Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

2022 Year in Review: Top stories in Rancho Santa Fe

Looking back on the year that was before Rancho Santa Fe Fe inches closer to its centennial celebration starting in 2023.

-What’s going on off El Camino Real? SANDAG and Caltrans, in partnership with San Dieguito River Park, began the second phase of the lagoon restoration, converting 84 acres (or 63 football fields) of degraded land and former agricultural fields into refreshed tidal wetlands. The work includes a new trail that will eventually connect to pedestrian lanes on the new bridge on the widened and realigned El Camino Real, a project anticipated to start construction in 2023.

-The 22nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors found a new lessee for the Del Mar Horsepark, which closed abruptly in 2021 due to wastewater management requirements. The deal with West Palm Communications fell apart six months later and Hits LLC, a special events management company based in upstate New York, was awarded the lease. The company’s plan is to reopen the 65-acre park in summer 2023.

-SDG&E began work on a utility undergrounding project along Via De La Valle and the removal of utility poles from the San Dieguito Lagoon.

-The Rancho Santa Fe Association board approved an extension for the Gateway Project, the office and retail development that aims to replace the existing gas station on the corner of La Granada, Via De Santa Fe and La Flecha. Approved back in 2017, the project has been delayed by the county approval process and developers are now waiting for the office market to recover before proceeding with plans.

-The Association board approved new street sign toppers for village streets that read “Historic Rancho Santa Fe”. The Association’s Infrastructure Committee had been working on this potential branding project since 2019 as a way to celebrate and recognize Rancho Santa Fe’s special historic status.

-In February, the state lifted the universal masking mandate for all indoor spaces except schools. After asking the state for the return of local control and receiving no response, the Rancho Santa Fe School District board voted 3-2 to make masks optional for students: “It’s been a long two years,” President Jee Manghani said.

The San Dieguito district attempted to take the same action but the motion failed 2-2. The state lifted the mask mandate for schools on March 14.

-The Santa Fe Irrigation District board appointed new board member Ken Westphal to represent Rancho Santa Fe following the resignation of Frank Creede who moved out of the district.

-The Association board approved efficiency and safety upgrades for the Zumaque gate, a gate that connects the Covenant’s Zumaque road to the 4-S Ranch area on Camino Del Sur, providing a desirable short-cut for commuters. About 40 easement holders have access to the gate and the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol monitors the ingress and egress.

-What was first billed as a simple redistricting map adjustment for the San Dieguito district morphed into a complex debate, splitting the San Dieguito board and community members with both sides accusing the other of politically-motivated gerrymandering. The board adopted a controversial map that was then challenged by a lawsuit. The San Diego County Office of Education took over the process in April and approved a new map.

-The RSF School District board got the bid process going on a full roof replacement and repairs of the school gym. The roof on the 49-year-old facility will be replaced over summer 2023.

-Former R. Roger Rowe student Tessa Maud (daughter of Rowe third grade teacher Janel Maud) represented Team USA in snowboard halfpipe in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

-The Whispering Palms Community Service District celebrated the completion of a $1.3 million solar installation to offset high energy use at its Water Reclamation Facility off Via De Santa Fe.

“This is one of the larger community services district solar installations in San Diego County and we are proud to be able to contribute to the public effort to conserve energy,” said Whispering Palms CSD President Bill Haynor.

Whispering Palms new solar installation

(Karen Billing)

-R. Roger Rowe School’s student council organized the Sunflowers of Hope project, donating the proceeds of their snack cart and selling “Gratitude Grams” to support relief efforts in Ukraine. Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine and have become a symbol of peace, hope and resistance during the country’s invasion.

Throughout the year Rancho Santa Fe residents would step up to help Ukrainians—the Rancho Santa Fe Rotary partnered with Rotary Club of Poland to provide humanitarian assistance and several residents opened their homes to refugees in an effort organized by Rancho Santa Fe resident Susann Fishman: “The outpouring of love and support for Ukrainians has been tremendous.”

– RSF Association Director Bill Strong was removed as vice president with two months left in his term. Strong believed that his removal and allegations of violations of the board’s code of conduct were “punishment” for requesting to have certain executive session items heard in open session in an effort to increase transparency—the Association maintained that the removal was not a disciplinary action and that officers can be removed with or without cause at any time. Dan Comstock was selected as the new vice president in April.

-Plans are unveiled for a new gourmet cafe, market and rooftop space in the village’s historic Francisco building. The New Francisco project continues going through Art Jury and county review and developer Matt Power said he would love to see it open in June 2023 to celebrate 100 years of the building in the village.

