Year in Review: A look back at Rancho Santa Fe in 2023

RSF Tennis Club Manager

A variety of news, activities, milestones, events and more took place in Rancho Santa Fe in 2023.


DEC. 26, 2023 

Below is a review of the news that took place in Rancho Santa Fe in 2023.

-The Rancho Santa Fe Association board approved a contract to start the design process for a new snack bar and renovated restaurant at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club. The snack bar project will involve demolishing the existing building and reimagining it as a new casual dining space. Plans for a renovated clubhouse restaurant include embracing the outdoor patio space and enhancing the bar, all within the existing footprint.

-The RSF School District board approved a new bylaw establishing a board safety and security liaison position, appointing Trustee Paul Seitz to the role. The bylaw delegated authority for the liaison to have “unfettered physical access” to the district’s school and grounds to observe and evaluate safety conditions. In October, the board would amend the bylaw to remove the clause that allows free access.

-The Association board brought back former assistant manager Arnold Keene as a landscape consultant to develop a tree replanting plan focused primarily on beautifying the trail around the golf course.

-Longtime science teacher Kelly Greisbach (Stine) is named the new middle school principal at R. Roger Rowe School after the departure of Joel Spengler, who left after a little over four months.

-The San Dieguito Union High School District board started the year with a do-over of its December 2022 officer election due to alleged Brown Act violations. The board also rescinded Associate Superintendent Tina Douglas’ resignation as interim superintendent —she would continue in the position as the search for a new superintendent continued.
In November, Douglas left the district for an associate superintendent post in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District.

-The RSF Association sets a plan of attack against palm tree-destroying palm weevils, partnering up with the Center for Invasive Species Research at UC Riverside to test a new method of trapping and monitoring the pests. A large crowd gathered in January for a town hall to learn more about the weevils and how to save their trees.

-On Valentine’s Day, the county issued a major grading permit to the RSF Golf Club resolving a grading violation that was reported by residents in 2021. According to the county, no fines were issued since the stop work order was placed in August 2021 as the golf club made progress to resolve the violation. The permit involved revising the Federal Emergency Management Agency map for the site to address potential flooding and ensuring that best management practices are followed with future construction.

-Horizon Prep broke ground on a $2 million expansion, including a three-classroom building and new administration offices. Founded as a preschool back in 2000, the private Christian school has grown steadily over the years and now includes pre-kindergarten through high school. The project was completed in October.

-The RSF Foundation donated $100,000 to the RSF Association in support of fire safety and brush clearing efforts on the Ewing Preserve. In 2022, the Foundation gifted the Association with the Ewing, a 24.7-acre parcel of eucalyptus forest, limestone and rare plants in the southeast portion of the Covenant. The Foundation’s contract with the Association stipulates that the property shall forever be used as open space and as a dedicated natural area preserve.

-The Santa Fe Irrigation board approved a new water rate hike that went into effect in April. Director Sandy Johnson, who represents Rancho Santa Fe, was opposed. The rates were impacted by the emergency repairs at Lake Hodges Dam, which effected the district’s ability to yield local water.
The dam repairs were completed in May. A 5% rate increase was then approved in November, going into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

-After a seven-year hiatus, the RSF Rotary brought back the First Responders Appreciation Dinner, a 17-year tradition to thank the many first responders who protect and provide emergency assistance to the Ranch and the greater surrounding area.

-The RSF Association board approved a revised budget for the golf club course renovation, an additional $3 million for phase three’s improvements to the driving range and short game areas. The golf club master plan initially approved by the board in 2021 was for $6 million, however, due to the delays related to retroactively securing a grading permit, inflation and the need to secure a new contractor, the total cost for the course renovation reached $11,399,000.

Viviane and Tara Vandenberg make bubbles at the Discover Arroyo event.

-Mille Fleurs tapped Brandon Jennings as its new executive chef, hoping he will bring his unique culinary vision to life at the village’s iconic French fine dining destination.

-The RSF School District board responded to a letter signed by 100 R. Roger Rowe parents who were “disheartened” by district actions that appeared to show that the school was not a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ youth and families. Representatives from several local organizations called for the board to address the actions which included the removal of rainbow stickers and books from a 2022 book fair.

“We all want to support all of our students, we want all of them to have safe place,” RSF School Board President John Tree said.

