How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

Eastern portion of the driving range renovation.

The Association recently obtained a County permit to proceed with Phase 3 of the Golf course remodel. The Golf course was set to receive the permit and start construction in early January, but those plans were derailed when the San Dieguito Planning Group (SDPG) voted in two separate meetings to recommend to the County to deny us the permit. As a result, the project has been delayed and this delay will likely cost the Association a significant amount of extra money (around $500,000 is a figure I heard – yes, that’s right, that’s effectively $1,000 out of every golf member’s pocket). Our preferred contractor had to move on (they had a tight time window), so we must rebid the project.

Phase 3

Phase 3 of the golf course remodel encompasses the driving range and the short game practice area.

The modifications to the driving range had a dual purpose of allowing more year round use, while also making it safer for walkers/equestrians on the Golf Course ring trail.

Phase 3 would reduce the height of the teeing areas, and also reorient them so that errant balls would be less likely to sail over the protective fences onto walkers/equestrians. In addition, the western driving range is currently hard to access since the asphalt cart path is so damaged that driving a golf cart there is a chiropractic exercise. Phase 3 would replace the asphalt with a decomposed granite material to enable easy access. This matters since golfers with slice swing faults would use the western range to avoid sailing balls onto the ring trail (their errant balls would fall onto the golf course instead).


After what was a misunderstanding in 2021 with regard to grading permit requirements, the Association (of which I’m a current Board Member) started a long process of obtaining a permit not only for the 2021 remodel but also for this phase 3 remodel. Combining all three phases into one application was done at the County’s request.

Phase 3 ended up being more complicated because the driving range abuts a FEMA mapped floodplain, so the Association had to clear federal FEMA permitting first before being able to acquire the County permit.

Working closely with the County, the Association expected the final County permit in early January, but the night before the permit was expected, the SDPG held an emergency Zoom meeting to attempt to block the permit. The meeting devolved into a farce as whoever ran the meeting used the free version of Zoom that had a 40 minute time limit, leaving the Association no time to address the group. Nonetheless, the SDPG still asked the County to block permit issuance and the County extended the Notice Period an additional 20 days.

The Association finally got to present its case to the group on February 9, a pointless exercise since its members’ minds had apparently already been made up. The SDPG unanimously voted again to recommended that the County deny the Association permit. By the way, thank you Association staff members for these long days since SDPG meetings are in the evenings.

San Dieguito Planning Group

The San Dieguito Planning Group is one of 29 citizen advisory groups to the County made up of elected residents of the target area. We all vote them into office for two year terms during the presidential and mid-term elections in November.

The two longest serving members of the Group are Association members Beth Nelson and Laurel Lemarié, who, along with Planning Group member and also Association member Joe Zagara, presumably advise the rest of the group on RSF Covenant affairs.

Power Play

So why the hostility? In the group’s motion to recommend permit denial, it called out the Association for tree removal. Tree removal? Since when do you need a County permit to cut down trees? Did I stumble across more government overreach? After some research, I found that unless the tree is in a public right of way, permits aren’t required. Whew.

To me, then, it appears that the three SDPG Covenant residents are just pulling a complicated power play to force the Association to address tree removal that occurred during the 2021 golf course remodel.

But we already are addressing it.

We have a landscape consultant who has already met with various Association groups, including the Forest Health and Preservation Committee, Trails and Recreation Committee, Infrastructure Committee, Golf Club staff and more as he develops a plan for planting trees around the golf course and trails. The consultant will also be coordinating with another landscape architect who will be developing plans for incorporating more trees on the course which will co-ordinate with yet another project regarding ring trail drainage.

As you can see, the issue isn’t as simple as some would portray it. According to the Golf Club, 44 out of 66 trees cut down were an invasive species, including palms that are now being ravaged by the palm weevil beetle. Moreover the vast majority of the trees were on the interior of the golf course, having no impact on walkers around the ring trail. Surely the Golf Club deserves autonomy on how to landscape its own course?

Regardless, the Association is taking a holistic approach on this seemingly simple, yet complex project.

How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

I can’t think of a worse way to conduct policy than what the San Dieguito Planning Group is doing. It never reached out to the Association to directly discuss its issues stating in an email to me that its emergency meetings were sufficient dialog between the groups.

I wish I could say that this issue is now dead, but I fear the Planning Group will use other mechanisms to continue to try to derail Phase 3.

And that would be a shame, as the remaining work on the RSF golf course will enhance public safety and provide benefits to all members. A vibrant golf club is a community asset in itself. There are no downsides to completing phase 3.

This isn’t the first time members of the Planning Group tried to meddle with Association affairs. A member of the Planning Group complained to County enforcement that we had installed tennis court lighting, which was false. I wrote about this incident here.

Like any HOA, the Association is responsive to its members and tries its best to do right by the community. If the San Dieguito Planning Group wants to help the Association, communication lines are always open. But stomping its feet and trying to thwart Association projects without constructive dialog isn’t the way to influence anyone and anything.

Mr. Trubey is a current member of the RSF Association Board.