Covenant Residents Speak Out About Wood Siding Restrictions

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(Above: Wood exterior ranch house built in 2015 in Rancho Santa Fe)

Since Max Wuthrich published his article, and I wrote my piece lamenting the lack of response, more residents contacted me telling me they were opposed to the board’s arbitrary wood siding restrictions.

As I think back on it, the most annoying thing about this whole episode is that the current Art Jury wasn’t approving that many wood siding houses anyways. They were well aware that wood wasn’t a preferred material, and tried to be parsimonious about its use. But the Association board collectively decided the Art Jury was either making aesthetic mistakes or couldn’t be trusted. The end result is a hard and fast rule that completely ignores aesthetic judgement and nuance. The board appears to be trying to turn the covenant into a municipal code book of objective rules. But municipal codes exist for safety and don’t try to mandate aesthetics for good reason. Aesthetics will always require judgement and consideration of an entire project including siting, etc. 

By going to war with the Art Jury and imposing objective criteria in places that demand judgement, the board will end up making more “mistakes” than the Art Jury ever did. 

Onto the new reader comments!


We are writing about the Board’s recent decision to place a limit on exterior wood siding on new or renovated Rancho Santa Fe (RSF) homes. We strongly urge you to revoke this ordinance at your next Board meeting.
 
As Architect Mr. Wuthrich advises, each prospective RSF project/home should be judged for its merits on a case-by-case basis, with no arbitrary limits placed on the percentage of wood siding that can be used. Arbitrary decisions about acceptable wood siding in “Latin type” RSF home builds and remodels, seemingly based on the preferences of a select few, contradict the original intent of our Protective Covenant (PC) and are inappropriate for evaluating design excellence.
 
We applaud Mr. Wuthrich for creating a map showing that hundreds of existing RSF homes have wood siding. Our California Ranch style home on the RSF golf course was built with stucco and board and batten in 1957. Many golf course walkers and residents have admired how these Ranch homes with exterior wood “fit gracefully into the landscape,” preferring this style to many of the large, new adobe mansions that “resemble Marriotts towering over their lots.” While we personally appreciate the beauty of most Spanish Colonials, we share these comments to emphasize that there is diversity in taste and perceptions of beauty among Covenant residents. Our Art Jury should respect and embrace such diversity when evaluating home plans, avoiding arbitrary architectural interpretations and restrictions that fail to reflect the original language and intentions of the PC.

Like others, we seek clarification as to why wood has been listed as “not preferred.” One can argue that many RSF Ranch style homes with wood siding come closer to achieving Lilian Rice’s three major design goals (simplicity and restraint in decoration, harmony between a home and its site, high-quality craftsmanship) than many of the newer and far larger Spanish Colonial Revival homes. Rice utilized board and batten wood in some of her RSF projects, including our Original Garden Club, and built several beautiful wood homes for clients later in her short career.
 
Unfortunately, we missed the Board’s debate and vote on this issue while in Seattle in June and July. Friends indicated there was no significant Board or local media coverage of this proposed ordinance, contrasting with the Association’s constant reminders to vote on new Board members and the Columbarian. We are left to wonder why a decision of this magnitude, with its potential impact on residents’ future renovation plans and property values, was not given greater attention or put to a vote of the full community. We are already hearing comments about a “lack of Board transparency,” “Board interference with Art Jury business,” and “arbitrary decisions by Board members imposing their personal aesthetic preferences without any justification.” Although the apparent attempt was to clarify PC guidance, the new ordinance has angered many homeowners and likely damaged their property values through arbitrary architectural decisions affecting the
present and the future.
 
Finally, another homeowner has shared how your new ordinance appears prejudicial to younger homeowners who may buy RSF ranch homes with plans to renovate them in future years. She clearly describes the challenges that arbitrary wood exterior restrictions will create in renovations that seek to maintain the character of California Ranch style homes. Many young professionals who grew up in RSF and North County are now buying homes, and they actively discuss the merits of living in various communities. Our niece and her young family recently bought a home in Solana Beach for over $2M (without ocean views and far less grand than RSF homes of similar price), avoiding RSF in part because of reported difficulties in remodeling RSF homes. Our PC is already highly restrictive, and it seems foolish to alienate future homeowners and young families with additional arbitrary ordinances.
 
I (Sally) moved to RSF as a child in 1957, joining a less affluent but far more vibrant and cohesive community with an excellent school, strong retail sector, and a variety of community services. Without arbitrary design restrictions, people adhered to Art Jury decisions supporting stringent design fundamentals that have continued to preserve the character of our community. Like countless other RSF residents, we recommend that the Board cease devoting its energies to dividing residents through further regulation of PC architectural styles and building materials, and refocus its efforts on rebuilding a vibrant Village center and community.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our opinions. We sincerely appreciate your service. Again, we strongly urge you to revisit and rescind the recent exterior wood ordinance at your next meeting. We also hope that your future work will prioritize revitalizing our Village and increasing the sense of transparency, community, and inclusion within Rancho Santa Fe.
 
Respectfully,
Sally A. Koblinsky
Chester (Chet) J. Koblinsky 

 
This newly proposed decision to restrict board sidings on homes in the covenant is an egregious over-reach by power hungry members of the Board.  It appears that there are a significant number of homes this would affect and in no way would be fair to current and resale values of the impacted homes.  This is strictly an over-reach of authority with little to no basis to command such a thing.  I’m aware of one homeowner who was commanded to what color stone they could use for their house.  Another over-reach by power hungry committee or Board members.  One of the attractive and very nice things about the Covenant is the low key styles and variance in style of our homes.  Your wood restriction would most definitely take away from this diversity of styles that is a lovely part of the Covenant homes.
 
Max Wuthrich putting it succinctly in his closing statement in retaliation of this over-reach of power:  “Eliminating a major portion of our community’s architectural fabric & character, by no longer allowing it to flourish over time, would prove criminal and something from which we collectively may never recover.”

Gail and Charles Kendall

 
We strongly object to the actions that you have taken regarding the recent regulations disallowing wood siding.  One third of the homes here use this material, thus contributing to the beauty and the diversity of the community.  It is over-regulatory and punitive.  It appears that the Association Board will not be happy until they control every aspect of the covenant members lives.  We recently moved here from San Francisco and are shocked at the lack of cooperation of the board.  This will only discourage others from moving into this autocratic community.  
 
Peter and Claudia Richter

 

Your action on this matter is irresponsible.  This deserves a thorough vetting with a letter to all association members requesting input.

Ken Vuylsteke



I wish to comment on the changes I’ve noticed at the Board level over the past year or two. The board is seemingly becoming quite autocratic, increasing many regulations, imposing arbitrary restrictions, many times without any justification. RSF Village badly needs some energy and life … Why isn’t the Board focusing on increasing/improving the vibrancy of the Village, working with the commercial property owners in exploring options to increase tenant occupancy, finding a badly-needed grocery tenant to serve our community? I realize none of this is easy but surely it is worthy of some effort … the Village is a sad state of affairs at the present time.

Mary Buchanan