Letters to the Editor, Sept. 17, 2015 issue

Covenant Club: It’s the ‘vision thing’

Although much of the conversation about the Covenant Club revolves around process, design and costs, the basic disagreement between the groups proposing the project and those opposing is their differing vision of the character and future of Rancho Santa Fe.

The proponents’ proposal is not just a large pool(s?) and fitness center, but a family gathering place where parents and children can meet other families; where moms can safely drop off children for several hours while shopping or attending to other issues; a central sports location for lawn games for children and adults; and golf and tennis facilities. It’s a vision which they see in action in planned communities and suburbs around the U.S.

The problem is that many of us have a different vision of Rancho Santa Fe. We believe that the Ranch has and must keep a small-town rural character and ambience — a sense one feels when first entering the Ranch and continues through the neighborhoods, golf/tennis club, and village. It is a rare combination in the U.S.

Most of us are fortunate in that we can live wherever we wish and don’t want the suburban, planned community or Pasadena experience. We believe the Covenant Club is an assault on that vision. Why? Because it is too big — too overwhelming — in the wrong location, and infringes on the jewel of the ranch — the golf and tennis experience. And that’s before the objections to costs and financing.

The Association board’s mission statement, published on their website, reads they are to “Preserve and enhance the historic, rural character and ambience of the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant Community.” Hard to see how the board’s promotion of this project fulfills that mission.

John and Kathy Giovenco

Natural progression from the Open Space Fund to the Covenant Club

Through the years, Association boards have made a lot of important decisions on our behalf. One that they make every year is an assessment on each property owner for what was called the Open Space Fund, now the Community Enhancement Fund.

That assessment today is 2.5 cents of every dollar of property value. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Well, the fund is over $6 million and the Association is collecting over $1 million a year from it. For what? Therein lies the rub.

As I understand it, the fund started with very good intentions. The board wanted to protect our trails and felt that they needed some financial discretion to do that.

Some time later, as could have been expected, the purpose was expanded as a way to protect against unwanted traffic. Then, that morphed into the protection of the historic heritage of our village.

All the time the fund grew. Each year the Board reviewed it, they made a conscious decision to keep the cash flowing.

Then, along came Osuna Ranch. A lot of things factored into that decision, but I think it was driven a lot by a “what the heck, we’ve got the money” attitude. It is only human nature. Which brings us to the Covenant Club.

There is a kind of natural progression from the Open Space Fund to the Community Enhancement Fund to the Covenant Club. When the purpose of the Open Space Fund kept changing and house values skyrocketed and the name of the fund was changed to the Community Enhancement Fund, it wouldn’t have taken a brilliant prognosticator to know that even good-intentioned people would begin to see it as free money that they needed to spend.

Primarily, our boards are charged with protecting our home values and managing our shared assets and lifestyle as efficiently as possible. They should be trying hard to reduce our mill rate and to run our village as inexpensively as possible. But, with $6 million in the bank, I wonder, can something as extravagant as the Covenant Club proposal be far behind?

It isn’t the fault of those who want it and are proposing it. They honestly believe that it would be a good way to spend the money we have in the bank, But why is our board promoting it? I understand infrastructure things like high-speed Internet, or water, but a community pool? Now?

The intent of what is now the Community Enhancement Fund was to protect our quiet, bucolic way of life.That is certainly one of the things we elect our board to do as well and to make changes that are necessary for us to be a viable place to live. But, I’m afraid we have collected too much money over too long a period time to think that the money will be spent wisely.

Bill Johnson

Let county’s experts decide traffic issue

The RSF Association board decision to have a survey relating to the traffic issue may only cause the community to split and hurt the harmony among the residents.

The RSF Association will have the survey to decide for either signals or roundabouts. I am no expert in the traffic field. I have no special expertise to judge or decide which is better or worse. Both sides seem only pick up the facts or data which are favorable to their argument. If the data provided is not presented in a scientific manner, how can I use this data to make a right decision?

The board should have never approved any type of survey or vote for this kind of technical issue. As to either signals or roundabouts, that decision should belong to the county traffic department! ... That is what the county did years ago for the installation of traffic signals at Calzada del Bosque and Via de la Valle without a community vote. The decision to do the survey will only cause a split in the community! That should be the biggest concern! The residents along Paseo Delicias must have their basic needs, their safety issue and normal life respected and well protected! It is just not reasonable to have the whole community, based on their preferences, decide on basic needs of others.

The board should simply tell the county to make the final decision on either traffic signals or roundabouts! ... The fight for the traffic issue really hurts (our) image ... When so much heated debate on such a simple issue (is) known everywhere, can we draw more new buyers to this town? Traffic is a very important factor for a new buyer!

