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Rancho Santa Fe Association seeks more rights for condo owners

By Karen Billing

The Rancho Santa Fe Association will pursue granting RSF Golf Club membership rights to condo owners in the Covenant. The change would require a modification of the Association’s Articles of Incorporation and would be subject to a member vote.

At its April 3 meeting, the RSF Association board directed its attorneys to draft language to amend the articles and the bylaws to give condo owners the right to join the RSF Golf Club, as well as an amendment that would give condo owners both the Golf Club membership rights and the right to vote.

The board (directors Ann Boon, Rochelle Putnam and Heather Slosar did not attend the April 3 meeting) voiced a desire to get this process moving sooner rather than later. The issue had last been discussed in December 2013 with the intention of bringing the matter back before the board in January but, as board member Craig McAllister noted, the directors have been distracted by other issues.

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The board’s direction could result in language prepared by the May 1 board meeting and, following a hearing, it could potentially be on a community-wide ballot by June.

In the October 2012 Club Mark survey to determine the community’s satisfaction with the Golf Club, 81 percent were in favor of this kind of change.

In the past, the RSF Golf Club board had objected to condo memberships to avoid heavy course use.

“That was a different time,” said RSF Association President Philip Wilkinson, noting that the club had about 650 members then and was worried about overcrowding.

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Too many members is a problem RSF Golf Club Manager Al Castro said he would love to have these days. More clubs have opened around Rancho Santa Fe, which has provided other membership opportunities, club memberships have dipped and nationwide golf play is down.

Currently, there are two voting and golf club memberships allowed per condominium development. All condo owners can join the RSF Tennis Club, can use the RSF Golf Club dining facilities and RSF Association trails and open space, but they cannot vote or serve on RSF Association committees.

There are 19 condominium developments in the Covenant, totaling 88 units; 38 have voting and Golf Club rights. Of the 38 condo owners who are eligible for Golf Club memberships, 23 have them currently.

“That’s a huge take rate, much higher than the going rate for the total community,” Wilkinson said.

Based on those numbers, Wilkinson said a conservative estimate is that they could add another 50 members to the RSF Golf Club if membership rights were given to all condos, maybe even more considering the value added to the properties once golf memberships came into play.

Castro said that number could be on the low side as he hears from a number of residents looking to downsize, both from people in other parts of the country to Covenant residents wanting to stay in Rancho Santa Fe.

During public comment, RSF resident Dick Doughty told the board that its responsibility to its members far outweighs accommodating the Golf Club’s needs. He said increasing condo owners’ rights puts pressure to develop other Covenant sites into condominiums.

He said the Association is about protecting its rural atmosphere, not trying to build another Golf Club community.

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“We’re about trying to maintain the Ranch and I think that fundamental issue should be given prime consideration and the Golf Club needs to be secondary to that,” Doughty said.

There is some potential for future condo units in the Covenant as there are 11 existing multi-family units without a condo map and there are 17 acres currently zoned multi-family that have not been developed on Calzada del Bosque.

“I can understand the point about added pressure and that it may create an incentive to put increased density on lots but that process requires Covenant approval, county approval… and they all require public input and are discretionary,” RSF Association Director Jerry Yahr said. “It still has to follow its own process.”

Yahr said there are other forces at play too; as they hear that a number of members want to downsize it also puts pressure on future densification of the Ranch.

The question also remains whether all condo owners should also be given the right to vote. Wilkinson said fundamentally he feels that if people pay an assessment, they should have the right to vote.

“I have never understood why every condo owner doesn’t have the right to join the Golf Club and the right to vote,” said resident Lisa Bartlett, strongly encouraging the board to handle both in one vote, solving both issues in “one fell swoop.”

McAllister wasn’t sure if they should both be on the same ballot.

“I still think they should be different questions so the [Golf Club issue] doesn’t get swept under the carpet if people don’t approve of (giving condo owners) the [right to] vote,” McAllister said.

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