County approves RSF golf course grading permit

The Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club's short game area will be enhanced in the next phase of the renovation.
(Karen Billing)

On Feb. 14, the County of San Diego issued a major grading permit for the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club’s course renovation project. The grading permit covers the upgrade of the irrigation system, bunkers and new turf, which opened for play last year, as well as the planned improvements to the driving range and short-game practice area.

The permit resolves a grading violation that was reported by residents in 2021. According to the county, no fines have been issued since the stop work order was placed in August 2021 as the golf club made progress to resolve the violation.

“The Association has worked closely and collaboratively with the county to satisfy all outstanding issues so that the permit could be granted,” read a statement from the Rancho Santa Fe Association. “Golf Club staff and consultants are awaiting bids on the last phase of the project, and, once received, will seek approval for expenditures to move forward.”

According to Donna Durckel, county communications officer, as part of the permit process the golf club was required to prepare several studies, including a drainage study and stormwater quality management plan to ensure the grading would not alter drainage patterns on the site and ensure best management practices are implemented such as gravel bags, silt fencing and a bonded fiber matrix to avoid erosion from disturbed areas within the site.

The project was also required to go through a process to revise the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map for the site to address potential flooding. In addition, the project included a landscape plan that identifies the areas that need to be planted to ensure there is no erosion, Durckel said.

The county’s advisory San Dieguito Planning Group recently denied the golf club’s grading permit with conditions, including a recommendation that the golf course restore the 60 to 80 trees that were removed during construction.

The golf club has stated that a total of 56 trees were removed during the project’s first two phases, out of 1,000 on the golf course, and that many of them were considered invasive, diseased or damaged. Work on tree replacement is in progress—the Association recently brought on a consultant to develop a replanting plan, primarily focused on trails around the course. The Association hopes to get member feedback on the planting plan in the coming months.