The Rancho Santa Fe Post

CDRC CONFIDENTIAL: The Billionaires Next Door

Billionaires are building homes here. I’m not talking about those in the past, or with fortunes tastefully inherited, but those who earned their fortunes from biotech, IT, or cloud computing. These are smart, forward-thinking investors who could have built their homes anywhere, and they chose this private bucolic place we call the “Covenant” with its year-round temperate climate and many unique qualities. A Member pointed this out to me as we walked by some of their construction sites. We were on a portion of the over 60 miles of Covenant trails available exclusively to RSFA Members and their accompanied guests. The choice of these billionaires shows an appreciation for the value of our community with its CC&R’s, the Protective Covenant (PC).

All these billionaires went through CDRC review. They participated in the collaborative process resulting in some beautiful designs that will blend harmoniously with our community. But, this process only works if the PC is consistently applied.

The PC contains general and specific requirements, including appearance, roof pitch, type of architecture, color and materials, that can only be amended by a two-thirds vote of the Members pursuant to Par. 164 of the PC. There is a considerable amount of freedom within these requirements. But, over the years, and without Members’ approval, the CDRC has added, among other types, bright white New-England style wood-sided buildings, favored by spec builders, and prohibited by the PC. Until the structures are actually built and painted, Members are unaware of the architectural styles or materials because elevations/style/materials descriptions are not included in the CDRC Tri-fold mailed to Members. This relevant information is only available by making an appointment to review plans at the Association during office hours under the supervision of Staff.

The CDRC has a fiduciary duty to Members, including the majority (and including these billionaires) who adhered to the PC requirements of Latin-inspired, durable exterior wall surfaces and harmonious colors. To avoid making this problem worse, I requested at our last CDRC Meeting that the New RSFA Board of Directors formed in July address this problem, and respectively suggested several solutions:

  1. Directing Staff to post securely online for Members’ review only, new major construction applications and remodels including some exterior elevations, square footage, acreage of lot and other information Members are entitled to under PC Par 61 and the CDRC Review process. By using the online approach, staff time will be saved while transparency of the process maintained. (I’d like to think high-tech billionaires would approve of this online approach).
  2. If the RSFA Board and/or the CDRC want to change the PC requirements regarding style, color and materials, etc., they must get the lawful approval of the RSFA Members with the Amendment process. Currently, a majority vote by the CDRC is being used to supersede approval by the Membership to add items, resulting in non-harmonious designs. Just because past Boards have failed to get Members’ approval to amend the PC requirements does not excuse the new Board from failing to follow their contractual obligations under the PC now.

Rule of law matters here in the Covenant to all Members whether billionaires, or mere millionaires. We all benefit from consistent enforcement of our CC&R’s. To the billionaires next door, hope you enjoy your beautiful new homes and “Welcome to the ‘hood!”

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.