I promise if everyone on this call goes there in the next week they’ll be super excited,” he said.