Skip Vote, Collect $10 million

Back in September of 2020, the RSFA Board of Directors led by President Mike Gallagher, met for their annual strategic planning gathering to chart out the future of the Association. Not surprisingly, two issues were the renovation of the Clubhouse restaurant and maximizing usage of the Osuna Ranch property. 

Everyone could agree that one was in need of refurbishing, and the other in disrepair and underutilized. The Board agreed to create a scope of work and estimated budget, then forward both items for an advisory vote. They knew that before they spent the members’ money, the members should agree on it. 

Reporting on the meeting, then RSF Post Editor Phil Trubey wrote an article with his take on Rancho Santa Fe’s brand which he termed “Good Value” versus the more desirable “World Class Residence Community” like the folks at the Bridges. His characterization of the Ranch’s “simple country charm” with its low assessments, “rough-around-the edges” amenities was a clue that there were some wishing to make Rancho Santa Fe rival tony private country clubs even if it meant increased spending through higher fees and assessments. In fact, an unsuccessful lawsuit thinly veiled at helping “increase revenue” was brought against the Association in 2017 by a group of members who complained that the current assessment plan was unfair to residents who paid more because of their higher home purchase price, compared to longtime residents whose assessments are based on their original purchase price. The Protective Covenant document prevailed.

Today, in spite of a community feud that rivals the Hatfields and McCoys, the RSF Golf Club has an impressive “World Class” course. Now it’s the restaurant’s turn. The current RSFA Board has approved a $10 million restaurant and parking lot renovation minus a member vote as directed by the previous Boards. Plus the Association will earmark $500k each year to help cover expected restaurant losses.

Concept drawing for the new Golf Clubhouse restaurant by Ocio Design Group.

Why no advisory vote? It could be that the Golf Club may not want to risk a thumbs-down referendum from their non-golfing friends. Especially after members saw them turn a $6 million course refresh into a $12-million new course. Then there was that lawsuit that wouldn’t go away. At least not until they publicly shamed the plaintiff by suspending golf privileges and removing their golf gear from the lockers. Maybe the golf club folks have discerned that their intimidation tactics aren’t sitting well with the people. Especially after their disgraceful election behavior against a longtime respected Covenant family. Yes, an advisory vote could make golfers’ dreams of a world-class club disappear like their Golf Club managers. 

It’s possible some members are still stewing about the Board’s embarrassing PPP situation. We had to give back the money, pay the fines, and send the CFO and Association manager packing with a six-figure parting gift and a promise not to talk about it. And not surprisingly, we got served with yet another lawsuit. Maybe someone will shame these plaintiffs into dropping it by dressing them in burlap and parading them in the village shouting, “Unclean! Unclean!”

The truth is, the community is demoralized and divided. With the Association’s recent history of spending millions of dollars on problems hoping they’ll go away, it’s not hard to imagine why asking for the members’ permission to pony up for another financial outlay is a risky move. The Board decided that we, with or without our consent, will pay. Will we admire the end result of the new restaurant like we all admire the course? Sure. But the real cost to Rancho Santa Fe will not be measured in dollars.

Jay Turner is a Rancho Santa Fe resident.