The board should be very cautious about the “noise” on any issues. It is not wise to vote 7-0 in support of the signals today and then change your opinion the next day, voting 7-0 to overrule its old decision. And then it simply chooses the “sitting-on-the-fence” approach and not even daring to talk to its residents! The board is the government. You need to express your position very clearly, because that is the role of the government! Otherwise, people will naturally ask, what is the purpose of us electing a board?!

I agree with what Ann Boon, president of the RSF Association, said in the RSF Review: “I don’t mind being second-guessed or attacked; that comes with the territory. But I don’t think it does this community any good to go on for months and months on an issue when we have other things to deal with.”

To find a better way for the traffic issue is just like doing surgery on a patient. When a person finds a cancer in his body and decided to have surgery, let the doctor decide how to do it! It is as simple as that! Life is just too short!

Wei Zhang

Roundabouts work beautifully in Sedona

Obviously, traffic discussions have been going on for sometime in Rancho Santa Fe, and the discussion has come down to whether traffic lights at key intersections or roundabouts make more sense.

We bought our first home in the Covenant in the 1990s and love it here. Years ago we owned a home above Sedona, Ariz., and visit there annually. Sedona installed several “roundabouts” years ago, and they have worked beautifully at keeping traffic moving, slowing traffic to safe speeds and largely eliminating T-bone crashes. For the record, Sedona has 4 million visitors annually, and the roundabouts keep the traffic flowing.

This is a personal observation, but my wife and I also think roundabouts seem in keeping with the natural beauty of Sedona, and we both feel the proliferation of traffic lights won’t seem in character with the rural beauty of the ranch.

Regardless of the outcome, we will make Rancho Santa Fe our home and want the best for this wonderful place.

Robb Dalton

New roundabout information to consider

With all Covenant land owners receiving a ballot in the mail in the coming weeks, the time has arrived to decide the future of the Ranch. In a previous OpEd, I stated that I was “anti-traffic light,” not “pro-roundabout.” Given the information below, I am now unequivocally “pro-roundabout.”

Widening of Via de la Valle and Paseo Delicias to four lanes

• In 2006, County staff recommended widening the Via de la Valle/Del Dios corridor to four lanes;

• A new four-lane expansion is already approved for Del Dios at Via Rancho Parkway;

• Widening has already occurred at: Morgan Run, Polo Point, Casa Palmera, Cielo and Crosby;

• A former Traffic Committee chairman noted, “All you need to do is connect the dots.”

• Traffic lights will facilitate widening, while roundabouts will stop future widening efforts.

Traffic Flow

• Roundabouts eliminate waiting at red lights, and give immediate access to roadways;

• Roundabouts facilitate a slow, steady pace, moving traffic through 20 percent more quickly and efficiently.

Safety

• Roundabouts are nine times safer than traffic lights for injury and fatal accidents;

• Roundabouts reduce speed and have traffic-calming effects, improving safety for for horses, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Beauty

• Roundabouts are more beautiful and in keeping with the rural aesthetics of our historic Ranch;

• Roundabouts are in compliance with its dark-sky mandate.

Environment

• Unlike traffic lights, the carbon footprint of roundabouts is close to zero;

• Roundabouts significantly reduce light, noise, emissions, and fuel consumption.

Cost

• Covenant residents and the Association will pay nothing;

• Roundabouts are eligible for federal funds from the National Environmental Policy Act;

• The County states each of the roundabouts may cost as little as $1M each.

Eminent Domain

• Covenant residences will only lose 0.09 acre (9/100th) in total over the three intersections;

• The non-Covenant vacant lot on El Montevideo will lose 0.12 acre;

• The RSF Association will lose the most land — a total of 0.294 acre;

• Each landowner will be paid fair market value for the land — tax free;

• The Village Church will not lose land. The parking spaces it reportedly will lose were already given to the County in 2008, in exchange for a variance to build a larger sanctuary;

• In addition, a 2008 signed agreement grants Association-owned land to the Church to replace any lost spaces.

Supporting documents can be found at: www.rsfbeautifulroads.com.

Glen Griffin, Beautiful Roads Group

Use Community Enhancement Fund to bring reclaimed water to RSF, not a pool project

I found Marion Dodson’s comments on reclaimed water interesting. She addressed an issue that should be a priority for this community: How long can we sustain the loss of lawns, trees, and plants that are resulting from restrictions on our water supply? Ms. Dodson and I are in full agreement. We need to get away from potable water, for our public lands, our large properties, and our golf course.

She says that our golf course is “very green looking,” but closer inspection reveals broad sections of brown areas that weren’t there before the drought, especially in our roughs.

The fairways and greens are hanging on because of the Herculean efforts of golf course Superintendent Tim Barrier and his experienced crew. They have removed turf, changed watering practices, and reduced water consumption by 45 percent, virtually everything possible to preserve this valuable asset to this community. The golf course is our park, home to joggers, walkers, horseback riders, as well as golfers. We have to keep it as healthy-looking as possible. Its appearance reflects very positively or negatively on our community.

