Letters to the Editor, Sept. 10, 2015 issue

Sibling rivalry in Rancho Santa Fe

What happens when you have children who are treated very differently by their parents?

Despite best intentions, our community has its fair share of divisiveness. Special interests invite natural bias. While being transparent, how do we remain equitable to various factions within our community?

One way to think about our community is to look at the RSF board as our parents, and each of our member groups as different children:

The Golf Club is the child that was allowed to build a beautiful house for its members (with only the golf members’ money), but they were required to build an equally beautiful house (our community clubhouse and restaurant) that everyone else in the community could access for “free.”

The Tennis Club is the quieter child that doesn’t ask for much, but has also been told it must support itself.

The Osuna Ranch is the extravagant child that we adopted for $12 million. Some think this child never fit in, and has been allowed to remain if it stays within its budget. That’s like saying you’ve given this child a Ferrari they can keep as long as they pay for gas. Also, did you know that the majority of horses historically stabled at Osuna belong to non-Covenant owners?

And now there is the Covenant Club, the new child that some members want and some members want no part. The current financing approach would have some costs supported by Covenant Club members, but substantial facility and operational costs subsidized by the entire community through the Enhancement Fund.

Without dwelling on how we got here, what should we do now? Possible options include:

1) Sell Osuna and re-purpose the proceeds. Carve out a small property to keep the historic adobe.

2) Without increasing our assessment rate, allocate part of our existing dues for a “Social Membership” covering the operational results of our community clubhouse and restaurant.

3) Convert part of the Golf Club’s Players Clubhouse to a reduced-scope healthclub. Converting the Veranda Bar and unused Men’s Bar would cost a fraction of a new building, funded by the Golf Club. To use this facility, community members would need to join the Golf Club (adding another reason to join).

4) Reduce the scope of the Covenant Club to a single pool and casual dining facility. Have the Enhancement Fund pay for this smaller facility without a membership charge for access (supported by the enhanced “Social Membership”).

5) Have the RSF Association “buy” the community clubhouse/restaurant from the Golf Club, allowing the Golf Club to substantially pay down its debt.

There are, of course, other combinations of solutions. I think we need a comprehensive “master plan” that considers all these elements before we continue.

Greg Gruzdowich

Roger Rowe School not supportive of district taxpayer needs?

Children in grades kindergarten through 8th grade living within the Rancho Santa Fe School District boundaries should be able to benefit from the resources offered by our district, which is supported by the taxpayers, regardless of where the child is educated.

Roger Rowe is a public school district largely funded by basic aid, which means district taxpayers directly pay for the school’s expenses. There are at least 15 students (primarily children of teachers and staff) attending Roger Rowe who do not live in the district and do not pay property taxes to benefit our school, yet they are educated here and enjoy all of the extracurricular programs for their enrichment.

Historically, our school district has served the community and not just the enrolled students. In recent years, many families where the parents chose to home-school or pay for private education have indeed participated in extracurricular activities outside of the school day academics, such as the schools’ basketball teams and football team, as well as the after-school robotics program. R. Roger Rowe, himself, when he was the presiding superintendent for the school district, offered to the senior citizens in the district computer classes when technology was a burgeoning phenomenon. Precedent has been set.

We live in the covenant of RSF. We pay our property taxes. Several district families have transferred their children to other schools this year. We fully expected that our children would continue to participate in the extracurricular programs that they thrived in and helped make successful, such as orchestra, choir, sports and robotics. But we have been told we are not allowed to participate this year. This is unfair!

Is this personal?

Is this discrimination?

There is no district policy regarding this issue. There was discussion at a recent school board meeting, but there was no consensus. One trustee was in support of providing resources to the community in which the district serves. Two trustees opposed, one citing financial burden and the other citing distaste for it. A fourth trustee abstained from weighing in and the fifth did not attend. There will be another board meeting to further discuss this issue on Friday, Sept. 11.

We are not looking for preferential treatment, just the status quo. It might be reasonable that currently enrolled students get priority, but it is discrimination to outright reject district students based solely on the fact that their parents chose another option for their education, especially in light of the fact that at least 15 non-district, non-taxpaying students get the benefits that district taxpayers do not enjoy, and there are multiple cases of prior precedent.

Anne and Matt Golden

Is proposed pool and fitness center really one of Rancho Santa Fe’s top priorities?

The way in which the supporters of the proposed fitness center and swimming pool complex have approached pushing their project through has filled me with sadness.

We moved here when we were in our mid-thirties, probably about the age of many of the supporters. Like them, we were very active in the school and would have liked to have had a community swimming pool. However, we didn’t expect our project to take precedence over all the existing clubs and activities in the Covenant.

