Regulations Are the Backstop

When a member is developing a parcel or renovating a Rancho Santa Fe Covenant home, the Art Jury’s review process follows three governing documents. The primary one is the Protective Covenant (PC), created to ensure the historic integrity and origins of Master Architect Lilian Rice’s master planned community. Second, the Association Regulations (Regs) provide tangible numbers, such as maximum height, lot density, or minimum lot size for certain land uses. The Regs are a type of “backstop” to aid the Building Department ensure the intent of the PC isn’t diluted by individual preferences or interpretation. Finally, the Residential Design Guidelines (RDG) offer a detailed, illustrated document to help the entire community understand how to achieve the Ranch’s rural aesthetics with a handy “this, not that” pictorial guide.

The Regs are the baseline requirements in order for a project to be presented to the Art Jury which then examines the project to determine whether it meets the intentions or discretionary portions of the PC and RDG. The Art Jury applies its judgment to the less tangible aspects of a project, asking questions like, “Is this home defined by its subdued, rural character? Does it exhibit simplicity and restraint with its mass being subordinate to the natural surroundings?” And “Does the site and new construction preserve natural landforms and reduce obtrusiveness?’”

Human equation

An applicant could be asked to rework grading — even if it meets the Regs — in order to reduce the impact on a natural land formation. This includes unique sandstone formations we have throughout the Ranch. The Art Jury may also ask applicants to lower the height of a house — even though it may be under the height limit — if the story poles indicate too much bulk and mass for the parcel. Meeting all the Regulations is a starting point, not an end point or guarantee of approval; and what may work on one parcel may be completely unacceptable on a different lot.

Ultimately, the Art Jury draws upon each member’s experience of reviewing hundreds of projects throughout their tenure, and applying their discretion to each project. The PC directs the Art Jury to make decisions that are “Ensuring a uniform and reasonably high standard of artistic result, and attractiveness, in exterior and physical appearance of the property and improvements.” It is the human part of the equation that helps preserve Rancho Santa Fe’s historic rural ambiance and coveted aesthetics. Does it always work? No. It’s maddening when an Art Jury gets it wrong. Especially when a project will last for decades. But it’s a beautiful thing when a finished project harmonizes with the Ranch’s historic aesthetics.

Working together

Before commencing exterior work on your property such as repainting, window/door replacement, pool remodels, or tree clearing, stop by the Association Building Department, which will help you navigate the Covenant’s regulations and design guidelines. Together we are working together to “uphold the quality of all existing and future architecture, improvements and alterations.” Contact the Association Building and Planning Department at (858) 756-1174

Kelli Hillard is a Covenant member and serves as vice president of the Art Jury.