Review on Rancho Santa Fe CDRC offers ways to improve process

At its June 30 meeting, the Rancho Santa Fe Association board publicly and officially handed off an independent review on the Covenant Design Review Committee (CDRC) to be tackled by the new board. The special meeting was the last for outgoing board members Philip Wilkinson, Heather Slosar and Jerry Yahr. RSF Association Board President Ann Boon said the details of the report will be discussed after new members Allen Finkelson, Janet Danola and Ken Markstein join the board in July.

Acting RSF Association Manager Don May recommended that the board appoint a subcommittee to determine the strategies for implementing some of the report by Rick Engineering’s recommendations, although no actions were taken by the board at the June 30 meeting.

The board has also hired Rick Engineering to perform an independent review of the land use planning process and records for the last 12 to 18 months as a result of procedural problems with The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe boundary adjustment and condo subdivision. The CDRC report is a separate issue —the results of the planning review have yet to be reported.

Brian Mooney, a principle of Rick Engineering, said his firm was hired in the fall to evaluate the CDRC’s process, the Covenant and Rancho Santa Fe history, design guidelines and regulations. The consultants identified two general categories of applicants — residents looking to make improvements and other more business-oriented developers — and gathered perceptions on the process through interviews from the two groups of customers, both positive and negative.

Mooney said the report includes their conclusions on two “distinct approaches that were advocated by the interviewees on resolving the perceived problems that emerged.”

CDRC President Sharon McDonald, who was away on vacation, asked for a letter to be read into record concerning her objections to Rick Engineering’s report.

CDRC member Hilary Broyles, who read the letter for McDonald, said the CDRC had been anticipating the report for some time but members did not receive it until 7 p.m. the night before on June 29. Boon stated that McDonald has had the report since June 7.

Due to vacation schedules, the CDRC has yet to review it and is scheduled to do so at its July 12 meeting.

“The review is insufficient in many regards, most notably the extremely small sample of 15 people interviewed. Not all CDRC members were interviewed, statistically this does not represent a valid or reliable number of opinions for any definitive conclusions,” McDonald wrote.

McDonald stated that the people who were interviewed should have been identified, as well as whether their method for selection was random or specific. She also stated in her letter that a “proper analysis” should include the questions posed, negative and positive responses. Because the report didn’t have that information she considered it “statistically invalid and unreliable.”

“There were some helpful suggestions presented in the report that could improve the CDRC’s function and relationship with the community, however, the negative comments, particularly on the committee and staff are mainly unjustified, mostly unfounded and excessive in nature,” McDonald wrote.

McDonald stated that the CDRC must have the opportunity to review and comment on the report before the Association board takes any action.

“The RSF Association’s repeated failure to follow proper and acceptable procedures in situations such as this may stoke the smoldering flames of discontent within the community,” McDonald wrote.

Boon stated again that all the board was doing that day was moving the report along.

Candace Humber, past president of the CDRC, said that the committee had been surprised that Rick Engineering was conducting the review because no one had consulted with them about it beforehand.

Humber, who had read the report, said that she was encouraged by one line in the report that showed high praise of the CDRC: “The existing procedures and process of accepting applications and reviewing proposed improvements, conducting public meetings, communicating with applicants and neighbors and making decisions appears to be functioning at a high level and far exceeds similar design review processes.”