The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe shares step-down housing plans

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe is moving forward with plans to build step-down housing in the village by demolishing and redeveloping some buildings and adding 13 total dwelling units in several different neighborhood “pods” across the 21 acres it owns.

John Kratzer, president and CEO of JMI Realty, led an informational meeting on the project at The Inn on July 23. It was initially meant to be a presentation to the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center but evolved into more of a community meeting because of the level of interest; about 50 people attended.

Kratzer said The Inn is fairly early in the development process. It has received Covenant Design Review Committee approval of the master plan concept and the boundary adjustment (bifurcating the hotel from the residential uses) and has also gone through extensive review with the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District and developed a fire management plan.

The Inn has just begun the Association’s Covenant modification process on one neighborhood pod, The Grove — the lot is approved for three homes and they would like to take it to five. Kratzer said they have started to reach out to key neighbors such as the RSF Senior Center, as the modification requires a two-thirds approval from surrounding neighbors within 500 feet of the project.

The original La Morada (The Inn) opened in 1923 and JMI is only the third owner in its long history. When JMI purchased The Inn in 2012, they launched a $12 million upgrade, including a complete renovation of the guest rooms, restaurant, main lobby and entrance area and added a day spa. As that phase has concluded, Kratzer said they are now turning their attention to the residential component of The Inn’s property.

The Inn owns a total of 35 buildings in the village, and the residences have historically been available for rent. Over the years, the residences have been occupied by short-time members in transition — such as while renovating a home — in addition to many long-term renters by choice.

“What we keep hearing is while the rental opportunities are attractive, what people are really interested in is for-sale housing,” Kratzer said.

Kratzer said they approached the RSF Association very early and were told how they’ve heard time and time again that there is a need for empty-nester and step-down housing. He has estimated that about 15 percent or less of Covenant homes are 3,000 square feet or less.

“We don’t have enough of those, and there’s no way to satisfy that with building, without adding,” he said.

Kratzer believes The Inn property is also well-suited to step-down housing because it is within walking distance to the village.

“At some level, we think we’re doing what the community needs,” he said. “I do think we have the right intentions in mind.”

The Inn is subject to a specific plan, approved in 1988 and amended in 2001, which provides for 134 dwelling units. Today it has 99 dwelling units and can add as many as 35.

Two of The Inn’s communities will remain untouched: Casitas de Cielo and Canyon View. The plan is to create three distinct products for the marketplace by demolishing and redeveloping units, and creating the three new neighborhoods called The Orchard, The Grove and La Gracia Village.

“Everything in the residential lot will be for sale,” Kratzer said. “We do have some very long-term renters that would like to stay, so we’re trying to make accommodations for them.” He noted there may be some units that The Inn elects to keep for short-term rentals.

Some of the units are in “horrible” condition and have a lot of work to be done to bring them up to fire, life and safety standards, Kratzer said.

“Most of what might be demolished is being driven by the fire department because one of the things we have to do is create roadways and fire utility access for existing homes,” Kratzer said.

In the La Gracia Village pod east of The Inn, there are six buildings with 10 units and JMI Realty would like to demolish them and rebuild with seven buildings with 20 units total.

“The buildings will not be visible from the road,” Kratzer said, noting they are below street level of Senda de la Luna.

Because of the topography and step down in grade, all 20 units will be single-level living. These units are the smallest floor plans of all the products at around 2,000 square feet.

In The Orchard units off Steven Royce Boulevard west of The Inn, they plan to demolish two units, create a roadway and five homes. The homes would be in the Lilian Rice row house style, in the 2,200- to 2,900-square-foot range, with interior courtyards and 15 feet between each building.

In The Grove, off La Flecha by the RSF Senior Center, there are three dwelling units. The company would like to take that to five (four new and keeping one existing). Kratzer said the architecture for these homes aims to be a more “conventional, geometric” design.

Kratzer said some interesting and exciting opportunities present themselves when step-down housing is paired with the number of attractive amenities that a hotel can offer.

He said they are looking at the kinds of Inn amenities they might be able to offer residents, such as access to the spa, fitness room, hotel food and beverage room service and housekeeping.

Residents in attendance expressed concerns about the amount of parking along La Gracia and about the project’s density.

Resident Michelle Crowley was concerned about having 20 units in La Gracia Village at the top of her street, while the most vocal opponent was resident LaDonna Monsees, who neighbors The Grove community.

“JMI is a great developer, this is just a bad plan,” Monsees said.

Monsees moved to Rancho Santa Fe 15 years ago seeking the rural ambiance of the community, which, she said, when you live off La Gracia, you don’t really get until passing The Inn and coming through her community.

“What they’re proposing is to take one acre and plop five homes on it,” she said. “I’m one home on three acres, and for them to come in and put that density in that neighborhood is wrong.”

Monsees said that as the Covenant modification takes two-thirds of the vote of the surrounding neighbors, it wouldn’t get built if they do not approve.

Kratzer said he lives in Rancho Santa Fe, too, so he is sensitive to the issues and he wants to build things that will be respectful of the community. “I’m not interested in a lot of controversy,” he said.

He said Monsees is absolutely right that if the neighbors don’t want it, it will not be built.

“The onus is on us to make sure adjacent landowners are comfortable and for us to speak to the neighbors and let them understand clearly what we’re doing,” Kratzer said.

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