RSF Association board lifts ban on faux wood materials

The RSF Association board meets at their new dais at the golf club.
(Karen Billing)

On Nov. 4, the Rancho Santa Fe Association board rescinded its ban of wood grain-look plank siding or fiber cement products, commonly known as “Hardie board”. In addition, the board also approved a new relaxed regulation on exterior materials, one that removed all percentage limitations on the use of wood in new Covenant homes and rebuilds.

After 30 days of public input, the board can adopt the new regulation at its December meeting.

In September, Director Greg Gruzdowich officially proposed revisiting the board’s position on faux wood materials and the percentage limitations in the community’s regulatory code chapter. Gruzdowich’s proposal was strengthened by a letter from the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District Chief Fred Cox, supporting the use of fiber cement building materials as a wood substitute due to its fire-resistive nature.

The vote to rescind and post the new regulation was 5-2 with President Bill Weber and Director Rick Sapp opposed. Sapp had stated that until they adopt the new regulatory chapter, it would be unwise to rescind the resolution because it creates a gap for projects continuing through the Art Jury review process.

Director Laurel Lemarié again stated her strong support of rescinding the resolution as she believes it was a “resolution masquerading as a regulation” and that it had not been done correctly in 2019. Sapp, the only person who was on the board in 2019, clarified that it was a valid resolution and went through legal review.

Past boards had been concerned with allowing non-preferred materials like wood or Hardie board as the material might prevail as the main type of construction in the community, which they did not interpret as the intent of the Covenant.

According to paragraph 159 of the Protective Covenant, the preferred materials in the Ranch are plaster, adobe or stucco, concrete, stone or an approved artificial stone. Wood is not listed as a preferred material but it is not prohibited. Per paragraph 155, “materials, color and forms must be used honestly, actually expressing what they are, and not imitating other materials.”

In the new exterior materials regulation, all percentage limitations on the use of wood have been removed, as requested by Gruzdowich.

The exterior materials regulation first approved by the board in 2020 stated that wood was allowed up to 25% in new construction and remodels. A revision in March 2021 removed the limitation on remodels and expanded the allowable amount in new construction to 33%.

In this latest revision of the regulation, the Art Jury had proposed language that limited the use of both wood and fiber cement products, including restricting the style of cladding to board and batten type and limiting the material use to the architectural type of California Ranch. On projects built in the California Ranch style, the Art Jury proposed that use of the material be capped at 50% unless used on barns or horse-keeping facilities.

Art Jury President Bill Danola said their proposed language provided clarity and supports the interpretation that wood is not a preferred material in the Ranch.

The majority of the board did not agree with including the Art Jury’s language. Sapp was in favor of approving both languages for posting as it is a complicated issue and it would give the community some insight as to how the Art Jury will be adjudicating project designs.

Gruzdowich and Lemarié said they did not support any percentage limitations in the revised regulation.

“We should be recommending the use of Hardie board over wood,” Gruzdowich said speaking on behalf of the safety of the community with the use of more durable, flame-resistant masonry. “It’s something we should recommend, not limit.”

The regulation is now posted for public input. Covenant members can submit comments to