-RSF Golf Club General Manager Todd Huizinga resigned after a little over a year at the club. The search began for a new manager as Director of Memberships and Communication Shanon McCarthy again took over as interim general manager.

Annie Kapp,

-The RSF Historical Society held a one-of-a-kind Upscale Tag Sale at the old Pier One location in Del Mar, featuring furniture and items donated by The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe’s new owner. At the sale, Rancho Santa Fe resident Buck Bennett was reunited with the first saddle he ever bought as a 15-year-old back in 1964—the saddle had been on display at The Inn for many years.

-RSF Association members had the opportunity to explore one of the community’s open space natural gems at the Discover Arroyo event at the 68-acre Arroyo Preserve.

-The R. Roger Rowe School “Take Flight” jogathon helped raise funds for Honor Flight San Diego. A dozen World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans were in attendance for the event. The students’ goal with the jogathon had been to send at least three veterans to Washington D.C.—between the jogathon and other student fundraising efforts, they sent nine veterans on the flight in October.

WWII veteran Andre Chappaz, Vietnam veteran Mike Castoro, teacher Stacey Halboth and Ivy Hauenstein.

-The SDUHSD board hired Anne Staffieri, a Torrey Pines grad, as the new superintendent. With over 30 years of experience in education, she last served as the superintendent of the Escondido Union High School District.

“It’s truly an honor to have the opportunity to serve in this amazing district as superintendent,” said Staffieri. “I know that together we are going to accomplish incredible things moving forward.

-The RSF Association board approved a new agreement to share the cost of running the restaurant at the golf club. The board voted that the Association will allocate $500,000 in this year’s budget toward the restaurant’s operational costs.

-The RSF School District board selected Dr. Tom Bennett as its new superintendent. A longtime educator, Bennett had a nine-year tenure as the head of schools at the Santa Fe Christian Schools in Solana Beach. Bennett replaced Donna Tripi, who resigned after five years leading the school.

-The RSF Association board denied a new 5G wireless facility that would alter the architecture of a village building. Dish Wireless had proposed to install two six-foot antennas hidden inside a pair of faux chimneys atop the Badger Building at the corner of La Granada and La Flecha.

-The RSF Senior Center named Kris Slugg as the new executive director of the center, following the retirement of longtime director Terrie Litwin.

-With pony rides, country music and line dancing, the RSF Association hosted the Celebrate Osuna event at the Osuna Ranch.

Cheryl McArthur with Lola Rose and Roxanne Cracoft at Celebrate Osuna.

-RSF Association Manager Christy Whalen resigned after four years in the role and eight years with the Association. Following her departure, Dominique Albrecht was promoted as the new manager. Albrecht was hired in February 2022, coming to Rancho Santa Fe from the City of Coronado where she served as the assistant city manager.

-Rancho Santa Fe’s Ethan Heck, an 18-year-old senior in Pacific Ridge School’s class of 2023, was named the winner of Representative Mike Levin’s Congressional Art Competition. His artwork, an ocean scene called “Churn,” will hang at the capitol in Washington D.C. for a year, representing the 49th District.

-Jeff Simmons and David Gamboa were elected as the new directors on the RSF Association board.

-The Art Jury approved the new trail beautification plan, a total of 156 new trees that will be planted along two miles of trail along the golf course. The plantings aim to create a natural wooded feel and a canopy of trees shading over the trail. A total of 59 new eucalyptus trees are part of the plan.

-The RSF School District board approved the addition of speed bumps in the Rowe parking lot, in an attempt to curb speeding issues and improve campus safety.

-Developers announced that the village Gateway project, under development for over nine years, would be pivoting from office space to assisted living. The project that aims to replace the existing gas station on the corner now plans to have a 50-bed assisted living facility, a boutique grocery market and a reduced underground parking garage.

-San Diego County continued work on the design of three roundabouts on the heavily traveled and congested Del Dios Highway/Paseo Delicias corridor. The approximately $12 million project is yet to be funded, however, the county’s plan is to get the project “shovel ready” in order to be competitive for regional grant funding opportunities in 2024 that would allow the project to finally move forward.

-The Santa Fe Irrigation District celebrates its 100 years of service at the San Dieguito Reservoir.

October's Taste of Rancho Santa Fe.

