RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe Association held its monthly meeting across the street at The Garden Club anticipating a larger crowd than normal. Nearly every seat at the venue was taken for the morning session.
While the board discussed business matters early on, a time designation of 11 a.m. was dedicated to a hot topic item — the closure of Stumps Market.
The Association’s building commissioner Robert Green was at the podium telling the crowd that an application has been submitted to the Design Review Committee for possible future plans of Plaza De Santa Fe.
The applicant Susan Wooley had her representative Franco Simone present.
Green highlighted the proposed changes for the Plaza that would include Lillian Rice inspired renovations, relocating the Post Office at another locale in the plaza, new courtyard, increased parking spots, and more. Green said that “new market discussions” were in progress.This was one of a series of informational meetings.
Green reiterated that no decisions were to be made on this day. It was an opportunity for the community to understand the potential scope of the project and a time to receive input from members.
Ranch resident Tina Thomas said that there was no merit in the project because it offered nothing to the community.
“The issue that must be addressed now and for the long terms is how the Board can make a difference in bringing back our village,” she said, noting how she loved her Village Market.
Connie McNally of McNally Company Antiques, located in the heart of the Village, reminded all of the real estate offices, banks, escrow offices and financial service centers which are both in the Village and bracket by it nearby.
“That’s why we have no parking,” she said. “That’s why as the town dwindles so has our business dwindled.”
McNally told the board and members that she recently had longstanding clients from Chicago come visit. They stayed at the Inn and walked downtown.
“Yesterday when they came in, they said all we saw were pictures of homes in the storefronts,” said McNally, adding how they wanted to know what happened. They also told her that they were thinking of purchasing a home there but are now rethinking that decision.
And with the market gone, McNally said, it makes the situation even gloomier.
Up next was resident Wendy Walker. She said a fellow Ranch resident, who she has been working with regarding the market issue, has named it, “Stumpgate.”
The crowd broke out in laughter and applause.
Walker moved to the Ranch in 1998. If there was no grocery store, she would have moved to La Jolla.
“The fact that our community does not know that our market was in jeopardy was a huge wake-up call to all of us. We really thought the Association was watching out for things like this, but now we know that we have to do it ourselves,” she said.
Walker continued, “Close your eyes and imagine a charming street with wonderful shops and restaurants and a feeling of community. Even Mayberry had more to offer.”
Walker pointed out that she wished they could hire Donald Trump to come in and fix their town.
“We want our gas station. We want our market. We want our restaurants. We want our shops,” she said. “And we want the real estate office to go away so we can enjoy our town.”
Simone was next up. He thanked the board for the invitation and hoped to clear up some misperceptions on behalf of himself and Wooley.
He addressed the practicality of markets and what type of market the community could sustain. After speaking with multiple markets, Simone believed the market needed to be downsized.
“One of the things they tell me is the size of the community can’t sustain the market that’s 10,000 square feet,” he said.
Moving forward, Simone said, what they can do is have a smaller market.
Resident Saiid Zarrabian told the crowd that the changes that have occurred over the last 20 years have come slowly and a little bit at a time.
Right now, he said, is a pivotal change. And members need to work with the Board and not against them so they can keep their market.
“I’m incredibly pleased that this is the board sitting in front of us. In my opinion, if anybody can help, this board is not only able, they’re willing to.”