By Karen Billing
About 100 Rancho Santa Fe residents showed up on Friday, Oct. 17, for a health club and pool community meeting, the last outreach before ballots were mailed on Monday, Oct. 20. On the ballots, members are being asked whether the Rancho Santa Fe Association should spend $350,000 on a professional planning phase for the potential new community amenity.
RSF Association Director Heather Slosar said the pool and health club could increase home values and make the Covenant more attractive to younger families, as well as serve as a lifestyle enhancement for existing Covenant members.
Based on a quick poll of those in attendance at the Oct. 17 meeting, Slosar said about 70 percent said they would vote in favor of the facility, while 10 percent said “no” and 20 percent were unsure.
Some concerns expressed by those in opposition were the initial costs and the continuing costs to operate the facility, the location and the need.
One member said she doesn’t believe that the lack of the pool and fitness center is truly driving Covenant values down and that she doesn’t see a need to be like communities such as The Bridges and Santaluz.
“It seems like everyone is doing the same thing. What makes the Covenant different?” said the member. “There’s a vibe at Santaluz and The Bridges, a certain chaos. When I come back I enjoy the quietness here; this is the lifestyle we’re looking for.”
Other members pointed out that the community needs to keep up with modern times.
“I don’t want the Covenant to be a bunch of ramps for old people and I’m an old person,” said one member.
Another member, who moved to Rancho Santa Fe just three months ago, said that a pool and fitness center wouldn’t turn the Ranch into The Bridges but would go far in creating a sense of community that he feels is lacking.
Rick Coyne and Bob Borsch from ClubMark, the company that conducted last year’s member survey on the golf club and has been working with the pool and fitness committee, helped to lead the community meeting.
Coyne referenced an independent study by First American Title that found that over the last 10 years, property values have increased in The Bridges by 12.9 percent while decreasing in the Covenant by 16.7 percent. The presentation also included insight from Jason Barry of Barry Estates.
“There can be little doubt that Covenant values would increase materially if modern amenities were added, notably a community health club and pool, as well as robust wireless and internet infrastucture,” Barry said. “The lack of these amenities has hurt Covenant values relative to the many surrounding, and even statewide, high-end communities recently.”
Committee member Mike Licosati said that the addition of the pool and health club could increase property values by 5 percent, which translates to $200 million in increased valuation to Covenant members.
The tentative cost model for a 15,000-square-foot facility is an estimated $10 million but the professional planning phase would better shape those numbers, according to the health club and pool committee.
Costs for the project are proposed to be funded through a combination of Covenant Enhancement Funds, pre-construction membership sales, financing and also donations and fundraising. Already the Luddy family has committed to cover 10 percent of the project cost.
Licosati said the enrollment would be a $1,500 initiation cost and a $180 monthly fee, which is competitive with surrounding club offerings.
One member asked if it was legal to charge an initiation fee to members for something that they already own. Slosar said it is legal.
“We can’t make it a high barrier to entry but why would we want to? We want to build something that will be successful and we want to build something that neighbors will want to join,” Slosar said.
Preliminary plans place the facility location in between the RSF Golf Club’s player’s clubhouse and the RSF Tennis Club. Architect Kirk Mason said parking would be a challenge should the project move forward.
“Parking will be a focus if we get the ‘yes’ vote,” Mason said. “We will look at how to appropriately plan the site to add parking convenient for the various uses on the site.”
A supporter said they envisioned teenagers riding their golf carts to the pool as she did in her own youth. A dad said he imagined saying “Let me play nine holes and I’ll meet you at the pool,” and a grandparent said she liked the idea of having a place to take the grandkids when they visited.
One member asserted that spending the $350,000 on the planning was a risk — if a vote was held on the pool and health club and the community voted “no,” that $350,000 would just disappear.
Slosar noted that the decision to take spending the initial money to a vote was one their board made to be the most transparent they can be; they don’t have to take a vote to spend the money.
“Past boards would have already spent your money,” Slosar said.