Stump’s Market exit, Plaza de Santa Fe revamp draws crowd to Rancho Santa Fe Association meeting

Rancho Santa Fe residents are worried about what will happen to the already “dwindling” village when it loses its community market.

Rancho Santa Fe Association President Ann Boon acknowledged that news of Stump’s Market departure from Plaza de Santa Fe in the village of RSF has caused considerable distress and worry in the community. By placing the item on the June 4 agenda, she hoped they could get out accurate facts and information and put an end to some of the rumor and innuendo.

“We are concerned as you are about the vibrancy and the vitality of our village,” Boon said.

Boon said that although what they can do as a homeowners association may be limited, she believes that the community can come together and help find a solution.

An application has been submitted to the RSF Association, including plans to split the Stump’s Market building into two spaces, demolish the post office building and construct two new buildings, one of them two stories and the other over an underground parking garage.

Attorney Franco Simone, representing landlord Susan Woolley, said she is proposing the changes in order to increase the chances that a market will return.

Simone said he spoke with 15 different markets that would not move into the former Stump’s space because the community is too small to sustain a 10,000-square-foot market. Simone said there is a need to downsize — a smaller footprint would attract a smaller type of market.

Simone said the plan is to move the post office into half of the former Stump’s building, close to the loading dock, and develop the former post office space into a 3,500- to 4,500-square-foot space for a new market.

“We’ve looked at this hard to figure out how to solve our issues and still get a market in there,” Simone said. “Nothing is set in stone, and we are willing to hear feedback from the community.”

RSF Association Building Commissioner Robert Green said the project must go through the Covenant Design Review Committee process as well as before the board for approval, so there will be lots of opportunity for public comment.

The new development will require variances from the Association for floor area ratio (FAR) exemptions, above grade parking structure, tandem parking and two-story building height.

Floor area ratio is determined using a formula dividing the floor area by the total site area. Green said the FAR permitted in the village commercial district zone is .6 with a permitted bonus of .75. The bonus is allowed if the project meets several criteria: The building has to be Spanish-colonial Lilian Rice-style design; a total of not less than 10 percent of the site area must be used as courtyards; no portion can exceed one story; and at least 25 percent of the ground floor area must be retail use.

The proposed project has a FAR of .81, exceeding the permitted .75.

The Association’s regulatory code also states that there are to be no above-ground parking structures. A parking structure under the Stump’s building was built before the code and is three feet above ground. Green said any new construction on that building would be subject to the code and variances will be required.

The development is also short on parking spaces: 117 are required and the proposed plan provides 114.

The parking structure under Stump’s has 24 spaces, the surface lot has 53 spaces, and the new parking garage proposes to add 37 spaces plus 15 tandem spaces.

Green noted that tandem spaces are not allowed by the code.

The Association will also require a traffic study and construction management plan that includes details such as how long it will take to excavate the site, where trucks will go and where employees will park.

The crowd of nearly 100 residents at the June 4 meeting expressed many concerns about the “diminishment” of Rancho Santa Fe village life, saying the village has become a conglomeration of banks and offices for real estate brokers and lawyers. High rents were blamed for driving out retail shops, and office tenants took heat for using all of the village parking spots, leaving none for potential retail or restaurant customers.

Resident Wendy Walker said she could only imagine the conversation between visitors staying at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe: “C’mon, honey, let’s go look at the banks and real estate offices.”

“How can residents take our town back?” Walker asked. “The Association has the power to keep our town alive.”

Resident Lindsay Short lamented that because of a “vendetta” between landlord and tenant, the whole community will lose a way of life that they have grown to love.

“This little area is a happy place for us all to meet and see our neighbors,” Short said.

Short said residents are angry, depressed, frustrated and looking to the board to help protect them from the “desecration” of the village.

Resident Janet Reed spoke in support of landlord Susan Woolley, stating that she had come to an agreement with Stump’s, paid the market owners to buy out their lease and “graciously” allowed them to stay until the end of the year. She said that the market had resisted the market rate increases in rent and the common-area maintenance charges.

“There’s only so much our board can do,” said resident Lisa Bartlett, noting that they are limited because Rancho Santa Fe is unfortunately not a city.

Bartlett said it is sad that the village makeup has changed, but encouraged people to be positive and work with the board, not against them and volunteer to help come up with solutions.

“There is hope if we really focus on what the possibilities are,” Bartlett said.