RSF Association to begin design process for new golf club snack bar, restaurant

The patio of the snack bar at the RSF Golf Club.
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association approved kicking off the design process for a new snack bar and renovated restaurant at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club. Part of the board’s golf club campus amenity enhancement project, the $450,000 agreement with Ocio Design Group, was approved at the board’s Jan. 12 meeting after being reviewed and by the finance committee and the RSF Golf Club Board of Governors. The Association and the golf club will split the cost for the design.

The snack bar project will involve demolishing the existing building and completely reimagining it as a new casual dining space. Plans for a renovated clubhouse restaurant would include capitalizing on the outdoor patio, enhancing the bar and opening the space up to better host events, all within the existing footprint. Early estimates for the cost of the upgrades are about $3 million for the snack bar and $5.4 to $6 million for the restaurant.

Since board approval last fall, Ocio has been developing a comprehensive plan for revitalizing the entire golf club campus. The restaurant and snack bar are the current priorities but they are also considering parking lot improvements and the feasibility of a fitness center and additional courts at the RSF Tennis Club.

“This gets us started,” said RSF Assocation Assistant Manager Dominique Albrecht, noting that along the way the scale and scope of the project may be adjusted as the board learns more about the cost and financing.

The vote to enter into the design agreement was not unanimous—Director Lorraine Kent was opposed without the contingency for a community advisory vote. Kent made a motion to approve the amount on the condition that the Association take an advisory vote with a 55% confidence level from members to renovate the snack bar and restaurant. Her fear was that the board was committing to spending too much money without knowing how all community members feel about the project.

“If we are confident this is what the community wants and needs then we should be confident the community will support this capital improvement project,” Kent said. “My goal was to gain confidence from all HOA members we are headed in the right direction.”

Her motion was not seconded and she was the sole “no” vote in the 5-1 roll call vote to support the design agreement.

Last year, the board approved a capital projects policy that is triggered with significant undertakings like the campus amenity project. The policy outlines the timeline and phases of major projects and provides an opportunity for the board to opt to take an advisory vote of the members. In the past, advisory votes were held for the roundabouts and for the Rancho Santa Fe Connect fiber optic network. In 2014, the community voted on a $350,000 professional planning phase for a pool and health club. After the Covenant Club price tag came in at $15 million, the project was abandoned two years later.

Director Rick Sapp said that an advisory vote on the snack bar and restaurant could come when the design is completed and there is an understanding of how much it would cost and how it would be financed.

“If people don’t want the community doing this, the Association and this board at least to my knowledge have not received a mass amount of member input against this project,” board President Dan Comstock said. “I don’t want to put a contingency on this to get this moving forward. I’m not opposed to having a discussion about a community vote later on at the appropriate time.”

During public comment, resident Holly Manion shared her concerns that the community has not been informed about this project.

“Does the community even want this? Who wants this besides the golfers?” Manion questioned. “You should have meetings with the community before you spend the money…I’ve talked to a lot of people and they don’t know this is going on.”

Comstock said that the staff has given an update on the campus amenity project at board meetings since the fall. In last year’s community-wide survey, of the 16 services and features in the Ranch the clubhouse ranked toward the bottom in satisfaction at number 13. The board took up the golf club campus improvements as one of its top priorities for the 2022-23 year—believing that it is a community asset that should be more accessible, enjoyable and inviting to all community members.

“This is the number one goal that this board decided to do, we made that clear. This is the project that we’re pushing forward,” Director Phil Trubey said. “This is providing more amenities to the Association. I understand it’s a bit scary because we’re looking at spending money. The last time we had a major project in this community it was a huge project, a $16 million project, and we got through it without raising assessments. This isn’t something that needs to be scary, this is something pretty normal actually.”

Albrecht said there will be “robust” opportunities for public input as the project moves forward. Once the design for the snack bar and restaurant are flushed out, there will be town halls for community feedback and Art Jury review. A dedicated website is also planned for the community to track the project.