Searching for community
Last week, the board and I spent a lot of time listening to members talk about community — how important ours is and how we must protect it. I have heard it said that passion is the cornerstone of community. If that is true, then ours has a sure foundation.
What is a community? According to one definition: “A community is a group of people who form relationships over time by interacting regularly around shared experiences, which are of interest to all of them for varying individual reasons.” The experience that we all share, just by living in the Covenant of Rancho Santa Fe, is the daily enjoyment of the rural environment with all its beauty and perfect weather. In addition to that core experience, I am discovering that many smaller and overlapping communities are thriving here. The health of each of these smaller communities contributes to the vibrancy of the greater community of the Covenant.
At our RSF Association board meeting last Thursday, we heard many members of our Covenant say that they meet their neighbors at the market and the post office. They mourned the loss of shops from bygone days and hope to hang on to those we still have. They look to the RSF Association board for help in that effort.
Later on Thursday, we attended a rousing rally for supporters of Covenant Club (the proposed health club and pool). One member, in voicing his support for the proposed health club and pool, recounted the importance the community pool had as a meeting place during his childhood in a small town in the Midwest. He said that the health club with pool would be a significant addition to important gathering places that already exist in RSFA. For young families, he said that, of course, the school is very important and that the Inn has begun to play an important role as well, in offering a welcoming atmosphere for families with children to meet and connect.
Friday evening, I dined al fresco at the Tennis Club with 200 energetic tennis fans while we watched an exhibition of young players, all to benefit the growing junior tennis program. The energy in the tennis community air that night was palpable.
On Saturday, I read an interview with a professional urban planner in which she described how she and her husband came to live in our community. Here is what she said:
“A few years ago, my husband and I were looking to move to somewhere we could have both great public schools and be walking distance to a town or village … ended up finding a small ranch home (in RSF Association) with a rustic backyard that our boys love. Within a 10-minute walk, we can go to the store, post office, community center, library, school and preschool and an amazing local cafe and bakery. We love the trail system, proximity to the beach, San Dieguito Park and the Cedros District in Solana Beach.”
While we all lament the loss of many retail shops and are alarmed at the possible loss of a market, as residents and board members, we must realize and accept that grocery stores and retail shops are for-profit businesses. They depend on customers to survive. We have a small population of residents and a wide span of age groups. It is difficult for a business to find a large local customer base here. What the board can do is ensure that the environment and the infrastructure are as hospitable as possible for both profit-oriented and non-profit enterprises. Both contribute to the vitality of our community. And infrastructure is what we have been focused on for the past two years.
In order for the board to preserve our “rural character and ambiance,” we must first meet the tangible challenges caused by environmental changes such as 1) droughts and 2) increased traffic that comes with population growth and real estate development, both inside and outside the Covenant. To address the former, the board and staff are working with other agencies and government units to attempt to secure water to protect our unique landscape. To address the latter, the board has determined a solution to improve traffic flow and safety in one area of the Covenant and will be further examining ways to improve traffic flow and parking in the Village.
The second important way we can preserve our historic community is to incorporate technological advancements into our local infrastructure, thereby ensuring the community’s relevance in a high-tech and fast-changing world. Lilian Rice herself was a modern woman and forward thinker of her time. Surely if she were planning Rancho Santa Fe today, she would include fiber-optic cable and the best possible cell service!
The great intangibles that add to the health of any community are the exchange of ideas and the sharing of experiences. I hope that our board meeting last Thursday was an example to all of you of a community forum that allowed for a free exchange of ideas and sharing of experiences. The members of your Association board understand the importance of fostering community by nurturing both the tangibles and the intangibles.
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