Rancho Santa Fe Association board approves Covenant Club architect contract for planning phase

The Rancho Santa Fe Association board approved a $275,000 architectural contract for the Covenant Club at its Aug. 6 meeting as the potential pool and fitness center facility moves through a professional planning phase.

RSF Association Manager Bill Overton said the contract can be canceled at any time and has very specific phases.

“I think it’s an excellent document to protect the Association’s interests,” Overton said.

Several residents came to the Aug. 5 finance committee meeting asking members not to approve the contract. Resident Bill Johnson returned to the Association’s meeting on Aug. 6 to reiterate his concerns.

“We are concerned that the contract moves very far on the path toward a large Covenant Club on this site or nothing. Some prefer nothing,” Johnson said, likening the board’s action to putting all their eggs in one cart and then putting the cart before the horse.

Johnson said he hoped that the feasibility study would provide some alternatives to a potential 17,000-square-foot facility on the golf club campus. Preliminary plans place the facility between the RSF Golf Club’s player’s clubhouse and the RSF Tennis Club.

Johnson said it is too soon to approve a $275,000 architectural contract when there are many critical feasibility questions that remain unanswered regarding the site. He said parking is a problem, a recent geological study has not been done and there has yet to be a study of the water underneath the club.

He said it seems like the large facility is being “shoehorned” into the golf club campus and it is not a compatible use.

“It should be located elsewhere,” he said. “With the approval of the contract today, you’re narrowing the options. The money is being spent on just one vision without investigating a smaller alternative or an alternative location.”

In the 2014 advisory vote, 762 members voted for the planning phase and 713 voted against it. The board opted to bring spending $350,000 on the professional planning phase to a community-wide vote, although they weren’t required to do so. They chose to do so in the spirit of transparency.

“The costs are required in order to answer those questions you’ve asked,” said Director Jerry Yahr, the design committee chair for the Covenant Club. “We can’t solve the questions without understanding what’s the right program.”

Yahr said the committee is analyzing whether a 15,000-square-foot or 17,000-square- foot facility will work, and the architectural contract will help with the size of the facility and the parking required, as well as what will be possible on the site.

“These questions will be answered. It’s a process. This contract allows us to answer those questions,” Yahr said.

Yahr said the committee is committed to following the schedule it outlined in April at a town hall meeting — that at the end of the program and site analysis, members would come back to the community with another informational town hall, likely to be at the end of August or mid-September. A vote on whether to build the Covenant Club would probably come in early 2016.

“We’re not deviating from what we said to this community. We will offer periodic updates, ending with the full package that the community can get their arms around, and then they will have the opportunity to vote,” Yahr said. “The cost to get us there is $350,000 and that’s the path we are on. You all need to let this process follow through.”

Yahr said he appreciates the community’s input and passion, but the committee has been tasked with delivering a consensus plan and the contract is a way to deliver that plan and make sure the Association is protected.

RSF Association President Ann Boon said that Yahr was not a random selection to chair the design committee, as he has years of experience managing projects like this one. Boon said Yahr has “gone beyond the call of duty” to ensure the promises to the community will not be violated and that the process remains inclusive and transparent.

Resident Pat Newmark said she was sorry that the issue has faced such adversity within the community.

“We know we voted for the feasibility study, but we just want to make sure the big picture is kept in mind and not all the money is spent on one spot,” Newmark said, adding that she was pleased to hear that the contract will have built-in “stops.”

“That reassures us that the process is following the good path.”

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