Op-Ed: Save Our Ranch: Stop the Mabee Densification Project

by Saiid Zarrabian

SEP 20, 2017

Our beautiful and pastoral village is on the brink of an unprecedented challenge that would negatively and irreparably impact our community forever. As many Covenant members may know, members and friends of the Mabee family/trust have filed an application with San Diego County to massively increase the density on its 28+ acre lot (approximately half of which is within the Covenant), at the corner of Via de la Valle and Calzada del Bosque to make way for the proposed Rancho Librado project. The only way this can be accomplished is via modification to the County’s General Plan Amendment (GPA) 2020 and to obtain a major land-use permit. This is far from the vision of the property’s now-deceased owner, Larry Mabee, who had planned to revitalize and expand the estate’s existing facilities and return the property to a horse-breeding operation.

Specifically, Rancho Librado’s proposed developers, aided by Mr. Ali Shapouri, a planner, and former RSFA managers Mr. Walt Ekard and Mr. Pete Smith, desire a major increase in density for the 28+ acres. If allowed, the increased density would grow from the current County-approved one dwelling per 2/4 to eight acres (allowing a maximum of 13 to 14 estates), to two dwellings per acre to accommodate at least 55 “casitas” and possibly four homes on one- acre lots.

This proposed change is a 400% density increase from what is currently allowed by the County. Obviously, the proposal is grossly inconsistent with the traditional layouts of neighboring properties, whose owners have respected the Ranch’s pastoral aesthetics and adhered to the Covenant’s near-century’s-old restriction of a minimum of two acres per dwelling in most locations. If the County permits the requested modifications to allow this project to go forward, just imagine what opening these proverbial floodgates would mean for future projects with similar designs — a total loss of the Ranch’s rural setting we hold dear.

The proposed project has been on hold at the County level for over two years due to a lawsuit filed by the Mabee group against the Rancho Santa Fe Association (RSFA) (and, therefore, almost all of us Covenant members). The lawsuit was based on the RSFA Board’s decision to clarify its position regarding the project, which was prompted, in part, to correct the misconception, repeated in public meetings by Rancho Librado’s proposed developers, that the Board tacitly supported the proposed Rancho Librado project, which it most definitely has not.

Not only is the project grossly incompatible with the Covenant’s established guidelines and culture, the Board’s decision to not support the project was bolstered by the efforts of many Covenant and non-Covenant members who collected nearly 950 signatures opposing this project, 545 of which were from Covenant residents.

The original lawsuit was filed in September 2015. The court ruled against the plaintiffs on eight of nine causes of action in December 2015. The Mabees et al. filed their Notice of Appeal in March 2016. Both sides requested oral argument in August 2017. An oral argument date is often set within 60 days of the request.

Some members may ask: How is this at all relevant to me? Why does it matter? As this litigation has now been going on for over two years, and the proponents of the project have been promoting it for almost four years, we understand the RSFA is paying the legal fees and other costs associated with this lawsuit to date. Obviously, this means that every Covenant member is paying to fight this lawsuit via our annual dues and/or payment of insurance premiums. Any owner of a home or auto knows, if one files a claim it doesn’t take long before the insurance company raises the rates via a surcharge and higher premiums due to “higher risk category” issues. To say nothing of the costs, allowing the proposed project to proceed would do irreparable harm to the very essence of our community.

The developer is seemingly disregarding nearly 950 petition signatories and the Boards of our neighboring communities who vehemently oppose the proposed 400% densification of our village. This public opposition includes the vote of every single member of the Board of Fairbanks Ranch’s HOA and the Whispering Palms Community Council, along with many of their community’s residents and well over 500 RSFA members.

Rancho Santa Fe has intentionally been kept as a quiet, spacious respite, tucked away from the unfortunate trend of ever-increasing densification. The pastoral nature of the Ranch is what has defined our community for nearly 100 years, and we must not let the proposed Rancho Librado project destroy it. As Neighbors for San Dieguito River Valley Preservation, with the support of our neighboring HOAs, we believe the preservation of our community — every single acre of it — is worth fighting for.

This article is approved and supported by the following representative members of Neighbors for San Dieguito River Valley Preservation:

Saiid & Marie Zarrabian

Robert and Susan Lankford

David & Susan Allred

Chris & Jennifer Miller

Doug Allred

Peter and Sandy Mossy

Willy & Alchera Ayyad

Mark & Beth Nelson

Lisa Bartlett (Former RSFA Member)

Rick and Chrissy Nicholas

Buck and Kay Bennett

Russ and Carol Penniman

John Cambon

George and Joan Scott

Denis & Olga Capelson

Paul and Sally Seitz

Yvette Diuri

Michael and Erica Spinazzola

Tomisu Friedkin


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