-Among infrastructure improvements in the community, the RSF Association started the process to add a permanent restaurant at the Rancho Santa Fe Sports Field, replacing the porta potty. After a multi-year process, a permanent restroom was built at Richardson Field last year.

-The RSF Golf Club honored Director of Instruction Scott Johnson, who retired after working at the club for 39 years.

-For the 42nd year, the 4th of July parade rolls through the village, bigger and more patriotic than ever.

Rotarians at the Independence Day parade.

-R.E. Badger and Son celebrated its 100-year anniversary in Rancho Santa Fe. The farm management company that specializes in the development and maintenance of citrus groves was founded by Raymond Badger in 1923—the company is now run by his grandson Chuck.

“It’s really fun to look back and see the foundation laid 100 years ago and see that we’re still doing it today,” Chuck said. “We have survived as a business that helps people and provides jobs for people.”

-Morgan Run Club & Resort was purchased by a new owner with plans for a $25 million renovation. The buyer, Meriwether Companies, expects the work to be done over the next three years with limited disruption for club members and guests.

-The Rowe School gym, which turned 50 years old this year, gets a new roof.

-The RSF Association board moved into its newly revamped meeting room at the Association offices. The board had previously met in the board room at the Avenida de Acacias offices (with its wooden pews) until 2018, when the office was remodeled and the building department moved in. The board then met for several years at the RSF Golf Club. Last fall, the Association leased a new building in the village for its administrative staff, freeing up the board room once more.

-Courtney LeBeau was named the new RSF Association board president. Dan Comstock was voted vice president and Phil Trubey was selected as treasurer.

-Joseph Erpelding was hired as the new elementary school principal at R. Roger Rowe. Erpelding, who has over 26 years of experience in education, received positive reviews after starting in the fall and in November was named the K-8 principal and director of curriculum following the resignation of middle school principal Kelly (Stine) Greisbach.

-Just a year after The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe was sold to luxury resort operator Steve Hermann, the century-old property was sold yet again — this time for $100 million. The property was in the midst of a $50 million renovation when it was sold to Chicago-based GEM Realty Capital. The refreshed resort reopened in November with new features like Lilian’s restaurant and Bing Bar.

The Inn changes hands this year after a $50 million renovation.

-The Del Mar Horsepark reopened with a full slate of summer events. The facility closed two years ago because of wastewater management issues, forcing the cancellation of events and the horses that were boarded there being forced to move elsewhere. It is now leased by HITS LLC.

-The RSF Tennis Club was one of 29 clubs to win the USTA’s Outstanding Facility Award, an award that recognizes the excellence of tennis facilities throughout the country. The club was recognized by the USTA at the U.S. Open in August.

-Developers of the proposed new Silvergate senior housing community began the Art Jury conceptual review process. The high-end, campus-style retirement development is planned for the long-vacant 29-acre property on Calzada Del Bosque. A preliminary layout for the property includes 162 total units including 94 apartments, 44 cottages and 24 memory care units.
The developers are aiming for approval in 2024—residents have already come out against the project’s density while a group of supporters has also been vocal about the desire to retire in Rancho Santa Fe.

-A new two-story classroom building capped off the two-year Solana Santa Fe School campus modernization project. A grand reopening was held in October for the school, also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

The new two-story classroom building at Solana Santa Fe.
Horizon Prep groundbreaking celebration.

-Rancho Santa Fe Foundation CEO Chris Sichel left the organization, taking on a position as vice president of programs at the Conrad Prebys Foundation. Sichel joined the Foundation in 2021, taking over from Christy Wilson who led the organization for 24 years. Karen Sprigle has been named interim CEO.

-The RSF Golf Club Board of Governors hired new General Manager Rick Howard, a Hawaiian import from the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

-Fairbanks Ranch’s Dr. Dan Witcher completed the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge, tackling six iconic San Diego County mountains. The local oral surgeon summited the six to raise awareness and funds for the San Diego County Dental Foundation and its clinic at Veterans Village of San Diego, which provides free restorative dental care to underserved veterans,

-Senator Catherine Blakespear handed over a $1.4 million check to the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority to complete the 1-mile Osuna Segment of the Coast to Crest trail. The segment will provide a new connection near Morgan Run Golf Club and over the San Dieguito River to where the trail picks up along San Dieguito Road. Construction will begin in 2024.