The disturbing aspect of this present proposal is that only one location is being considered, right between the Golf and Tennis Clubs and superseding all other activities. It would take the convenient parking used by trail walkers, restaurant patrons, and club members, and perhaps even mean the loss of several tennis courts, drastically affecting our beautiful tennis club.

The result would be a busy area dominated by the new facility, a facility that has been given a name to make it appear to be the primary community center. Very strange. It is especially surprising, since the vote to approve the $350,000 from our Association funds for the feasibility study was close, 762 to 713.

A second concern is the viability of a fitness center here. Most of us are financially able to select what we consider to be our best workout options, and we are surrounded by convenient choices from gyms to yoga and Pilates studios. Each of us expects excellence and has a different definition of what that would be. Who will actually use the very large, proposed fitness center, and are we all willing to pay for its upkeep?

One final thought. Why was there no vote regarding what our Covenant priorities should be before the allocation of this project’s $350,000? Surely the members should set those priorities. There is not enough money or staff time for everything. What would add more value to our properties and our lives than high speed Internet service? Sewers in areas with septic system problems? Undergrounding electrical lines?

I fear that we are going to be presented with completed plans for this fitness/swimming pool project with the assumption that we will simply give the planners exactly what they want, regardless of the site or how it affects the rest of the Covenant members.

Karen Bullette

Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club’s water-wise commitment to protecting our golf course

In response to the letter in last week’s Review, “Where’s our reclaimed water,” I’d like to offer the following perspective.

The Golf Club has been a leader in our community in anticipating and mitigating the use of water, while maintaining it as an important community asset. For example:

-- In 2013, the club drilled an exploratory well near the green at hole #4 in anticipation of our eventual need for an alternate source of water. This well appears to have the capacity to supply the golf course’s water needs, but will require significant processing to remove dissolved salts.

-- In 2014, we removed 18.6 acres (17 percent) of our turf to reduce our need for water.

-- This year, we have further reduced the amount of water that we are applying to the remaining turf in accordance with California state mandates.

To date, the Golf Club has already reduced its water use by a full 45 percent compared to 2013. The fact that the playing surfaces on the course are still green is a tribute to the expertise of the golf course superintendent and his team.

Recognizing the importance of long-term water supplies for the golf course, the Board of Governors in June formed the Ad Hoc Sustainable Water Committee, with a mandate to recommend the best alternate and sustainable source of water for the golf course by the end of 2015. The committee is evaluating several options, including:

-- Water from the well at the #4 green. The committee is exploring several solutions for disposal of highly concentrated brine – a by-product of the treatment process.

-- Reclaimed water provided as a joint project by the Rancho Santa Fe Community Services District (CSD) and Santa Fe Irrigation District (SFID). SFID and CSD have been very supportive in helping us to explore this option, which would significantly reduce our demands on the potable water supply.

There are a number of issues that will be addressed by the Sustainable Water Committee before it makes its final recommendations to the Board of Governors in December, including: water quality, infrastructure, impact on the golf course irrigation system, and capital investment vs. operating cost trade-offs.

I believe that water is the most important issue facing our community today. And there is no question that we need to minimize the use of potable water on the golf course while preserving it as a great community asset. The Golf Club takes this responsibility very seriously and our committee is committed to presenting a plan to eliminate or drastically reduce our dependence on potable water by year-end.

Thanks to the efforts of Golf Club leadership, volunteers, and staff we expect to meet that commitment.

Bill Weber, Chair, Ad Hoc Sustainable Water Committee, Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club

A disjointed community?! Is that ours?

We have an individual golf club. We have an individual tennis club. Many Covenant residents belong to fitness centers such as Rancho Valencia, Lomas Santa Fe, or LA Fitness. I work out at one facility but golf at another. My wife had our children in day care at Morgan Run while she played tennis and used fitness facilities at Rancho Valencia. For another Covenant family, the husband wanted to join the golf club but his wife didn’t find anything for her at RSFGC, so they joined the Grand Del Mar instead. Ours is not a joined community.

Younger or older, long-term or short-term resident, golfer/tennis player or not, fitness and well-being are very important to everyone’s lifestyle. This is what we all have in common. The Covenant Club will bring our community together in the name of community health, well-being and fitness.

I’m like you. I was attracted to our Covenant community for the same reasons you were. I expected that our family would join neighbors in gathering at the golf and tennis facilities as a benefit to living in such a wonderful place as Rancho Santa Fe. I thought the Covenant was an atmosphere built on community with family-friendly amenities like a gym and a pool. But I was wrong, and that is missing …

I don’t want to change the beauty and rural feel of the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant. I do want ours to be a joined community where our lifestyle needs can be enjoyed without needing to travel outside of our Covenant.

The Covenant Club will serve all generations and, as such, our entire community stands to benefit by adding this jewel to the crown of community offerings. By housing all the amenities on the same campus as the existing golf club and tennis club, we will have a truly robust, traditional, country club recreational environment. Fitness and well being are a vital to the lifestyle of all ages in this 21st century. You may not think you will use this beautiful facility, but you are kidding yourself if you don’t think the Covenant Club will be a valuable asset to our community and property values.

