The Board of Supervisors Wednesday praised the merits of a resort proposed for Rancho Santa Fe, then unanimously rejected it--leaving the developer angry about alleged privileged treatment accorded to residents of the wealthy community.
"The Board of Supervisors has had an unwritten policy of providing preferential treatment to Rancho Santa Fe for a number of years," said property owner-developer Daniel Bunn.
"This is just an extension of that policy," said Bunn, whose family is involved in the ownership and management of nursing homes. "The opposition from the Rancho Santa Fe Assn. killed what everyone agrees is an excellent project."
William Paul, president of the association, which serves as a quasi-government for the exclusive area, countered that the project was killed not by political clout but by unresolved problems posed by increased traffic and incompatibility with a residential neighborhood.
Although the county's General Plan and the San Dieguito Community Plan would have allowed a resort on the 16.5 acres, the county Planning Department and Planning Commission had recommended rejection for Bunn's proposal.
Ranch residents called the Bunn proposal the biggest threat to their eucalyptus-lined community in its 60-year history. More than 100 residents of Rancho Santa Fe packed the board chambers; a similar number of letters had been sent in opposition.
The 16.5-acre site at El Montevideo and Paseo Delicias is among several "islands" that are within the 6,500-acre Rancho Santa Fe Covenant area but are not governed by the covenant, a restrictive property owners' agreement.
"To understand the outrage of the covenant community," Paul told the supervisors, "you have to understand that for the past 60 years we have been building Rancho Santa Fe within the requirements of the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant. Now a property owner wants your help in avoiding those restrictions."
Center for Executives
Bunn envisioned the $16-million resort, to have been called Posada Del Rancho Santa Fe, as a top-of-the-line conference center for corporate executives. It was to have included 82 units, a 200-seat restaurant, a health spa, a swimming pool, three tennis courts--with lush landscaping and Spanish Mediterranean architecture.
"Landscape screening and berms will create the ambiance of isolation," said former County Supervisor Dick Brown, retained by Bunn. "Essentially the project is obscured from outside view."
Bunn and his attorney, Jean Melious, argued that Rancho Santa Fe was improperly trying to extend its authority over land that is not within the covenant.
They also noted that the board has approved other resorts just outside Rancho Sana Fe--including one to the north, and several to the south in the San Dieguito River Valley.
"If a property owner cannot rely on the dictates of the county, that puts me in a very difficult position," Bunn said.
Planner Concerns Uppermost
In rejecting the project, and seemingly ending a two-year controversy, the supervisors asserted that concerns underscored by county planners were uppermost in their minds.
"We are not enforcing the covenant, this is a county planning issue," said North County Supervisor John MacDonald, whose district includes Rancho Santa Fe. MacDonald made the motion to scuttle the project.
"I think this is a great project" but not at the proposed site, said Supervisor Brian Bilbray. "I'd love to see it built in the unincorporated area."
"I fought very hard for something that is intangible called community character," said Supervisor Susan Golding. "I think the project is a good project . . . . but I think that there is not only an adverse traffic impact but also a negative impact on the surrounding community."
Depending on whose figures you believe, the resort would have added from 288 to 820 car trips a day to the already clogged Paseo Delicias-Del Dios Highway, which now serves approximately 12,000 such trips a day.