2013 in Rancho Santa Fe: A year in review


By Karen Billing

The Review looks back on news and events in Rancho Santa Fe in 2013. We review the first six months of 2013 (January - June) below. Look for a review of the last six months (July - December) next week.


•The Rancho Santa Fe Association approved a new membership category that allowed the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club to go after a younger demographic. The new junior executive membership category allows new members under age 48 to spread out their enrollment fees in installments. In May, RSF Golf Club Manager Al Castro came to the board to request an additional 10 spots to the category, as it has been successful. By the end of the year, 14 of the 20 have been filled.

• The El Tordo location for the proposed RSF farmers market is nixed in response to a petition in opposition signed by 16 El Tordo neighbors. Market planners are sent in search of an alternative location.

• The stationary and gift shop Plume closes in the village and Rancho Santa Fe Estate and Fine Jewelers makes the 50-foot move over into Plume’s former space. Plume, owned by Courtney Macdonald, had been in the village since 2007. It had formerly been Parrot Press, a stationary shop run by Bobbie Schwarz for 30 years.

• The Pantry is sold and re-opens under new ownership with a new menu. In May, new owner Mozy Jahanguiri changes the restaurant’s name to Rancho Santa Fe Bistro and offers up breakfast on the weekdays, brunch on the weekends, high teas and healthful smoothies. In December, work begins on expanding the restaurant’s patio.


• San Dieguito Union High School District Superintendent Ken Noah announced plans to retire in June. He had served the district for four-and-a-half years.

• More than 60 people attended a Feb. 7 meeting about how the RSF Association should respond to the county’s draft environmental impact report on three roundabouts proposed for Del Dios Highway/Paseo Delicias. Due to the disruption the roundabout construction would cause and the fact that traffic on Del Dios has actually gone down in the past few years, the Association approved certifying the DEIR (Draft Environmental Impact Report) with recommendations that the county reduce the diameter of two of the roundabouts and do a complete study of traffic signalization at those intersections.

The Association also voted to form an ad hoc committee to work with the county on traffic signal design as the alternative has never been studied or designed in great detail. The ad hoc committee’s first meeting was held in December.

• Grading resumed on a controversial and long-delayed commercial development at the entrance to Whispering Palms following a judge’s ruling to lift a suspension of the project that had been in place for two years. Plans for the 4.3-acre parcel at Via de la Valle and Cancha de Golf include 54 apartments, 19,500 square feet of office and 9,500 square feet of retail. Some Whispering Palms residents and the RSF Association have expressed opposition to the project.

According to the developer, construction is expected to kick off again in January 2014.

• World War II veteran Louis Zamperini speaks before a sold-out crowd at the Village Church’s Viewpoints event. Zamperini’s life story is chronicled in Laura Hillenbrand’s popular book “Unbroken.”

• A proposal by newly elected board member Greg Gruzdowich to cut the Santa Fe Irrigation District board’s compensation and health care benefits failed to gather support from fellow board members. Before being elected in November 2012, Gruzdowich had long been a vocal opponent of water rate increases.


• The RSF Association announced plans to purchase the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club for $2,369,250. The purchase was the Association’s way of helping to solve the Garden Club’s struggles with the cost of maintaining the clubhouse, as well as keeping the building as the valuable landmark that it has come to be in the village.

“I think this will be a significant day in perhaps the history of Rancho Santa Fe,” said RSF Association Manager Pete Smith. “The desire to preserve this historic community icon for future generations has been a key factor of both the Garden Club and the Association as we looked for ways to combine resources to protect this property. It’s the intent of the agreement that the Garden Club property be preserved as a community asset in perpetuity.”

Proceeds from the purchase price are to be deposited into a special Community Fund at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation and an oversight panel will be in charge of awarding grant monies to the Ranch’s eight nonprofit organizations, such as the RSF Community Center, Historical Society and Senior Center.

The purchase has yet to be finalized as several issues related to the purchase have yet to be resolved.

• The Association approves the sale of the main house on the Osuna property for $1,750,000.

• An arrest is made in a December 2012 home invasion robbery in which a suspect held a housekeeper at gunpoint during a robbery of a home on El Mirlo. The suspect, David Grub, was jailed on 11 felony counts as he was also a suspect in another violent home invasion robbery in La Jolla.

•A Carlsbad developer purchased 41 home lots in the Cielo master-planned community for $10.25 million. The lots range in size from 9,300 to 23,900 square feet.

•The Cathedral Catholic community rallies for the family of basketball coach Will Cunningham. Several members of his family were severely injured in a head-on collision caused by a drunk driver on March 17. The drunk driver was killed and Cunningham’s wife, Alisa, and three of his children — Taylor, Jayden and Logan — sustained major injuries. Taylor, 17, suffered the worst injuries, including a fractured pelvis, broken right hip, broken wrists and a brain injury that left her in a coma for 17 days. She spent 75 days in the hospital and, in September, her classmates voted her homecoming queen. The homecoming king beside her also beat incredible odds — Ronan Nelson broke his neck and incurred spinal cord injuries in a rugby game in 2012.


• A crowd of more than 100 people showed up for an April 3 public meeting on the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club’s controversial tree management plan that called for the removal of 150 trees. Some trees would be replanted, representing a net loss of 102 of 2,000 trees on the course. The driving factor behind the tree removal is to improve winter playing conditions. The club is also looking to be proactive in removing trees that are thin, weak and vulnerable trees, as well as species that are nearing the end of their natural lives.

Residents were troubled by the removal of trees as well as the approach the club took in beginning and communicating its plan.

