RSFA November Board: Water Rate Fight Brewing

By Phil Trubey

November 6, 2022

A number of items were discussed during the November 2022 RSFA Board meeting. Read other recent articles for information on Village Commercial UpdatesNew RSFA OfficesRSF Vintners and Growers Association, and Golf Course Phase 3 Renovation.

Water Rate Fight Might Be Brewing

The SFID Board is looking to ignore state law again. State law directs water agencies to set rates based on the cost of their water. SFID has been ignoring this law ever since they implemented a tiered rate structure in 2006. The tiers charge larger water users (like our golf club, and any house larger than an apartment) more money per unit of water used. The legal fiction they rely on is that small water users use local water sourced from Lake Hodges while large water users “excess usage” is imported water, which costs substantially more.

This is nonsense of course. Everyone uses the same water blended from different sources. The RSF Association launched a lawsuit over this practice in 2018, but backed down mid last year upon SFID’s promise to listen to a new Cost of Service Study (COSS) proposal then being drafted.

Since then, Lake Hodges has been shut down meaning SFID has no local water anymore.

So you would think that with their legal fig leaf gone, the SFID Board would give up on a tiered rate structure and just go to a uniform rate structure, like all other water districts. Well, at a recent SFID meeting, the SFID Board once again voted 3-2 to toss out a uniform rate plan and instead only consider tiered ones. And they are delaying formal adoption of a new rate plan until early next year, which just prolongs our high rates.

As Board member Greg Gruzdowich wryly remarked, these SFID Cost of Service Studies should be called “Cost of Socialism Studies”. An SFID Board member stated during their Board meeting that Rancho Santa Fe shouldn’t be complaining about high water rates because they can afford it.

So … have I mentioned that the RSF PAC funds things like lawsuits to advance community interests? If you haven’t donated yet, you can do so through this online form or from the form included in your yearly assessment mailing.

Also, Christy Whalen, Association GM, made a plea for community members to attend future SFID Board meetings to make our voices heard.

Soccer Field Bathroom Being Researched

At both the most recent Trails and Rec committee meeting and at the RSFA Board meeting, a possible soccer field bathroom was discussed. The soccer field has been relying on a permanent porta potty which is against RSFA regulations. Luckily, there is a sewer line on Ramblas de las Flores by the soccer fields, so a permanent building by the road could tie directly into the sewer, with likely none of the FEMA permitting headaches the Richardson baseball field bathroom had to contend with. Some land use restrictions still need to be navigated however.

Association staff are quite busy with a plethora of other higher priority projects, so don’t expect quick action on this, but at least this project is in the hopper.

Association First Quarter Finances

As you can see from the above chart, revenues are more or less in line with budget, with golf pulling in significantly more than budget. Expenses average out to be in line with budget across all departments.

Our financials continue to be in great shape.

Variance Request

I highlight these variance requests to make the point that while our regulatory code has various restrictions, both the Art Jury and Board will grant variances to the regulations in common sense situations.

A house was being built such that one wall face abutted a slope. To make room for a fire department hose pull around the exterior of the house, a variance was requested to further cut into the 25% slope for a short distance. The Art Jury recommended the variance be granted and the Board approved it at the November meeting.

Regulation Updates

Speaking of regulations, the Board voted unanimously and without much comment to publish two revised regulations for a 28 day comment period.

The grading regulation had already been posted for member comment. Staff received a number of comments regarding wording and regulation organization and thus they reworked it to make the regulation more clear and less confusing. No major policy changes other than what was originally contemplated was made in this new draft. Here’s the latest draft along with staff commentary, redline and clean copy.

After a robust Board discussion in the September Board meeting about the 2+ year long gestation of a revised exterior lighting regulation, staff reworked the original, current lighting regulation to do a simple “watts to lumens” conversion. This was passed through to a 28 day comment period for member review. You’ll notice very few redline changes, as zero policy changes were made to the current lighting regulation, just updating it to use lumens (a measure of light output) instead of the now outdated watts (a measure of energy usage, now ineffective due to much more energy efficient LED lights).

Staff also highlighted nine policy areas where further changes could be made. During the Board meeting, I asked Planning Director Maryam Babaki to put forth her suggestions for these policy changes that could then be debated in bite sized chunks in subsequent Board meetings for further lighting regulation updates.

Board and Staff Cohesion

By the way, I keep getting asked how it’s going on the Board. The happy reality is that it has been fine, great even. The Board itself doesn’t agree on everything and we’ve even had some contention among ourselves, but we are all professional and none of us dwells on the times we were on the “losing” side. We all realize there is no absolute correct answer on most policy issues, and we also all respect each other’s opinions.

In addition, neither staff nor Board members are simply rolling over and “going along to get along”. Everyone speaks their mind, pushes back when needed, but most importantly, listens to others after they’ve said their piece. So, yeah, I continue to think we have a great team.

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