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.
Too few choices on traffic survey ballot
There are two major problems with the impending “survey” by the Rancho Santa Fe Association, regarding the opinion of Association members on traffic signals vs. roundabouts.
First, the “Survey Ballot” allows only one opinion per parcel, unlike a “vote,” according to the RSFA Bylaws, which allows two votes per parcel. Occasionally, I respectfully disagree with my wife. If we disagree on this issue, one of us will be disenfranchised and cannot respond to the survey. Should this be a policy in 2015?
Second, the “survey” presents only two options, when clearly, there are more. Keeping the rural stop signs is a major option, not included in the survey — an option that should be allowed for consideration!
Consider what could be done, while deferring conclusive action on approving all signals or all roundabouts.
The signal at Via de la Valle and Calzada del Bosque was a “temporary” solution, many years ago, to the issues at that intersection. It is not fully constituted, for example, with the appropriate overhead lighting. Therefore, this signal is not considered, by the County, as a permanent fixture at that corner. This is the only signal on or near the Ranch.
Just maybe, this long-neglected, major entrance to the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant could benefit from some enhancement. Why not do a test? Take out this “temporary” signal and install a roundabout? Let us see what traffic improvements and aesthetic beauty this could bring to the gateway of our community. The issues of construction time, inconvenience and the learning curve to navigate this new traffic calming structure — all could be tested and evaluated before committing to three more intersection decisions.
One size fits all? Considering the three intersections identified for signals/roundabouts — Via de la Valle/Paseo Delicias, Paseo Delicias/El Montevideo/La Valle Plateada and Paseo Delicias/El Camino del Norte — each is different and unique. It has been suggested that a different traffic regulating device could be best suited for each individual intersection. Why not keep a rural stop sign or so? The County does not designate signals as “rural.” Just ask them.
In conclusion, here are several thoughtful issues: disenfranchisement, limited survey options, testing the progressive idea of roundabouts, improving a major entrance to the Ranch, the often-flawed concept of “one size fits all” and the rural heritage of the Covenant of Rancho Santa Fe.
Bill McDonald, Covenant resident for 15 years