The Rancho Santa Fe Post

Residents React to Jane van Praag's Public Hearing

The RSF Post has created a compilation of letters to the editor regarding the RSFA April 1 public hearing to consider Jane van Praag’s removal from the CDRC Board. Ms. van Praag ended her oral argument with her resignation.

The reactions from attendees and our readers clearly reflect the intensity of the hearing itself. As always, we welcome all residents to share their views.

Keep the Ranch in Keeping With Our History
By Julie Buechler

Ours is a unique and special community. I don't profess to be knowledgeable about the intricacies of our Protective Covenant, but I do know this: I am grateful for our Covenant Design Review Committee (CDRC). I love our neighborhood and appreciate the thoughtful planning which preserves our rural nature and history. My family selected this neighborhood for these very features; I don't want to walk by a Tudor, a Cape Cod, a contemporary and a French Colonial home all within a half-acre span. I love that our architecture celebrates early California history, and I hope to see our homes and streets remain true to the original intent of design.

I have great respect for those willing to serve on our volunteer governance boards; I know this is often a thankless job. Over the last year, I have read Jane van Praag’s column and have learned a great deal about our Protective Covenant and why it is important (not simply for our property values) that our CDRC ensure we build historically accurate projects. I also learned determining which applications fulfill these guidelines is a complicated and difficult job. I am grateful the committee pays meticulous attention to detail.

I was surprised to learn of Ms. van Praag’s considered removal from the CDRC. I do not profess to have a full understanding of the proceedings of the committee, but a cursory review appears to me to be very unfortunate, at best. I have faith that our volunteers are acting to preserve what is best for our neighborhood. I recognize this may often result in dissenting opinions. However, I am greatly troubled that it appears respectful dissent can result in ejection from the CDRC. I have enjoyed reading Ms. van Praag's column, and I would like to have an understanding of why she was forced to resign. I hope we have an opportunity to hear her position.

We all benefit from respectful discourse. I look forward to gaining an understanding of both sides. Without such dialogue, I can't imagine we will be able to find willing volunteers to serve on these boards and committees in the future.

Shock, Dismay and Concern: A Short Recap of What Really Happened
By Michael D. Myers

I take this opportunity to express my shock, dismay and concern at the incredibly rude and high-handed treatment that our Board of Directors (BOD) inflicted on Jane van Praag during their meeting of April 1, 2019, which resulted in her forced resignation from the CDRC which many of us still refer to as the “art jury.”

First, I give you a bit of background about myself, and why I have written this letter. My wife and I have lived in the Covenant since 1994. I have been a member of the California State Bar since 1979, and although I am a retired attorney, I have maintained my active status, so that I can represent indigent members of our community and make court appearances on a pro bono basis. I was the chairman of the Board of Directors of “The World,” which is a privately owned residential ship and served on its Board for three years. The point of all of this is that I know something about law and something about the operation of Home Owner Associations such as ours.

I have been fortunate to know Jane van Praag, her late husband Jack Halter, and their son for 20 years. Jane is a consummate professional with a kind and gentle soul, but as she expressed at the Board’s April Fool’s Day Meeting she’s “nobody’s fool." Anyone who describes her as rude, offensive and obstructive, which is what our BOD did, either does not know her or has some unknown agenda.

For those who may not know what happened, I will provide a short recap. When Jane became a member of the CDRC, she discovered that her own committee was not providing appropriate oversight, and in fact, failed to follow the Protective Covenant, made up new building criteria, and learned that minutes of meetings were changed after the fact. She reported these things and other wrong doing to the BOD. In short, she “blew the whistle.”

Her “reward” for her two years of volunteer work was a request that she quietly resign from the Committee. She refused to do that, and instead, insisted on a public hearing. The BOD set a hearing date by posting a notice on the bulletin board of the RSF Association office, and set it with the shortest time possible. They also chose a time when they knew she was going on vacation until a few days before the hearing.

Although the notice she was given may pass the Board’s definition of legal muster, it DOES NOT PASS the stink test. During this hearing for which she had little time to prepare, Jane did present a witness, a local realtor, who explained that the erosion of the PC has affected our property values. Unlike other high end areas of San Diego County whose property values have shot up, ours have shot down.