Local leaders celebrated state funding to complete the 1-mile Osuna Segment of the Coast to Crest Trail.

-Helen Woodward Animal Center broke ground on its Humane Education Village. The $7.5 million project is slated to include two buildings totaling 10,500 square feet and 20,000 square feet of outdoor space with two playgrounds and an area for children and adults to interact with a variety of animals. The project is scheduled for completion by 2025.

-The Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society celebrated the 100-year birthday of its La Flecha House home with a Centennial Celebration Under the Stars.

-The RSF Tennis Club hoped to add to its 10 sponsored pickleball membership category, increasing the ability to share the courts with those who live outside the Covenant. The club’s request for five more spots led to a broader board debate about opening up private Association facilities to non-residents and its potential to dilute the Association’s brand. The board has not yet decided on the new memberships.

-Solana Beach School District Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger announced her plans to resign effective January 2024 after five and a half years at the district and 35 years in education. The school board has started its superintendent search, hiring the same firm that found San Dieguito’s new superintendent.

-The RSF Tennis Club played host to the TaliMar RSF Open. In its third straight year, the USTA Women’s Pro Circuit $60,000 Tournament featured the rising stars of the WTA Tour.

-The lawns in front of The Inn were filled with the best food and wine as the Rancho Santa Fe Rotary’s held its ninth annual Taste of Rancho Santa Fe, a fun event supporting the Rotary’s charitable missions.

-The RSF Association board held a moment of silence at its October meeting in memory of Bill Weber, the former Association and RSF Golf Club board president who passed away in September.

Melissa Mangum and Yann Phung play in the Country Friends Pickleball Tournament.

-Trustee Vicki King resigned from the Solana Beach School District board after 17 years of service. Longtime parent volunteer Katie Süel was appointed to her seat, which represents portions of Rancho Santa Fe.

-The RSF Tennis Club begins exploring a potential expansion that would add two new courts and a new viewing area for spectators as the RSF Association board approved the use of $60,000 in tennis club funds to prepare design and engineering documents for the project.

-Rancho Santa Fe’s George Sousa, a Korean War veteran, was one of seven grand marshals in the 2024 San Diego Veterans Parade. The Purple Heart recipient was celebrated for his sacrifice and service to this country in the parade that rolled along Harbor Drive downtown.
“Not too bad for a Portuguese fisherman from Point Loma,” quipped Sousa, who turned 93 years old on Thanksgiving Day.

-The RSF Golf Club hired Tommy Dimella as its new executive chef at the clubhouse restaurant, bringing more than 30 years of culinary experience,

-In November it was revealed that the RSF Association illegally obtained $1.5 million in federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. After negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Association agreed to a $2,037,451 settlement which includes the repaying of the loan plus about $500,000 in fees and penalties.

John Jerome, Michael Harrison and Broc Mushet at the Crosby Club's Military Appreciation Day.

As the board was set to make a decision on how to allocate the loan repayment within the community, many residents requested that the board defer its decision until a special meeting can be held for more public input. The board agreed to the meeting which has yet to scheduled.

-Falcon Fest celebrates Torrey Pines High School’s 50th year.

-New SD County Supervisor Monica Montgomery Steppe was sworn in after a special election to represent District 4, replacing former Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who resigned in May in the face of a lawsuit accusing him of sexual misconduct. As she joins Chair Nora Vargas and Vice Chair Terra Lawson-Remer, for the first time in the county’s history the board of supervisors is majority women.

-Rowan boutique opens, offering a new retail option in the village.

-The RSF Association hired Brian Bosse as its new assistant manager and Christopher Lake as the new chief financial officer, following the retirement of CFO Seth Goldman.

-Annette Ross was unanimously picked as the new RSF School Board president. Rose Rohatgi was selected as the vice president and Jee Manghani as the board clerk

-The RSF Vintners and Growers Association, representing more than 30 local vineyard owners, completed its extensive application process for Rancho Santa Fe to be designated as an American Viticultural Area designation. They now await approval, hopefully in 2024.

-After its reopening in November, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe celebrated the holiday season with the 17th annual Chabad Jewish Center of Rancho Santa Fe’s menorah lighting and hoped to start a new tradition with a Christmas tree lighting at the center of the village.

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