Rancho Santa Fe Association board OKs additional funding to help revitalize Rancho Santa Fe’s village

The Rancho Santa Fe Association board continues to work toward bringing back its village, the heart of the community. At the Dec. 3 board meeting, the board supported additional funding for both the Village Revitalization Task Force and the Village Vibe Committee.

The board pledged $40,000 to the Village Revitalization Task Force, $20,000 of which will be used on a new traffic study.

So far a committee of volunteers has donated their time and effort to put information together but they have reached a point where they need a professional consultant to help with issues such as county ordinances. More technical information is needed to develop a long-range plan, said RSF Association President Ann Boon, who serves on the task force.

The Association also voted to continue the efforts of the Village Vibe, pledging $77,500 toward consulting fees to provide the community gathering events they have held since the fall.

At gatherings held every other week, neighbors have bonded on the Village Green over food truck delights and lawn games and pitched ideas for what the village needs — a pizza place perhaps?

On Halloween, village businesses opened their doors to trick-or-treaters, perhaps the first time a child has made a personal connection with their friendly neighborhood realtor. Over the weekend, the Vibe hosted a walkabout and holiday marketplace. More people found their way into Caffe Positano for a latte or discovered Country Squire Gifts and Linens and might keep them in mind for their holiday shopping.

“This is so important to our town and our members as far as their happiness being here and the sense of community,” said RSF Association Vice President Heather Slosar. “The events do help bring back that vibe to Rancho Santa Fe that’s been missing.”

In the 2015-16 budget, $137,000 was budgeted for consulting fees. The total spent or allocated in the consulting budget so far this year is $109,950. RSF Association Manager Bill Overton said using a conservative additional assessment revenue estimate of $131,829, the approval of both the $45,000 to the Village Revitalization Task Force and the $77,500 to the Village Vibe events, the Association remains under-budget in consulting with $379 available. Another area the Association has approved spending consulting money is $36,000 toward improvement of the design guidelines for the Covenant Design Review Committee.

“I think the village revitalization efforts are critically important to the future viability of our village and it is, in my opinion, the responsibility of our Association to lead this effort,” wrote board member Jerry Yahr, who wasn’t able to attend the meeting but sent in his comments on the item. “This effort cannot be accomplished overnight and requires a thoughtful, comprehensive and long-term approach. “

LaDonna Monsees, chair of the Village Revitalization Task Force, provided an update to the board about their work so far.

Monsees said after the announcement earlier this year that Stump’s Market was leaving and that the gas station could potentially close, the response from the community was very loud. The task force was formed to look at the loss of the retail experience over the years and address the challenges and explore opportunities to revive the village.

“We are blessed to have one of the most charming, beautiful and historic villages, but it needs our time and attention because it has gotten sleepy, for a lack of a better term,” Monsees said.

Monsees said the task force has looked at the information already produced by the Association, such as the 2006 Village Master Plan. She said it was a well-written, thoughtful plan but it never really went past the write-up. Only a few items were followed through with and completed, Monsees said, adding that they haven’t yet gotten to the heart of the issues.

The task force has looked to that 2006 mission statement as a launching pad for the effort they are undertaking on a new master plan: to “develop and implement widely supported plans that will foster a renaissance of the village as the civic, cultural and commercial heart of the community.”

“If this is going to happen we, the community, need to be behind it,” Monsees said, noting the new master plan will “die on the vine” if it is not supported.

The new traffic study will help get valuable information for proposed ideas such as more timed-parking spaces, closing La Gracia in front of The Inn for just pedestrian use, or converting Avenida de Acacias to a one-way street and installing diagonal parking spaces.

Having a plan in place is important as opportunities for village growth are possible, Monsees said — Delicias has vacated, the former nursery building is for sale and plans are being considered for the former Stump’s site as well as a potential redevelopment of the gas station site. Monsees said there have been unsubstantiated rumors that the Bank of America building is for sale and that the Rancho Santa Fe Pharmacy is leaving.

Having active communication with the county about what Rancho Santa Fe wants will help result in better results for potential changes and growth, Monsees said.

On the Village Vibe side, the efforts are being led by a strong group of volunteers and consultant Stacey Pennington of SLP Urban Planning, who was raised in Rancho Santa Fe.

At their gatherings, Pennington said the Vibe has been collecting input through casual and ongoing engagement. The group has also worked to promote all of the “amazing” things happening in the community and has stayed in constant contact with village businesses.

“It’s so important for the merchants to engage in communication and help shape events, so they are generating more patronage so they can stay in town and flourish,” Pennington said.

Through lawn games and food trucks, they are testing ideas and perhaps helping a business decide to open up a shop in the community. The events also help showcase the “great” businesses that are already in the village.

“We’re intentionally creating connections between residents and businesses,” Pennington said.

Tim Cusac, the owner of Caffe Positano, complimented the Vibe’s efforts for being sophisticated and well-thought out in collecting valuable information that will help inform decisions on how to facilitate a more vibrant and successful village.

Overton said the hope is that the SLP will get them to a place where they continue to do the work more cost-effectively in-house, giving them a “playbook” on economic development and tenant retention.