Proposed new senior community in Rancho Santa Fe includes mix of apartments, cottages

The vacant parcel on Calzada Del Bosque and Via de la Valle.
(Karen Billing)

Developers of a proposed new senior housing community are beginning the conceptual review process with the Rancho Santa Fe Association Art Jury.

The high-end, campus-style retirement development is planned for the long-vacant 29-acre property on Calzada Del Bosque and Via De La Valle (where the big white house stands empty) with the vision of allowing Rancho Santa Fe’s senior residents an opportunity to “stay in the community that they love.”

The Art Jury held a preliminary workshop with the developers on July 26 and listened to member input from about two dozen members in attendance.

AmeriCare Health and Retirement Inc. has owned the property for two years and the plan is to open the new development by mid-2028.

“This is probably the largest project that Rancho Santa Fe has ever seen,” AmeriCare founder and President David Petree said, in terms of the scope, square footage, cost and what they hope: community benefit. Within five years, Petree said there will be 850 adults reaching 80 years old in the the Rancho Santa Fe community looking for some type of retirement housing option.

“Everyone knows the saying ‘You can do anything in the Ranch but retire’,” said Matt Petree, AmeriCare director of property development. “We want to address that deficiency. We’re really excited to address that really important community need.”

AmeriCare is a local Solana Beach owner/developer, a family business founded by David Petree with his two sons Matt and Greg now running the daily operations and development of new properties. The company currently operates Silvergate retirement communities in San Marcos, Fallbrook and Rancho Bernardo, their newest which opened in 2020. Matt said that being owners and operators differentiates them as developers—he said they put passion into their design and have a true investment in the community. David Petree even said he and his wife are interested in moving into the Rancho Santa Fe development when it opens.

David Petree said he had actually eyed the vacant property years earlier, when it went up for sale in the 1990s. Long vacant, it has been considered for development many times and at one time was even a proposed site for the new Rancho Santa Fe School District campus.

Golden Eagle Land Investment purchased the property in 2007 and its plans for the property first included a horse-breeding facility and then a step-down housing development with 55 age-restricted units and four custom estate lots. Although the project was never officially submitted, there was strong neighbor opposition to the density, wanting to keep development in the area semi-rural.

Golden Eagle’s project would have required a general plan amendment and a subdivision map from the county, which Silvergate RSF will not require. It will require a major use permit from the county, which must be approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. In addition to review by the Art Jury and RSF Association board, the project will also be reviewed by the San Dieguito Planning Group before going to the supervisors.

AmeriCare is estimating this will be a five-year development process,

The Covenant designates the land as “residence district class C” which allows for higher density development such as a “hotel, private school, fraternity dwelling, club, dormitory, boarding house or lodging house, flat, multiple dwelling, two-family dwelling and/or single family dwelling.”

David Petree said that Lilian Rice had the foresight in 1923 to concentrate areas for density without adding congestion to the interior residential areas, such as in the village and the community’s perimeter like this site: “The zone allows for (density) and it makes sense in a lot of ways,” David Petree said.

The Petrees have opted to start with the Art Jury, before submitting anything to the county, in order to get their feedback first to incorporate into the design.

The basic concept model is based on the Rancho Bernardo location but on a larger scale—Rancho Bernardo is 11 acres versus 29 acres in the Ranch. The Rancho Bernardo location is 100% occupied and has a three-year waiting list and the Petrees believe they can replicate that success.

They have put together a preliminary basic layout for the property with 162 total units including 94 apartments, 44 cottages and 24 memory care units. The project will stay within the 35-feet height limit (no more than two series), the required setbacks and site coverage. The design right now includes a lot of open space as the lot coverage mimics residential requirements versus commercial requirements—of the almost 30 acres, 80% is not covered by structures but instead with courtyards, trails, a citrus grove and “heavy greenery” in the setbacks along the perimeter of the project.

Once the word got out about the proposed project last year, Petree said he has received inquiries from 36 people ready to sign up on a waiting list. He said the main question everyone has asked is “How big are the units?”

When they opened Silvergate Rancho Bernardo, they planned for studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments in addition to the cottages. What they found was that there was not much interest in the studio or one-bedroom options and they ended up combining them to create larger units.

“This is where the high-end senior living industry is headed,” Matt Petree said. As people are downsizing from larger homes and properties, they want more space, to transition into bigger and nicer units that still feel comfortable. Following that trend, Silvergate RSF will only be two-bedroom with den apartments (1,400 to 1,700 square feet) and the cottages will be three-bedroom with a den, with two-car garages and patios (2,000 to 2,400 square feet).

In order to bring “vitality and energy” to the property, Silvergate’s clubhouse will house amenities such as a restaurant and bar, salon, game room, theater rooms, fitness center. There will be pickleball courts, a putting green, bocce courts, lap pool and community gardens.

Over 265 parking spaces will be provided on site, including an underground parking structure.

As developers, the Petrees said they want to be sensitive to the neighbors and the community, and they understand they will face challenges.

“We know it’s the entry point to the Ranch, we know it’s currently an eyesore. If we succeed, we think it will beautify the entry to the Ranch,” said Matt Petree, in addition to providing a unique option for older adults when they are ready to step down, staying within their own community.

The Art Jury has encouraged the developers to continue conversations with the project’s neighbors which the Petrees say they intend to do. The Petrees will now prep for a full-conceptual review with the Art Jury in the coming months. This next review will include architectural elevations and renderings of the site and buildings.

To view the Rancho Bernardo property, visit