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The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe sold

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.
The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.
(Staff photo)

New owner wants ‘best of the best’ for historical property

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe has a new owner who plans major changes to the property in anticipation of its 100th anniversary next year.

“I’m very excited about buying The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe,” said Steve Hermann, who completed the approximately $43 million transaction last week. “We plan to have it completely refreshed and ready for its 100-year debut next year.

“The hotel has a tremendous amount of history. For Southern California, that’s about as old as any hotel gets.”

Steve Hermann, the new owner of The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.
Steve Hermann, the new owner of The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.
(Arna Behar)

Hermann bought the venerated property, which includes about 80 guest rooms, a spa, restaurants and event spaces, from JMI Realty. JMI had purchased it in April 2012 from the family of Stephen Royce who, along with his family, had owned the asset since 1958.

A Montecito resident, Hermann specializes in buying and upgrading hotel properties.

He owns three highly-rated lodgings in Palm Springs: L’Horizon Resort & Spa, the Colony Palms Hotel and a recently acquired property renamed Hermann Bungalows.

Hermann said he became familiar with Rancho Santa Fe while researching places to live. He eventually settled in Montecito because its closer to his parents in Santa Barbara. The wealthy North San Diego County enclave, however, made a lasting impression.

“I fell in love with Rancho Santa Fe,” he said. “I think Rancho Santa Fe is an incredibly special community.

“There’s very few places anywhere in the world where you have such a beautiful small town with such wonderful people, such a great climate and so nicely situated. At the heart is The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.”

While staying at The Inn, he said, he thought more could be done to establish the property as a luxury destination on a par with such celebrated resorts as El Encanto in Santa Barbara and The Biltmore and San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito.

“I just saw the potential of this amazing 20-acre property,” Hermann said. “You have these beautiful grounds, mature trees and this fantastic Spanish architecture.”

The structures that would eventually become the basis for The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe were designed by San Diego architect Lilian J. Rice of the firm Requa and Jackson. The buildings were intended as guest houses for prospective property owners of what was then viewed as a mecca for citrus growers.

Her designs drew on local Mexican adobes, her travels to Spain and Cuba, and her appreciation for nature, according to The Inn’s website.

Rice’s collection of buildings was called La Morada, and it became the center of the community. In 1940, La Morada was transferred into private ownership and its owners renamed it The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.

Over the years, The Inn hosted many celebrities including Hollywood stars such as Bing Crosby.

“I really look at purchasing The Inn as being a steward of that (history),” Hermann said. “It’s like a great piece of art and my job is to make sure the property is properly restored and renewed so it’s available for future generations.

“A lot of choices (in past years) were made that weren’t really in keeping with the historical nature of the hotel as far as furnishings and decor and things along that line. We’re going to go through it and repair things that need to be repaired, improve landscaping and freshen up everything.

“The hotel is a great historic hotel, so we’re not touching any walls, we’re not moving anything and we’re not changing the inherent structure in any way whatsoever. But it’s overdue for a cosmetic facelift.

“My belief is the golden time of this hotel was in the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s and we’re bringing back the aesthetic to a time that’s in line and coherent and congruent with that period of time. I want to bring back its historical grandeur.”

Also, Hermann said he plans to change the hotel’s emphasis on catering to business groups to attracting vacationers willing to pay substantially for a luxurious experience. Whereas The Inn’s rooms now run into the $300s per night, Hermann expects them to go for as much as $1,000 once the innovations are achieved.

“We’re bringing in our best people to take over the management of the hotel, and then we’ll be redesigning the (food and beverage) department,” he said. ”We’ll be bringing in a new chef who will completely redesign food and beverage, with completely organic food and high-end offerings that will be commensurate with a property of this caliber. It will be the best of the best.”

Yet, Hermann said, he will strive to maintain the hotel as the centerpiece of the town by providing a welcoming ambiance to residents and continuing its tradition of hosting local events such as holiday celebrations. He described The Inn as “the living room of the community.”

“I’m very cognizant that we want to continue traditions that support and include the community,” he said.

“We really want it to be a place where the community can come and gather and feel comfortable and always welcome and can feel proud of it (so they can say), ‘Hey, this is our hotel in our community. Isn’t it fantastic? Look at all the great things that happen there that we get to be a part of.’ I really want to continue and expand on all of those types of activities.

“We’re really focusing on providing the locals the best experience we possibly can. It’s a very exciting time for the residents of Rancho Santa Fe.”

Information on Steve Hermann Hotels properties can be found at lhorizonpalmsprings.com; colonypalmshotel.com and hermannbungalows.com. The Inn’s website is theinnatrsf.com.


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