Letters to the editor: Oct. 8 issue
Can reasoning and goodwill prevail?
Many of us have expressed concerns regarding the proposed Covenant Club location and who is to pay for it.
We understand that the members of the Design Subcommittee were told that the Golf and Tennis clubs’ campus was the only viable site for the Covenant Club and they were to restrict their designs to that site. However, unlike other sites that are available, this site has serious parking problems, congestion issues, dramatically impacts neighboring property-owners, and presents a threat to the viability of the existing Golf and Tennis Clubs. So one might ask why the Association board, who appear to be the most ardent proponents of this project, is so determined to build it on the Golf and Tennis Club campus regardless of the costs or the difficulties it presents to others. It appears that the reason is this location plays a major role in their Vision in changing the character of our existing facilities.
Our Association manager has indicated that the board has the authority to approve this project without the Association community’s consent. This prompted a question at a recent meeting where an Association board member was asked if the board would go ahead with the project if the community voted against it. He stated he would be uncomfortable but he could not speak for the other members of the board. This should present a real concern for all Association members because it appears this scenario has been previously visited.
Apparently although the Covenant Club Finance Committee has not made its final decision, their initial proposal calls for The Community Enhancement Fund to pay the major portion of the construction costs and the costs to sustain it. More importantly, we understand that the Association board believes that they have the authority to authorize the use of those monies to fund and move forward with this project without the community support.
I know many members of the board. They are intelligent, well-meaning, and focused on implementing their Vision. Unfortunately, for the reasons outlined above, I and a very large number of others don’t share their Vision. My hope is that they will understand that those of us who are sharing our concerns are not against change. In fact, we are in favor of change that is constructive, inclusive, and endorsed by the overwhelming majority of our membership.
We need to put an end to the dissension that has recently plagued our Association. Lawsuits which are often the result of misunderstandings or uncompromising attitudes benefit the attorneys and are a poor substitute for approaching issues with reasoning and goodwill.
I hope you believe as I do that we need to work together as a community to solve our current and future challenges and return Rancho Santa Fe to its heritage of a desirable and caring community.
Golf Rule 9 — Wrong information
I can deal with philosophical differences, exaggerations and overly optimistic projections on the Covenant Club issue, but I draw the line at blatant misrepresentation of facts.
It was suggested at a recent Membership and Marketing Committee meeting that neither the Golf Club nor the Tennis Club could be sustained without the Covenant Club. I cannot speak to the financial condition of the Tennis Club (although I believe it to be sound), but a “failure message” with respect to the Golf Club is simply not true.
While membership numbers have declined over the past seven years (now 569 vs. 676 in 2007), these declines have been budgeted for and absorbed by the Golf Club dues structure. Going forward, a modest decline in membership is anticipated and will be offset in a similar manner. I might point out that our club is one of the few in Southern California which did not lower the initiation fee during the recession. The RSF Golf Club has a positive cash flow from operations of $100,000 and restricted reserves of over $3 million to fund capital projects over a 10-year period and to service the debt sinking fund. Furthermore, we have $1 million in free reserves. In short, we are hardly in need of the Covenant Club to survive.
A similar message is circulating, and it suggests that our club has all the earmarks of a public golf course with limited socialization and camaraderie. How public is a Golf Club which has an initiation fee of $50,000 and membership is limited to property owners within a defined area? Public golf courses do not have two-three day invitational events, multiple couples events, social twilight golf, member guest days and a great junior program. And social ties are a big part of the golf club experience. We are one of the top private golf clubs in California, and hardly a public facility..
Continuing misinformation regarding the facts is hardly a winning strategy for Covenant Club proponents.
The history of the purchase of one of the Covenant’s best assets — the historic Osuna Ranch and Adobe
Osuna Ranch was purchased by the Rancho Santa Fe Association in 2006 with money in the Association’s Open Space Fund. Years prior, this fund was created specifically to buy land to protect the rural character of the Covenant, which has been its membership’s highest priority for decades. In fact, based on the last community survey, community character still ranked Number 1.
It all began nine years ago when Association members asked the board to consider acquiring Osuna under the criteria established in its Open Space Policy. Following careful review, the board felt that Osuna Ranch did indeed fit the criteria plus an added bonus — a working horse ranch that would generate sufficient net income to cover the expenses of maintaining the property. More importantly, the oldest adobe residence in California still in its natural setting sat on the property.
The adobe at the time was not protected by historic designation (that is something the board immediately changed after the purchase) and could have easily been demolished by any buyer or developer. This was disturbing to many covenant residents and their concerns were heard.
Osuna Ranch was independently appraised by an MAI appraiser at over $14 million, and the board paid over $12 million with Open Space funds. It was always the objective of the board to sell off parts of the Osuna Ranch once acquired, and a few years later a part was sold generating $1.7 million.
Osuna Ranch was purchased in strict compliance with the procedures established in the Association bylaws for land acquisition. These procedures include a public notice and community meetings. These well-attended meetings were held at the Garden Club. Following the meetings, the membership was sent official notice of the potential purchase and terms. Members had one month to voice opposition. There was none. None.
Although Osuna Ranch remains a sound and important holding of our association, it can be sold at any time; but the adobe will remain a symbol of our community’s historical significance for generations to come.
Past President of the RSF Association
‘Progress?’ Look no further than your own backyard for a solution to this problem
The President of the RSF Association Board of Directors read a prepared statement to the open meeting Oct. 1. She scolded Association members for the lack of progress on different board projects. She blamed lack of “progress” largely on Association members raising objections as projects are proposed. The President’s comments unfortunately set a negative tone for an open membership meeting when the sole purpose of such is to present ideas, seek input and encourage discussion. Determining if members are actually stifling “progress” is a separate subject, but I have a simple suggestion how “progress” could dramatically be improved.
The President’s responsibility is to control meetings so everyone has an opportunity to be heard and also to ensure that board members behave professionally and be respectful of all Association members who attend any meeting. Board member attitude should encourage questions and open discussion, even if they personally disagree.
Throughout this meeting, I witnessed disrespectful behavior: directors reading the newspaper, talking among themselves during presentations and making rude remarks that could heard throughout the boardroom.
During the discussion of the process of bylaw changes, I asked if other items besides voting were in the new proposals? I was disappointed to see that Directors Licosati and Eggleston were talking to each other and not listening as myself and others were giving member input. Dr. Lemarie said that 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday was not a good time for a town meeting. When I agreed, especially when told there were multiple proposed bylaw changes, director Eggleston exploded that he was sick of “conspiracies” and those questioning the process were “out of our minds!”
These behaviors are destructive, unproductive, and divisive. I state the obvious, but this is hardly an atmosphere where there can be productive dialogue or “progress.”
It is the responsibility of the President of the board to call your directors to order during meetings and set a tone for respect for everyone’s input to be heard and considered. In the words of your own campaign websites: “We are a diverse community. Everyone has a right to participate in its government and to know how their money is being spent. Questions will be encouraged and answers will be provided in a transparent manner.” That is all we ask.
There are controversial issues facing our community and emotions are running high on many fronts. Now is the time for the Association board to put their personal bias aside and to respect the opinion of all members they were elected to represent. Disdain and derision have no place in this dialogue. The entire board needs to encourage open debate and discussion so members feel they are being heard and their opinion matters. This would foster true progress.
“Progress?” Look no further than your own backyard for a solution to this problem.
Anne Feighner McCarthy
Former Director of the Association