-The first phases of the $6.4 million renovation of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club were completed, including the full turf replacement on the fairways, new irrigation system and reshaped bunkers. The upgrades to the putting green and driving range areas were part of the original plans but the Association was forced to stop the work when informed by the county that further grading permits were required. The hope is that the next phase of work can begin in early 2023.

-San Dieguito Superintendent Cheryl James Ward faced public backlash following comments made in a diversity, equity and inclusion training session linking the academic success of Asian students with wealth. After over three hours of public comment and a loud outpouring for her dismissal, the board voted 3-1 to place her on administrative leave.

-Surf Sports purchased the long-vacant property adjacent to Surf Sports Park on Via De La Valle for $6 million. For many years, the 22-acre property had been considered for a senior housing development.

-SDUHSD Trustee Melisse Mossy resigned. The board was split on whether to appoint her replacement (their last appointment was reversed with a special election in 2021), so they went six months with a four-person board.

Jake Hauenstein with WWII veteran Jim Ziegler at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington D.C.

Jake Hauenstein with WWII veteran Jim Ziegler at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington D.C.

(Marsi Hauenstein)

-Jake Hauenstein, a 13-year-old seventh grader at R. Roger Rowe, accompanied Jim Ziegler, a 99-year-old World War II veteran from Julian on the recent San Diego Honor Flight. The trip, entirely organized by volunteers and supported by donations, takes veterans to see the memorials dedicated to their service in Washington D.C. Jake and his sister Ivy, a third grader at Rowe, raised $2,500 for Ziegler to go on the flight.

Rancho Santa Fe and Rowe School were again big supporters of Honor Flight as five local students raised a total of $15,000 toward the flight.

The grand opening of the Rancho Santa Fe Arborerum.

The grand opening of the Rancho Santa Fe Arborerum.

(Jon Clark)

-The RSF Association celebrated the grand opening of the RSF Arboretum. The arboretum that lines the golf course is a living display of the types of trees that can thrive in Rancho Santa Fe’s unique climate.

-Country Squire Gifts and Linens closed after 55 years in the village.

-The long-awaited new restroom opened at Richardson Field. The project to replace the porta potty had been in the works since 2017.

Repair work continues on Lake Hodges Dam.

Repair work continues on Lake Hodges Dam.

(Karen Billing)

-The city begins emergency repair work on the over 100-year-old Lake Hodges Dam, lowering the water level of the reservoir and closing it to recreation.

“Lake Hodges water is a critical part of SFID’s supply portfolio and contributes approximately 30% of our annual supply,” said SFID General Manager Al Lau. “We appreciate the city of San Diego taking swift action in beginning emergency repairs to the dam.”

The work was initially scheduled to take five months but in August it was revealed additional damage was found, extending the work to spring 2023. and increasing the repair budget from $6 million to $10.1 million.

-The RSF Association’s Forest Health and Preservation Committee donated 257 succulent plants to R. Roger Rowe students who had been learning all year about how to care for plants in the “Leadership and Community Through Gardens” class.

Rowe students show off their new succulents.

Rowe students show off their new succulents.

(Karen Billing)

-Helen Woodward Animal Center celebrates its 50th anniversary. The center serves as a shelter for abandoned pets, an adoption agency, an educational venue, a purveyor of pet encounter therapy and an international resource for managing such a facility. Center officials estimate that since its founding, it has saved or assisted more than 13 million animals and benefited more than 1.5 million people.

-New directors Phil Trubey, Scott Thurman and Courtney LeBeau are elected in the RSF Association election. The new board members replaced outgoing directors Laurel Lemarié, Bill Strong and Bill Weber.

-The RSF School board gave direction to pursue a new honors math curriculum.

-Following a school shooting in Uvalde in which 19 students and two teachers were killed, local school districts reflected on safety. The RSF School District looked to make safety improvements on campus and San Dieguito district passed a resolution reinforcing its emphasis on physical safety, emotional well-being and emergency protocols.

“We need to acknowledge the ongoing fear of school shootings and other acts of violence. I believe that all of our children should be able to go to school every morning free from fear and harm,” Trustee Katrina Young said.

-The Encinitas City Council approved the controversial 250-unit Goodson project in Olivenhain, just outside of the Ranch, after pressure from state officials and litigation by the project’s developer. Over 100 members of the Concerned Citizens of Rancho Santa Fe were among those who raised opposition to the complex, based on its threats to public safety during a wildfire evacuation.

-After months of outcry from the public, the San Dieguito board took unanimous action to fire Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward. Associate Superintendent of Business Services Tina Douglas was named interim superintendent.

The Fourth of July parade.

The Fourth of July parade.

(Jon Clark)

-The 41st annual Fourth of July parade puts on a patriotic display through the village with vintage cars, equestrians, fire trucks, parade princesses, floats, Color Guard, and decorated golf carts, bikes and scooters.

