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Member comments sought on proposed changes to Rancho Santa Fe Association voting rules

A committee that is proposing changes to the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s voting rules is encouraging members to comment on the proposal by the end of a 45-day comment period, which runs through Nov. 30.

The proposed changes would expand the total number of potential votes on Association issues — such as election of the board of directors — from 2,112 to about 3,500, according to Fred Wasserman, an Association board member and chairman of the committee that has crafted the list of recommended changes.

As part of the process of gathering input on the proposed changes, the committee held a town hall meeting at the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club on Oct. 22. About 40 people attended the meeting, where they heard presentations from committee members and asked questions.

After the session, Wasserman said the purpose of the proposal is “fairness, simplification and equity.”

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The proposal would amend both the Association’s bylaws and articles of incorporation, which address voting rules, said committee members. The underlying Rancho Santa Fe Covenant would not be changed, they said, nor would assessment rates or methods be affected.

Under current rules, Wasserman said, individual condominium owners are not entitled to vote on Association issues. Instead, each condo development is given two votes. Although the Covenant contains 88 condos, collectively, their owners receive only 19 votes, even though they pay full assessments to the Association, as do the owners of single-family residences.

The proposed rules would give condo owners individual voting rights. In addition, single, divorced or widowed property owners, who receive only one Association vote, would get two votes, the same number accorded to properties with two or more owners.

Finally, some of the voting rules would be simplified. For example, the rules call for members to fill out a lengthy registration form and obtain notarized signatures in order to be able to vote. The proposed changes would do away with the registration requirement, and all property owners would automatically be eligible to vote.

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Wasserman said that would bring the Association’s rules in line with other local HOAs, such as Fairbanks Ranch, which does not have a similar registration requirement. The Association’s registration requirement, said Wasserman at the town hall meeting, is “probably overkill.”

One rule that won’t change under the proposal, committee members said, is that members who own multiple properties within the Covenant will continue to receive a maximum of two votes, the same as those who own a single property.

Committee members said they were directed by the Association board not to propose changing that rule because they did not believe it would be accepted by the membership.

On hand at the town hall meeting, along with Wasserman, were committee members David Moon, John Blakely and Kris Charton. Committee members Allen Finkelson and Mike Licosati did not attend.

Some of the proposed changes are intended to bring the Association in line with current state law, such as the Davis-Stirling Act and the California Corporations Code, which regulate homeowners associations in the state.

The committee has spent an estimated 200 hours working on the proposal, including monthly meetings, and plans to meet at least three to four times more before the issue is decided, Wasserman said.

Members can submit comments in written form by dropping them off or mailing them to the Association office, or by fax, email or through the Association’s website, www.rsfasso

ciation.org. (The online comment form is expected to be available by early November.)

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Among the questions from attendees at the meeting was whether the committee will obtain a written legal opinion on whether the proposed rules conform with state law, and how the Association will prevent the owners of multiple properties from obtaining more than two votes.

On the latter issue, committee members said they don’t think that will be a major problem, but that such evasion is also possible under the current voting rules.

“If somebody wants to cheat, I’m not sure there’s a way to prevent it,” said committee member Charton.

In 2005, a committee made similar proposals to change the Association’s voting rules, but those changes were not enacted.

This time around, the Association is allowing members to review the proposal for 45 days before it is considered further, which Wasserman said has not been done in the past. The purpose, he said, is to allow as many members as possible to provide comments and suggestions.

Once all the comments have been received, the final recommendation will be posted on the Association’s website around mid-December, and presented to the board on Jan. 7. Ballots will then be mailed to Association members, and counted at an open board meeting.

If approved, the new rules would take effect on July 1, 2016. Pending elections, such as the planned ballot on the Covenant Club, a proposed pool and fitness center, would be governed by the existing rules.

Wasserman said the Association’s bylaws were originally adopted in 1927, and have been amended 35 times, most recently in 2014.

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