By Karen Billing
The Rancho Santa Fe Association board denied July 21 a Covenant modification for a proposed senior housing community located off Del Dios Highway. In a 5-1 vote, with Jack Dorsee the sole holdout, the board sided with the Art Jury’s recommendation that the Quantum Villas project was too dense and would negatively impact the rural character and ambiance of the community.
RSF Association board president Jack Queen said approving the 38-unit project would be a “complete violation” of the recent Covenant-wide survey’s results in which 61 percent of respondents ranked preserving community character as the Association’s highest priority,
“This community is a community of land owners and building sites, not a community of condos,” said director Dick Doughty. “To start down that road, making more density, is just the wrong direction to take. The density is the one thing that makes Rancho Santa Fe so unique.”
The directors said they had nothing against senior housing—“I think the project is well thought-out and well-planned. I think it would be a terrific community… someplace else,” Queen said.
The Quantum land is located on the south side of Del Dios Highway on the eastern boundary of the Covenant, past El Camino Del Norte. There are seven Covenant parcels on the 39.4-acre property (a seven-lot subdivision there has been approved since 2004 but the map has not been made final). Instead of building the seven homes, the developer planned to construct 38 casitas for seniors.
George McGill, representing Quantum Estates, said he wanted to “humanize” the issue, asserting that the developers were not some evil outsiders. Heather Taylor, a longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident and relative of Charles H. Taylor, who founded the Boston Globe, purchased the property in the 1970s. Andrew Parkinson, Taylor’s grandson, has taken over the Quantum Villas project, traveling overseas from his home in New Zealand.
“The proposal has merit, senior housing is needed in this community,” McGill said.
Ali Shapouri, representing Quantum, said based on a survey conducted by the developers in 2005, a majority of Rancho Santa Fe residents said they would like to move into a community for active seniors within the Covenant.
Per the survey, people liked the option of a smaller, elegant houselike casita over something like a condo or townhome, and wanted to stay within the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant to allow them to continue being a member of the RSF Golf Club. The developers planned Quantum Villas around those ideas.
Shapouri said he knew he had a “steep climb” ahead of him to get the Covenant modification but he really believed that the project could fit in here and was something that was an expressed need of the residents.
Both Shapouri and McGill also pointed to the signatures they obtained representing 75 percent approval from surrounding property owners, a requirement of the modification.
David Green, a resident who lives on El Vuelo, said he represents a lot of the owners east of the project who oppose Quantum. Green said he was not swayed by McGill’s “warm and fuzzy” argument that the developers aren’t outsiders — he said if they have lived in Rancho Santa Fe for more than 30 years they should understand what the character of the community is and the kinds of restrictions that are enforced here.
“This project is not characteristic of Rancho Santa Fe, it’s a Lawrence Welk community,” said Green. “We want rural, what it has always been. There’s nothing wrong with preserving the character of Rancho Santa Fe the way it is.”