RSF Association continues effort to clearly define Art Jury roles and responsibilities

For the last several months, the Rancho Santa Fe Association has been grappling with a document outlining the Art Jury’s roles and responsibilities, as the board works toward its goal of improved consistency in Art Jury decisions.

The original version adopted in March 2021 was prepared by the Art Jury and Association Building Department. Directors Bill Strong and Laurel Lemarié have been working throughout the past year on an alternative draft, hoping to further describe the roles and define the limits of Art Jury discretion.

Their version has been before the board at every meeting since July with no consensus toward approval. Given the difficulty of the process, on Oct. 7 the board voted 5-2 to return the editing back to Building Commissioner Maryam Babaki, with Manager Christy Whalen providing oversight. Strong and Lemarié were opposed.

“The reason we started this in the first place was that it was determined that the board does have oversight over the Art Jury so I would like to keep it with the board,” Lemarié said, noting she would be happy to continue working with Babaki.

“This is a board document to set out a reasonable policy for all Art Jurys,” Strong agreed. “I see no purpose to sending it back.”

In her comments, Lemarié was referencing 2019, when the Association board issued a letter to the Art Jury stating that it is the board’s responsibility to ensure that the Art Jury enforces the Protective Covenant, the Regulatory Code and Residential Design Guidelines on a fair and consistent basis. The board’s letter directed the Art Jury to focus on enforcement of the three governing documents and to refrain from discussing design elements that are not permitted.

Since joining the board in June 2019, Strong has insisted that the Art Jury’s roles and responsibilities be more clearly defined with the intent to consistently enforce all three governing documents.

Since June, Strong and Lemarié have prepared various drafts with their suggested edits for posting and input. Some suggested Art Jury responsibilities included: Evaluate and assess applications for adherence to the governing documents rather than expressing personal likes and dislikes; understand the limits of discretion; don’t be swayed to approve an application based on number of times it is heard; and to avoid conflict of interest by not serving on the Art Jury if working in the local construction or design business.

“We need to have an improvement over what we have adopted and this is a significant improvement,” Strong said. “We want to work together to make the whole process work better.”

Director Rick Sapp said the statements included in the document should be a description, not a policy change or a constitution. He said he could not support it as written and made the motion to return editorial control to the building commissioner.

At the Oct. 7 meeting, Art Jury President Bill Danola said he thought the tone of the document, and some of the proposed changes, were unwarranted. Both Danola and Babaki said they did not believe it was an improvement over the existing document.

A motion to approve it as is, failed 4-3 with Directors Sapp, Dan Comstock, Greg Gruzdowich and President Bill Weber voting against it and Lorraine Kent, Strong and Lemarié in support.

At the meeting, Strong’s effort to begin the process of moving the Residential Design Guidelines into the Regulatory Code also failed in a 4-3 vote.

He said his proposal included no new wording or policy but was to simplify the governing documents into two layers rather than three: The Protective Covenant and the Regulatory Code. He said this change allows for a re-organization arranged by topics and sets up a structure for amendments to be added as needed.

The Residential Design Guidelines, last revised in 1992, are currently undergoing an update. Lemarié, chair of the ad hoc committee working on the guidelines, said what Strong was attempting to set up was a way to take what the committee is doing and put it into a logical format.

Those opposed, including Weber, Sapp, Comstock and Guzdowich, did not understand the purpose of the change and were concerned about the process. In his opposing vote, Comstock also cited that the change was not recommended or supported by staff.

“My recommendation is for the committee to continue their work because I believe it’s a very deliberate, focused and methodical approach and I recommend we continue that process,” Babaki said.