The San Dieguito Half Marathon will again run through Rancho Santa Fe on Valentine’s Day but several residents have fallen out of love with the annual event, now in its 48th year.
From 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14, several Rancho Santa Fe roads will be closed by the California Highway Patrol and only emergency vehicles will be allowed access. The 13.1-mile race, which raises money for the San Diego County Parks Society, begins at San Dieguito County Park on El Camino Real and involves the closures of San Elijo, La Orilla and La Granada along the route.
The Rancho Santa Fe Association does not have the ability to approve or reject the race because it is on county roadways and RSF Association Manager Bill Overton expressed frustration about the race organizer’s lack of response to community concerns.
“I cannot underscore the volume of complaints I’ve gotten this year about the event,” Overton said at the Feb. 4 meeting, noting that many of the concerns centered on the route, road closures and the fact that the race would be held on Valentine’s Day this year. “I just have to advise the board, ye,s there are people who like this event and think it’s a good thing, but I’ve gotten an awful lot of complaints this week…There are a lot of critics that don’t feel that the needs of the Ranch are being met.”
In addition to concerns representing 50 homeowners, Overton said he also heard from local businesses such as Rancho Santa Fe Flowers & Gifts who said that the road closures will impact them on their busiest day of the year.
Race organizer Kathy Loper Events has placed public notice of road closures 20 days in advance to encourage people to plan trips accordingly and take alternate routes on Sunday. At least one resident, Frank Freed, felt that the proliferation of advance signs and barricades on streets, bike lanes, riding trails was “excessive” and an “over-reach” — he said there are 15 barricades alone in a half-mile of La Orilla.
“We all have been notified in more ways than one, you cannot miss the orange signs,” Freed said, requesting the barricades at every driveway be taken down prior to the event.
Race organizer Kathy Loper said that they were only complying with the county on appropriate signage. Murali Pasumarthi, a county traffic engineering manager, said that the barricades will be removed until race day.
Board member Kim Eggleston said he thinks it is “astonishing” that the county can close the roads for four and a half hours and he can’t even leave his house.
“I think it is an absurdity to have a half marathon in this neighborhood and shut this place down,” Eggleston said. “In my opinion, it’s crazy.”
Board member Jerry Yahr disagreed with Eggleston. “I’ve run the event numerous times and I personally think it’s a great event to have in Rancho Santa Fe,” Yahr said. “I travel around the world running in events and communities all around the world encourage having events in their backyard to create camaraderie and a sense of community interaction. I think it’s a small price to pay to have the roads closed for four hours for what it does to the community and for the local park.”
Looking ahead to next year’s event, Overton said it’s imperative that the Association immediately start working with the county to help the applicant plan the event in a much different way.
“We’ve always wanted to be good neighbors,” Loper said, noting she is willing to work with the Association.
Pasumarthi said that every option is on the table for any future events and that the county can impose “reasonable restrictions” on the applicant. In the future, they can discuss items with the applicant, such as time of day, day of week, the route and the potential for partial road closures.
“Every year I hear these last minute comments from a vocal few, those are the ones who would like to see it happen in another person’s neighborhood and not their own. I would encourage staff to work with the organizer,” Yahr said. “This is just Not In My Backyard noise that to me is just really disappointing.”
RSF Association President Ann Boon suggested that the board and community really pay attention on Feb. 14 and make note of any race day concerns as they look ahead to next year.
“It’s a historic event in a historic community. We want to be good neighbors with everyone who lives in the county and certainly support our parks,” Boon said. “In return we would hope for a modicum of respect and consideration.”