The Rancho Santa Fe Post

Op-Ed: An Open Letter to Rancho Santa Fe Residents

We have been extraordinarily disappointed with recent developments in the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant community, including an unwillingness to modernize key infrastructure. RSF needs to be inclusive. It also needs to retain its charming historic feel without using the status quo as a block for progress.

It is 2016 – not 1950 – and it is time to have modernity. We call upon the RSF Association board to act decisively and with a much greater sense of urgency. Our safety, property values and quality of life depend on it.

Cellular phone coverage is a matter of life and death. Public safety should always be an over-arching priority.

The current infrastructure is an unmitigated disaster. We cannot drive between our house and the village without dropping calls. There are parts to the Ranch where even making a cell phone call from a residence is difficult – and having emergency services triangulate signals must be that much more difficult. In a world of diminishing copper telephone lines, the 911 load has shifted to cell phones. Further, many medical devices increasingly design in cell communications.

In addition, having a decent cell phone signal would allow us to conduct business - try maintaining a conference call as you wind through the Ranch - and keep in contact with our families.

Cell phones are just small radios – the engineering is simple: Line of sight (for which elevation is a proxy) and power. We are agnostic on location – but if having the 3, 90 foot towers (on Association or right-of-way land) was the optimal technical solution, then having a very small group of not-in-my-backyard (Nimby’s) object to the aesthetics or maintenance needs of those three towers should not have caught the Association off-guard and then quickly backpedaling.

In fact, it is entirely foreseeable as one of the first moves in this type of public-use chess game. Any public works infrastructure project involves balancing interests. Simply because of a few residents’ complaints and arguable interpretations of CC&R’s is no reason for the Association to immediately back off plans and do an abrupt about-face. It appears that the optimal technical solution has been summarily jettisoned because of a small, vocal minority.

We need robust cell coverage – and we need it now – not in a year or two or three.

Broadband Internet likewise is a critical component of a modern, upscale community. The ability to stream security video footage and alarm systems to the cloud is important and safety-related – let alone video chat with far flung family or simply watch a movie.

Why did it take three ordinary residents to put up their own money to start a fiber research project? Where was Association vision and leadership prior to that – and frankly where is it now? Why does this take years to figure out a path forward? Why do we not just incur the out-of-pocket cost to build a dedicated fiber network that we own outright– so that we are not beholden to any third party in the future, whether as our supposed ‘partner’ or not? Why is the broadband project implementation timeline being measured in years rather than months?

It is foolish to believe that a lack of critical (and rather mundane) infrastructure - services that are otherwise taken for granted in adjacent communities - does not impair property values. RSF needs to fund and implement broadband rapidly – and be done with it.

A modern Health and Fitness Club may not be as critical – but it is important in creating a sense of community and continuing to attract affluent homebuyers to provide liquidity in the RSF real estate market.

The current proposal is the worst of both worlds: A non-trivial capital expenditure for a deflated, compromised design – the smallest of three proposals. The RSF golf club is antiquated, a classic monopolist. Its food service is subpar and its reputation for disdaining children is well- founded. RSF has essentially one shot at a decent club – and shoe-horning a sub-scale facility to crimp on cost while placating entrenched golf and tennis interests is not the way to do it.

In many of these issues, we perceive a generational cleavage.

Technology and transportation improvements have changed communities across the U.S. RSF is no longer solely a bucolic retirement enclave. We need revolution – not incremental evolution.

The first wave of this was throwing off the chummy insider club that “managed” the Association. The second wave needs to be actually accomplishing bringing modernity to the Ranch. We need to embrace things that are crucial for families – whether it is using planning measures to enable a more family-central village area or bringing simple staples to RSF, such as cell phones, decent Internet and a gym.

RSF is a beautiful community. Its residents should not be forced to choose between uprooting their families and moving versus enjoying the basic expectations of modern American upscale life. Or having even just a fleeting momentary worry about whether a life-or-death cell call will reach 911.

Leadership means making tough choices – and then implementing them. We call upon our friends and neighbors to use these items as a call for action to the RSW Association and during the upcoming Board elections. Most importantly, we call upon the RSF Association to do more – and to do it rapidly, not over the course of years.

Ed Batts
Robyn Hudgens