Letters to the Editor, Aug. 20, 2015 issue


Don’t change the County’s General Plan

One of the truly unique draws of the “covenant” of Rancho Santa Fe is that it provides a rural enclave in an ever-growing sea of urban sprawl. The requirement that properties outside of the immediate “village” area of the covenant remain zoned at a minimum of 2 acres per residence helps to ensure the continuance of this rural lifestyle.

Recently, Larry Mabee’s heirs advanced a plan to redevelop the old C. Arnold Smith property into a high-density, “55 and older” community in a purported effort to respond to a nebulous “requirement” from the RSF community. They did this irrespective of the fact that the RSF Association Planning Committee had previously rejected the Smith property as a viable location for any future senior housing development in 2006, specifically due to its unacceptable distance from the village.

The current County General Plan maintains the requirement for minimum 2-acre parcel sizes. Given no clear mandate from the community for a seniors’ development, and given that their property was previously rejected by the RSF Association as a viable location for such a project, it would be inappropriate for the Mabee heirs to petition the county to change its General Plan using the basis of a “community requirement” as their justification. Further, approval of a modification to the General Plan to accommodate the Mabees’ high-density project would also set a dangerous precedent and encourage similar high-density developments in the community in the future.

When Larry Mabee was considering purchasing the C. Arnold Smith property, he stated numerous times to his neighbors that RSF should have a world-class equestrian property at the entrance to the covenant, and he pledged to transform his new property into such a facility. At least 900 members of the community — who signed a petition to stop the high-density development proposed by Mabee’s heirs — think Larry had it about right:

Although the heirs certainly have a right to deviate from Larry’s vision, and to subdivide the property, we also believe that the County Plan’s currently required 2-acre minimum lot size should not be modified to allow for the high-density project currently being proposed.

Russ and Carol Penniman

District’s new water allocation policy is unfair, unjust and penalizes water savers

The new water allocation policy of the Santa Fe Irrigation District is unfair, unjust, and will not produce significant water savings.

Setting aside the 15HCF baseline allocation per household, the policy sets new limits as percentage of usage in 2013. This severely and unfairly penalizes precisely the people it should be encouraging (the water savers), it weakens the conservation incentives precisely for the people whose incentives it should be strengthening (the profligate water users), and it is deeply regressive in the sense that more profligate users pay disproportionately less in fines than water savers. Finally, it does not promote consistent water conservation while excessively penalizing occasional over-use.

Basing the allocations on 2013 usage rewards water-profligate households that had chosen not to implement any water-savings measures two years ago and penalizes water-wise households that were already using less water. It also places an unfair burden on households that have already implemented water conservation measures before or during that year.

Those who had done nothing two years ago can now easily reduce water usage by implementing a variety of inexpensive improvements, whereas those who had already done so have nowhere to go but converting their yards to dirt. The reductions are disproportionately harder for water-wise households to implement and therefore unjust.

Third, the penalty system is also based on percent use over the new quota, which makes it cheaper for profligate users to violate the policy, because they pay less for the same amount of water over-use than do water-wise households with smaller quotas, a striking instance of deeply regressive taxation.

Finally, the program implements penalties but offers no rewards: A household could be using much less water than its allowance for 11 months and go over it (perhaps because they had guests) in one month, and it will be penalized for that one month with no account being taken of its overall water-wise policy. If over-use is to be penalized, consistent conservation should be rewarded.

The water allocations should be based on size of the property (assuming water-wise landscaping), with adjustments for number of occupants, rather than on water usage in some arbitrary reference year. The penalties should be based on absolute amount of water used over the quota, not on percentage over that quota.

The District should also implement net metering — comparing the total annual use to the total annual quota when assessing penalties — to reward consistent savings without penalizing occasional over-use. These changes are easy to implement and will produce a fair and just water allocation policy that will provide appropriate incentives to both water-wise households and those who need extra encouragement to conserve water.

Branislav L. Slantchev, professor of political science, UCSD

Peter Gourevitch, distinguished professor emeritus of political science, School of Global Policy & Strategy, UCSD

Joshua Graff Zivin, professor of economics, Department of Economics and School of Global Policy & Strategy, UCSD

Mabee Family thanks those who came to Rancho Librado presentation

On behalf of the entire Mabee family, I would like to thank the over 100 community members that came to our presentation last Thursday to hear about our proposed project, Rancho Librado. I was extremely pleased with the turnout, the number of questions, and the very positive support the project received after the presentation. By the comments our team received, it was clear we met our goal of providing members of the community with information allowing them to make an informed opinion.

Having been a part of this community for 25 years, my family remains fully committed to bringing forward a project that will be an asset to the community. To this end, I will continue to keep you informed and work with my professional team that includes Pete Smith, Walt Ekard, and Ali Shapouri, who collectively have served this community for almost 40 years. My goal is to ensure the project fulfills the long-identified need for senior housing while being sensitive to the character of Rancho Santa Fe, all while meeting the regulatory requirements of both the Association and the County. I want to ensure that members of the community will have the ability to weigh the pros and cons of the project for themselves and make an informed decision.

For those who were not able to attend the presentation, we strongly encourage you to visit our website,, as well as the website of the members that are opposed to the project, Learn for yourself what the project is all about and talk to some of your fellow members that attended the community meeting and ask them their thoughts.

We remain more than willing to meet with anyone or any group at any time to discuss the project. If you would like to set up a meeting, drop us a note on our website. We look forward to hearing from you.

Again, thank you for listening to both sides.

Laura Mabee-Boswell

Spot zoning benefits the Mabees, not Covenant residents

The “classic” definition of spot zoning is “the process of singling out a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area for the benefit of the owner of such property and to the detriment of other owners.”

After listening to Laura Boswell and her team of consultants justify and promote their plan to develop a high-density senior community at the gateway to the Covenant, it is easy to understand why spot zoning has such a bad connotation. Fundamentally, spot zoning is self-serving, and not the right thing to do or inflict on your neighbors and community.

On a 28-acre site, with SD County General Plan 2020 zoning in place for 2-acre minimum rural estate properties, the applicant’s objective is to build 54 homes. When you look at their aerial site plan, all you see are roofs and roads, along with the incongruity of a 5-acre lake. The high density of the development should be a nonstarter. This is not why any of us moved here. Rancho Librado is 100 percent inconsistent with all the immediate neighbors, and the Covenant’s rural environment. It should not be built at the entrance to the Ranch.

Along with 900 other residents, Chrissy and I have signed an online petition to oppose this development. The website clearly displays the applicant’s site plan. Please join us and document your opposition to high-density subdivisions in the Covenant:

Rick Nicholas