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May 11, 2007

A Tale of Two Cities

Rich City vs Poor City

Photo Credit: Andrew Hetherington

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Privacy is critical to the residents of Rancho Santa Fe. So is taste. The town, established in the 1920s by a railroad company, was one of California's first planned communities: a village of gentlemen's ranches unified by their Spanish-colonial architecture. Committed to preserving a sense of continuity, residents established the Rancho Santa Fe Association in 1927 to regulate development. Among the Association's mandates: All homes must be built on a minimum of two acres and obscured by foliage. Any new construction requires unanimous approval from the "art jury," a select panel of residents who review such details as the ratio of house size to lot size, style, colors, and types of shrubbery planted. Such peculiarities seem to have long-term payoffs -- the houses here have appreciated at a rate of 12 percent annually over the past several years. "People are drawn to Rancho Santa Fe because of the open, rural feel," says Pete Smith, manager of the Rancho Santa Fe Association. "We have 60-acre estates here." Safety is another reason: The town boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country. In the past year, a total of two robberies were reported.

The restrictive building codes guarantee that the people who move here are searching for casual conversation rather than raucous parties. The pickup scene--such as it is -- is also low-key. Happy hour at Mille Fleurs, a chic French restaurant on the town's main drag, is dotted with aspiring trophy wives in tight skirts and older gentlemen with dark suits and deep pockets, whispering in each other's ears as bottles of pinot noir pass up and down the bar.

Mainly, though, this is a family place. For married women, child-rearing on the Ranch is something of a competitive sport. "All of my friends in town had professional careers before they had children," says Laura Glatthorn, a petite blonde mother of three who quit her job as a sales representative for Colgate-Palmolive 15 years ago, when her first child was born. Today, Glatthorn's schedule revolves around shuttling her three children to various activities in her white Cadillac Escalade. In the summer, she drops her eldest, 15-year-old Haley, at summer school at 9 a.m., then drives Kendal, 13, to the riding club for lessons, and Jillian, 10, to volleyball practice. A couple of hours later, she collects Jillian and brings her to a soccer match, then retrieves Haley from school and deposits her at the beach.

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