Opinion/Letters to the Editor July, August, September 2022

(File photo)

July 14 issue:

Providing a safe and reliable water supply

As board members of Santa Fe Irrigation District, we are proud to be part of an organization providing a precious resource to our community. We are both in our first year and a half of serving on the Board of Directors, and we have been amazed with the complexity of running a water district, especially one that has some of the lowest rates of all the water districts in the County.

Our board is in the middle of a cost-of-service study to determine the rate structure for the next three years. The process has been going on since January and will continue through the summer and fall. It has been a fascinating process to learn all the details of how rates are determined, the costs of providing services, and the impact climate change, inflation, and weather have on rates.

It is important to the entire board that we are open and transparent about our process, which is why all the meetings have been open to the public and held virtually, so that any interested party can participate or watch from home. While the meetings can last several hours, we are breaking them up into topic areas to keep the discussion focused and informative. The goal is to have a new structure approved by the end of the year.

At the most recent meeting, we heard a presentation from a consultant about the use of satellite imagery to determine the size of properties and how much irrigated landscape is on those properties. Budget-based water rates for individual properties can be determined using information available in the public domain. The use of satellite imagery is another innovative and cost-effective way to determine water use for customers, which could potentially affect how rates are determined. Budget-based water rates, used by many districts in California, are being explored as part of the rate setting process as required by the litigation settlement agreement with the Rancho Santa Fe Association. This is an exploratory process, and NO decisions have been made regarding the rate structure or the rate-setting process. There is still a lot more information to review and various rate-structure options will be considered before any decisions are made, during our public meetings..

Water use, availability and costs will continue to be an important topic for our community and our region as we navigate the current drought. We encourage all customers to learn more about the process and participate in the upcoming meetings. You can find information on the district website,; there you can sign up to be notified of meetings, to receive news flashes, and to get links to our social media pages. You can also send messages to board members via the website. We are ready to respond with the information you need or direct you to the appropriate staff member. We appreciate all our customers and look forward to hearing your thoughts on our rates and process.

Sandra Johnson,
Board member District 3

Ken Westphal,
Board member District 1

July 21 issue:

Guest commentary:

Change is upon us. New county budget helps us prepare


If you told me three years ago I would spend weeks on end isolated at home, gas would cost $6 a gallon, I’d be watching a war in Europe, and reproductive freedom would be illegal or close to it in a majority of the nation, I wouldn’t have believed you.

But the reality is that our world has changed — and this change is being thrust upon us from all directions. With the right planning and investments we can weather that change — and create a stronger, more resilient San Diego County.

This was my goal when I voted last month to approve the County of San Diego’s new $7.35 billion budget. It’s a resiliency budget — an investment plan to make sure that San Diego is ready not only to respond to the change we’re experiencing but to enact the change we need.

It furthers the work we’ve done, and continue to do, to make County government more equitable, sustainable, responsive, and representative of our communities.

As we feel the heat from rising temperatures, this budget invests $100 million to fight climate change, expand County parks and community gardens, acquire land for the preservation of natural habitats, plant trees, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and set up “cool zones” around our region for you to enjoy air conditioning for free.

As we grow more concerned about sewage in our oceans, this budget invests $40 million in improving our stormwater infrastructure to keep pollution from our cities from flowing onto our beaches.

As we see people struggling on the street, perhaps talking to themselves, this budget pays for new Mobile Crisis Response Teams staffed with trained psychiatric clinicians to respond quickly — allowing our sheriffs and police officers to focus on fighting crime.

As we are squeezed by inflation and need a little extra help to make ends meet, this budget will fund new resources to help residents access food and healthcare through programs like CalFresh and Medi-Cal.

As we witness wildfires more frequently threaten our homes, this budget bolsters our firefighting fleet with a new dual-engine helicopter with the ability to fly at night and carry more water and emergency responders. But we’re not waiting for danger to arrive at our doorsteps — we’re also investing $2 million to reduce the risk of wildfire through vegetation management, improved evacuation routes, and fire breaks.

And as we venture out more to reconnect with our neighbors, you can experience the millions of dollars in grant funding set aside in this budget to support vital programs, such as $70,000 to construct improvements on Artesian Way adjacent to the Lusardi Creek Preserve, $2 million for improvements at Sage Hill Open Space Preserve, and $2.16 million to design a staging area to improve the visitor experience at the Sage Hill Open Space Preserve. In addition, it funds $4.4 million in infrastructure investments in the district, including improvements to roads such as Calzada Del Bosque, Del Dios Highway, Elfin Forest Road, La Bajada, Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe Road, and Via De La Valle. It also pays for County library programming, including providing library cards to first and second graders, bibliography instructions to all seventh and eighth-grade classes, and a return of adult programs such as fitness classes, book clubs, author talks, and lectures.

