Rancho Santa Fe community survey shows members’ ‘degrees of happiness’

The village park in Rancho Santa Fe.
(Karen Billing)

A recent community-wide survey found that the majority of Rancho Santa Fe Association members, 90%, rate Rancho Santa Fe as excellent or good.

The survey found residents are most satisfied with the service of the RSF Patrol and the nearly 60 miles of community trails. Village revitalization and road conditions and traffic calming are among residents’ highest priorities for the Association.

“The vast majority of members have a positive feeling about their experience here in Rancho Santa Fe,” said Adam Sonenshein, vice president of FM3 Research. “People, for the most part,are pretty happy about the way things are going here.

“Everything is just degrees of happiness.”

After a nationwide request for proposals, the Association selected FM3 to conduct the community survey, at a cost not to exceed $30,000. RSF Manager Christy Whalen said board Director Lorraine Kent was instrumental in getting the survey off the ground—the idea is to conduct the survey every two to three years to track where work needs to be done.

The survey ran online from May 16 to July 1 and received 586 total responses. Sonenshein said as they sought to represent each household in the community, they randomly selected one survey from each household for analysis for a total of 499 responses.

Of the respondents, 135 were golf club members, 70 tennis club members, five were boarders at Osuna Ranch and 319 belonged to no Association club.

Sonenshein said per the survey, three-quarters of members are satisfied with the work being done by the Association, with 30% very satisfied and 45% somewhat satisfied, 16% somewhat dissatisfied and 6% very dissatisfied.

In an open-ended question about what the Association’s top priority should be, Sonenshein said no one issue stood out as the members’ top priority. Village revitalization, adding retail, restaurants and a market to the community’s core, was mentioned most with 22%, followed by road and traffic safety at 21%, Art Jury regulations being too strict at 15%, and crime reduction and maintaining a quiet, rural atmosphere both receiving 9%.

The top three most important services to residents were wildfire prevention, financial management of the Association and the RSF Patrol. The health of the trees and forest, the trail network and communication also ranked as important—nothing received a majority, neutral or not important score.

Members said they were most satisfied with the Patrol, the trail network, open spaces and community events such as the 4th of July Parade and Rancho Days.

The survey results were uniquely mixed on the Art Jury process: 61% said the Art Jury should uphold historic standards while 62% also felt that there should be more flexibility.

In the survey, most Association facilities were considered to be in at least good shape and more than half of members said they did not know enough to have an opinion on properties such as the Osuna Ranch, sports fields or the Arroyo Preserve. Sonenshein said the trails system was overwhelmingly considered to be in good shape, with 81% ranking it as excellent or good. For the Ranch Clubhouse restaurant, 54% said that it was in excellent to good shape.

For golf members, the golf course and pro shop were rated highly, while the clubhouse and locker room received somewhat “softer” ratings, Sonenshein said. Among tennis members, the courts and club experience are rated highly, while reviews of the pro shop and pickleball courts were more mixed.

The survey found that only 27% of members have attended an event at the Osuna Ranch in the last five years, such as Celebrate Osuna. The survey queried whether people would like more events or programming at the Osuna (a movie night for members was held on Aug. 12) and 41% said yes, 23% said no and 36% said they were unsure.

When considering proposed new features for the Rancho Santa Fe community, most suggestions had support than opposition (there were no specific plans or price tags attached to these proposals). Sixty-two percent of respondents said they would support a children’s playground and 57% would back a dog park and 52% strongly or somewhat supported a fitness center. The least support was for an expanded equestrian center (31%) and a community swimming pool (38%).

Director Phil Trubey remarked that the survey revealed some interesting results and he thinks that it was worthwhile.

“The one thing that stuck out to me was there were a lot of positives,” said RSF Association President Don Comstock. “Some of us who are deeply involved don’t always see the positives so I just want to highlight
that...It seems like generally speaking, the members are happy.”

During public comment, resident Skip Atkins said he was disappointed that not all of the surveys were included in the analysis presented to the board.

“I think that throwing member surveys out at your discretion is totally wrong,” Atkins said. “For the amount of money that we paid for the survey, every single survey should be counted and given to our community.”

Whalen said that no surveys were thrown out. While one from each household was randomly selected for the analysis, the Association does have the conglomerate survey information and she said the data did not vary widely from the presentation provided.

“We have the information, we can certainly look at it and we’re not trying to disrespect anybody’s effort for taking the survey,” Sonenshein said.