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Buzz: State of the Rancho Santa Fe Association

By Jack Queen, RSF Association board president

For over 20 years each outgoing RSF Association President has given a State of the Association Report on the issues and the conditions that existed at the end of their term.  The report was intended to establish a record of the goals and accomplishments for the year, as well as outlining the challenges we will be facing in the upcoming years.  It was intended to be a tool for future boards to draw upon and at the same time establish a written history for generations to come.

This year I could make this report very short by simply saying that the “State of the Association” is excellent.  On the financial side, we are on very strong footing with a positive income statement and over $7 million in funded reserves.  From an operations standpoint we are in even better shape. Having been active in the governance of the Association for the last six years, serving first on the Art Jury for three years and then on the board for three years, I have seen firsthand how the system works and I can tell you it works very well. I am constantly impressed with the quality and credentials of the community members that give of their time to serve on our committees and serve on the board.  Now I will admit they don’t always vote the way I think they should, but they do vote the way they believe is in the best interest of the community, even if they are wrong.  Add our volunteers to our well-seasoned staff and it is a combination that is hard to beat.

As President of the Association I am very pleased with the progress we have made this year in addressing the issues facing our community and accomplishing our established goals.  Not all of the projects came to a successful conclusion, but we did address each of the issues and have a better understanding of what can be accomplished and the limitations on some goals that will need continued work.

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Our number one priority was to address the need for establishing broadband coverage

for the entire community.  To address this issue the board established an ad hoc committee comprised of members in the community with expertise in wireless communication.  This is one of our priorities that will need continued work and effort to bring it to fruition.  What we have learned so far:  1) There is not going to be any one simple solution; 2) Any resolve will be expensive; and finally 3) The options are complicated.

The basic problem is that our homes are too far apart and the topography is too uneven to generate enough revenue volume to cover the capital expense to install the backbone system. The Committee has been meeting with all of the wireless providers to see what the best options are available.   The process has been delayed due to the competitive nature of the industry and the reluctance of the providers to provide detailed information about their ability to provide coverage.  At the end of the process we may not be able to provide 100 percent coverage to all residences, but we will have a much better understanding of the options and can better advise our members of the options that are available to their unique location.  Dick Doughty has been the board’s liaison on this project due to professional background and his attention to detail in everything he does.  I am hoping that Dick will continue on the Committee to see this project to completion.

2 Patrol Space:

The board has worked out a long- term lease agreement with the Fire Department that consists of a series of five-year leases which guarantees us space in the Fire Station for the next 30 years.  We worked hard with the Fire Department to iron out a lease that met the needs of both groups and I would like to thank the fire board and Fire Chief Tony Michel for their help.  Additionally, we have now signed a lease agreement with the school district for enough parking to meet the needs of the Patrol for as long as we are leasing space from the Fire Department.  This has been a long process for everyone involved and the end result is that we now have a secure location for our Patrol that will meet the needs of our community.

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3 Marketing RSF:

The general thought behind this priority is to promote our community to create demand to get us through these difficult economic times.  To this end, the Board has established the Community Awareness Committee to increase the awareness of community not only to the outside world but also to enhance the information flow to our current members.  The first recommendation from the Committee has been to establish an updated website that will feature the many amenities the community has to offer and to keep everyone current on community activities and events.  We are in process of reviewing several proposals to enhancement the website and to provide key links to all community organizations.   I am excited about the possibilities and hope that we can have the new website up and running within six months.

4 Document Management:

This is a program to electronic file all of the Association’s records.  The end result would be to protect the original files and make the information more accessible to members.  All future submittals would be made electronically for easier dissemination of information and permanent storage.  We are currently in the process of having all of the building and property files converted to electronic storage and I am optimistic that we can have this process completed by the end of the summer.

5 Art Jury:

In response to the recent community survey that indicated some concerns with the Art Jury process, the Art Jury has been working on ways to better communicate their concerns with applicants and becoming more user friendly. Recently the Art Jury presented the Board with an outline of their new project review process that encourages greater direct involvement between the members of the Art Jury and the members that are submitting proposals.  It is a big step in the right direction.

6 Golf Club Loan:

It has become very clear over the last few years that the Golf Club is simply not going to be able to pay off the renovation loans as quickly as originally planned.  To this end the Association is working with the Golf Club to explore options to refinance the loans to lock in today’s historically low interest rates.  In April the Board reached an agreement with the Golf Club to replace the $1,600,000 bank loan with funds provided by the Association at favorable rates and terms.  The end result is that the Golf Club is now paying $4,300 less in interest per month on the financing and the Association is earning over $2,000 more per month on our funds.  A win-win for everyone. The Board and Golf Club are now focusing on securing fixed rate financing on the remaining debt from a conventional lender.   I would like to thank Roxana Foxx and Larry Spitcausky for their efforts to bring this goal to reality.

7 Undergrounding:

Sometimes the end result of a great deal of time and energy is the not the answer you hope to hear – but it is reality.  This is the case with undergrounding.  Based on concerns expressed by members over the years, the Association put together a vehicle to underground utilities in individual neighborhoods.  This was a solution for the long standing concerns expressed by members to underground utilities in the community.  The system is now in place and ready to go, all we need now is someone willing to sign up. Even though we have not had any takers for the program, the good news is that, should the economy recover and once again the focus returns to undergrounding utilities, we have the system in place to make it happen.

