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Lawsuit regarding noise issues filed against resort in Rancho Santa Fe

By Joe Tash

A Fairbanks Ranch couple has sued the Rancho Valencia Resort, alleging that noise from resort events has caused them pain and suffering, diminished their property value and violated county noise ordinances.

Angel and Linda Mendez, who live on Avenida Las Perlas, filed their lawsuit in Vista Superior Court on May 22. The lawsuit alleges that the problem has occurred since a group of investors purchased the resort, at 5926 Valencia Circle in April 2010.

“Defendants, and each of them, have occupied, used, and maintained these premises in such a manner that the sound of music, shouting and other accompanying noises generated by means of a loudspeaker, sound amplification system, public address system, or otherwise, during parties hosted by defendants, and each of them, travels well beyond the borders of the defendants’ property and into the Mendez property,” said the lawsuit.

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“Plaintiffs have been hurt and injured in their health, strength, and activity, sustaining injury to their nervous system and person, all of which injuries have caused, and continue to cause, plaintiffs great mental, physical, and nervous pain and suffering,” said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction barring the resort from generating noise that disturbs the Mendez family, such as amplified music, and unspecified monetary damages.

In an interview, Linda Mendez said she and other neighbors have met with resort officials, and even called the Sheriff’s Department to complain about noise from weddings and other resort events, to no avail.

The resort’s croquet lawn, where weddings and other parties are held, is several hundred feet from her property, she said, and the sound is loud enough to drown out the TV throughout her home.

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“We’ve tried to take the neighborly approach and ask them to stop it,” she said, but, “We have to defend our property now. We have to defend our right to be able to live here in peace and quiet.”

The Mendez family is the only one to file suit, but some of their neighbors have also complained about noise from the resort. However, neighbors contacted by a reporter declined to comment for this article.

Doug Carlson, managing director of the Rancho Valencia resort, acknowledged that the resort has received noise complaints from neighbors. In response, he said, the resort has hired URS Corp., an internationally-known engineering firm, to design a sound system that will allow the resort to continue to have live music at its events, but reduce the sound impact on neighbors.

The resort has met with neighbors, he said, and other than the Mendez family, “They’ve ended up satisfied that our efforts that we’re putting forth have merit.”

While he declined to comment directly on the lawsuit, he said, “We have developed some pretty strong plans with a third-party sound engineer which we think will be helpful and responsive to the complaints we’ve received.”

The engineering company has designed a two-pronged approach, said Carlson. First, acoustic panels and a partial bandshell will be installed to absorb sound and contain it within the resort property.

Second, a system of smaller speakers will be installed closer to where events are held, so that the main amplification system can be run at a lower decibel level. Equipment to monitor sound from resort events will also be installed.

“It’s an important and large investment, but one that we’ve committed to do. And one that we think will work. Experts tell us it will work,” Carlson said.

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Work on the new sound system is taking place as the resort prepares to reopen following a $30 million renovation and upgrade project launched in January. The project includes changes throughout the resort, from logos and color schemes, to a new bar, restaurant and spa upgrades.

Carlson said a date has not yet been set for the grand reopening. In their lawsuit, the Mendez family contends the improvements are designed to increase size of events, which will make the problem even worse.

Carlson said that to his knowledge, the resort has not violated any county ordinances related to noise from its events, but its owners want to resolve the noise issue.

“As neighbors, we’re committed to trying to work through the issue, and any issues that come up. That’s our style,” he said.

Not everyone who lives on or near the resort has issues with the noise. Lauretta Prestera, who lives in one of the 30 or so private residences on the resort property, said she and her neighbors knew what they were getting into when they bought their homes, and they enjoy the excitement and amenities offered by living in a resort community.

Over the years, she said, people have complained about all sorts of noise generated by the resort, including the pounding of tennis balls from its courts.

“The general consensus here is we moved into this community because we wanted the resort lifestyle,” she said. “And we were fully aware they have parties, events, weddings. It’s part of what we do and how we live on a day-by-day basis.”

“It’s excitement. It’s fun to be around a celebration,” she said.

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