“We’re not a bunch of lumberjacks, we don’t want it to look like St. Andrews with no trees,” said Bill Roberts, head of the RSF Golf Club greens committee.

The golf club representatives said they are sensitive to how the community sees what they are proposing as they try to build and maintain a world-class golf club. The club and the Association agreed to work together to help achieve long-range goals of their master plan.

•A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the village parks on April 18 to kick off work on the extensions of the two triangular park segments, as well as new ADA ramp and sidewalk improvements. The work, completed by early summer, included the extensions of the current curb lines to make more of a peninsula on the two park edges at Avenida de Acacias and Linea del Cielo, and on the other side at La Gracia and Avenida de Acacias. The extensions provide room for pause for a person crossing through the five-way intersection.

“It really strengthens the connection from The Inn to the village and the other way around,” Assistant Manager Ivan Holler said.

• The developers for the Crosby Enclave, a proposed 13-home housing development on Del Dios Highway, responded to the Association’s stated opposition in 2012 by making adjustments to their plan. The developer, California West Communities, plans to reduce the height of the most visible home from Del Dios Highway to a single story and to increase landscape screening. In light of the changes, the Association board recommended a change from specific opposition to general opposition. The nuance of the change is consistent with the Association’s efforts to provide additional recreation fields outside the Covenant as the original planning for the property included a small commercial center and a recreation field.


• The Rancho Santa Fe School District board voted to put more iPads into more students’ hands at the board’s May 1 meeting, approving the purchase of 250 new devices for increased deployment for second through sixth grades. The $103,080 purchase meant there is 1:1 iPad deployment at grades fifth through eighth and 2:1 deployment at the second through fourth grade level. Kindergarten through first grade will continue their program of six per classroom.

“Our students live in a digital world and we’ve got to respond to them and meet the kids where they are or we will become the dinosaurs,” said Assistant Superintendent Cindy Schaub.

• Community trail hikes launched in May, with a goal to cover every part of the 50-mile Covenant trail system by the end of the summer. Association Manager Pete Smith led the weekly series of afternoon hikes that ended with a reward of refreshments at the RSF Golf Club.

•Results from a Covenant-wide advisory vote on the RSF Association’s purchase of the RSF Garden Club’s clubhouse were positive with 667 of 786 returned ballots in favor of the sale. The Garden Club also conducted its own vote and received a 92 percent approval rate — of the 148 returned ballots, 136 were in favor of the sale and 12 were opposed.

• The RSF Association assessed a $575 Covenant violation fine on the gas station at the entrance to the village as well as suspended its membership privileges for 20 days for violations of the regulatory code regarding vehicle storage. The issue had been a problem since fall 2012 and the Association requested better landscape screening on the property. The issue did not come up again for the rest of the year and the landscape plan appears to be working.

• The RSF School District votes to move sixth grade into its middle school in the fall, a move that is in line with the new Common Core State Standards that breaks down elementary and middle school as K-5 and 6-8. The move also comes with a new administrative position of a middle school principal and, as a result, Principal Garrett Corduan is hired in July from the Murrieta Valley Unified School District.

• The San Dieguito Union High School District board officially appoints Rick Schmitt as the new district superintendent at its May 16 meeting. Schmitt’s contract was approved through 2016.

• Canyon Crest Academy Principal Brian Kohn announces he is leaving CCA for a position at Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.

• Rancho Paseana, Jenny Craig’s 228-acre training facility for thoroughbred horses on San Dieguito Road, closed on May 31.


• New directors Heather Slosar, Jerry Yahr and Philip Wilkinson joined the RSF Association board, filling the seats of departing President Roxana Foxx, vice president Anne Feighner and member Eamon Callahan. Ann Boon is named the new board president.

• The Rancho Santa Fe Art Guild is forced to leave the village space it called home for 15 years due the Union Bank’s expansion. Union Bank had “generously donated the space to the gallery” for the previous years.

“The strong message is that the guild is continuing,” President Kim Doherty said. “We’re just in a transition phase while we find a location.”

The Rancho Santa Fe Foundation also had to move its offices, located in the same donated space, to a new office in Rancho Santa Fe Plaza in Encinitas.

• The RSF Library Guild’s Book Cellar moved around the corner and received a makeover. The bright new space in the former Guild offices offers the same gently used book steals, but it is a more inviting space to be with overstuffed chairs and cozy book nooks.

• R. Roger Rowe teacher Harriet Joslyn retires after a 30-year career in education and 20 years at Rowe where she developed the Colonial Fair, took fifth grade classes on trips to Williamsburg and Washington, DC, and played a big role in the drama department.

“I often thought our job as teachers was to let our light lead children but also to warm them.” said Joslyn. “I think that’s what teachers need to be, to love and nurture children along the way…build their hearts.”

• The Association board approved the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club’s funding request of $145,000 to resurface two courts over the summer. RSF Association board member Craig McAllister said the resurfacing was much in need, noting that the flagship courts had been “limping along” and had only had tiny fixes since they were put in some 30 years ago.

• Longtime Rancho Santa Fe Library volunteer and employee Ellie Johns retired after 31 years. Johns first came to Rancho Santa Fe in 1963 when she and her husband, Seese, spent three years building an adobe house in the Covenant by themselves. Johns served on the Newcomer’s Club, was RSF Garden Club president and worked with the Country Friends before becoming a member of the RSF Library Guild board, serving terms as its president and as membership chair. In the early 1980s she started the benefit fashion show, the popular Christmas tree raffle and helped along the creation of the Book Cellar.

“There are still a lot of people that want to read books,” Johns said. “A lot of people think that libraries will end up in a pile of dust, but our circulation this year is higher than it was a year before.”