RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club was the venue for a community meeting to hear proposed plans for Rancho Librado. The project is an age-restricted development with a total of 50 single story casitas and four custom estates. The projected location is on 28-acres at Calzada del Bosque and Via de la Valle.
The casitas will range from 3,200 to 4,800 square feet, whereas the luxury homes are expected to be at 6,500 square feet.
What triggered the presentation was opposition from Neighbors for San Dieguito River Valley Preservation, who gathered hundreds of signatures against the development project.
Laura Mabee Boswell, a representative of the Mabee Trust and Golden Eagle Management, which is proposing the project, hosted the meeting to provide more information about it.
According to Boswell, from the more than 850 signatures against the project, about 20 of those individuals have actually seen the presentation.
“And given that disparity, we thought it was really important to provide people with an opportunity to hear about our concept and then be able to make an informed opinion,” said Boswell, adding how they are presently working on a very long and technical process.
Boswell conveyed how her family had been part of the Rancho Santa Fe community for the past 25 years. She was not a developer, but had a background in public health which had been the driving factor for this project.
“It’s well known that being able to maintain your friendships and your sense of community and your sense of place is vital to healthy aging,” she said. “There’s one saying in the Ranch that you can ‘do anything but grow old.’ And I for one would like to help change that.”
Boswell pointed out that Rancho Librado is intended to provide homes for members of the community who can no longer maintain their large estates but wish to stay in the Ranch.
On a personal level, Boswell said that when her grandfather passed away, she remembered how the home became a burden to her grandmother. When she imagines the Rancho Librado homes, she thinks of her grandmother and how she could have benefited from it.
“When my father purchased this property he had a grand vision but unfortunately he was not able to see it through,” she said, with her voice cracking. “I, more than anyone, wished my father could have fulfilled his dreams. But I know he would support me in my decision to pursue this project.”
Larry Mabee, Boswell’s father, acquired the property in 2008 with the intent to have a horse farm at his estate but passed away a few years later.
The goal of Rancho Librado, Boswell said, is to provide a burden free lifestyle, where people can focus on their own well-being, families and friendships. The existing home on the property would be converted into a clubhouse with two luxury suites on the top level for extended family stays.
Boswell said she also had a vision for a concierge service, miles of walking trails, and designate four acres of open space.
Also with Boswell at the presentation was former Rancho Santa Fe Association Manager Pete Smith, representing his new consulting firm Ekard Smith and Associates, which are part of the project.
On hand was Ali Shapouri of Shapouri & Associates, a planning, civil engineering and architecture firm.
Shapouri said that the Mabee property has a different classification than most residential properties in the Covenant.
“It actually allows for higher density for residential development,” he said.
However, under the current county General Plan, there is a minimum of a two-acre lot size for this property, which calculates to 14 homes. And the Rancho Librado project is proposing 50 casitas and four luxury homes.
This is what Neighbors for San Dieguito River Valley Preservation are opposing.
“When Larry Mabee purchased the C. Arnold Smith property, he stated numerous times to his neighbors that RSF should have a world-class equestrian property at the entrance to the covenant, and pledged to transform this property into such a facility,” said members of the Neighbors for San Dieguito River Valley Preservation in a statement. “Nearly 900 members of the community who have signed a petition to stop the high-density development proposed by Mabee’s heirs think Larry had it about right.
“While we acknowledge the heirs’ right not to follow Larry’s vision, and to subdivide the property to accommodate multiple homes, we also think that the currently allowed alternative of up to 14 estates on minimum 2-acre lots, as currently allowed by the county General Plan, is a great compromise,” the members continued.
Yet, Shapouri maintains that they are not asking for a rezone from the Covenant or the County of San Diego.
“This project is consistent with the current use classification of the Covenant and it’s consistent with the County zone,” Shapouri said. “We are asking the County to change the general plan to bring it into compliance with the Covenant classification.”