The Rancho Santa Fe Post

Rancho Santa Fe: 2016, A Year in Review and What a Year!

This year was filled with excitement, change, and opportunity for our amazing community.

From the making and breaking of a deal that would have brought ultra-high speed Internet to the Ranch, to a hard fought election between 6 highly qualified candidates, to the progress being made on issues like water, voting rights, and community outreach, here is the top Covenant news from 2016:

1. Fiber deal gets made, then unmade

During 2016, one of the Board’s main goals was to bring a high-speed reliable Internet connection to Rancho Santa Fe. Following about two years of due diligence, the outgoing Board voted unanimously to execute an LOI with Hotwire Communications (contact the Board if you would like to read the LOI and/or the final presentation made prior to Board approval last year) that would have brought Internet speeds of 10GB to every home in the community. The deal was lauded by the Union Tribune and made significant waves within the high-tech community.

For several months, the Board worked on the deal with Hotwire Communications, which would have been one of the few community-owned fiber networks in the country. During the transition from the former Board to the new Board the community education program never got off the ground -- a program that was designed and included in the Hotwire LOI to educate residents about the fiber deal before a planned community-wide vote that was to take place on October 31.

The new Board, however, was not as confident in the deal. Shortly after taking over, they announced the termination of the fiber Internet deal, and informed the community that they were going back to the drawing board to explore alternative options. The Board did reaffirm their commitment to bring fiber to the home. President Fred Wasserman said, “We’re going to do it carefully and we’re going to bring it on budget.”

To understand the needs of the community, the Association conducted a new fiber Internet survey, in which 730 people participated. The study confirmed the results of a similar 2015 survey performed as a part of the initial due diligence on the Hotwire deal, showing that two-thirds of respondents were very unhappy with their Internet speed, and 88% of people were interested in improved Internet service.

Hopefully, 2017 will bring a deal that takes the Covenant into the high-speed technology era. We look forward to an update on the progress of any new efforts to improve our connectivity!

2. June HOA Election

In a great display of democracy in the Ranch, more voters participated in the 2016 RSF Association elections than at any other period in history.

With three seats up for election, candidates were announced in early March: Janet Danola, Allen Finkelson, Rachel Laffer, Rachel Leheny, Kenneth Markstein, and Terry Peay. The six candidates looked to replace 3 Board positions held by Directors Jerry Yahr, Heather Slosar, and Philip Wilkinson.

On June 14, ballots were counted in front of a large crowd where Janet Danola, Allen Finkelson, and Ken Markstein were elected to serve as RSF Association Board of Directors.

Overall, turnout was very high during the election. There were 1,654 ballots counted out of 2,200 eligible voters, a over 75% voter turnout, the largest turnout in Covenant history.

Congratulations to the new Board members!

3. RSF Says NO to Covenant Club

In what may have created more division than any other issue in Rancho Santa Fe, calls for a community “Covenant Club” that would be located between the golf club and the tennis club were soundly rejected.

In late 2014, the community approved spending $350,000 to complete a feasibility study for what was originally estimated to be an $11 million investment. Not included in the feasibility study was an explanation of how future ongoing operational costs would be covered. In 2015, a new “Homeowners Group” was formed for the specific purpose of stopping efforts to invest in a covenant club. Opposition increased when the results of the feasibility study put the price tag at $15.8 million, almost $5 million more than originally estimated.

Come mid-2016, despite the numerous issues facing Rancho Santa Fe, the issue of the Covenant Club took center stage in RSF’s Board election, dividing the candidates into two slates: one slate in complete opposition to the Covenant Club, and the other slate promising a community vote to decide whether to continue pursuing a Covenant Club option.

The opposition to the Covenant Club was strongly promoted by significant majorities from the Tennis Club and Golf Club, as well as many long-time residents. In short, the referendum on the Covenant Club was, in large part equated with a referendum on the entire Board.

When the election results came in, it was clear that the biggest loser was the Covenant Club. And with that loss came a transition of leadership on the Board, a re-evaluation of other projects including the fiber Internet, and hopefully an opportunity for us all to recognize that our best opportunity to make progress in Rancho Santa Fe is to accept our differences of opinion, denounce unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, and pursue what is in the best interest of our wonderful community.

4. New leadership for RSF School District

During 2016, we said goodbye to Superintendent Lindy Delaney, after 12 years of leading our student district. Delaney was first hired as a teacher in 1986 by Dr. R. Roger Rowe and spent 30 years as a teacher, coach, and administrator. We congratulate Delaney on her dedication to our children and wish her luck in future endeavors.

After a short election process, David Jaffe was chosen to replace Lindy Delaney. Jaffe comes to the RSF School District from Torrey Pines High School, where he acted as principal for the past three years. He has over 20 years of education experience in many educational institutions.

For the RSF School Board of Trustees, three seats were up for election during the November race. A total of seven candidates raced for the empty seats, which were won by the top vote-getters: Tyler Seltzer (23.37%), Sarah Neal (19.48%), and Scott Kahn (15.93%).

5. Roundabouts Roundup 

After nearly 15 years of discussion, the intersection debate came to an end in 2015. In February of this year, the RSF Association Board voted unanimously to provide an additional $60,000 to update the Environmental Impact Report for roundabout construction. Then in October, The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to certify the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) needed to alleviate traffic congestion in Rancho Santa Fe. Although the funding timeline remains fluid, once secured, construction of the three roundabouts is estimated to take 12-18 months to complete.

6. 90 years of the RSF Garden Club, and still going strong

The Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club started in 1926 as a small group of families who wanted to advance gardening and landscaping in RSF. It was later incorporated as a nonprofit California corporation in 1937.

Through the years, the organization dedicated its work to maintain the natural beauty of the Ranch, while caring for local resources and the community. Today, the RSF Garden Club works toward expanding its philanthropic activities for nonprofit organizations that serve the Ranch and surrounding areas.

In 2015, RSF resident Bruce Kleege of Kleege Enterprises purchased the Garden Club for $2.8 million and has kept it a part of the community, hosting fundraisers to continue the Garden Club’s mission. The club is also a hotspot for local events and weddings.

During 2016, the Garden Club focused on reforestation, since the prolonged California drought has decimated foliage and the Ranch's signature Red Gum eucalyptus trees. Phil Larsen took the responsibility as new President of the Club, since Fred Wasserman stepped down to become President of the HOA.

7. New water meters and rate hikes get approved

The year started with a controversial proposal to move forward with a rate increase. The Proposed Rate Increase Percentages by the Santa Fe Irrigation District Board were the following: 9% in FY 2016 + 9% in FY 2017 + 9% in FY 2018.

Many residents opposed the rate increase, but it eventually was approved by the SFID Board with a 3-2 vote on May 19. The rate increase was structured to impact each customer depending on their classification, the amount of water they use, and the size of their water meter.

The first rate hike was reflected on October’s bills, and on November 17, the SFID Board voted to keep the next rate increase on schedule, which will impact customers on January 1, 2017.
Another big change that happened in 2016 was the SFID decision to replace 7,300 water meters with automated devices that can send usage data to the SFID on an hourly basis for Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach customers. This five-year plan is expected to cost $5.5 million.

Finally, the Santa Fe Irrigation District, RSF Golf Club, and the RSF Community Services District are collaborating on a water recycling project which, if implemented, could save 80 million gallons of drinking water a year.

Happy New Year RSF!