Ranch’s 80th year was eventful


By Karen Billing

and Laura Petersen

Staff Writers

In 2008, Rancho Santa Fe celebrated its 80th anniversary and all that makes it a wonderful place to live: seeing friends at the post office, a village center with buildings still loyal to their 1924 character and tree-shaded streets lined with flowers.

The Ranch is still the kind of town where the library, garden club and community center host events to bring neighbors together and the Fourth of July parade almost has more people marching than watching.

Here are some highlights from our octogenarian home in 2008:

New faces

Pamela Meistrell became the new executive director at the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center in March. Under her watch, the center expanded its offerings, including a basketball league, summer camp, theater performances such as “The Wizard of Oz” and its first-ever teen dance.

The Rancho Santa Fe Association Board of Directors also underwent a change in June when Robert Spears and Marie Addario vacated their seats. The board welcomed new members Deb Plummer and Tom Lang, who both have strong backgrounds in community service.

Lois Jones and Tim Sullivan were named president and vice president. The board oversaw the first streetscape improvements, dictated by the Village Master Plan, which were completed in May: new brick-paved crosswalks now line the village and the landscaped median on Paseo Delicias was extended.

Osuna debate

The Osuna Ranch adobe was in the news as the association board debated which period of significance to guide restoration. They could take it back to its 1800 origins or to 1924, when Ranch architect Lilian Rice restored it.

In July, the board named 1860 as the period of significance, allowing for some “wiggle room” for features of the structure that were added in the 1920s by Rice, such as the fireplace.

When the adobe undergoes its restoration, everything not connected to Rice will come out including the kitchen and bathroom.

The association held several open houses to show off the 28-acre Osuna property this year, including one during Rancho Days.

Incorporation vote

After a third attempt for cityhood failed early in the year, a citizen initiative to limit the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s involvement in future incorporation efforts passed by a landslide in November. More than 60 percent of the members cast ballots, of which an overwhelming majority approved a bylaw amendment that limits the Board of Directors from initiating or pursing cityhood, or authorizing any incorporation-related expenditures, without prior approval from the community.

Lilian progress

The mixed-use Lilian Project proposed for the parking lot at the corner of El Tordo and Avenida de Acacias reached a major milestone in December when the Art Jury approved the design of the project with conditions. In January, the project goes before the Board of Directors, which has final say on whether the project is built or not.

That will be a harder nut to crack - earlier this year, the directors explained in no uncertain terms that the project as proposed was too large and out of character with the community.

Witch Creek: One year later

The community is still recovering one year after the Witch Creek Fire of October 2007. Several of the destroyed homes were rebuilt this year, while other homeowners were just beginning construction. The region was spared another major firestorm in 2008, but shaken residents still feel uneasy each time Santa Ana winds blow.

Residents and the association took the year to greatly increase their fire preparedness. For example, the association worked on brush management plans with Fairbanks Ranch for the San Dieguito Canyon and smaller offshoots.

School growing up

This school year marks the last year students will attend classes at the old R. Roger Rowe campus.

Construction is set to kick off on an interim housing site in June 2009 and the new campus is planned to be ready by fall 2010.

The new school will have two-story classroom and administration buildings, more parking, reconfigured pick-up and drop-off space, a multi-use room and updated amenities such as new science labs, computer labs, play space and art and music rooms.

However, the historic gym will remain with its shiny new floor, emblazoned with the school colors and Eagles logo.