Big Deal?

Forbes Magazine recently published its annual list of America’s most expensive zip codes, and once again, Rancho Santa Fe showed up among the top 20. (With its two zip codes, it actually took two of those spots, with 92067 in the #14 position, and 92091  17th). The community east of Del Mar has ranked even higher in other years, and average home prices still tower over anyplace else in the county. Del Mar, 72nd, ranks next highest. La Jolla’s in 96th place, and Coronado doesn’t even make the list.

Besides the fact that the average Rancho Santa Fe home price hovers just under $3 million (for the 92067 folks, at least), I’ve always been amazed by how boring the place is. But I was there last Friday with a group of San Diego Professional Tour Guide Association members for a lightning tour led by a Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society docent. This reminded me of what the RSF does have going for it. In my view.

1) Great landscaping. People who can afford $3 million homes can afford lots of plants and gardeners to keep them at their best.

2) More sunshine than you get at the coast. This makes the plants look even more beautiful.

3) A modicum of history. The town boasts of being one of the first planned communities in California (yawn). This happened after gambling failures or drought or both drove the owners of the original Mexican land grant to sell the entire rancho to the Santa Fe Railroad Company. The railroad men tried to turn it into a eucalyptus farm. When that, too, failed, the company decided to develop it as a rural retreat for the wealthy, an idea that finally worked.

4) Architectural congruity. I think it’s nice that local gal Lillian Rice (born in National City, schooled at Berkeley) set so much of the tone for the town so many years before women architects became commonplace. Rice had some good ideas (fostering indoor/outdoor living; blending into the natural environment), and today a draconian covenant ensures that her anodyne designs and their imitators remain sacrosanct throughout much of the town.

5) More real-estate offices per square inch than anyplace else in California. I’m not sure that’s a fact, but it feels like it. So many properties appear to be for sale that you’ve gotta wonder if every storefront just displays different views of the same places. Whatever the truth, it makes me think the town slogan ought to be “Realtors R Us!”

6) The presence of Chino’s. I guess the gourmet farmers technically are located in Rancho Santa Fe.  I hung out there years ago, while writing about the Chino’s corn, and fell in love then with the family’s approach to farming. I loved the vegetable stand, too, as earthy and unpretentious as most of Rancho Santa Fe is not, the dark matter of the small universe that is this community. The fruits and vegetables are just as pricy and exquisite today:

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One Response to Big Deal?

  1. I betcha Chino’s isn’t in the code. There was some deliberate gerrymandering when the boundaries were drawn.