-Rancho Santa Fe Patrol cars got a modern update—the blue striping and dated lettering on the cars was replaced with black, gold and the RSF Patrol emblem.

-Dan Comstock was selected as the new RSF Association board president.

-The RSF Association board approved a $150,000 refresh for the RSF Tennis Club that included interior wood staining, updated lighting, new lounge furniture and a kitchen upgrade.

Will Appleby celebrates with his daughter and father Scott.

Will Appleby celebrates with his daughter and father Scott.

(Megan Appleby)

-Golfer Will Appleby qualified for the 122nd U.S. Amateur at a 36-hole qualifier at the RSF Golf Club. The 32-year-old Rancho Santa Fe native was one of more than 8,000 players from around the world who try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA championship and the premier amateur golf tournament. Appleby won the qualifier on his second wedding anniversary on the golf course where he grew to love the game as a junior golfer.

-A pair of adventurous Rancho Santa Fe residents ran with the bulls twice at the Festival of San Fermin. Skip Brauburger and Hal Streckert were among thousands who traveled to Pamplona, Spain for the nine day festival in July to experience the dangerous and thrilling once-in-a-well-lived-lifetime adventure, the first run held since 2019 due to the pandemic.

“I always say that you have to get out of your comfort zone to really feel alive,” said Streckert, a retired scientist who is also a sky diver.

-An RSF Association community survey shows members’ “degrees of happiness”: 90%, of Covenant residents rated Rancho Santa Fe as excellent or good. The survey found residents are most satisfied with the service of the RSF Patrol and the nearly
60 miles of community trails. Village revitalization and road conditions and traffic calming are among residents’ highest priorities for the Association. Director Lorraine Kent was instrumental in getting the survey off the ground—the idea is to conduct the survey every two to three years to track where work needs to be done.

-Rancho Santa Fe Superintendent Donna Tripi announced that she will resign at the end of the school year.

Solana Santa Fe School's new classroom building under construction.

Solana Santa Fe School’s new classroom building under construction.

(Solana Beach School District)

-Solana Santa Fe School starts the school year with a new look as the campus continues its modernization project. The school got a new front entry, parking lot improvements and new lunch shelters. A new two-story classroom building is under constriction and slated to open in August 2023.

-A $5,500 grant from the RSF Garden Club funded an outdoor science classroom at Calavera Elementary School in Carlsbad. Every year the Garden Club opens up a request for proposals for grants, funded by the club’s endowment. Grants are open to organizations looking to develop charitable or educational horticulture and conservation activities.

-The RSF Association met with the County of San Diego as design work continues on three roundabouts on the busy Paseo Delicias/Del Dios Highway corridor. The construction phase, which is estimated to cost approximately $12 million, is anticipated to begin in late 2023 subject to finalizing funding sources.

-The RSF School District board received a petition signed by 180 parents calling for the immediate implementation of an advanced math curriculum: “We have to be a school with a vision of excellence, where average is simply unacceptable.”

-Produce Good and Feeding San Diego came together for a big gleaning event, rescuing produce from over 600 lemon trees in a Rancho Santa Fe orchard to kick-off San Diego Give, the 24-hour fundraising event intended to create a movement of local giving and shine a light on the work of local nonprofits. At the start of the Labor Day weekend, over 40 volunteers were there to give their time, to “labor for their neighbor”.

-The RSF Association board unanimously voted to authorize staff to move forward with a comprehensive site plan for the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club clubhouse and campus. Ocio Design Group will begin to prepare plans for a renovated clubhouse restaurant, upgraded snack bar, improved parking lot and will conduct a feasibility study on a fitness center at the RSF Tennis Club. The next steps to come before the board would be plans and cost estimates, an operational model for the restaurant, capital project financial analysis and funding models.

-SDUHSD teachers receive a 4% raise, plus a one time $3,000 bonus. Trustee Michael Allman is the sole vote against the raises.

-The Country Friends Art of Fashion returned to the runway at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. The event honored volunteers for their long commitment to the 68-year-old nonprofit which raises funds to benefit San Diego County charities through events and its Consignment Shop in the village.

-The RSF Association hosted a ceremony at the corner of Avenida De Acacias and El Tordo to unveil its new sign toppers, the first of 23 that will be placed on street signs throughout the village.

-The Santa Fe Irrigation District picks a new logo that will be used to celebrate its 100-year anniversary in 2023.

-Rancho Days returned to back after a four-year hiatus, with a week of celebrations including Taco Fest, a Wild West party at the golf club and the Taste of Rancho Santa Fe event hosted by the Rancho Santa Fe Rotary.