If you know an organization that is doing important work that should receive funding, please have them reach out to me at

We are a resilient region — and this budget reflects that spirit. We can’t always control what comes our way. But we will continue to work hard locally to be prepared for winds of change, no matter where they come from, so we can chart a better future for us all.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer represents San Diego County’s Third Supervisorial District, which includes Rancho Santa Fe.

Aug. 4 issue:
Guest commentary:
Healthy Life: 7 water safety tips for kids

When the weather gets hot, it’s nice to have a pool in the backyard where the kids can play and cool off.

With proper preparation, pools can be both fun and very safe. Without it, accidents can happen. Young children are most at risk.

Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death in children younger than 4, right after car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of these drownings unfortunately happen with unsupervised children.

“Young children are curious and like to explore, which is why it is so important to keep a close eye on them when they’re in or near water, and to never leave them alone or unsupervised,” says Robert Coles, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Carlsbad. “Just as important is to know what to do in case of an accident.”

Follow these simple tips for water safety.

1. Never leave children alone in or near the pool for any reason

Constant and focused adult supervision helps keep children safe around water. That means no distractions that would take your eyes away from a child in or near a pool. “You want to make sure they’re staying safe,” Dr. Coles says. “Drowning can happen fast.”

You can teach your children to swim to help lower the risk of drowning. Swim lessons can begin for many children as early as 1. Just understand that learning to swim is only one of several layers of protection against drowning.

“Even if they’ve had swim lessons, they still need to be closely supervised when they are in or around water, Dr. Coles says.

2. Keep gated pools

Pool fencing is widely recommended to help prevent drownings. Most young children who drown in pools wander out of the house and fall into a pool that was not fenced off from the house.

Fences should be at least 4 feet high without anything that the child could use to climb over the fence. Gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The latch should be out a child’s reach. Slat space should be small enough to prevent a child to squeeze through the fence.

A pool safety cover adds protection but should not be used in place of fencing between the house and the pool.

3. Go over pool rules

Go over the rules for how and when to use the pool with your children and review them again whenever there are guests using the pool. The basic pool rules are:

• No diving headfirst into the shallow sections of the pool

• No swimming alone

• No running, pushing or shoving

Post these rules near the pool and enforce them.

4. Designate a lifeguard

If you have a pool party, make sure a responsible adult is actively watching children in or near the water. Consider using a badge or a label to clearly identify them as a water watcher or designated lifeguard. Adult supervisors should not be engaged in activities that would distract their attention.

5. Don’t rely on floaties for water safety

Young children should wear a life jacket that is Coast Guard-approved when in or around water. Make sure they fit properly.

Do not rely on floaties or other air-filled swimming aids. They are not safety devices.

6. Practice touch supervision

Whenever children under 5 are in or around the pool, an adult should be within arm’s reach of the child, even if he or she knows how to swim. This is known as touch supervision.

7. Learn CPR

Sometimes accidents happen. It’s important to know what to do in case of an emergency. Learn CPR and basic water rescue skills. CPR certification classes are available through the American Red Cross, hospitals and community centers.

Healthy Life is brought to you by the physicians and staff of Scripps. For more information, visit or call (858) 207-4317

Aug. 18 issue:

Protect RSF residents in wildfire evacuation. Ask RSFA to support Goodson Project lawsuit

The RSF Association (RSFA) recently completed a “Member Satisfaction and Priorities Survey” to identify community priorities for board attention. “Efforts to Prevent and Mitigate the Threat of Community Wildfires” was rated Most Important by our residents in a list of 16 RSF Services/Features on the survey. A whopping 92% of residents rated this item as Extremely (70%) or Very Important (22%), emphasizing their desire for our board to prioritize wildfire safety.

One clear threat to RSF is a Santa-Ana driven wildfire racing down Escondido Creek near our northwestern border with Olivenhain. Recognizing this danger, RSFA strongly opposed the Goodson Project, a massive 250-unit apartment complex recently approved by the Encinitas City Council at the intersection of RSF Road and Encinitas Boulevard. Adding a high-density development in a wildfire-prone area with limited evacuation egress promises chaos and likely disaster during wildfire evacuations. RSF roads to Encinitas Boulevard via La Bajada, El Mirlo, La Noria, Via de Fortuna, and El Camino del Norte are already severely congested during rush hours and school drop-off/pick-up times.

Two fire studies predicted a fast-moving, Escondido Creek wildfire could reach the RSF Road-Encinitas Boulevard intersection 1 hour after ignition. Under this scenario, one expert concluded there is “a strong possibility that a large number of residents will receive severe injuries, up to and including death, from fire entrapments on evacuation routes impacted by the (Goodson) Project’s increased vehicle load on egress roadways…” Moreover, this finding failed to account for hundreds of residents from RSF and nearby communities, many with horse trailers, attempting to share Encinitas evacuation routes. Also missing was how to evacuate 2,000 students at 6 schools in the evacuation area, all without buses.

