Rancho Santa Fe Association explores use of email communication


By Karen Billing

The Rancho Santa Fe Association is slowly starting the process of using email communication with Association members. The board of directors is still deciding what kind of communication would be appropriate for email, and at the board’s Dec. 1 meeting directed staff to work with email vendor Constant Contact.

Robert Green, Association building commissioner, presented his report on email communication at the meeting as it was named one of the board’s top 10 priorities at a recent retreat.

Email communication is also a high priority for residents — results from this year’s Covenant-wide survey showed that 71 percent of residents would be interested in receiving urgent communications from the Association, 59 percent would like to receive general communication and 39 percent would like to see Association bills in their inbox.

Currently, most of the Association’s communication is sent through regular “snail mail,” although the RSF Golf Club does utilize an email system for the occasional announcement for special events.

Items that have the potential to be sent by email include surveys, agendas, information on special events, newsletters, alerts of street closures, Art Jury notices and committee openings.

With Constant Contact, which would cost about $21-30 a month, members would sign up directly with the system, the Association wouldn’t have to gather contact information themselves.

Where the Association may run into a snag is with their legal requirements as a homeowner’s association (HOA),

“(Email communication) seems quick and easy and then you start thinking about each detail and it becomes more complicated,” Green said.

Legal requirements for HOAs are “extensive and complex and also evolving,” Green said. Certain documents can be delivered by email if the recipient has agreed to that method of delivery.

“However, some people tend to disregard emails so ground mail is still a pretty good option for really important documents,” Green said.

RSF Association Director Eamon Callahan said one of their biggest concerns in using email will be security. He said the Association should look into a security expert to review and monitor the system. RSF Association Manager Pete Smith said the Fairbanks Ranch Homeowners Association has used Constant Contact since 2007 and has not had any issues with the system, although the security component was included in the board’s direction to staff.

The board also discussed the appropriateness of using e-mail for emergency information, with most agreeing that it was not the best method to share urgent messages.

Rancho Santa Fe Patrol Chief Matt Wellhouser said for emergencies, texts sent to cell phones are probably the best way to do it — texting is a method used by the county’s Reverse 911 program and by the Fairbanks Ranch HOA.

“We’re constantly thinking about how to tell people what’s going on,” Wellhouser said, noting that during the September blackout, many agencies turned to twitter and Facebook as a way to spread information.

Wellhouser has links to sign up for the Reverse 911 program on his blog at