For those of you who don’t know about Cielo, it is an exclusive Rancho Santa Fe community filled with spectacular custom homesites. Cielo occupies one of the highest vantage points along the San Diego coast, providing an unprecedented portal to sweeping views that stretch from the Coronado Islands and La Jolla to Lake Hodges and the coastal mountains.
There has been a recent lawsuit involving the Cielo community so we pulled this great article from the UT San Diego just for you…
RANCHO SANTA FE — Five Rancho Cielo Estates homeowners are suing the developer of their upscale neighborhood, arguing it isn’t as exclusive as they were promised.
The residents claim their luxury homes would be worth significantly more if the developer hadn’t begun allowing some smaller houses to be built in the 528-home neighborhood, and if all the amenities promised to early buyers had been completed. Those amenities include a competition-sized swimming pool, sauna, formal gardens, an equestrian center, a fitness center, a formal courtyard and a recreation center with multilevel terraces.
Developer Rancho Cielo Estates LTD instead decided to build additional housing where those amenities had been planned, the suit alleges. In addition, the developer began allowing lots as small as 5,000 square feet, down from the 1-acre minimum originally promised.
Homes in 1,740-acre Rancho Cielo, which is on the eastern edge of Rancho Santa Fe near Lake Hodges and Escondido, typically sell in the $2 million to $7 million range. Homes elsewhere in Rancho Santa Fe often sell for $10 million or more.
Peter Fagrell, president of the company developing Rancho Cielo Estates, declined to comment on the suits.
“It’s our policy not to discuss pending litigation,” he said this week.
The lawsuit — a class-action filing that could eventually include more Rancho Cielo homeowners — says the developer used “high-end mass marketing” to dupe buyers.
“A reasonable person would expect that if a seller in this type of situation represents certain amenities and touts a certain ‘exclusivity,’ then the community should have those amenities and that status,” the suit says.
The homeowners’ attorney, Lee Sherman, said Friday that the neighborhood his clients were promised wasn’t delivered.
He declined to say what the homes of his clients are worth, or what they would be worth if the community had been built as initially planned. But he said analysis of sale prices in the area shows his clients lost a lot of money.
“The value of land decreased in a way that was inconsistent with the market, once the high-density projects got rolling,” he said.
Plans for Rancho Cielo were initially approved by the county in 1981 but have been amended at least six times since then. While some amenities have been eliminated, two parks have been built and a 9-acre recreational area is planned for the undeveloped northern section of the neighborhood when housing is built there, county documents show.
Homes in the eastern part of Rancho Cielo are under construction, while the southern and western portions of the neighborhood have been partially developed.
Sherman said he expects the number of plaintiffs in the suit to increase. About 50 Rancho Cielo homeowners attended a community meeting about the case on Monday, he said.
In addition to reimbursement for financial losses, the suit asks the court to impose punitive damages to discourage future alleged fraud of a similar nature.
Turbulence in Rancho Cielo began to increase in 2012 when the developer proposed building 42 condominiums at the neighborhood’s southern edge off Del Dios Highway. County supervisors rejected the proposal, but last August approved 24 single-family homes for the same area, which straddles Via Ambiente.
A group of residents has appealed that approval and filed a separate lawsuit contending the environmental analysis is flawed because it relies on studies conducted in the 1980s.
“Traffic on Del Dios Highway is a lot different now than it was then,” said Escondido attorney Everett Delano, who filed the suit.
For details, visit cieloawareness.com.