Rancho Santa Fe Association board split on tennis memberships

The Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club continues to seek RSF Association board approval to renew its 25 sponsored memberships, an initiative approved last year to help boost club activity and play, increase dues revenue and maintain the vitality of the community asset.

The board was split 3-3 on the renewal at its June 30 meeting, with those in opposition citing concerns about non-Covenant members being allowed into the exclusive club. Those in favor included board member Fred Wasserman and outgoing board members Philip Wilkinson and Jerry Yahr. RSF Association President Ann Boon, outgoing Vice President Heather Slosar and board member Mike Licosati voted against it. Board member Kim Eggleston was present for the meeting but not for the vote.

The board will revisit the renewal at its July 7 meeting.

The Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club Board of Directors is requesting the renewal of the “highly successful” membership category that has benefited the club and the members for more than a year. As a result of this membership, two sponsored members have purchased homes in the Covenant and two others are looking to buy currently.

According to the RSF Tennis Club’s request, the RSF Tennis Club members are “wholeheartedly in favor” of the sponsored memberships.

RSF Tennis Club President Barbara McClanahan said they did not have an official vote of the members but they did canvass the membership and the RSF Tennis Club board voted unanimously to renew the membership.

“There was no negative response,” McClanahan said.

Slosar, a member of the RSF Tennis Club, said she was not asked for her opinion. Eggleston said the board would love to hear a formal vote from the club membership to help them make a decision on the renewal; Wilkinson said that he was fine with just a board vote.

The sponsored membership program brings in revenue of over $60,000 a year. The cost of the limited membership is $2,500 a year, which is an increase from the previous rate of $2,188, and ensures that Covenant members are receiving “substantially better value.” Covenant residents currently pay an initiation fee of $3,750, plus monthly dues that vary for family and single memberships.

Along with the renewal of the 25 memberships, the RSF Association board has the right to terminate the memberships. If they are terminated, the members are entitled to remain a sponsored member for two full fiscal years following the notice of termination.

In the board’s attempted approval, the motion was to approve a one-year renewal of the sponsored membership category, without the two-year “tail.”

Slosar’s primary concern is the number of non-Covenant residents that are now members of the club. Totaling all of the categories of extended family, sponsored family, extended single, sponsored single non-resident associate family and non-resident associate single, there are currently 44 non-resident members, which is over 21 percent of the club membership.

“If that’s the direction that we’re going, OK. However, I thought the idea was that we were going to bring up membership within the Covenant but, as you can see, that has not happened. There’s been no increase in Covenant memberships. There’s merely been increase in non-Covenant memberships,” Slosar said. “I think the golf club would love to have this option, they’d love to get 21 percent of their members out of the Covenant, they’d be delighted.”

“I think it sets a dangerous precedent,” Slosar said.

She said that the RSF Tennis Club needs to make more effort to look inside Covenant membership to add members — she said there are plenty of people who play tennis that have not been approached.

“How would not approving this make the tennis club a better place?” McClanahan asked. “I think it’s ridiculous that you’re insinuating that we haven’t done so, that we haven’t had opportunities for people to come in and play for free. We’ve opened up the club to the community and tried to gain new memberships within the community.”

Yahr noted that there is a bigger issue with the RSF Tennis Club’s operations overall — a request was made at the last board meeting for the RSF Tennis Club and RSF Association to work together on an independent review of club practices. Called a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, the RSF Association board was set to approve a consultant to conduct the review, but decided to wait and directed staff to work with the RSF Tennis Club board to create a scope of services and find the right consultant in a more collaborative effort.

Boon said since that meeting, the RSF Tennis Club has decided not to collaborate. Yahr and McClanahan said they have heard of no such thing.

“It’s a very weighty decision long term,” Licosati said. “In the short term, absolutely it helps the tennis club have these non-Covenant members. But is it short sighted? I happen to think it is very short-sighted. If we start to have non-Covenant members use facilities that are owned by the Association it should go to a vote of the entire Covenant, because it’s their asset.

“I think we need to consider the broad implications of that because once the nose is under the tent, you’re not going to be able to get it back out,” Licosati said.

Incoming board member Allen Finkelson said that he feels a membership vote would be uncalled for. He advocated that the board approve the membership category for one year. Finkelson will get a chance to vote when he joins the board July 7.