By Karen Billing
The Rancho Santa Fe Association Finance Committee heard a report on the history, current status and potential future of the Osuna Ranch at its Aug. 26 meeting.
Kim Eggleston, chair of the RSF Finance Committee and director and treasurer on the RSF Association board, said that there needs to be some new financial analysis on how appropriate the Osuna property is as a community asset in today’s economic context.
One possibility to be discussed is subdividing the 24.5-acre Osuna Ranch, which is home to the historical adobe and a horse boarding facility.
Eggleston said he’s all for preserving the adobe, but only 38 percent of the horse facility boarders are Covenant residents.
“A lot of criticism (regarding) the facility is the outside users,” Eggleston said.
At the RSF Association board’s Sept. 11 retreat, the board members plan to discuss the Osuna and some options for the property.
Those include the Association subdividing the property and maintaining the adobe, or selling the lot with restrictions and losing control of the adobe. As Jerry Yahr, the chair of the Osuna committee and Association board director reported, the adobe is now protected and cannot be demolished because of achieved historical designations. He said some elevation changes may limit how the property can be subdivided and pointed out that the adobe also sits in the middle of the property and would make for some awkward lots.
“The consensus of the (Osuna Committee) group is that we’d like to see the whole property stay in its natural setting,” Yahr said. “The horse operation creates a nice mix with the adobe because it’s really how the property operated in the past.”
The adobe is the oldest in California that sits in its natural setting and links Rancho Santa Fe to the early history of California and San Diego. For the past couple of years, it has even become a field trip destination for R. Roger Rowe School students, who visit to make adobe bricks as part of their studies of early California. The Loomis horse facility on the site was one of the first horse facilities in Rancho Santa Fe, a nod to the area’s equestrian heritage.
The adobe was first constructed in 1831 and remodeled in 1925 by Lilian Rice; she removed the long porch from the front, added the fireplace to the living room and added a barrel-tile roof to replace a thatched roof. A kitchen and enclosed porch were added in the 1930s.
In 2005, an eight-lot subdivision on the Osuna property was under review by the Covenant Design Review Committee. In the subdivision plan, there was no protection provided for the adobe.
Yahr said at the time that the RSF Association felt the opportunity would be lost to preserve the adobe and the open space if the subdivision moved forward, driving its acquisition of the property in 2006.
The intent to purchase the property went out in April 2006, and members had 30 days to file a petition to trigger a vote, but no member objected. Yahr said Osuna was appraised twice — in March 2006 for $14 million and in May 2006 for $12 million, which became the purchase price.
The purchase was made with $7 million from the Covenant Enhancement Fund and $5 million from a bank loan that was fully repaid in 2010.
Last year, some residents raised questions about the purchase, arguing that it had never been vetted by the Finance Committee and that the intent to purchase the property lacked critical facts.
A lot split was completed for the property and the single-family home was sold for $1.6 million.
The horse facility is permitted to board 50 horses. The stables are run by Grand Prix champion Hap Hansen and managed by RSF Association staff member Daria Quay.
Since the acquisition of the property, the horse ranch has been operating at a profit, Yahr said. The ranch collects rent from boarders ranging from $790 to $1,140 a month.
In 2007, the ranch had a profit of $23,325 and as of June 2014, the revenues were $501,597 and expenses were $443,893, resulting in a $57,705 profit.
The Amigos de Osuna was founded with the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation to raise money for work moving forward on the adobe. Work already completed includes stucco removal and structural and adobe repairs.
Future plans include the adobe renovation, which Yahr said will recognize the various levels of history — the façade will reflect the 1800s, reconstructing the long porch; the bedrooms, the 1830s; and the living room left untouched as a tribute to Rice’s contributions. The non-historical kitchen and enclosed porch in the back will be removed, and the Rice-era tile floors will remain in the living room, but the rest of the adobe will be restored to wood floors.
Yahr estimates the cost of the restoration to be about $350,000.
Plans also include an event lawn, an outdoor kitchen, picnic and passive areas, and open space trails. All the work planned for the site, including the restoration, grounds and community facilities and segregation of the horse operation from the adobe grounds, is estimated to cost around $875,000.
“The Amigos de Osuna is attempting to raise all of the funds,” Yahr said, noting there is the option of tapping the Covenant Enhancement Fund. But the Osuna Committee members understand there is a lot of demand for use of that money, so they have placed it at the bottom of their list of funding possibilities.
Yahr said the committee members are eager to get the restoration going: All they need is the funds. Eggleston said one option is for the RSF Association to sell some of the Osuna property land; some of that money could be used for the adobe restoration, with the rest returning to the Covenant Enhancement Fund.
Yahr noted that if the RSF Association board elected to take a different approach with the property, the committee would have to contemplate the future of its historical asset.