April RSFA Board Meeting Recap: Sparks Fly Over Golf Club Fees and Osuna’s Future

The April 4 Rancho Santa Fe Association Board of Directors meeting was fraught with intense debate, as members clashed over proposed changes to the golf club membership fees and the future of Osuna Ranch. 

The meeting commenced with Shanon McCarthy, interim RSF Golf Club General Manager, seeking approval for a controversial increase in the golf club initiation fee from $75,000 to $100,000. Ms. McCarthy justified the hike as necessary for maintaining the club’s high standards and funding future capital requirements. “We believe this increase is necessary to ensure that the golf club’s operating and restricted reserves are adequately funded for future capital requirements,” she said. According to the golf club, its operating costs are $23,000 per day.

Lack of transparency

Despite this, the proposal faced significant opposition from members like Heather Slosar, who presented a petition signed by 123 members opposing the amendments. Ms. Slosar criticized the lack of member engagement and transparency in the decision-making process. She and other members spoke during member input, asking the Board to reinstate the six- and 12-packs, which allow all Covenant members access to the neighborhood golf course. Golf Club President Todd Neal strongly opposed this, citing concerns over the high demand of course access from golf club members, and the disparity since non-golf members did not participate in the expensive golf course renovation. 

In addition to golf club issues, the future of Osuna Ranch became a central topic. Brian Bosse, RSFA Assistant Manager, introduced an advisory vote proposal which would query the community on three options for Osuna: Spend $3 million to upgrade facilities, $750,000 to remove all the horsekeeping facilities and keep it as a park with trails, or sell the entire acreage — including the historic adobe. These suggestions sparked a lively discussion, with many members expressing a desire to preserve the Osuna Ranch for community use, such as an event barn and equine activities. Conducting an advisory vote is estimated to cost the Association $23,000.

Big numbers

Director Phil Trubey highlighted the significant financial implications of any decision regarding Osuna Ranch, advocating for community input through an advisory vote: “…the $3 million cost to bring it (Osuna) up to a minimum standard is a big number. The potential of $10-to-$12-to-$20 million that we could get from selling it is a big number. I think we need to get community input on these big questions.” (It should be noted that the Clubhouse restaurant renovation is moving ahead with a $6 million price tag without an advisory vote.)

Director Lorraine Kent voiced strong opposition to selling any part of the ranch, emphasizing its value as a community asset and historical site. Osuna Committee members overwhelmingly spoke against moving forward with the limited options for Osuna. Osuna Committee President Kate Williams said the committee members were blindsided by the staff’s recommendation for an advisory vote, since Board members in December gave them a directive to begin improving the horsekeeping facilities as an initial step to implementing the Osuna Ranch master plan. Architect Max Wuthridge was hired to draw plans to renovate the equestrian facility to help maximize revenue. Member Laurel Lemarie reminded the board members that the open space property was purchased with a 2.5-cent member assessment specifically designated by the community to purchase open spaces for preservation. RSFA Director Jeff Simmons said, “I think that we should do everything in our power to see how we could make Osuna Ranch a beautiful part of our community before we jump to selling it.” 

Ambiguous future

Despite the heated debates, the meeting concluded with decisions to increase the golf club initiation fee to $100,000, lower the junior executive age to 40 years old, and raise the number of years golf club members must live in the Covenant from five to 10, to keep their golf privileges. Members asked the Board to add to the next meeting’s agenda a discussion to reinstate the six- and 12-pack program.

The future of Osuna Ranch was left more ambiguous, with calls for more detailed plans and community involvement before moving forward. Staff were instructed to work with Osuna committee members to create other ideas for Osuna before an advisory vote is approved, and to present those to the directors at the next Board meeting. Association legal counsel Bill Budd was asked to reiterate that, although the various committees can advise the Board of Directors, the directors are elected officials and have the authority to make final decisions.

Individual interests vs. community benefits

Finally, RSF Connect’s collaboration with Race Communications continues to significantly redefine Internet access within the Rancho Santa Fe community. CEO Raul Alcaraz discussed the successful implementation of the fiber optic network in 2019 and announced a plan to deliver 10G service – internet speeds up to 10 gigabits per second – which would make Rancho Santa Fe the first Southern California community with the advanced service made available to homes.

As the Rancho Santa Fe Association moves forward, the community remains divided on several issues, highlighting the challenges of balancing individual member interests with broader community benefits. The outcomes from this meeting are set to shape the future operations of the golf club and the fate of Osuna Ranch, underscoring the importance of continued member engagement and transparent decision-making processes.

The next regular Board of Directors meeting is Thursday, May 9, at 10:00 a.m., at the offices on Avenida de Acacias. The Annual Board meeting, including an opportunity to hear from the four Board candidates, will follow at the clubhouse restaurant at 6:00 p.m.