Progress made on plans for Rancho Osuna in Rancho Santa Fe, committee chair reports

By Karen Billing

Rancho Santa Fe Osuna Committee Chair Ron McMahon gave the Rancho Santa Fe Association board an update Jan. 19 on his group’s progress.

The committee has been busy, having completed a historic structural report; guiding principles; archeological studies; developed a master plan; received a local historic designation; and created plans for an Amigos de Osuna group, intended to be stewards and docents for the adobe.

The master plan for Osuna includes the restoration of the adobe and the potential re-location of some of the horse ranch buildings and the possible addition of visitor parking and restroom facilities.

McMahon said he is very passionate about the Osuna.

“It’s a unique property that bears a lot of attention,” said McMahon of the Rancho Osuna that the Association purchased in 2006.

The Osuna adobe was built in 1831 and is one of the oldest in California. The land was formerly known as Rancho San Dieguito and was originally operated as “rancheria” by the padres of the San Diego mission for the grazing of cattle.

The adobe was built by Leandro Silva and in 1836 became the home of Juan Maria Osuna, the first mayor of the pueblo of San Diego.

In 1924, it underwent a renovation by renown architect Lilian Rice, adding an interior fireplace and an enclosed open-air kitchen.

The restoration will include removing the Rice features to bring it back to the period of historical significance, the late 1800s. McMahon said that while there are many examples of Rice architecture in the area, the early days of the Ranch are not as represented.

A conceptual master plan (any changes to the Osuna require a Covenant modification) includes moving some of the horse structures away from the restored adobe to really set it off on its own area, McMahon said. The plans also include parking areas, a new structure with a restroom and small utility kitchen for events with a caretaker’s residence and a passive use park area.

The Association pledged $170,000 toward work for the Osuna lot split—splitting off the 3.3 acres with a single-family home from the Ranch area. Work for the lot split included the installation fire line, re-aligning the road and removing trees. The funds were also for removing electrical wiring off the side of the adobe, which can’t be done until the split is complete.

The removal of six pepper trees along the roadside, required by the county to provide a better line of sight from the driveway of the single family home, is the last thing to be completed and is expected to be done in the next two weeks.

The trees will be replaced with new pepper trees set farther back from the road.

“The thought is to keep the same look of a tree-lined street,” RSF Association Manager Pete Smith said.

McMahon said they are operating under budget on the work and expect to spend $157,000.

Once the sale of the home is complete, the main issue will become getting funding for the adobe restoration. Initial funding sources could be partial proceeds from the sale of the house, open space funds, private grants from RSF Foundation funds, community fundraising or historic restoration grants.

McMahon said phase one of the master plan, just the adobe preservation and restoration, could cost $380,000.

Board director Larry Spitcaufsky questioned whether a study had been done to see how much Association members would visit the adobe or Osuna Ranch.

“If I had guests, my first thought wouldn’t be ‘Let’s go visit the adobe’,” Spitcaufsky said.

McMahon said they had not done such a study but reiterated the adobe’s importance to the community.

“There is a significant interest in preserving the adobe as a historical reference to our beginnings,” McMahon said. “When you see the adobe, it is absolutely charming. I would take friends that are visiting from out of town to the adobe, it’s really where our Ranch began.”

Board president Jack Queen said he also brings people to the adobe when they come to visit and looks forward to the “fantastic” things that might be able to happen on the property as soon as it’s finished.

Spitcaufsky also inquired about the possibility of moving the adobe to a more visible location where more people could access it.

McMahon said that it would be “nearly impossible” to move and the structure would likely fall apart.

Board vice president Dick Doughty said that the location of the adobe is almost as valuable as the adobe itself.

“To have one without the other is hard to imagine,” Doughty said.

Residents can visit the adobe by walking onto the ranch site or calling the Association for the gate code at (858) 756-1174.

Rancho Osuna (and the Hap Hansen Stables) is located at 16332 Via De Santa Fe, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92091.