2011 in Rancho Santa Fe: A year in review


By Karen Billing

2011 was a year that saw a new home established for the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol; a beautiful new artificial turf field at R. Roger Rowe School; and new members of the RSF Association and school boards. Issues that had residents talking included changes to the golf club membership and building a playground for Covenant kids. Here’s a look back at the year that was in Rancho Santa Fe, 2011.


• The RSF Association’s long range planning committee’s community-wide survey went out at the end of the month, the first since 2000. The survey aimed to capture the community’s input on a variety of topics.


• The RSF Association approved a change to the golf club’s plan of operations to allow certain non-residents to retain their membership status in a 5-1 vote before a crowd of nearly 80 people at the RSF Community Center. The change only applied to residents who have been members for 10 years and all who qualify will be charged at least 10 percent more than regular members in dues.

The Association received 142 e-mails concerning the change, with opinions falling on both sides of the issue.

“I think it’s a bizarre proposal,” said Jerry Block, a 16-year resident. “I don’t think it has any merit and it sounds like we’re just feeling sorry for people who moved out of town.”

“People that leave and move away aren’t paying assessment fees anyway, so it’s a win that we continue getting golf club dues,” countered director Jack Queen.

• The RSF School District Board of Trustees voted to put a new artificial turf field at R. Roger Rowe School over natural grass. The project was contingent on receiving delayed state funds.

• Rancho Santa Fe resident Carolyn Nichols traveled to New Zealand as the captain of the Maureen Connolly Cup Team for women 55 and older at the International Tennis Federation’s Seniors World Championships.

Nichols, who is ranked number one in her age group and second in the world, was inducted into the Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame in July.

Nichols’ cup experience in New Zealand was disrupted when a 6.5 earthquake struck the country on Feb. 22, killing 65 people and destroying buildings and neighborhoods.

• The Santa Fe Irrigation District received pressure from ratepayers to cut their own pay and benefits after a 12 percent increase went into affect on Feb. 1. District officials maintained that the main reason for the steadily increasing rates correspond with the jump in the cost of water from the district’s suppliers, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the San Diego County Water Authority.

• Calle Del Nido, the street that originally ran in front of Helen Woodward Animal center is renamed Helen Woodward Way at its intersection with San Dieguito Road.


• RSF Fire Protection District administration moves out of the El Fuego station to their Cielo Station, paving the way for the RSF Patrol to move back in.

• The RSF School District passed a new policy restricting teachers from communicating with students via social networking sites like Facebook. Richard Currier, the school district’s attorney, said Rancho Santa Fe is the frontrunner on developing such a policy.

• Residents complained about a foul odor from the San Dieguito Reservoir. Letters sent to the Santa Fe Irrigation District and complaints made to the Association described a “sewer-like” smell and swamp-like look. The California Division of Safety of Dams requires the irrigation district to lower the water level from Oct. 1 to April 30, to accommodate runoff from rains and prevent dam overflow. When the water level is lowered, residents may experience odors from the exposed sediment that should go away when it dries.

• On March 11, a 9.0 earthquake hit Japan, followed by a destructive tsunami that killed nearly 16,000 people. Rancho Santa Fe students, business owners and clubs like Rotary rallied to raise money for the victims.


• Results came in from the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s long range planning committee’s survey — the four-page survey had a 46 percent return rate.

The survey listed six local issues and asked respondents to prioritize how much emphasis and importance the Association should place on them. Coming out on top as the highest priority was preserving Rancho Santa Fe’s character, with 61 percent thinking that was the most important priority. Maintaining the RSF Patrol came second, with 45 percent.

Ensuring that traffic and speed are controlled in the Covenant received 40 percent, followed by undergrounding utilities at 31 percent. Improving infrastructure for high-speed Internet and preserving the open space program came in at the bottom, with 30 percent and 19 percent respectively.

• The RSF School District received $8.3 million of supplemental grant funding from the state that was delayed from 2010. The money was used for the Performing Arts Center on items such as sound, lighting and a stage curtain, the new artificial turf field.

• San Diego City Council unanimously approved a $25 million upgrade for Flower Hill Promenade. UltraStar Cinemas closed its doors for good in June, making way for a Whole Foods Market, currently under construction. A territorial dispute between the Coastal Commission and the city of San Diego continues, as well as a lawsuit from neighbors.


• A group of 60 Rancho Santa Fe hikers conquered the Grand Canyon’s Rim to Rim hike, a 22-mile trek that works up to an 11,000-foot elevation. Hikers, such as Association Manager Pete Smith, RSF Fire Board President Jim Ashcraft and members of the Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club, spent about a year training for the feat.

