Letters to the Editor: April 21 issue


Article VI, Section 2 “Committees of the Board”—Is it New? You Decide!”

First of all, I would like to thank PIC (Public Interest Committee) for holding a meeting open to all the members of the Rancho Santa Fe Association, a refreshing change. Secondly, I hope that Pete Smith will provide his suggested changes to the governing documents to the RSF Association Governing Documents Committee in writing.

Relating to Article VI, Section 2 “Committees of the Board,” Mr. Smith’s statement on April 19 at the PIC meeting that this provision was new (Substance: 3 directors can be appointed as a committee of the board and they shall have all the authority of the Board) is mystifying. I went up to Mr. Smith at the conclusion of the meeting indicating I didn’t recall the substance of this section as being new. He reiterated that it was new. I have looked at the current bylaw and the proposed bylaw and this is what I found:

Existing language: “Section 2. Committees of the Board.” “The Board of Directors, by resolution adopted by a majority of the directors then in office, may create one or more committees, each consisting of three directors and no one who is not a director, to serve at the pleasure of the Board. Appointments to committees of the Board shall be by majority vote of the authorized number of directors. The Board may appoint one or more directors as alternate members of any committee, who may replace any absent member at any meeting. Any such committee shall have all the authority of the Board, the extent provided in the board resolution, except that no committee may do the following:...” (The quoted language is the exact language contained in the bylaws when Mr. Smith was the RSFA manager.) (Underlining added.)

Proposed new language: “Section 2. Committees of the Board.” “The Board of Directors may create one (1) or more committees, each consisting of not more than three (3) Directors and no one who is not a Director, to serve at the pleasure of the Board. Appointments to committees of the Board shall be by vote of not less than four (4) Directors. The Board may appoint one or more Directors as alternate members of any such committee, who may replace any absent member at any meeting. Any such committee shall have all the authority of the Board, to the extent provided in the Board resolution, except that no committee may do the following....” (Underlining added.)

Is Article VI, Section 2 new? If it is not new, why did Pete Smith indicate it was? Is the substance of the proposed new language for Article VI, Section 2 materially different from the existing version? It would seem not.

Lisa M. Bartlett

Certain qualities needed by RSF Association board candidates

As another election approaches in Rancho Santa Fe it’s time to consider which candidates best reflect our wishes and beliefs. In general our electorate is well educated, successful in their life work and financially secure. They are independent thinkers and will occasionally have major differences of opinion with each other. This has certainly been the case for the past three years. Regardless of the above they all love the rural nature of RSF and would not want to live anywhere else. So, here are my thoughts leading up to the election.

First, we, the members, are the RSF Association. Every year we elect two or three of us to serve as good stewards of our community during their years in office. We expect they will always follow the rules set forth in our Covenant and bylaws in all matters that come before them while in office.

Second, they are not elected as some Washington-like politician that immediately knows upon being elected what is best for our community. Instead before spending our money, they will make a professional effort to assess what the majority of our community desires before exposing our money to their perceived wisdom. After all, the informed majority does count.

Third, they will at all times encourage our members to serve on advisory committees that study issues which arise during their term in office. They will not solve one group’s problems by creating a financial or other problem for another group of our members. Instead, before undertaking a new project or contract, they will contact, inform, and advise all members who may benefit or be harmed by the matter.

Fourth, they will at all times act in a professional manner as our representatives, including proper attire at meetings, refrain from use of cell phones during meetings, and respectfully treat any member who appears before them, even if the member is criticizing them personally for a decision or comment they have made as a director.

Fifth, they will take the time to study the past history of the Rancho Santa Fe community. Past history guides a director as to what to avoid or how to properly proceed if the matter is contrary to past experience in the community.

Sixth, and finally, they shall not be beholden to any person or group because of election promises they have made or substantial financial assistance they have received in the election process. If matters come before the board involving parties who have received promises or given substantial financial assistance, they will disclose same to the board and recluse themselves from discussion of the matter and voting on the matter.

Perhaps the candidates will comment on some of the above items as the campaign continues.

Bill Hinchy, Rancho Santa Fe

Should Covenant Properties Vote, or People?

Late, long-time Covenant resident Lillian Ritt is quoted as saying about voting in the Association: “Under our current system, people vote, and properties don’t.” I support the efforts of the Governing Documents Committee to change that, so properties vote and people don’t. Why should buyers of Covenant property have to register to vote? You buy property, and you tell escrow what grantee name to show on the deed; whatever you choose: “Dacha LLC” or “Fortuna Trust” or “Dick and Jane husband and wife as tenants by the entirety.” Makes no difference; the County sends the annual property tax bill to the address on the deed.

The Association should do the same. Mail your annual dues assessment to the name/address on the deed, and when the annual election rolls around, mail an envelope with two ballots to the name/address on the deed. Nobody has to register to get a tax bill and they should not have to register to get a ballot envelope with two votes.

Properties vote, but people join clubs and serve on committees. How do we determine who is entitled to those privileges if registration is no longer required? Simple; the Governing Documents Committee is proposing bylaws that say: “Any resident . . . at a Building Site . . . shall be entitled to all of the privileges of membership, except for the right . . . to vote . . . .” (Remember, the vote goes to the name on the deed). So, husband wife sister brother son daughter cousin friend -- anyone who resides on Covenant property can join the Golf Club, Tennis Club, serve on the Art Jury, etc. (except tenants, employees, and houseguests). Beware though, if you own Covenant property, and rent it out, you are not a resident. Ergo a non-resident property owner can’t join the Golf Club anymore. (Hmm, what will that do to property values?). I support the change in voting, and allowing all residents regardless of property ownership to have all the privileges of membership. Maybe this will boost membership in the Golf and Tennis Clubs that need more members. What do you think?

