Art Jury Corner: Tennis Courts


This article is intended to provide some insight into just what the Art Jury is looking for when it reviews Tennis Court applications. From a community standpoint, the Art Jury looks to make sure that the property can easily accommodate the court without it being “squeezed in” or requiring disruption of the natural features of a site.

The Protective Covenant, as well as the Rancho Santa Fe Regulatory Code, both regulate tennis courts. The Covenant language stresses the importance of maintaining the natural landscape and the character of the community. In its role of enforcing the Covenant, the Art Jury looks to ensure that a tennis court is constructed in such a way that it fits the natural features of a site and thus maintains the character of the community.

The Regulatory Code, in addition to limiting tennis courts to lots larger than 2 acres, also stipulates specific review criteria for the Art Jury to consider, including “setbacks, topography, proposed grading, distance from adjacent residences, existing site development, landscaping” and “ the cumulative number of accessory uses located on the property…”.

It has been the Art Jury’s experience that tennis courts are sometimes very difficult to successfully integrate into some sites because there is little flexibility with the design of a court. Tennis courts require a perfectly flat site of a fixed size (over 7,000 sq. ft.). They are surrounded by 10-foot tall fencing with semi-opaque windscreen material; and for the best playing conditions usually follow a strict, north-south orientation. The grading and retaining walls required for adding a tennis court to a site with natural slopes can radically alter its appearance. Tennis courts can also be a source of noise for neighbors if located too close to the property line. Homes, guest houses and even swimming pools can be altered in size and shape to blend with the topography of a site. The grading of huge, flat pads on the side of a hill is contrary to the Covenant and the Residential Design Guidelines.

The suitability of a property for a tennis court is not determined by the sheer size of the lot alone. Some very large properties, therefore, may not be able to accommodate a tennis court because the entire property is composed of steep slopes.

Finally, the Art Jury also takes into account the impact of the combination of a large paved area (the court) with the other buildings on the site to ensure that the total accumulation of structures blend into the natural surroundings of Rancho Santa Fe which everyone loves.

The best sites for tennis courts are therefore flatter ones where: 1. Excessive grading is not required to build the court; 2. The court can be suitably separated and screened from neighbors; 3. Large amounts of development don’t already exist on the site. Tennis courts which meet the above criteria and which also have been sunken into the grade are often more complimentary to the site and the community.

Please contact the RSF Association staff at (858) 756-1174 for more advice if you are thinking of building a tennis court.

— RSF Art Jury