Officials of this exclusive community, facing the possibility they soon may be surrounded by incorporated cities--Solana Beach and Encinitas-- voted Thursday to hire an outside consultant to study what must be done to preserve their identity in the developing North County.
The community, with few revenue-generating businesses to support a city, must decide whether to incorporate with another community or remain unincorporated under county jurisdiction. Each option has advantages and disadvantages, officials said.
The Rancho Santa Fe Assn., the community's governing body, is hoping the study will show which option will best provide badly needed services but not hurt the rural character of the community.
That character is protected by the Rancho Santa Fe covenant--strict rules adopted in 1927.
Officials said that although they are sure the covenant will not be jeopardized by incorporation, the community might have to make some sacrifices as a trade-off for the services.
Lewis W. Reich, president of the Rancho Santa Fe Assn. board of directors, said, "We are not going to be able to preserve 100% of our way of life. But we could drift along (unincorporated) and lose that quality."
Traffic control and law enforcement are the two main services sought by the community, Reich said. Rancho Santa Fe now is protected by a private security firm in addition to county sheriff's deputies. But the security officers have no authority to issue tickets or enforce speed limits, and the sheriff's deputies, residents say, are too few to be effective in the eight-square-mile community.
Another major reason to seek incorporation is the possibility that the county will impose urban standards throughout all unincorporated areas, Reich said. Rancho Santa Fe officials fear the standards could mean it would be required have four-lane streets and install street lights.
Reich said the consultant--to be named within 60 days--will conduct the study based on guidelines establishing which benefits the community hopes to gain and what disadvantages it will accept in exchange for services.
Although the cost of the services is not a major issue in the community, Reich said, officials are looking for a cost-efficient package.