Condo owners still can’t vote as members

RANCHO SANTA FE — It is what it is. Much to the chagrin of Rancho Santa Fe condo owners, the Association voted at its May 5 meeting to remain steadfast in a decision that dates back to 1979 that condo owners may not be voting members and they may not join the golf club.
A contingent of condo owners who showed up at the meeting to plead their case walked away disappointed, calling the decision unfair.
“I’m talking about discrimination on every level,” Bill McNally said.
Condo owners were hopeful the Association would change its mind after a recent move by the directors to allow members of the golf club in good standing for at least 10 years to retain their memberships after moving from the Covenant.
Condo owner Neil Martin said surely the Association would allow people who currently live in the Covenant and pay assessment fees to vote and join the club.
“This is taxation without representation,” he said.
Board president Tom Lang said to make such a change would require a vote of the entire membership to modify the Association’s Articles of Incorporation and he didn’t see a ground swell of support for such a change.
He suggested the condo owners get together a petition with signatures of voting members to determine if there is enough interest to make the change.
Martin pointed out the Catch-22 that the people who want the change the most are not allowed to vote or sign the petition.
Director Dick Doughty said if a change is made for a few friends now, it would encourage developers in the future.
“It would cause developers to say, ‘what can we do to take this small, lovely lot and make it 70,’” he said.
There are currently 200 lots within the Covenant that could be subdivided into more than 300 lots.
Currently, out of 82 condo units, 34 owners have voting rights and 48 do not.
Peter Smith, Association manger, told the group that in anticipation of the May 5 meeting, he went back to the archives to learn how the decision was made to preclude condo owners from golf club memberships.
“I had heard a lot of rumors and stories about how we evolved to where we are today,” Smith said.
He said the controversy dates back to 1977 when after several years of debate, the Association Board adopted a resolution to clarify membership and voting status of owners of dwelling units in condominium and cooperative developments within Rancho Santa Fe.
The resolution concluded that the owners of the entire property comprising such projects are collectively entitled to one membership and vote.
“It appears from the language in that resolution that prior to the 1977 resolution, there was one voting right per project,” Smith said.
He said this practice continued until 1979 when there was a resolution to a legal case filed in 1974.
“The final resolution of the suit in 1979 basically provided that any person holding a minimum of 34 percent beneficial interest in a building site would be entitled to vote,” Smith said. “As the Association had long held that a condominium unit is not a building site, but the entire condominium project is the building site, not all owners of individual units had a right to vote.”
As a result of the legal challenge, the Association allowed corporations, partnerships and condominium associations to have two voting memberships.
In March of 1988, to address the issue of heavy play on the course, the golf club recommended that the Association limit the number of golf memberships. On March 17, 1988, the Association Board approved a motion that limited the number of active golf club members to 500 and limited memberships to 100. In May of 1988, that decision was reversed because of membership opposition and the threat of legal challenges.
At the time, there were about 48,000 rounds of golf played on the course per year.
In 1992 after public hearings, the Association board determined there would be two voting memberships per condominium project.
In 1996, a group of condo owners asked the Association board to revisit the issue, After a public hearing the golf club’s board of governors took a formal position of opposition to granting all condo owners voting rights in the Association.
The decision has been challenged on and off over the years.
Although they may join every other club, group and organization within the Covenant, use its trails and dine at the restaurant, condo owners may not join the golf club. When purchasing a condo, they are advised of the rule in advance.

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