Rancho Santa Fe Lakes Homeowners Association voices opposition to stockpiled dirt


By Karen Billing

The Rancho Santa Fe Lakes Homeowners Association is opposing a “mountain of dirt” adjacent to its homes caused by a developer’s temporary stockpiling that the Homeowners Association fears will be more permanent.

The HOA is located near a 32-acre vacant Rancho Del Sol parcel with frontage on Carmel Valley Road and Rancho Santa Fe Lakes Road. Rancho Del Sol’s 62,500-cubic-yard stockpile is the result of a habitat restoration it is completing to comply with stipulations from an illegal grading violation.

Through its regional issues subcommittee, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board is trying to find a reasonable solution between the developers and surrounding property owners.

As the stockpile is very close to its homes, the HOA is looking for assurances that Rancho Del Sol will remove the soil and comply with city mandates. They are concerned that the remaining soil will be used to continue to increase the elevation of the parcel — creating an “ugly obstruction” of the view for RSF Lakes homeowners and homeowners across Carmel Valley Road.

“We are very concerned this stockpiling will become a long-term problem,” wrote Deborah DeBow, RSF Lakes HOA president, in a letter to the city. “Because of the city’s lack of resources, it may not be able to adequately deal with or may ignore problems. We fear enforcement may not occur, even with mandated safeguards that are automatically triggered and enforceable.”

At a Oct. 22 regional issues subcommittee meeting, the developer’s representative Paul Metcalf said they would work on a deed restriction that the stockpile cannot stay and that any potential buyer will be put on notice it has to be removed. Metcalf said they hope to come back before the regional issues subcommittee in December or January to see if what they come up with will appease the neighbors.

“We’re not trying to create a bad situation for you, we’re trying to make the best lemonade we can out of the lemons we’ve been given,” Metcalf said.

DeBow said she didn’t exactly feel bad for their situation, as they essentially made their own lemons.

The developers don’t deny the fact that the whole situation was caused by an error some years ago when landowner Bob Barczewski accidentally created his own wetlands.

Chris Barczewski, Bob’s son, explained how his dad acquired extra fill leftover from the construction of SR-56. Bob installed berming to shore the roadway on his property, which created a dam-like effect and over time resulted in the creation of the pond and wetland habitat.

In June 2001, the city issued a violation for illegal grading on the site. Stipulation in settlement for the final judgment was issued in October 2003, which ordered the developer to fix the violation by draining the pond and restoring the area to its pre-existing condition.

However, as the pond was classified as a wetland, compliance would result in impacts to sensitive biological resources upstream and off-site. To mitigate the impacts on its man-made wetlands, the developer agreed to enhance the area and the area adjacent to McGonigle Creek, increasing the value of the area to wildlife and net gain of an extra 10 acres of high value biological resources.

“We’re creating extra for many reasons. The integrity of any wildlife restoration is enhanced by its size, more magnitude is more sustainable,” Metcalf said. “I don’t think the homeowners object to what we’re doing, they just object to the fill coming out of there and being stored next to their houses.”

The area in question, lot five, is a 14.3-acre area of the 32-acre property. Metcalf said 4 acres of the 14 is the stream and involves no grading. The stockpile represents the amount of soil created through the dredging necessary to prepare the proposed wetland creation area.

He said the fill is a variable slope and they have pulled in the highest part away from Rancho Santa Fe Farms Road. The highest part adjacent to the road is 13 feet.

While they are meeting the terms of the city’s stipulated judgment for the violation, Metcalf said they are just not meeting the compatibility with surrounding neighbors.

Already Metcalf said the developer has agreed to stockpile 62,500 cubic feet rather than the initially proposed 80,000.

White is hoping that some kind of compromise can be met before it is heard at the planning board level.