8 Email:

The entire Board is very enthusiastic about the ability to increase communication with our members through direct contact with emails.  Our last remaining hurdle to establishing the system is to identify the best way to guarantee the security of our members and their private information.  We are continuing to work on establishing a system that is secure and at the same time is in compliance with all State laws.  Our Manager, Pete Smith, has assured me that we can work out the security concerns and I am going to hold him to it.  I look forward to receiving the notice of the next community meeting electronically.

9 Open Space:

Based on the results of our community survey, the Association’s Policy of identifying and acquiring land for Open Space remains very popular with our members.  However, our current Open Space program has not been updated in over 15 years and many of the goals in the original plan are now outdated.  The Board remains open to exploring any potential open space parcels especially in light of the downturn in the economy that offers some tremendous bargains.  This time next year and with the potential sale of the house on the Osuna Property, the Association will have over $4,500,000 in our fund for the purchase of Open Space. To make sure these funds are used to meet the expectations of the members, the Open Space Policy needs to be updated to clearly identify the goals and objectives.  Our Trails and Recreation Committee is working to revise and update our Open Space Program and should have the plan in place this summer.

10 Water reclamation/reforestation:

Ann Boon and Anne Feighner have taken this project on and they are currently working with a new ad hoc committee to set up the frame work for a new standing Committee.  The committee is technically named the Committee on the Natural Resource but more commonly known as CONE. The committee is working with the Golf Club to secure an alternative source of water for the course and the community as well as ways to address the declining forest in RSF

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In addition to our established priorities this year the Association Board took on several special projects during the year that had a positive impact on the community.

Village:

One of these special projects was to take another look at issues facing the Village area and especially looking at ways to provide some relief for parking.  It is interesting to note, that past Association minutes reported the following item: “Director Fawcett again called to the attention of the Board the rapidly worsening condition and consequent lack of adequate parking in the Village Center.”  This statement appeared in the Board minutes 57 years ago on April 1, 1955.  Under the direction of Director Eamon Callahan the Board conducted a parking survey of the Village area that indicated one of the main problems was people violating the timed parking limits.  Working with the California Highway Patrol the Association began an enforcement program to free up spaces and to cite the violators.  Having been a big promoter of the Village, and I am up there frequently, and I can see the positive effects of these efforts.   After having lunch in the Village, I observed several available spaces in the timed parking zones.  After 57 years of reviewing potential solutions, I think this may be as good as it is going to get.

Golf Club:

When the Club found itself short on personnel last October, the Association stepped up and provided management support both for the overall operation as well as the dining room until replacements could be found.  Not only were we able to help keep the transition running smoothly it gave the Club the time they needed to find the right fit for the new General Manager.  Having served on the Selection Committee, I can tell you that you have to pick through a lot of tomatoes to find the right one but they did just that in Al Castro.  Al was the Committee’s and the Golf Board’s unanimous choice for GM and I pleased to be a part of that process.

Osuna Ranch:

The Osuna Adobe is one area that I feel we have just not done enough to restore and preserve this historical jewel.  Rancho Santa Fe is truly one of the very special communities in this country and what makes us so special is our unique character.  What can be more unique that having the oldest Adobe in the State of California that is still in its natural settling.  As a community we should take this jewel and polish it up and put it on display to show how committed we are to our history and our rural character.  I would like to see the Association commit the funds to fully restoring the structure and I will continue to stay involved to help this happen.

Economy:

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As with all businesses in the country, the Association has been negatively impacted by the current condition of the economy.  We have made staffing adjustments to address the changing environment including reductions and reassignments to impacted areas.  We have been forced to spend more resources on collection of payments and monitoring distressed properties than anyone can remember.   Although delinquencies are up for the Rancho Santa Fe Association, we are at industry lows for homeowners associations.  I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Steve Comstock our Chief Financial Officer and his staff for staying on top of all of our organizations receivables and the Finance Committee for closely monitoring our finances.

Summary

I started off this report with the statement that the State of the Association is excellent and I firmly believe that is the case.  Not only are we currently in excellent shape, we are well positioned to address any future challenges that might come our way.  In my three years on the Board and especially as President this last year I have worked closely with our Association Manager and all of the department heads.  I have seen firsthand how the operation works and having personally managed large organizations I know the challenges. Overall, I am very impressed with how professionally the organization is managed at all levels and equally impressed with the level of team spirit.  When the General Manger position at the Golf Club became vacant I think that everyone knows that both Pete Smith and Nadine Garcia immediately stepped in to fill the void at the Club. But what the average member may not be aware is that the balance of the Association staff stepped in to make sure their responsibilities at the Association were covered in their absence.  The end result was a seamless transition until a new management team was in place at the Club. Again, we are well positioned both financially and operationally to meet future challenges.  For over 85 years, it has been the responsibility of the members of the Board to preserve and enhance the rural character of our community and to maintain an organization that is sound and well positioned for the future—and I believe this Board has continued that long standing tradition.


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