A volunteer group, Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development (ERRD), is launching an amended lawsuit against the City of Encinitas to stop the Goodson project. Residents of Olivenhain’s small rural community raised $150,000 to fight the project in past years, but these funds have been depleted.

We urge the RSFA board to commit substantial PAC funds to ERRD’s important lawsuit. Covenant residents have spoken, asking our board to mitigate wildfire risks and prioritize safe evacuation.

Litigation is expensive. We should not expect ERRD to bear the full burden of fighting to protect RSF residents, horses, and pets. ERRD expects this lawsuit to be strong because of its focus on adverse impacts of the Goodson project on public safety.

Time is of the essence. ERRD must file its lawsuit by September 2. Please take a few minutes to ask the RSFA board to support this lawsuit with a sizeable PAC donation at This small effort could save the lives of loved ones, friends, and their animals when the next wildfire threatens our community.

Holly Manion

Concerned Citizens of Rancho Santa Fe

Aug. 25 issue:

SFID management works to ‘disappear’ community of Fairbanks Ranch

Karen Billing’s Aug. 16, 2022 article, “Lake Hodges Dam repair continues” had a sentence which caught my eye not for what it said, but for what it did not say: “The reservoir provides water supply for the County Water Authority, San Dieguito Water District and the Santa Fe Irrigation District, which serves Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach”.

No Fairbanks Ranch? Had Fairbanks Ranch undergone an exhaustive LAFCO review and been annexed by Olivenhain Municipal Water District? Had Fairbanks owners collectively turned off their taps?

Coincidentally, on 8/18/22 I provided public comment to the SFID board questioning why their recent website refresh removed my community of Fairbanks Ranch from the home page header. The “refreshed” banner now proclaims “Serving the Communities of Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach”, as does Ms. Billing’s article.

Management also busied itself removing prominent photos of Fairbanks Ranch and, not content, brazenly removed prominent photos of Rancho Santa Fe -- delivering to Solana Beach an exclusive, starring spotlight!

I asked the SFID board why G.M. Lau and Public Communications Officer Penunuri removed Fairbanks Ranch from communities served, noting financial documents list all three communities as does the “District at a Glance” tab. A stroll SFID’s Twitter feed routinely referenced all three communities; however, starting 1/1/2022, Fairbanks Ranch was deleted from the Twitter feed, with two modest exceptions.

A 7/15/21 Fairbanks Ranch Association (FRA) letter to G.M. Lau, regarding adoption of the Strategic Plan, stated: “Significant SFID income is received from FRA members; therefore, FRA is troubled by the credibility gap resulting from saying HOA input will be solicited and the absence of any contact with the Fairbanks Ranch Association.” A year later, SFID management has doubled-down on excluding Fairbanks Ranch.

It is galling the G.M. and his PCO are “disappearing” my community of Fairbanks Ranch when staff’s salaries, pensions and retiree health benefits could not fund without Fairbanks customers consuming significant volumes of water.

The board approved a 5% annual increase for Lau and created a new benefit: up to an additional 3% matching retirement 401(a) plan if the employee defers up to 3% in a 457(b) plan. This new benefit is in addition to what many regard as generous CalPERS pensions. A vehicle allowance of $500/month was increased to $750/month, though during Covid, outside meetings became virtual meetings, obviating the need for the vehicle allowance no doubt received.

SFID’s Strategic Plan, implemented by G.M. Lau, pledges “community outreach” and “inclusivity”. Shame on SFID management.

Marlene King

Fairbanks resident since 1988

Former SFID Director, Div.3, representing RSF and Fairbanks Ranch

Sept. 15 issue:

Problems on Via De La Valle

Have you observed the terrible road conditions on Via De La Valle at Flower Hill - east of the I-5? Pot holes, deep ruts, missing lane lines, turning lines and crosswalk lines. This is certainly not safe to drive especially at night or in bad weather. Mayor Gloria and his staff will not even provide us with any information requested. Is this a democratic city government?

We cannot wait for SDG&E to complete the underground work. A little steamrolled asphalt and painted white lines is what the hundreds of residents here want. We have visited Arizona, New York, Connecticut and many parts of California in the past few months. Via De La Valle is by far the worst street we have seen. Mayor Gloria proudly promised “sexy streets” this year. When will he deliver?

Mel Satterburg,

Rancho Santa Fe

Sept. 22 issue:


The music at the Rancho Santa Fe Community Concert held Sept. 16 with the Empire Trio was stellar! A big thank you to Gail Kendall for putting the fun event together.

David Shenton, an amazing virtuoso, composer-arranger, was outstanding playing piano and violin simultaneously! A+! Incredible talent.

Nick Dieterich,

Rancho Santa Fe