By Karen Billing
The Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club is moving fast on a turf removal project after finding out that it can receive a $1,620,000 rebate for completing the water-saving procedure. At its Aug. 7 meeting, the Rancho Santa Fe Association board approved pledging up to $800,000 from the Covenant Enhancement Fund for the project.
Originally the turf removal was scheduled to be completed over the course of two years but the RSF Golf Club became aware of the rebate program recently introduced by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD). In order to take advantage of the reimbursement, the club must complete the entire turf removal and replacement project within 160 days, a deadline of Dec. 24.
The RSF Golf Club will be the very first commercial property to take part in this project, RSF Golf Club Manager Al Castro said.
“This plan was already moving through the process without the rebate. Moving it up to take advantage of the rebate is smart business,” RSF Association Director Jerry Yahr said.
According to Castro, the club’s plans include removing approximately 18.5 acres of turf and replacing it with lower water-use, native plantings. Additionally, 84 trees will be removed and 105 replacement trees planted.
The project’s estimated cost is $1,185,000 and as the rebate includes $2 per square feet of turf removed, there will be a net gain of about $400,000.
“The biggest impact will be removing 18 aces of turf from irrigation,” Castro said. “It won’t affect the quality of play on the golf course, generally the areas are on the edges of the cart path and trails.”
Upon approval, the club intended to get started right away “chewing up the turf” to meet that Dec. 24 deadline, Castro said.
Temporary funding for the project would come from a combination of $300,000 of RSF Golf Club free reserves and up to $800,000 from the Covenant Enhancement Fund. The obligation to repay the reserves and Covenant Enhancement Fund rests solely with the golf club.
Reimbursement by the MWD is expected 90 days after the project completion, in late March or early April of 2015.
RSF Association Treasurer Kim Eggleston had some concerns that the cost of the project seems to have changed frequently, originally starting at $900,000. Castro said they hope to get it done for under $1.1 million, and noted that the project cost includes a 20 percent contingency.
The RSF Association board members said they are also wary that the MWD rebate confirmation had only come via email — they want to ensure that the rebate is actually coming.
RSF Association Acting Manager Ivan Holler said that the email is fairly typical and that is the extent of approval that MWD provides.
Eggleston questioned where the excess in funds from the rebate will land, wondering if they should go back to the RSF Association.
RSF Golf Club President Steve Dunn said they strongly believe that the excess funding should be put back into the club’s free reserves for future projects, such as a re-do of the club’s 30-year-old sprinkler system.
“We’d like to re-enhance our reserve balance and roughly $400,000 would give us a little bit of a cushion,” Dunn said.
Eggleston said when the money materializes in the spring it would be prudent for the RSF Association board to discuss at that time where the funds should go.