By Karen Billing
Rancho Santa Fe School District officials have expressed an interest in purchasing the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club, now up for sale.
At its Sept. 11 board meeting, the RSF School District board discussed pursuing the purchase of both the RSF Garden Club clubhouse and the RSF Association-owned “Hat” parcel, a parcel of land next to the Mimosa property the district owns. The “Hat” parcel was named such as it’s shaped like a witch’s hat — it is situated between Mimosa and El Fuego.
A special meeting will be set to discuss the district’s next steps for purchasing the properties and to establish Superintendent Lindy Delaney as the negotiator on the district’s behalf. All negotiations regarding price would be conducted in closed sessions.
The district has always been interested in acquiring contiguous properties for uses such as more ballfields or extra parking.
“As superintendent of the school district, it’s clear one task has always been looking at properties adjacent to us and how we can take care of the school and the community for the long term,” Delaney said. “We’re always looking at possibilities to enhance opportunities we have here.”
The Rancho Santa Fe Association was preparing to purchase the RSF Garden Club for $2.4 million until the purchase was vetoed by a community-wide vote this spring.
Last week, realtors from Colliers International sent out an offering memorandum. Colliers will take bids until Oct. 10 — as outlined by the offering memorandum, interested parties have to submit a letter of interest to be considered by the Garden Club board. An initial deposit of 5 percent of the purchase price would be placed into escrow and would be refundable during a 30-day due diligence period.
“It’s definitely wise for us to look at it further,” RSF School District trustee Tyler Seltzer said, comparing the neighboring properties as pieces in a larger puzzle. “Anytime something comes up close to us…we should dig into it.”
Trustee Todd Frank said it’s also important for them to find out how the school community feels about the purchases.
“Because we have been financially conservative, we do have the money in the bank,” Delaney said. “We’re in a good position to make a good decision.”
The RSF Garden Club property is 1.04 acres, zoned semi-rural residential, with the 7,974- square-foot clubhouse and a parking lot with 34 spaces. The actual building is not retro fit to house students so they would not be able to use it for educational purposes. For several years the school has used the clubhouse for its eighth grade graduation ceremonies.
“If we look at that parcel, a major focus for us is parking,” Delaney said, noting at many school events there is not enough parking for visitors.
The district has looked at purchasing the “Hat” parcel in the past but Delaney feels this is a good time to come back to it. The “Hat” is a .46-acre parcel that would be a huge increase to the district. The parcel does have a golf membership on it that increases its value. Delaney said if appointed as negotiator at the upcoming special board meeting she would start working with the neighboring Santa Fe Irrigation District and Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District.
In between the “Hat” and Dacus is the property owned by Mrs. Mature the district has also looked to acquire, but Mrs. Mature has not expressed an interest in selling.
“We’ve always been interested in Mature and ‘Hat,’” RSF School District Board President Richard Burdge said. “They’re an integral piece of the puzzle as we look west and east of the school.”
Trustee Todd Buchner asked how district land acquisitions have gone in the past.
In 2004 the district purchased the Mimosa house (the Angino property) for $1.9 million—the district paid for the purchase by selling $1.2 million in bonds (unused from the 1991 two-story building) and $810,000 of its special reserves.
The district purchased the Dacus property on El Fuego from the Rancho Santa Fe Association in 2009 for $1.3 million. The district had received $8.4 million in modernization, new construction and over-crowded relief funding from the state. Of the $8.4 million the district received, it was able to recapture half of the appraisal price of the property for Dacus ( $650,000) and Mimosa ($850,000).
The Dacus property was used as a construction site during the school renovation and as a temporary site for the RSF Patrol headquarters — it now serves as one of the main teacher parking lots.
A petition by Mimosa residents forced the sale to go to a vote of the RSF Association membership and it passed by a margin of 1,044 to 164 votes. The main concerns of neighbors was that the district provide adequate landscape buffers, ingress and egress, and architectural control by the Covenant Design Review Committee for any vertical improvement.
Regarding the Association’s “Hat” parcel, Delaney said she has been in contact with Acting RSF Association Manager Ivan Holler about getting on a future RSF Association board