Rancho Santa Fe Covenant Club price tag comes in at $15.8 million

The Rancho Santa Fe Association Covenant Club Design Subcommittee unveiled the first updated numbers about the cost of the proposed pool and fitness facility at its Feb. 22 meeting, which is the subcommittee’s last meeting. The updated cost estimate for the club is $15.8 million, higher than the $10.9 million estimated by the exploratory committee prior to the 2014 community-wide vote. 

Jerry Yahr, RSF Association board member and chair of the subcommittee, said the numbers came in higher than projected in soft costs for items such as county processing and construction management, and for the re-location of the two clay tennis courts, which was projected to cost $1million but is now estimated to cost $4.6 million.

Yahr and his committee faced a tough crowd on Monday, as many vocal project opponents attended the meeting. Many complained that they had not been sufficiently noticed about the meeting and had concerns about the project’s size, cost and the process.

RSF Association Manager Bill Overton said they sent a notice of the meeting via email to 1,700 email addresses, and the notice was posted on the bulletin board as well as the website.

“There’s no intent to hide anything,” Overton said. “These are the largest attended meetings we have other than the occasional board meeting or town hall meeting on a controversial topic…We’re doing everything we can to get the word out to the most number of people possible.”

One project opponent questioned why the community vote was for a pool and workout facility when the plan has now grown to a “little city” of buildings, with a kids’ club, steam room, restaurant and a grand staircase to the pool.

“You’re building what people haven’t asked for.  You’re moving along like we’re going to outdo The Bridges. We’re not The Bridges,” the opponent stated.

Overton said that it started as one building in concept a couple of years ago but it was two stories and people were concerned about the height. He said the design team has made great care to design smaller-massed buildings on a smaller footprint due to community feedback.  

As far as the process, Overton assured the public there will be story polls and the community will be involved every step of the way through future meetings as well as a final vote on the project.

“From the very beginning the hope was this project would be self sustaining. Like you, we on the board and on the committee are anxious to get the vote done and get a resolution but given this larger-than-expected number we all have a lot of work to do,” said RSF Association President Ann Boon.  "The finance subcommittee will now take this number and these detailed engineering cost numbers and go back to the drawing board on their model.”

Already they have a commitment for 10 percent of the project cost pledged and Boon said the finance, membership and marketing subcommittee’s goal will be to get more pledges, as well as go out to the community to get pledges for actual club memberships.

“There are a lot of moving parts and, unfortunately, we don’t have a schedule for you yet, those subcommittees need to do their work, including you when it’s appropriate and we don’t want to rush it,” Boon said. "We want to make sure that when it goes to a vote, you know exactly what you’re voting for and there are no surprises."

If approved, the project would take 39 months; three years to get through the county process and to construct it. The process would include a Environmental Impact Report.

There was some questions about how the community vote will factor in the decision by the board to build the club.

“If it passes 551 to 550 that’s going to be a very tough decision either way for the sitting board at that time,” Boon said, noting that allowing the community to vote was a decision of previous boards — they could’ve skipped a vote but the RSF Association board wanted to keep the community involved.

Boon said that it is a good idea prior to the vote to have a discussion about whether the vote needs to be a two-thirds majority or simple majority in order to move forward.

Project architect Kirk Mason gave an overview of the updated site plan for the club. Changes to the plan included a requirement from the fire department that there is a buffer between the new fitness building and the RSF Golf Club’s players’ club building as well as a 24-foot-wide emergency access road. RSF Golf Club members expressed concerns about how far the building will now project onto the course. Mason said the building was pulled farther west, away from the golf course and the first tee but a small portion will step out a few feet farther.

Ian Morris, landscape architect, said they were able to refine the grading plan in the parking lot, which eliminated the need for a lot of the high retaining walls. A 14-foot wall near the two new tennis courts was able to be lowered to be no higher than 6 feet by slightly elevating the two courts and adding stairway access.

Edits were also made to the plan for the pool deck. As there were concerns about the spa being close to the children’s splash pad, the architects adjusted the position of the exercise studio to allow for the creation of an adult-only spa while maintaining a separate nook with an outdoor fireplace.

There were concerns expressed about the removal of as many as 20 mature trees by the new tennis courts, as well as the necessity to remove trees along the course where the new fitness building will be. Mason said there would be an intent to save some trees but they might lose a few — he said they don’t have an official count yet.

“We haven’t made any formal submittal to the Covenant Design Review Committee and I’m sure there will be issues along the way that we’ll need to address,” Mason said. “At our initial conceptual meeting with (Building Commissioner) Robert Green, he felt that this approach from the site design standpoint and building design standpoint was the type of thing that as a community, the design committee embraces."

“The proposal would add a significant amount of new landscaping, so it would not be taking out all the trees and not replacing them with anything. There will be added trees,” Yahr added. “Yes, it will be a little bit different in that area where those two courts are but there will be trees and vegetation surrounding it…but it may not initially be the same size trees."

Boon said she looks for any opportunity she can to thank Yahr for the "unbelievable amount of hours” he has put in as a volunteer leading the committee.

“Committees typically aren’t really open. I guess we can call Jerry Mr. Cellophane because he’s been completely transparent from the very beginning and every one of his committee meetings has been open, and thank you all for coming to them and watching the process develop,” Boon said. "It’s been a long process to now and I think it’s going to be a bigger process ahead of us."

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