Rancho Santa Fe Association looks to update open space policy


By Karen Billing

The Rancho Santa Fe Association is looking to revise its open space policy to redefine its goals moving forward and establish a clear set of guidelines for boards making acquisition decisions in the future. The board was set to approve the changes for the new fund and policy, officially called the Covenant Enhancement Fund and Policy, at its Sept. 6 meeting but opted to post the changes for 30 days before final approval.

“This is very important to the community and there are a lot of sensitivities about (open space),” noted board Vice President Anne Feighner in the decision to let the public review the policy changes before approval. “This is a major policy revision on something that’s so important and something we’re assessed for and I just think it’s the thing to do.”

The policy will be posted online and will come back before the board on Oct. 4.

The Open Space Fund was established in 1984 at a rate of 2 cents per $100 of assessed value with the goal of preserving and enhancing the rural character of the Covenant by acquiring undeveloped open space parcels.

In 1996, the policy was changed to reflect the fund’s goal to create a greenbelt around the village.

“That policy still remains in place although we all realize it is not a realistic goal or achievable,” RSF Association Manager Pete Smith said.

The policy also states that the fund be used to acquire land for passive use, however, approximately $15.7 million of the $16.2 million of open space funds spent has been used to acquire parcels with active, not passive, use. Most notably is the Osuna Ranch, which includes several active uses, making the purchase inconsistent with the policy. Other active use open space acquisitions include the RSF Field, the Dacus property and Rancho Arroyo.

The new Covenant Enhancement Fund and Policy aims to be clearer and more accurate. The types of use now allowed for acquisition include critical parcels for open space; purchase of parcels to allow the removal of existing development; purchase of buildings, land easements or development rights to preserve community features, landscapes or historic resources; partnership acquisitions of open space parcels; purchase of parcels for recreational needs; and expenditure of funds to renovate, enhance or improve Covenant resources or safety.

Directors thanked the Trails and Recreation Committee and chair Jerry Yahr for the thoughtful and thorough work on the new language.

“I think this is such an improvement because it reflects more what is actually being done,” Feighner said.

Any other use would require consent from Covenant members.

It is estimated that at the end of 2013, with the close of the sale on the Osuna Ranch house, the available open space funds will be $4 million.