Sunsets by my Ranch pool remind me of cocktails by a watering hole at a five-star lodge in Namibia, a civilized way to watch game hydrate. Sundowners here include native and seasonal wild life, the only trespassers thanks to our vigilant RSF Patrol and the remote location of our properties. Evenings lately, I see ducks, doves and humming birds in my giant bird bath/pool. Over the years, among other animals seen on the property are bobcats, coyotes, deer, raccoons, opossum, rabbits, eagles, hawks, owls, egrets and quail. In the prior sentence, I changed the article from my to the because these creatures were here before me and are not trespassers. I’m the squatter on their land. I used the example of Namibia rather than Kenya, where wildlife disappeared, because San Diego is not in the direct path of throngs of in-flight travelers like LAX and NBO (Nairobi International Airport). Anyone who travels knows St. Bart’s, Telluride, or the Okavanga Delta are preferable because the requisite extra hop by plane separates crowds from paradise. But, like these special places, the Covenant does have easy access to private air. Covenant friends who use private jet report Palomar Airport is a 15-minute drive away from their home.
For improved quality of life, we moved from Palo Alto to the Covenant, a rural sanctuary in an urban environment. In Palo Alto, we had a fence around a third of an acre. In the Covenant, the large size of our property meant even with a pool, we didn't need to use fencing. That said, we did install some fencing including a couple feet below ground to prevent burrowing trespassers from the vegetable and cutting gardens as well as a wall for a motor court for off street guest parking behind Art-Jury-mandated landscaping. Notwithstanding the enthusiasm of my car-collecting Covenant friends, the CDRC pursuant to the Protective Covenant (PC), does not find attractive parking lots visible from the street (yes, even those of Ferraris & Porsches). Summertime when we did not have guests, our family played boules after dinner on the empty motor court (pass the pastis!).
Recently, the CDRC revised its “Supplemental Design Criteria on Fences and Walls.” Apparently, some homeowners are not fond of coyotes. Readers can tell, I support a policy of peaceful co-existence in nature (and probably politics, too). Coyotes remind me of smaller versions of the pet German Shepherd I had growing up, and I appreciate the way coyotes eat mice, rats, gophers, rabbits, squirrels, carrion and fallen fruit in the orchard. Then again, my gardener picks up their scat.
Not everyone considers coyotes their version of pets. Our job on the CDRC is to balance aesthetics with the interests of those pet owners drawn to fencing reminiscent of a prison compound to protect their packs of loved ones. In doing its job, the CDRC considered in detail how to mount coyote rollers on pasture fences in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Members can pick up the current “Fences and Walls Supplemental Design Criteria” at the Association Offices or online to see the traditional split rail Ranch fence along with other acceptable fencing (see snapshots). The Ranch fence is a polite way to remind fellow Members that they & their posse would be more comfortable on the trail viewing the property beyond rather than traipsing over it.
On Sundays I often attend Our Lady of the Covenant Trails, walking off the prior night’s sins of gluttony while viewing the Covenant natural landscape, appreciating the architect’s work. As our CDRC fencing criteria states, “Having too many fence lines destroys the rural character by breaking the landscape into small parcels and introducing more man-made features into the natural landscape.” Increasingly, what used to be open pastures are becoming fenced, guarding the play structures of the wealthy, ancillary construction for golf cart garages or boating pavilions. Those narrow, fenced trails remind me of walking long corridors between hedgerows when staying with friends in Surrey.
Fortunately, with the nearly 60 miles of trails we collectively own here, there are still plenty of open spaces. But I appreciate the PC and the CDRC’s efforts to keep the rural appearance of our Ranch landscape intact. Long after man’s toys are discarded, families grown or dissolved, conforming to the PC fencing requirements will preserve our pastoral aesthetic for Members, their horses, dogs...and any other lesser-ranked family members still on speaking terms. Sometimes, less is more.
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.