Our Most Important Election

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No, not that one! I’m talking about our local RSF Association Board election. 

Two of the seven director’s terms are up (board prez Rick Sapp and Steve Dunn), leaving Mike Gallagher and Sharon Ruhnau who will each have one more year, and newly elected directors Bill Weber, Laurel Lemarie, and Bill Strong who will each have two more years come this July.

I would encourage anyone with some free time to consider putting their name in the hat and running. Just based on the number of people running these days, your chances of winning are pretty good since we haven’t been awash with board candidates in the last several years. Be aware that the deadline to nominate yourself is just over 2 weeks away! Click here for the nomination packet.

March 16 is also the deadline for members to be registered to vote. If you’ve voted before, then you’re fine, and if you’ve submitted a voter verification form, you’re fine. If not, you need to submit a voter verification form to be eligible to vote.

Issues

Candidates usually run on their bio. That never struck me as very satisfying. Like many voters, my lament is that candidates should be running on issues.

In a spirit of helping board candidates think about why they should run and what they will do while in office, here’s my list of issues that I’d like to see candidates have a view about. 

Golf Club Restaurant

Very soon we will be seeing the remodel concept(s) (and hopefully a name!) for the Golf Club restaurant. It will come with a price tag, some of which will be borne by the Golf Club, and some by the general Association membership. So, as a candidate, do you support the remodel and associated spending? I would urge any potential candidate to learn as much as they can about this since it’ll be a very prominent issue.

Family Friendly and Playing Fields

Top, Richardson baseball diamond, bottom, playing field. Pictures taken 2/27/2020.

Through the years, one of the complaints lobbed at the Board is that they aren’t particularly sensitive to the needs of members with families (see here for an article lamenting this). The Board generally is composed of retired people with kids who have long grown up. Very few younger members have served on the Board and pushed family friendly policies. And yet you see tons of families on the weekends hiking around the golf course and attending the Saturday morning Cars and Coffee. One would think they make a sizable voter block.

Just as an example, one specific family friendly item the Association could pay attention to is the sorry state of our playing fields off Rambla de las Flores. Both the big soccer field and the smaller field between the two baseball diamonds seemingly have more weeds and brown areas than grass. The contrast between those fields and the immaculately maintained baseball diamonds is stunning. These fields support kid’s soccer, flag football and other sports.

There are two issues here. One is simple maintenance – money needs to be allocate and spent maintaining these fields. The other is who gets to use these fields. There is little or no enforcement of field permits (non-members can walk onto the fields and use them), and no verification that permits that are issued actually have a decent number of team members that are actually Association members. 

Which, if any, family friendly policies will our board candidates get behind?

Transparency

Our board meetings are held during rather inconvenient times for those who work or are otherwise busy. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a video of each board meeting that you could stream at night or whenever you had time? I’ve actually offered to do this for free, but the current board has not been interested.

Rancho is really falling behind the times. Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and even staid San Diego County (click for links) all have their council meetings available via streaming. Why not Rancho Santa Fe? 

In addition, I recently penned an op ed pointing out that board members aren’t easy to contact to discuss current issues.

Democracy dies in darkness as a certain popular catchphrase says. Will any board candidate push for video’d meetings? Or any other transparency measure such as making themselves available to members?

Village Revitalization

Proposed Gateway project.

This is a perennial issue. The loss of the Village grocery store several years ago made it particularly acute. 

Do current candidates have ideas on how invigorate our Village? Maybe ideas on how to help Gateway or others attract a grocery store? Or even help Gateway with their permitting process? Anything?

Land

The Association owns many pieces of land, some of which are worth quite a lot of money. Would it make sense to review why we own these generally unproductive parcels and see if a few of them could be sold while we are nearing the top of a property market cycle?

Property Rights vs Over Building

Our current board is worried about over building. They want to preserve our rural character and think that having too large a house (and associated accessory structures and hardscape) ruins this character. The Covenant does have building size restrictions and the Board recently proposed a regulatory code amendment to impose a stricter definition of how much of a lot can be developed.

This issue also comes up with lot splits. Owners leaving Rancho can try to maximize the value of a tear down house by splitting their lot and thus increasing density. This isn’t a theoretical issue, it was brought up at the last Board meeting.

How far can or should the board go in this policy area? Absent conflicts with the Covenant, should the Board be able to dictate what we can and can’t do with our properties?

I would very much like to hear candidate’s thoughts in this area.

Board Power

Did you know that the board recently granted itself veto power over Art Jury decisions (click here)? The board has always had the ability to hear homeowner appeals when the Art Jury turns down a member’s project. But with a new expansive Internal Dispute Resolution procedure, any member can now object to any Art Jury decision, positive or negative, anywhere in Rancho, and do so at any time which allows the Board to overrule the Art Jury. 

There are interesting implications to this policy and it would be informative to hear candidates opine on this and other issues of board power and control. 

Excessive Fines

As reported here before, the board granted itself new fining power about two years ago. While most HOAs have the ability levy fines, I don’t know of any with the ability to levy an initial $18,000 fine (and that’s just for property maintenance!), or have weekly escalations that can result in $100,000+ fines with no cap. So, as a candidate, what do you think of the Association’s fine schedule and would you propose any changes?

A Slate?

One final thought. Something we’ve rarely seen, but I personally would like to see more of, is people running together as a slate. Get a like minded friend to step into the breach with you and campaign together. Among other things, this should make board dynamics a bit more smooth sailing if you get elected.

Candidates Welcome

The RSF Post welcomes all submissions by any reader, and in particular, candidates are welcome to write one or many articles about themselves and their positions on important topics. 

Did I miss any important election issues? Let us know by commenting in our public discussion forum.

In conclusion, I hope we have a robust group of board candidates with serious discussions about these and other issues that affect us all.