John Ingalls, 18-year Covenant owner/resident

The Covenant Club? “We Will All Decide

We, the residents of Rancho Santa Fe, are living through some exciting times as a number of improvements and changes to our community— universal internet access, cell coverage improvements, updated bylaws, and a Covenant Club — are all being considered. Of these, the proposed Covenant Club truly addresses who we want to be.

Since moving to the Covenant 13 years ago with very young children, I have hoped for a centrally-located pool and fitness facility where people could meet in a casual, “no scheduling needed” way. It looks like that may actually happen, and to me that is very exciting. I see a place where all members of our community can gather with old friends and make new ones. This sense of community is the underpinning of our rich history and is our greatest asset for the future.

Naturally, my enthusiasm for the Covenant Club is cautious as I, like many of you, still have questions about its “feasibility.”

First, can we make this work financially? The current plan is very expensive and must be value-engineered before we consider moving forward. The Covenant Club committee is working on value-engineering options and on ways to pay for the club. I look forward to seeing their proposals.

Second, will our new club really enhance our existing world-class golf and tennis clubs by adding amenities like a pool, fitness center, and casual dining facility? There are several ways to build these features, and the committee has been investigating these carefully. This process, like the building of a new school a decade ago, will be iterative and will engage input from everyone who wants to be heard.

Now, some may not want a Covenant Club under any circumstances. The most important thing for me is that every member of the community gets to express his or her opinion. In time, the Association board will be scrutinizing the plans, the costs, and the amenities. When a reasonable proposal is ready, the community will vote.

No matter how fabulous any one person thinks the plan is, a successful community must be governed by the majority of its members.

Our community is so lucky to have assets like the Golf Club and Tennis Club. These clubs benefit everyone, not just their members. We are also lucky to have the talent and acumen of dedicated citizens to develop a feasible plan for a new club. A financially sound, community-considered Covenant Club could offer wonderful amenities to a large number of current and future members. If done right, it should raise all our home values and the overall quality of our beautiful Ranch.

That is why I support bringing a value-engineered Covenant Club plan to a vote of the community.

Rachel Leheny

Responsible Governance

Rancho Santa Fe board members have a fiduciary obligation to facilitate the community’s goals and objectives. While board members will have their own views on matters, they are obligated to put the community’s interests above their own.

During my career, I organized several homeowners associations and served as President of a 1,090-home residential community with a championship golf course. In addition to establishing the governing documents, one of my primary responsibilities was to create a transparent organization that was financially accountable to its members. It was also my responsibility to educate new board members about their fiduciary obligation to serve their friends and neighbors and to encourage community members to not only voice their opinions but to also offer creative solutions to problems.

Too often the loudest voices in the room dominate the public conversations and the silent majority remains silent until it’s time to vote. I have always believed in the motto “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” We go further in life and have greater success by listening to others. We gain insights and a deeper understanding of the issues before us.

So when it comes to matters like high-speed internet, cell phone service and the Covenant Club, we should be mindful that the demographics of the Ranch have changed and will continue to change, and what were once acceptable amenities for an upscale community may need to be improved. To maintain our property values the Covenant must be attractive to families of all ages.

There are many extremely smart and sincere members of our community who have subject matter expertise that is greatly needed. These folks should be encouraged to serve on committees where their knowledge can make life in the Covenant better for all of us.

So let’s try and find common ground and search for new ways to include the silent majority, which includes bringing significant issues to a community wide vote. We shouldn’t be personalizing our discussions around important issues facing the community, we should be discussing their merits and how they will or will not enhance our lives. Good governance works when the process is transparent. The RSF Association board’s job is to facilitate community engagement, not champion a particular viewpoint.

While board members do have an important role to play, they each have just one vote. The community should always have the final say.

Terry Peay

Concerns about proposed Tire structure for new water rates

The following letter was submitted to the Santa Fe Irrigation District board and to this newspaper for publication.

We are longtime residents of the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant and are concerned about the major changes you are proposing to the Tier structure for the new water rates. In the past, there have been three Tiers for usage and payment. Now you propose to create four. We understand the effect of this to be as follows:

(1) The rates under your proposal for Tiers 1 and 2 will decrease some 7 percent this year and go up again in the following two years. At that point the rates still will be less than the current rates.

(2) Tiers 2 and 3 have been reconfigured and a fourth added. Tier 2, which used to be for medium water use, going forward will benefit a low water user. Tier 3 now would apply to medium water users and here the rate starts to jump. By the time you get to the new Tier 4, which used to be Tier 2, the rate is 25 percent higher.

(3) Proposition 218 and your Tier structure. You say the higher rates of Tiers 3 and 4 are because “Customers who use more water place greater demands and burdens on the District’s water system, resources and supplies.” However, Proposition 218 appears to stipulate that when Tiered water rates are imposed in a manner that deviates from “cost of service” requirements, creating an inherent inequality, those rates are in violation of Proposition 218.

In short, the new Tier structure penalizes those with large families and/or large properties. We also believe the changes made to the new Tier structure are not directly linked to the cost of providing water services to all customers, which would mean this is in violation of Proposition 218. For these reasons, we oppose your proposed changes.

With kindest regards,

Cindy Baker and Joanne Fishman, Rancho Santa Fe