Rancho Santa Fe Protective Covenant

Use Classes
Design Review
Enforcing the Covenant
Annexation and Covenant Acceptance

The Rancho Santa Fe Protective Covenant was assembled, approved and recorded on much of the community's land area by the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company and a number of area property owners in 1928. Alternatively, the term "Covenant" is also often used to describe the properties to which the Protective Covenant applies. Its preamble states the objective of the Covenant founders as, "preserving, continuing and maintaining [the] character of the community and rare landscape features and upholding the quality of all future architecture and improvements and of restricting the use, height and bulk of buildings."

The Protective Covenant is a contract between the property owner and the Rancho Santa Fe Association. When purchasing Covenant property, the new owner enters into an agreement which entitles the owner to the services of the Association and also obligates the owner to comply with the requirements of the Protective Covenant and the other governing documents. Adherence to the Protective Covenant is considered by the community as the primary reason for the attractiveness of Rancho Santa Fe as it exists today. In fact, the consistent application of the Protective Covenant over its lengthy life has proven to be a key to the historical legal success of the Association in defending its authorities.

Although it is formally arranged in Articles and Sections, a shorthand of paragraph numbering has been overlain on the Protective Covenant and is commonly used for reference. Among these numbered paragraphs are three basic forms of regulation:

  • Operating paragraphs, which establish general procedures, responsibilities, enforcement and the assessment of operating funds;

  • Zoning paragraphs, which place all of the properties in the Covenant into use class districts, or zones. As with common municipal zoning, these class districts prescribe allowable uses and development criteria;

  • Design Review paragraphs, which establish the Rancho Santa Fe Association Covenant Design Review and provide it with the encompassing authority to approve the appearance of new construction and landform alteration in conformance with the objectives of maintaining high architectural standards and preserving the rural character of the community.

Use Classes
The Protective Covenant establishes the various use class districts, and divides the community into those parcels which may be used for residential purposes from those which can be used for more intense functions such as commercial buildings, multi-family housing and commercial horsekeeping. In all, eleven different classifications are defined. The large majority of the community is, however, devoted to "Class A", or single family development.

The Protective Covenant also provides for the means to reclassify property. This process (Covenant Modification) requires the consent of nearby property owners as well as approval by the Board of Directors.

Design Review
Perhaps the most often quoted paragraph of the Protective Covenant is Paragraph 46, which states simply that the Covenant Design Review may make such determinations as it deems necessary to "insure a uniform and reasonably high standard of artistic result and attractiveness in the exterior and physical appearance of said property and improvements." By this and other established authorities, the Covenant Design Review reviews and passes judgment on the aesthetics of new buildings, accessory structures, additions, landscape and grading. Their review also extends to such matters as changes in the exterior color or trim of existing buildings, changes in roofing material, as well as the installation and maintenance of fencing, decks, landscaping, corrals, pools, tennis courts, satellite antennas, storage tanks, walls, lighting and works of art. The Covenant Design Review also issues permits for horsekeeping.

Enforcing the Covenant
Paragraphs 172 through 181 contain, in large measure, the authority of the Association to enforce the Protective Covenant. These paragraphs authorize the Association, after proper noticing, to make special assessments and place a lien on property that is found to be in violation of Protective Covenant or other regulatory requirements. Other enforcement remedies include suspension of privileges and injunctive relief, for which attorney's fees may be recovered by the Association.

Annexation and Covenant Acceptance
Subsequent to the initial adoption and recordation of the Protective Covenant "Old Book" in 1928, additional lands have been added to the Covenant community. These parcel-by-parcel "annexations" of "non-Covenant islands" have occurred through the present. Upon annexation to the Covenant community, a Covenant Acceptance Agreement is recorded, which binds the property as if it were a part of the original properties governed by the Protective Covenant. This acceptance agreement may specify additional terms and conditions which are applicable to the specific property. Most often, such conditions limit the number of building sites into which the accepted property could, at maximum, be subdivided. Annexations must be approved by both the Covenant Design Review and the Board of Directors.

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© Rancho Santa Fe Association
Physical Address: 17022 Avenida de Acacias Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
Mailing Address: PO Box A Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067