RSF Association to hold May 4 town hall on new lighting regulation

The Rancho Santa Fe Association offices.
(Karen Billing)

As the Rancho Santa Fe Association continues its efforts to update its Regulatory Code, the level of community engagement has been high. Residents have had a lot to say in particular about the new regulation on exterior lighting—during the 30-day public input period last month the Association received 69 emailed public comments.

While the board could have approved the new regulation at its April 7 meeting, Building Commissioner Maryam Babaki recommended that the public comment period be extended further to make sure all voices are heard. Additionally, a town hall meeting on the regulation will be held on Wednesday, May 4 at 6 p.m. at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club.

First posted for comments in fall 2020, the exterior lighting regulation aims to find a balance between permitting outdoor lighting while minimizing its impact on neighboring residences and the natural environment. It addresses appropriate light shielding, uplighting, downlighting, tree lighting and maximum lumen output, a measurement of a light’s brightness. The regulation places an emphasis on the San Diego County’s Dark Sky Ordinance and the community character of Rancho Santa Fe’s dark skies.

The regulation will be the first time that hours of operation for exterior lighting will be included in the Association’s regulations. Per the regulation, all exterior lighting, except for security and safety lighting and address markers, shall be turned off from 11 p.m. through sunrise.

Last month, the board also approved the posting of new regulations on fences, walls, gates and pilasters, and they received 11 emailed comments. Babaki recommended that they also extend the comment period on that chapter to continue gathering input.

During public comment at the April 7 meeting, resident Rochelle Putnam said she understands that the updated chapters attempt to shift things from the Residential Design Guidelines into the Regulatory Code so that there’s more clarity for people who are building new homes, however, her concern with some of the regulations is that they are too rigid and specific.

“There’s not a lot of consideration for topography, design of the home, current themes and location,” Putnam said.

She recommended that when looking at approving the revisions, the Association should keep in mind that trends change and not to make everything too rigid or “cookie cutter.”

Input sought on trail easement regulation

At the April 7 meeting, the board also approved a new regulation on trail easements to be posted for comments.

The regulation provides a set of standards for permanent easements obtained by the Association for its system of private riding and hiking trails. Per the Regulatory Code, the development of trails assists in preserving the rural aspect of the community’s character by eliminating the need to provide sidewalks or extensive shoulders along its narrow roads for non-vehicular traffic.

Changes to the regulation include a requirement for property owners to install and maintain slip resistant driveway surfacing on the portion of a driveway that crosses over a pre-existing or proposed trail.

The new regulation also requires that fences are set back at least three feet from trails and restricts certain types of planting along the trails.

“Plants with sharp spines, thorns or needles, such as, but not limited to, cactus, succulents, roses and bougainvillea, shall not be planted within 5’ of trails, in order to reduce danger to trail users and maintenance crews,” it states.

Comments on the regulations can be submitted to the Rancho Santa Fe Association at