• Drew Brees returned to host the Cox Celebrity Championship at Morgan Run Club & Resort.

With the tournament, Brees Dream supports Rady Children’s Hospital, Friends of Scott Foundation, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Pacific South Coast Chapter and the San Diego Armed Forces YMCA, a cause close to Brees’ heart as he has done five USO tours overseas to 10 different countries.

“It’s a great way for my wife Brittany and I to stay closer connected to this community,” Brees said of his work in San Diego. “Even though I play for the New Orleans Saints I never forget where it all started.”

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo won the tournament and donated his $25,000 winnings back to the Brees Dream Foundation. With Romo’s donation, the tournament raised $135,000.

In 2012, the tournament will move to the La Costa Resort.

• Covenant condo owners requested that the RSF Association change its bylaws to give them voting rights and the right to join the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club at the Association board’s May 5 meeting. Their request was denied.

The issue was last visited in 1996, when both the golf club and Association voiced opposition to the change. Currently, only two voting memberships are allowed for each condo development regardless of the number of units in the development. Those two memberships are also granted the right to join the golf club.

There are 17 condo sub-associations within the Covenant. Of the 82 units, there are 34 units with voting rights and 48 without voting rights.

• The RSF Association took the first steps toward acquiring a 47.73-acre lot for open space on Rambla de las Flores and El Acebo by conducting an appraisal of the land.

The Association board members decided to pass in July. They felt the price and terms were fair but given the current state of the economy and the fact that the purchase price would require debt to complete the purchase, they decided not to pursue the property.

• Racehorse Animal Kingdom, owned by Team Valor International where RSF resident Aron Wellman serves as vice president, won the Kentucky Derby.

“To win the Kentucky Derby I think is just about every American’s dream,” said Wellman, 34, who got his start in the horse racing industry as a youngster at the Del Mar Racetrack. “To have won it is an incredibly humbling experience.”


• Ann Boon and Larry Spitcaufsky are elected to the RSF Association board, replacing outgoing members Tom Lang and Deb Plummer.

• On June 1, a pair of U.S. Marines presented R. Roger Rowe School with a framed American flag that was flown in Afghanistan as a “thank you” to Rowe first and second grade students who had sent their First Combat Engineer Battalion care packages and letters during their seven-month deployment.

• The opera came to Rancho Santa Fe with Bach Collegium San Diego’s performance of “Dido and Aeneas” at the Performing Arts Center, the biggest performance to date in the new center.


• RSF Library’s children’s librarian Debbie Wilson retired after 14 years in the Martha Glasgow Children’s Wing.

“I know for sure that I’ll miss the people I work with and the kids,” Wilson said pausing to think fondly about the little readers. “I feel so fortunate that I had the ideal, positive staff and friends to work with. It’s just time.”

“She is the light of the library,” said fellow children’s librarian Laurie Knodle. “The kids love her, everyone loves her.”

• The Rancho Santa Fe Patrol finally found its permanent home, moving out of its temporary trailers on the Dacus property to its new headquarters in the RSF Fire Protection District station on El Fuego. The patrol moved into the largest space its ever had at 2,700 square feet.

“This allows for our officers to have more elbow room and space and we’re not going to be looking for a new facility or to remodel,” RSF Patrol Chief Matt Wellhouser said. “It’s a plus for the community because we’re close to the school, right next to dispatch and we have a really good relationship with the fire department. Working with all those folks is a good thing.”

• The RSF Association denied a covenant modification for Quantum Villas, a proposed senior housing community off Del Dios Highway in a 5-1 vote. The board sided with the Art Jury’s recommendation that the Quantum Villas project was too dense and would negatively impact the rural character and ambiance of the community.

RSF Association President Jack Queen said approving the 38-unit project would be a “complete violation” of the recent Covenant-wide survey’s results in which 61 percent ranked preserving community character as the Association’s highest priority.


• Erin Weidner is named the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center’s new executive director. Weidner grew up in Rancho Santa Fe and graduated from the Rancho Santa Fe School District and Torrey Pines High. Weidner also boasts a strong non-profit background.

• The Association received the results from its Utility Undergrounding Interest survey, which found that just 25 percent of the respondents were willing to participate in an undergrounding district. Of the people who do have a line on or near their property, 41 percent would be willing to participate.

When asked if they would pay a fair share portion of an engineering assessment study, about $2,000, 478 people answered “no.” Only 198 said they were interested in participating in an assessment district. Very few people had interest in being a district captain, leading the charge for their neighborhood: 12 said they would be interested, 631 said they would not be.