I will leave it to the reader to decide why the BOD was in such a hurry to ambush Jane as it did. As for Jane, I know why she subjected herself to this abuse: She wanted the Community to know what’s going on and why nonconforming structures with different architecture are being built, why there are steep grades that seem out of place, and why property values have plummeted. The old story that “some other committee approved something" is not the case here. This is going on right NOW.

In May, 2019, there will be an election for members of the Board of Directors. I believe that we need new Directors who will protect the Protective Covenant, promote transparency, and who will respect their neighbors in both the letter and spirit of the law.

Much Ado About Van Praag
By Anh Nguyen-Paulus

I was surprised to read about Jane van Praag’s resignation from the CDRC (Covenant Design Review Committee) and somewhat amused at the drama surrounding her removal from a volunteer position. I typically would not bother to write a letter to the editor, but the RSF Review’s article (link provided in RSF Post article “Keep Rancho Freaky?”) left me feeling confused and curious for a few reasons. First, it was stated in the Review’s article that her “characterization of the failures of the CDRC is inaccurate,” which seems contrary to why the Rancho Santa Fe Association Board unanimously approved to send an oversight letter to the CDRC about enforcing the Protective Covenant.

Also the Review’s article mentioned the CDRC provided examples against her alleging she insulted applicants. As a recent applicant, our experience with Ms. van Praag was opposite of that. In the past year, my husband and I renovated our property across from hers. She brought to the CDRC’s attention that we violated our application by removing existing trees not as shown in landscape plans. We were indeed in error. We approached her about the issue and not only was she extremely professional, she was appreciative and informative about the Covenant and how to correct the issue.

Another reason for my confusion and curiosity after reading the Review’s article is regarding the allegation about “undermining the CDRC by disclosing confidential and preliminary discussions.” Aren’t all the CDRC meetings public and aren’t matters concerning the CDRC disclosed to members?

Also, I wonder if there were such strong behavioral issues with Ms. van Praag to the extent of “malfeasance” since August 2017, why would it take so long to remove her? Am I missing something? At this point, my interest was so piqued that I read the February 7 letters from the Board to the CDRC et al.

Basically, the main point of concern was “about the interpretation and enforcement of [the Covenant, Codes and Guidelines] and the overall deliberative process of the CDRC," and in the second letter it referenced Paragraphs 155-159. After locating the Protective Covenant, I read these paragraphs in hopes of enlightenment. Now I understand why the letter noted concerns about “excessive grading, projects with unrestrained mass and scale, and buildings that are inconsistent with Latin-type design.” Perhaps the reasons for Ms. van Praag’s considered removal and her resignation were because she knew and cared too much about the Covenant.

This seems to be “much ado about van Praag” when it should be about enforcing or changing the Covenant. Taking dramatics aside, anyone who walks or drives around the Covenant can visibly see varying “styles” or “types” of architecture, so it’s clear we as a community (Board and CDRC included) do not have a consistent understanding nor enforcement of the content of the “Covenant, Code and Guidelines.”

What Volunteer Would Want to be Treated Like This?
By Bridget Young

I attended the April 1 hearing for the removal of CDRC member Jane van Praag only to walk away shaking my head as to how it was run. I have never seen such utter disrespect for someone who has volunteered their time on not only this committee for the last two years and four months, but has also served on the board of directors of the community center and the directors of the RSFA.

Ms. van Praag is a California-licensed lawyer who has very generously donated her time to protect the home designs in the Covenant and keep them in line with the Mediterranean-inspired style. During her term, New England clapboard/Cape-Cod Style homes have popped up in the Covenant. When she tried to prevent this she was treated as a whistle blower and asked to resign, leaving her reputation to be questioned as if she had done something terribly wrong.

After hearing her present her defense, I was appalled to see how disrespectfully she was treated. She was spoken to in a rude and dismissive manner, and certain Board members even smirked and chuckled during the hearing, showing no respect to Ms. van Praag who had worked countless hours to defend herself. The frosting on the cake was when Ms. van Praag’s “hostile witness” dug in against her.

All I can say is Covenant residents should be thanking Ms. van Praag for standing up for their CC&Rs to uphold their property values. Shame on these disrespectful men who bullied her into leaving the committee before the end of her three-year term. God help anyone who is considering volunteering for the CDRC as well as the residents of the Covenant. Your bylaws have been compromised by a group with questionable ethics.