Appeals filed, RSF Golf Club grading permit will go to board of supervisors

The golf course at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club in March 2022.
(Jon Clark)

Several appeals have been filed with San Diego County over the approval of the major grading permit for the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club course renovation. The permit was a retroactive approval of work already completed on the course in addition to future work on the driving range and short game area.

A total of three California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appeals were filed and one was withdrawn, meaning the project must now go to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors for approval. The supervisors are unlikely to hear the appeals until May. The golf club will not be able to proceed with phase three of its project until the permit is approved and it has lost its contractor to another project.

The county issued the permit on Feb. 14, resolving 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 permit involved revising the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map for the site to address potential flooding and ensuring that best management practices are followed with future construction.

At the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s March 3 meeting, the board approved signing an indemnification agreement—the county requires the agreement for the Association to defend any lawsuits filed against the county regarding the project. If litigation is filed, the county requires security within 10 days of filing in the form of a bond or a letter of credit at the Association’s expense.

That day the board also approved a $101,000 expenditure to remove the contents of the bury pit on the course. Bury pits are commonly used in golf course construction, when old surface material like the cement rubble from a ripped-up cart path is buried rather than being hauled away. There are no hazardous materials in the bury pit, only concrete, according to RSF Golf Club Manager Todd Huizinga.

The San Dieguito County Planning board had recommended the removal of bury pits as part of its permit denial and while removing the bury pit was not a condition of the county’s permit, the golf club has voluntarily agreed to do so.

Former RSF Association Director Bill Strong has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the Association for failure to perform an illegal acts investigation regarding the stop work order and the manner in which the Association resolved the alleged violations.

“Now is the time to prevent re-occurrences with better board governance,” Strong said during public comment on March 3.