• The new $1,873,992 artificial turf field at Rowe school made its debut on Aug. 16.

• Horizon Prep opened the school year with a new campus, complete with a new 18-classroom building, two state-of-the-art science labs, a large art studio with outdoor kiln and a 12,000-square-foot gym.

In the next phase of its renovation project, the school plans to put in a competition-size swimming pool, and a new administration building, which will involve removing the current campus’ portable classrooms, a process that is bittersweet as some will be sad to see the charming green and white cottages go.


• The RSF Association voted 4-1 to approve a renovation of the Osuna Ranch’s riding arena, not to exceed $48,000.

The arena at the ranch was in poor condition, with the sand breaking down. The renovation project removed the top layer of sand, repaired the base layer with three feet of DG and brought in new sand.

“The new arena is amazing,” said Christine Praefke, a Hap Hansen instructor told the Review in early December. “Everyone’s super excited about it, it couldn’t be better.”

• A public interview session with six candidates was held to find a new RSF School Board member to replace Jim Cimino, who moved out of state. The board selected R. Roger Rowe graduate Tyler Seltzer. Seltzer and his wife grew up in Rancho Santa Fe and moved their family of three children back to the area a year-and-a-half ago for their youngest to attend Rowe.

• The RSF Association voted to chip in for half of the $44,000 repair cost of the RSF Golf and Tennis Club parking lot in a 5-1 vote. The club’s lots had deteriorated due to use, water erosion and invading roots of large trees growing adjacent to the lots. The last improvements were done in 2007 and the lot was in need of repair, seal coating and re-striping.


• Hundreds of supporters attended the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation’s 30th anniversary community celebration Oct. 20 at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. Foundation directors, staff, community sponsors, partners, donors and grantees were recognized. The event included a video presentation that captured highlights of the foundation’s work through three decades, with narration by sports commentator Dick Enberg.

• Eamon Callahan was sworn in as the new director on the RSF Association Board. Callahan beat out five other candidates in a secret ballot vote on Sept. 15 to fill the seat left vacant by Jack Dorsee (who left the board due to professional time demands). Callahan is a 17-year Covenant resident who holds several degrees in electronic engineering and was a vice president of four different defense companies. He also owned four retail businesses.

• Longtime RSF Golf Club General Manager Steve Nordstrom resigns due to “personal reasons.” Association Manager Pete Smith is serving as interim golf club manager while the search continues for Nordstrom’s replacement.

• The Occupy movement, a top story in 2011, hit the Village. Although RSF was warned that as many as 1,000 protesters could show up, only about four protesters came to the Village with signs and a bullhorn.


• The Santa Fe Irrigation District Board voted 3-2 to approve a 6 percent rate increase to take effect on Jan. 1. The board was divided over the decision, with some members wanting a larger increase to maintain district reserves and pay for capital improvement projects, while one board member wanted to avoid any increase.

The vote means 2012 will be the fifth year in a row that Santa Fe Irrigation has raised rates on customers, by a total of 68 percent.

• A mother of five children, Heather Slosar, got as far as anyone ever had on the quest to get a playground in the Covenant. She proposed a wooden play structure on the 88 acres of Association-owned open space known as the Arroyo property. At a well attended meeting, the board granted $25,000 to purchase play equipment, but the board was not sold on Arroyo as the location, directing staff to look for an alternative location.

“It’s a subject that keeps coming up,” said Dick Brockett, director of field operations. “The problem is no area in the Covenant is zoned for a playground.”

• The RSF Association gave preliminary approval to a new retail center, Plaza de Acacias, slated for the corner of El Tordo and Avenida de Acacias. Plaza de Acacias will be 6,170 square feet of commercial space in a Lilian Rice-style architecture, leaving the current parking lot intact.

Director Roxana Foxx said she was impressed at the sensitivity the developers employed with the project.

“It looks a lot better than what’s there,” Foxx said. “It looks like it belongs in the original batch of buildings.”

• Solana Beach School District Superintendent Leslie Fausset announced she was retiring after a nearly 40 years in the education field and six years leading the district.The district is currently conducting a search for a new superintendent.


• The RSF Association considers using more e-mail communication with members, giving staff the direction to move forward with the provider Constant Contact. According to the Association’s 2011 survey, e-mail communication is a high priority for Covenant members, with 71 percent of residents saying they’re interested in receiving urgent communication from the Association; 59 percent would like to receive general communication; and 39 percent would like to see Association bills in their inbox.

• RSF gears up for another great year in 2012!