RANCHO SANTA FE — The Association approved the request by the golf club to allow members in good standing for at least 10 years, who have sold their property and moved from the Covenant, to retain their membership in the club.
The approval came during its meeting on Feb. 17 which was held at the community center because of the large number of people, about 100, who wanted to speak on both sides of the issue.
“The most valuable asset in the community is everyone who is here,” Association President Tom Lang said before the discussion began.
Partially motivated by compassion and partially by finances, the modification to the club’s plan of operation allows members who have moved away for a number of reasons — including health and financial — to be allowed to stay on and continue the social relationships they have had for years. But, it will cost them at least 10 percent more than regular members. They also may not serve on a board or committee and may not use any other Association facilities.
Former resident memberships will be offered on a year-to-year basis, and will be reviewed yearly by the Association.
Jim Boyce, golf membership chair, said the new classification of membership would financially help the golf club because play is down about 12 percent, not only in Rancho Santa Fe, but nationwide.
The Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club statistics show at least 100 members have been lost in the past five years and that fewer members are signing up.
There are less than 20 new members a year currently where once it was an average of 40.
“We are just trying to keep some of our friends around who lost their social and athletic lives when they left the Covenant,” Boyce said. “It allows these good friends to remain good friends.”
Additionally, the golf club has a $7.7 million outstanding debt for the construction of the player’s clubhouse. The new membership classification would help retire that debt while taking on additional members.
On the other side of the issue were people like Holly Manion, who has lived in the Covenant for 56 years, has actively sold real estate there for 32 years and who has been a golf club member of 20 years. Manion said she was disappointed in how the Association board handled the issue and that it should have been put to a vote to all the members.
“I believe if this proposal passes, it will significantly increase the inventory of homes on the market thereby depressing already depressed prices. If this happens, this will affect all Covenant property owner’s home and lot values,” Manion told the crowd.
She said according to a recent survey, the No. 1 reason people buy in the Covenant is because of the golf club. If the proposal passed, she said many people would put their homes on the market.
“As a matter of fact, I know a few that are considering this right now,” Manion said.
She suggested if the golf club needs more money, they should consider allowing people who own condos in the Covenant to join the club.
“There are approximately 76 condos in the Covenant of which only 30 owners have the right to join the (golf club),” she said. “This means that more than half of the condo owners who are paying RSFA yearly assessments do not have the privilege of purchasing a golf membership.”
Others worried about diluting the value of current memberships and the exclusivity of the golf club.
“I am shocked that the (golf club) board of governors has been discussing this for two years,” said Bob Burgess when he learned this action has been considered since May of 2009 and that he, as a member, had heard nothing of it.
Ken Bien urged the board to consider it longer and for the golf club board to keep members “in the loop and be more transparent.”
Jerry Block, a 16-year-golf club member, called the proposal “bizarre.”
“We feel sorry for people who moved out of town,” Block said. “All it takes is a phone call to invite a friend to come and play golf.”
Ann Boone said people are aware when they buy within the Covenant that their golf privileges end when they sell their property.
“This is not the Ladies Aide Society,” she said.
In the end, only Director Dick Dought, voted against the proposal.
“It is our obligation to the membership of Rancho Santa Fe first and foremost,” Doughty said.
He said membership rights have been long standing.
“I don’t think this principle should be bent to the extent of this proposal,” Doughty said.
Director Anne Feighner, who voted in favor of the proposal, suggested that it might be prudent for the golf club to figure out new ways to attract and retain members.
“With a $7.7 million debt, I want the golf club to be as successful as possible,” said Director Jack Queen, who also serves as the Association’s treasurer.