RSF families and friends enjoyed a variety of activities

RSF families and friends enjoyed a variety of activities at the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s “Family Fun Day’ held as part of Rancho Days Oct. 8 on the Village Green. (Above) The Dinnen and Chen families.

(Jon Clark)

-The Rancho Santa Fe Open, a USTA women’s pro circuit event, was a big success for the RSF Tennis Club, jumping from a $60,000 to $80,000 prize in its second year and receiving big support from the community.

-Plans are announced for a potential new retirement community on the long-vacant lot 29-acre lot on Calzada Del Bosque and Via De La Valle at the entrance to Rancho Santa Fe. AmeriCare Health and Retirement purchased the property last year.

Natalie Dinnen takes a ride on Bolli at Celebrate Osuna

Natalie Dinnen takes a ride on Bolli at Celebrate Osuna

(Jon Clark)

-At the Celebrate Osuna event, Association members joined together to celebrate Osuna Ranch, home to one of California’s oldest adobe homes.

-In the November election, newcomer Paul Seitz was elected to the RSF School District board along with incumbent Jee Manghani. In San Dieguito, new board members Rigma Vistkanta, Jane Lea Smith and Phan Anderson joined the board. The incumbents Debra Schade and Gaylin Allbaugh were re-elected to the Solana Beach School District board.

-The RSF School District hires a superintendent search firm as it looks for its next leader.

-The RSF Tennis Club is named USTA Tennis Club of the Year.

-The RSF Library’s patio was completely refinished, replacing concrete that had become a safety issue due to many large dips and cracks. The library was able to cover some of the cost of the replacement thanks to a $10,000 community grant from the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.

-The RSF Association board approved a new lease for a village building to accommodate its growing staff. Fifteen members of the administrative department will move into the new office space in the Culver Building located at 6046 El Tordo in January. The Association is considering additional revisions to the Association offices to create more meeting space and features such as a library of materials and samples for those going through the Art Jury process.

Several rare plants make their home in the Ewing Preserve.

Several rare plants make their home in the Ewing Preserve.

(Karen Billing)

-The RSF Association accepted a land donation of the 24.7-acre Ewing Preserve from the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation. The Ewing Preserve property was deeded to the Foundation from the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy (now known as the Nature Collective) in 1984. The Foundation’s contract stipulates that the property shall forever be used as open space and as a dedicated natural area preserve.

-San Dieguito’s interim superintendent Tina Douglas resigned—she will move back into her prior position as associate superintendent of business services until Jan. 31 or until the board appoints a new interim leader.

-The RSF Vintners and Growers sought the Association’s help as they look to make Rancho Santa Fe an American Viticultural Area. There are now 27 active vineyards in Rancho Santa Fe and since last year the group has been developing and refining their application to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The petition costs $85,000 and the Vintners estimate it will take two or three years for approval. With a submission by the end of the year, the hope is for Rancho Santa Fe to become an AVA by 2023-25.
“Our common goal is putting Rancho Santa Fe on the map,” said founding member David Gamboa. “We think we have something special.”

-John Tree, a Major General (two-star) in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, is named the new president of the RSF School District board. Rosemarie Rohatgi the vice president and Annette Ross as clerk. In light of parents’ concerns about safety on campus, as one of his first actions Tree proposed a new position of board liaison for safety and security.

-The RSF School District board unanimously voted to bring in a new middle school honors math program starting in the 2023-24 school year. The program aims to challenge high-achieving students and better prepare students for high school.

-The RSF Association board finally approved its new lighting regulation, simply changing the dated language of watts to modern lumens. The process spanned multiple drafts over the last two years and included lively town halls and workshops.

“We’ve fixed a major problem with the lighting regulation with our action today,” Director Phil Trubey said.

-The RSF School District brought back longtime superintendent Lindy Delaney to serve as an independent consultant as the district goes through a leadership transition. Delaney spent a total of 30 years in the district as a teacher, coach and administrator—she was first hired as a teacher in 1986 by Dr. R. Roger Rowe and served as superintendent for 12 years.

-The San Dieguito district issues a request for proposals to begin its own superintendent search. The district also needs to appoint an interim superintendent.

The Christy family checks out one of the new trail markers.

The Christy family checks out one of the new trail markers.

(Karen Billing)

-The RSF Association and the trails committee celebrated the unveiling of its first trail marker. A step toward making the trail system safer for everyone in the community, 14 new markers with historic names like Warmblood Way and Alfalfa Alley will be installed on the 60 miles of trails dedicated for pedestrians and equestrians. Per the spring’s community survey, the trail system was among the top reasons why people moved into the Covenant and one of the things they were most satisfied with.

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