The Player’s Club Controversy

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The disputed area of the Player’s Club, in one of three buildings by the golf course (the others being the building that houses the restaurant and Association offices, and then the tennis club building).

What Is The Controversy?

The golf club wants to have a single sex lounge area (Vaquero) as part of the men’s locker room, similar to the (much smaller) defacto single sex lounge (Bougainvillea) off the woman’s locker room, with a co-ed lounge remaining in-between (Veranda). Currently, there is no lounge space for the male golf players (which comprise 80% of golf playing membership) while there is a small lounge area for the woman golfers that has lounge chairs, a coffee table and a separate conference room (see floorplan above).

Whether the lounges are co-ed or single sex, the policy that only golf club members and their guests be allowed to use them remains the same as it was when it was built fourteen years ago. No change is proposed here.

The controversy is a legal argument that since the RSF golf course and club are not a separate legal entity, and is owned by the Association, then all Association members should be able to enjoy the use of all facilities, including the entirety of the Player’s Club even though the Player’s club was completely paid for by golf club members only.

Note that the proposed single sex lounge change does not actually change this golfers only access policy, it hasn’t changed for fourteen years and isn’t proposed to be changed now. It appears the animus against the single sex lounge designation is the driving force, and opponents are using a general argument against facility exclusion as a way of throwing a wrench into the single sex designation. 

Origins

Lisa Bartlett was an Association member fourteen years ago and she threatened a lawsuit against the Association if the Vaquero lounge wasn’t designated as co-ed and accessible to all members. While the Vaquero lounge was designated as co-ed, leaving the Bougainvillea lounge as defacto single sex for women, the Association still regarded access to these portions of the Player’s Club for golf club members only. This appeared to cause Bartlett to relent in that no lawsuit was launched. 

Bartlett is no longer part of the Association, indeed she now lives in Colorado, yet she appears to be the driving force behind the current effort to object to this rule change. She sent several letters to the Association and has threatened to write letters to the CA attorney general and liquor board protesting the rules change.

Should The RSF Golf Club Be A Separate Legal Entity?

Part of the legal argument points out that other HOAs that have enclosed golf courses, like the Bridges, Lomas Santa and The Crosby are run as separate legal entities and thus can legally exclude HOA residents from the facilities unless they join the golf clubs.

However, if the RSF golf club were spun out into its own legal entity, then we would run the risk of what happens if the club runs into financial difficulty. A bankruptcy could see the course closed, property left abandoned for a while and then higher density housing built upon it. If this sounds farfetched, believe me, it isn’t. It happened just four years ago in Poway at the StoneRidge Golf Club, and now a cleanup of the abandoned golf course is on-going along with high density property development.

The other reason why this is a bad idea is that all Covenant property values benefit from the golf course membership being exclusively available only to Covenant members. Just as having our own fiber gigabit Internet network is a property value boost, so is the ability to join as a member of the RSF golf course, both exclusively reserved for Covenant members. 

Does The Legal Argument Have Merit?

I have no idea. From a common sense perspective, it would seem no. By necessity, all HOAs restrict access to certain areas like maintenance areas and offices. While I may “own” a part of Christy Whalen’s office (as an Association member), I can’t and shouldn’t be able to walk in and sit down there any time I feel like it. In addition, HOAs are allowed to charge usage fees for access to facilities and deny access if you don’t pay. Whether you pay at time of service (like eating at the restaurant), or with a monthly fee (like the tennis club, golf club and Osuna ranch), the result is the same, fees are charged for access and service. 

Some people don’t seem to understand that golf club members entirely paid for the Player’s Club building. No general Association member dues are spent on any part of the golf course or club. So, again, from a common sense perspective, why shouldn’t only golf club members (and their guests) enjoy the use of the building they paid for? 

Does The Legal Argument Matter Anyways?

Legal arguments are just hot air until adjudicated in a court of law. So unless someone is willing to take on the huge expense and risk of litigating against the Association, I don’t see how a legal argument matters much.

So, Is This Going Anywhere?

Absent a lawsuit, it all comes down to the golf club and Association boards. Obviously the golf club has blessed this change, so we are left with the Association board to vote on it. A divided board voted 5-2 to publish the changes for comment. And according to last Friday’s Association email blast, they have been getting a lot of comments. So we shall see during the April 1st board meeting where this goes.