Our Covenant community will benefit greatly from The Covenant Club: an informal meeting place with a world-class fitness center, family-friendly dining, swimming, tennis and golf; all for the health, well-being, friendships and great memories that Covenant residents deserve. That is what RSF life is all about!

Help us continue to build our amazing community in The Rancho Santa Fe Covenant. We can come together on this one and deliver something very special for generations to come.

Adam Aarons, resident of Rancho Santa Fe Covenant

Would you like fries with that pool?

It would be very easy to predict the failure of the proposed pool and fitness center (Covenant Club) — we need to look no further than the failed Rancho Santa Fe community playground.

In 2012, the Rancho Santa Fe Association Board of Directors voted to spend $20,000 to put a playground in the parking lot of the soccer field on Rambla de las Flores. Before the playground went in, all 5,000 of the residents of Rancho Santa Fe were invited to come together as a community, and help assemble the playground set to save Association money.

After the playground went in, 51 families signed an open letter, appearing in the Rancho Santa Fe Review newspaper, expressing their enthusiasm for the playground. These 51 families represent the demographic at whom the playground was aimed — families with children (the exact same demographic being targeted for the pool and fitness center).

However, only “about 12” Association members actually showed up to help screw the playground together. With 51 families on record openly expressing their enthusiasm for the project, why weren’t there dozens and dozens more people there?

A careful examination of the pictures in a later issue of the Review newspaper of the ribbon-cutting, grand-opening extravaganza, shows only about 20 people showed up for that big day. Again, where were the families with their children?

Can this demographic be trusted to actually sign up to become pool members and continue to pay annual dues? Or will we spend tens of millions of dollars to try to appeal to them, only to see a repeat performance of their apathy? If their reaction to the playground is any indication, apparently not — lots of talk and very little worthwhile action.

If association members think of the playgrounds at fast food restaurants when they see the Rancho Santa Fe community playground, it is easy to see why. In both cases, they are small, located in parking lots, and are not destinations. You wouldn’t just take your kids there to play, but the children play on them when the family is there for something else.

I believe Association members should not have to think of fast food restaurants when they watch their children play ball. This demographic failed to respond to the playground in droves. The playground didn’t set any new standards for success.

And now, evidently unembarrassed, the same people who brought us the failed playground want us to spend an estimated 1,000 times (repeat: 1,000 times) the amount wasted on the playground to “supersize” their folly and put in a pool and fitness center to appeal to this same unreliable demographic.

One doesn’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to know that past behavior is an excellent predictor of future behavior. Let’s not destroy our irreplaceable ambience and put our financial future in jeopardy by trying to accommodate this demographic again. Unless you want someone to ask you if you want fries with your pool.

Rory Kendall, 20-year resident

Are you getting value for Association dues?

The old way of doing things is depressing our community. We need to think about living that is thoughtful, forward and creatively reflective of the landscape and historical area in which we live. We need to have a central place for families to come together with every generation in mind, offering an array of activities for all Covenant homeowners to enjoy for generations to come.

Your elected board is working hard at providing members value-added amenities for all Covenant homeowners while not increasing dues. They are doing an outstanding job bringing high-speed Internet and new ideas like The Covenant Club (a fitness, pool and spa facility where members can enjoy a healthy lifestyle). Some of these changes are within their scope of influence and others are not.

Ask yourself: What amenities are exclusive by virtue of ownership of Covenant property? We are more than just a golf or tennis community, we are a Covenant community that offers golf and tennis as options. It’s no secret that golf and tennis memberships were declining and the pressure to operate in the black opened the door for non-Covenant memberships.

In 2015, non-Covenant memberships are on the rise:

-- More than 6 percent golf members do not live or own real estate in the Covenant;

-- More than 15 percent tennis members do not live or own real estate in the Covenant.

Maybe the Pay to Play attitude that once worked needs to be looked at with fresh eyes and a new attitude (one that serves and benefits all Association members). By locating The Covenant Club between the golf and tennis clubhouses, it can boost memberships, optimize shared staffing resources and lower operational costs to all members.

Another advantage is better utilizing our homeowners’ land, on which the golf and tennis buildings reside, by creating a natural space in centralized generational activity use.

We don’t need to change the rural nature of the Ranch, but we do need to plan in a way that is thoughtful and beneficial to all homeowners.

Let’s view The Covenant Club similar to the RSF Club Restaurant as a shared community asset. Could charging just a monthly use fee for the health club/pool increase our community worth? Adding value is a good thing; allowing non-covenant memberships is not.

These are the real issues that plague our community.

Lorraine Kent, 20-year resident