It is my understanding that we have a group of advocates for a pool project, which they are promoting as making our community more attractive to potential buyers, and therefore increase property values. They have received authorization to spend several hundred thousand dollars for a study and have estimated the project will cost several million more to build and sustain. However, unlike the golf club and tennis club members who paid for their clubhouses, they want to use our Community Enhancement fund to help construct and sustain their project.

It is my understanding that the Community Enhancement Fund, which is really a tax we all pay, was meant to benefit the entire community. I join Ms. Dodson when she suggests we move ahead on reclaimed water. The attractiveness of our community will be greatly affected if we fail to solve our water problem.

I would further ask that all of our community join together in requesting our Association Board to earmark the Community Enhancement Fund to bring reclaimed water to this community and to sustain its cost for the benefit of all of our members.

Dick Hess

Roundabouts would be a safer choice

San Diego County’s Right of Way Standards for RSF state: “Traffic signals are highly destructive of the area’s scenic roadways. They shall only be allowed where safety concerns can not be otherwise mitigated.”

Federal studies reveal that when roundabouts replace traffic signals there are:

• 90 percent fewer fatal collisions;

• 75 percent fewer injury collisions;

• 40 percent fewer pedestrian collisions;

• 37 percent fewer overall collisions.

There are three reasons for these statistics:

-- Roundabouts eliminate deadly broadside and head-on collisions. They replace the center of the intersection, known as the “kill zone,” with a landscaped center island.

-- At roundabouts, there are fewer rear-end collisions due to fewer sudden stops.

-- When collisions do occur in a roundabout, they are at a reduced speed and most often result in property damage only.

In addition to safety, roundabouts:

• Will reduce cut through traffic.

• Have a 30- to 50-percent increase in traffic capacity.

• May eliminate the need for future four-lane roads.

• Reduce noise, resulting in quieter neighborhoods.

• Reduce emissions and fuel consumption by 30 to 40 percent.

• Have a longer service life — 25 years vs. 10 years for signal equipment.

• Have lower annual operational costs, requiring less maintenance and electricity.

• Function when traffic signals malfunction.

• Are aesthetically pleasing.

• Calm traffic by reducing speeds (remember, speed kills).

• Are safer for all drivers, especially age 70 and older.

• Provide substantial savings for society by reducing injury and fatal collisions.

Safety is my overwhelming reason to choose roundabouts; however, there are many other benefits to installing roundabouts.

M. Kent Lemarié, M.D., emergency physician and 39-year Covenant resident

Updated simulation shows roundabouts work

We had the fortunate opportunity to engage a national leader in roundabout engineering to perform an updated simulation using the latest standards and procedures. Here are the results for your enjoyment.

Analysis of Traffic Light Group’s Report

According to Kittelson Associates Inc. (KAI), a national leader in roundabout engineering, the traffic light group’s report is not fully consistent with the current state of modern roundabout planning and design. For instance, with regard to:

• Lane Imbalance: Older roundabout guidance in the U.S. has included the generalized notion that roundabouts operate poorly under unbalanced traffic flows. This notion has not been corroborated in any of the recent research on the performance of roundabouts in the United States.

• Capacity: Synchro 8 and other software packages implement a version of the HCM 2010 capacity models, which is now considered out of date and overly pessimistic in terms of capacity. These have been updated based on research for the Federal Highway Administration with publication pending in 2015.

• Vehicle queues: A queue analysis considering access control mitigations is not provided in the traffic light group’s report at any project intersection. Management of vehicle queues is a critical performance measure when evaluating intersection improvements and the overall performance of the transportation system. The roundabout at Via de la Valle will provide superior flexibility to access nearby streets and driveways, such as La Fremontia, compared to a signal alternative. The signal design will likely limit access in and out of nearby streets and driveways or will require that additional lanes be constructed beyond those identified in the current signal analysis.

KAI Report Summary

• The roundabouts on Paseo Delicias will provide less delay compared to traffic lights. These results are consistent with the current national research being conducted by KAI for the Federal Highway Administration.

• For the existing traffic condition, single-lane roundabouts operate with approximately 10 seconds of delay with LOS A/B.

• For the 2030+ project condition, single-lane roundabouts operate with 21 seconds or less of delay at Via de la Valle and El Monte Video. Congestion at El Camino del Norte could be mitigated by adding a simple westbound right turn lane for morning congestion and a second eastbound lane for 200 feet in each direction for afternoon congestion.

KAI Credentials

KAI is a national leader in the research, planning, and design of roundabouts with over 800 across the U.S. and Canada. KAI helped research and develop the roundabout design guidelines and roundabout capacity models that all Departments of Transportation and engineering firms use for roundabout planning and design in the United States.

Bill and Vida Siino

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