RSF Association board close to rescinding ban on ‘Hardie board’ building material

The RSF Association board met outside on Oct. 7.
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association is closer to again allowing faux, wood-look materials to be used in home construction.

In the last two months, RSF Association Director Greg Gruzdowich has proposed changes to the Association’s regulation on exterior building materials, removing the percentage limitations on wood in new and remodeled homes. In addition, he has proposed rescinding the board’s 2019 resolution which prohibited the use of wood grain-looking “Hardie board” plank siding or similar fiber cement products.

At the board’s direction, RSF Association Building Commissioner Maryam Babaki is now in the process of redrafting the Association’s regulation on exterior materials, one that removes any percentage limitations on the use of wood.

The regulation approved by the board in 2020 stated that wood was allowed up to 25% in new construction and remodels. A revision in March this year removed the limitation on remodels and expanded the allowable amount in new construction to 33%. Gruzdowich has argued that the limitations are arbitrary and not required by the Protective Covenant.

Prior to the 2019 resolution, Gruzdowich said the use of Hardie board or similar products was allowed by the Art Jury for many years. Among the benefits of the faux material is that it is fire resistant, insect resistant and waterproof— it does not crack or weather.

At the Oct. 7 Association board meeting, Gruzdowich was prepared to vote to rescind the resolution that day, due in part to a letter the Association received from the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District. In the letter, Chief Fred Cox said that the district supports the use of fiber cement building materials as a wood substitute due to its fire-resistive nature.

Director Lorraine Kent was in support as she said the board is hearing a lot of public input to rescind the resolution.

“Rescinding it is appropriate because the resolution was masquerading as a regulation,” Director Laurel Lemarie said. “Absolutely this needs to be rescinded because it wasn’t done correctly in the first place.”

Director Rick Sapp’s concern was rescinding the resolution without a replacement, leaving a “gap in the system.”

Art Jury President Bill Danola said the “vacuum” would be an issue as there are about five to 10 projects in the pipeline with exterior materials considerations: “As an Art Jury, we need clarity on what to do with the application of Hardie board,” he said.

Art Jury member Beth Nelson agreed, noting that while the project number might seem insignificant to some, they would like to maintain the consistency, credibility and integrity of the Art Jury process which requires clear direction from the board.

“I don’t hear a fundamental disagreement on where this is going, we’re just trying to decide the right sequence,” RSF Association President Bill Weber said.

The board voted unanimously to rescind the 2019 resolution when the new exterior materials regulation is approved. The revised exterior materials regulation draft must be approved by the board and posted for 30 days before they can vote on it.