Rancho Santa Fe Association Board Biz: Stand up for progress


As I started my column, I wondered if our board – or any board– can lead this community to real progress. As President, I have strived to offer all stakeholders input in the process and contribution to outcomes. My objective has been to build consensus within the community and unanimous board support on every vote. In doing so, a great deal of time has been sacrificed and progress has languished.

As projects wind their way through various committees, the Finance Committee and the board, an individual or a small group often delays progress so a particular interest can be satisfied. Further study always seems to be called for. Staff members are reluctant to champion a course of action forcefully because they have learned that arrows can come soaring at them from the uninformed or the malcontent.

How is consensus building working on getting high-speed internet? After 15 months on the fiber-to-home project, we just issued the RFPQ with proposals due Nov. 1. The Tech Committee will review proposals in November and will send viable proposals to the Finance Committee and the board. This project has been speeding along compared to other initiatives largely because we have had the most capable consultant in the industry guiding us. We could have a contract by the end of December, but one disgruntled member could protest that we have not studied this enough, hurling the project backwards.

How is consensus building working in improving cell coverage? Not as well, I’m afraid. Staff and board members have spent many hours over several years talking to service providers and waiting for response. The board tried to hire a cell consultant as is common practice and similar to what we’ve done for the fiber project. The consultant would have helped us negotiate with providers, the county and property owners to add antennas to improve cell coverage. The consultant’s contract would have provided for revenue sharing with the Association, offering the community better cell coverage plus new revenue. The Finance Committee asked us to examine other options, so we are not moving forward with a consultant. I hope to be able to report progress in about six months, yet I am concerned that it may be delayed further for the next board to address.

Internet and cell service improvements were “easy” projects agreed on by most people. What about more complicated projects like the Covenant Club? Like the playground and the Garden Club purchase and probably many other long-forgotten projects, the proposed Covenant Club has pitted one group against another. Some people are so upset they have started new groups.

We invited and welcomed input from all stakeholders, however, we hoped we could first present the facts and figures for a vigorous community discussion. It is troubling that conflict often prevents the committees and architects from doing their jobs. Volunteers, including Jerry Yahr and Heather Slosar, have already dedicated countless hours to this study and are diligently trying to put information together for the community to consider. Input from all groups has been incorporated from day one. The volunteers and architect were given the job of designing the right facility for our community and for the space we have on the RSF Association-owned campus, which belongs to every Association member, not just golf and tennis club members.

The community voted to fund the design and planning phase. The financial models cannot be built until a site has been selected, that phase has been completed and all sources of funds have been adequately researched. We are exploring a variety of funding mechanisms. As soon as that information is available, it will all be up for public review and debate.

I am not asking for the debate to subside. I only ask that you respect your neighbors on the other side. Many of you who are opposed to the Covenant Club were strong advocates of the Garden Club purchase two years ago. Surely you didn’t want your project to be demonized when you believed it was an enhancement to the community. I ask those of you who are so passionate about the Covenant Club to not let your enthusiasm for the project prevent you from hearing your neighbors’ very real concerns and worries. To those of you on both sides, please don’t disrespect our volunteers or lash out at others. Don’t let selfish interests guide your behavior. Don’t launch attacks that diminish the value of your message.

The design process is progressing, albeit slowly because the designers want to do it right. Your volunteer leaders and the hired professionals will present the most viable solution to the community for a vote. However, our team may never reach the best design if we do not let them do their job. If we bully them into designing a white elephant, that’s what we may have on our hands. The bottom line: No more money will be spent, no dirt will be moved, unless the community votes for it. You will have your vote.

Most of us are very attached to our rural lifestyle, and that has often led to a “do nothing and nothing will change” mantra. Doing nothing or studying things to death can be poisonous to a community. This is not a do-nothing board. I’d like to have unanimity everywhere, but when that is not possible I will work for progress. If you are going to stand up, I hope you will stand up for progress.