RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe Association board voted unanimously at its March 22 meeting to move forward with the purchase of the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club property for more than $2.3 million. The Garden Club is used commonly used as a community gathering place for both special occasions like graduation ceremonies, cotillions and weddings as well as Garden Club events.
After two years of discussions between the club and the association, an understanding was met last month, which included the sale of club property to the Association, however, the Garden Club itself would continue to use the facilities for its events.
Association Manager Pete Smith said other options besides acquiring club property were considered, including the possibility of selling the property on the open market or hiring a property manager.
“Under the first option, the Association Board shares the Garden Club’s concern that a new property owner would not operate the property in the best interest of the community and there would be no guarantee that the proceeds of the sale would be reinvested in the community,” Smith said.
And the second option was tossed out because the Garden Club would have to increase its money making events at the club, including events for “outside groups.”
“This would have a negative impact on congestion,” Smith said, “and diminish the value of the property to our community as an exclusive amenity.”
The proceeds from the purchase of the Garden Club will be deposited into a special Community Fund to be held at the Foundation for the benefit of the community living in the covenant area. In the future, local nonprofit organizations could submit requests to an oversight panel consisting of Association board and Garden Club board representatives.
“For many years the Garden Club has struggled with the issue of maintaining the facilities and property,” Smith said. “In recent years, it had proven to be a very difficult task to find willing and competent volunteers to take on the challenging task of managing the property.”
That is, until Helen and Steve DiZio stepped up, Smith said.
“The DiZios and the Garden Club board have come to the conclusion that the current structure for running the facilities cannot be maintained,” he said.
Helen DiZio spoke to the challenges and her hope for the future success of the Garden Club property.
The board meeting, which occurred outdoors, lasted more than hour and included questions posed by association board members and audience members alike. There was a lively give-and-take, with most guests registering their support for the acquisition.
One area nonprofit’s president, Carla DiMare of the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center, asked the board to consider giving the funds directly to community organizations rather than making them go through hoops to benefit from the purchase of the garden club.
“I think it’s a better way to allocate the funds,” DiMare said. She suggested this rather than going through the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.
Her suggestion was shot down after Steve DiZio explained that there would be no divvying up of funds equally amongst the eight organizations in town.
Zoning of the club property will have to change to provide for Association ownership and the continued use of the property. It’s currently zoned under the Rancho Santa Fe covenant as residential with a special allowance for private or semi-public clubhouse. It would need to be rezoned for public use with an additional authorization for retail since the club currently includes a resale shop.
The association board will seek a community advisory vote to see how its membership feels about the purpose, but whatever the result of the vote, it won’t be binding.