The Rancho Santa Fe Post

CDRC Confidential: Developments

New Developments: Along with a remodeled new Meeting Room, the CDRC is getting a new Building Commissioner. The job description, in general, for a Building Commissioner includes enforcement. Regular readers of my column know enforcement of our Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R's) is near and dear to my heart ( and my pocketbook). So, too, for any other RSFA Member interested in protecting the rural character of our community and their property here. This leads to the next topic.

Over Development: Whoever she is, our new Commissioner will learn that while the Protective Covenant (PC) embraces development that adheres to our CC&R’s, over development is discouraged on a macro and micro level. Over development on a macro large scale includes high-density housing plans outside our downtown core, such as the one the CDRC recently advised the RSFA Board to deny, as contrary to our Regulations and Covenant (a topic covered in other RSF Post articles).

On the micro level, over development includes residential building plans with too many large structures for small building pads. Whether to keep square-footage costs down, taste or whatever, architects often propose residences too large for the actual building pad. Total acreage of the site might be large, but due to the slopes and swales, the actual building pad after the 100-foot County setback from the street, might not be all that large. Repeatedly, the CDRC hears architects cry about what a difficult site their client’s property has. Not really. The market price for the real estate reflects its suitability for building a reasonable structure, not a castillo.

Architects can blame owner’s demands. They point out, for example, that the owner is a spec builder wanting to maximize returns; or the owner is building a trophy house necessitating a tequila-tasting room, indoor rifle range and separately housed car collection. Having heard shock expressed by recent applicants at construction estimates for their projects previously presented to the CDRC as well as my own, I know architects and builders can certainly contribute to over development. I recall my own landscape designer originally presenting a plan for a Koi pond. (After thanking her for suggesting a new hobby of raising giant goldfish, we decided a Koi pond wasn’t in keeping with the simple Provence farmhouse we planned to build).

Several architects solutions are to push the envelope, specifically regarding Reg. 41.06: “Maximum depth of cut and/or fill” restricting to 10' from existing grade. Architects appear to take this as a given, chopping off the top of canyons just below 10' of existing grade. Then, making plans for lot line-to-lot line mansions, giving a suburban appearance rather than the rural look intended for the Covenant. A hot air balloon trip above our area vividly shows just southeast from the Covenant an expanse of wall-to-wall beige stucco, the visual definition of over development, both macro and micro.

Certain architects appear to view CDRC presentations as negotiations. Come in large intending to take their proposal down to something only super ginormous. In our world of constant renegotiations -- whether it be with telecom carriers or a date for lunch -- it’s disappointing when the talented architects who frequent the CDRC use this approach. The CDRC is not an adversarial process (as a former litigator, I know what adversarial is.) Rather, it’s a collaborative process, because all members share an interest in protecting this special place.

The Covenant doesn’t use this 10' measurement. In its Preamble, the PC specifically states the desire to preserve the “rare landscape features," and of "restricting the use, height and bulk of buildings;” PC Par. 48 includes tennis courts and swimming pools as “major constructions.” Our goal (cue Judy Collins), is not to "pave paradise." To follow the PC, the CDRC is dedicated to look at all the hardscape, ancillary and main structures to prevent over development. Face it, over development looks greedy and gross, like a glutton’s plate at the buffet table (or me at CDRC lunches). Over development of a site looks like a “wanna be” who can’t afford a suitably sized property for an estate; or an insecure person wanting a prominent structure to show he or she has made it big. Appearances like that are just not PC.

The statements made in this column are the opinions of the author and not those of the Rancho Santa Fe Association Covenant Design Review Committee.