Player’s Club Access Should Not Be Restricted

By Linda Leong

March 27, 2021

The common area Veranda Lounge between the locker rooms (currently empty due to COVID restrictions).

The history of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club (RSFGC) originally started as a private golf club shortly after the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant was formed in 1928 which established the original Rancho Santa Fe Homeowner’s Association after the plans for the Santa Fe Railway were abandoned.  At that time, the golf club was a separate and independent private entity. Within five short years, the golf club ran into financial difficulties and the Rancho Santa Fe Association (RSFA) took over ownership, financial obligations and operation of the golf course in 1934.  For the last 87 years, the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Course, the golf club buildings and the land that it sits on, have been owned by the Covenant homeowners as  tenants-in-common with an undivided interest in equal shares in the related assets. 

Like common amenities that one would find in a pool and weight room facility of a homeowner’s association (HOA) owned condominium development, owners of a condominium unit own and have full access and use of its facilities. Unlike the surrounding golf clubs at the Bridges, the Crosby, Fairbanks Ranch and Del Mar Country Clubs where they are run as independent and private clubs which charge exorbitant initiation fees along with monthly maintenance fees, the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club is owned in undivided interest in equal shares by the RSFA members who are homeowners in the Covenant community. 

This ownership distinction that separates its make-up from the private status of its neighbor golf clubs is a key and continually misunderstood point that Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club members and some RSFA Board members fail to acknowledge.  The RSFGC facilities is tenant-in-common owned, not privately owned.  For years, the RSFGC has never seemed to accept the fact that it is no longer a privately owned club after it turned its ownership to the RSFA when it ran into financial difficulties in the 1930’s.  Yet today, the RSFGC fail to acknowledge that they are not a legal entity and are is still trying to treat it like it is private when clearly, the facilities are owned by the RSFA membership.

In the letter dated 2/26/21 by Brad Shupe, General Manager of the RSFGC, to the RSFA Board, the RSFGC plans to change the name of the Vaquero Lounge to be called the Men’s Locker Room and the Bougainvillea Lounge to be called the Women’s Locker room.  This essentially intends to restrict access from the RSFA members, (the majority of whom are not golf members) who own the facility and whom authorized the RSFA to take out the loan to build the building in the first place.  I don’t know of any men’s locker room in the country that has a bar, fireplace, television lounge space where food can be served and veranda overlooking the golf course. To market it as such to restrict access by women (golfers and non alike), is indeed, discrimination, under a thin marketing veil of a sign change. Likewise, the Bougainvillea Lounge, soon to be marketed as the women’s locker room, should be made fully accessible to all RSFA members.

Over ten years ago, shortly after the Players Club was built, there was a previous misguided attempt to restrict access of the Player’s Club to the general RSFA membership.  After a former association member, Lisa Bartlett, informed the RSFA and the RSFGC of the legal issues of discrimination under CA Civil Code §51(b) that makes it illegal to restrict access to the two lounges by members of either sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language or immigration status.  The RSFA and RSFGC were forced to retract that attempt to block access from use of all three lounges by the RSFA membership at large and block access from use of the Vaquero Lounge by RSFA’s female members and block access from use of the Bougainvillea Lounge by RSFA’s male members.

Moreover, recent court decisions relating to discrimination in access and use of its facilities at the neighboring Fairbanks Ranch Country Club in San Diego and at the Phoenix Country Club in Arizona by women where the plaintiffs prevailed should provide guidance to the RSFA and RSFGC that it must reconsider restricting access to the Players Club’s Vaquero and Bougainvillea Lounges to the general RSFA members and homeowners.  The three lounges, the Vaquero, the Bougainvillea and the Veranda, must remain coed and open to all RSFA members. 

Legally, unlike the Crosby, the RSF Golf Club restaurant and the Players Club are RSFA owned amenities that must be accessible to all RSFA members, not just RSFGC members.  What the RSFGC members must acknowledge is that its ownership structure is much more aligned with swimming pool and weight room facilities owned by a HOA of a condominium project and that blocking access for its tenant-in-common owners to use those amenities that the condo owner already own is a barrier to use that violates the Davis Stirling Act under Ca Civil Code §4500 and Ca Civil Code §1363.

Financially, it is the RSFA members whose association fees funded the down payment and the RSFA’s borrowing power which took out loans in excess of $8M in 2006 to build the Player’s Club and renovate the RSF golf club for which the RSFGC promised to pay back within ten years.  Not only has the RSFGC not paid back the $8M loan in full as promised, the RSFGC is wanting to restrict access to the Player’s Club facilities that the RSFA members at large whose Association’s legal entity and funds helped facilitate the financing and the building of the Player’s Club in the first place.  In 2020, the RSFGC went to the RSFA membership to jointly help fund the operations of the RSF golf club restaurant in the amount of $300,000/year since it is open to all RSFA members to enjoy.  Perhaps a parallel scenario may be considered to have the RSFA membership also jointly help fund the operations of the Player’s Club to enjoy full access to its facilities without restriction.

The RSF Golf Club restaurant, its restrooms, private rooms and patio is currently accessible to all RSFA members.  How is the Player’s Club any different in ownership status that it makes it all right to restrict access to the general RSFA membership who does not golf?  The ownership status of the two buildings and the amenities it provides clearly is tenants-in-common and is owned by all RSFA Covenant homeowners and its access and use must be open to all its T-I-C owners.  Do not restrict its use.

Linda C. L. Leong

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