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Census ranks Rancho Santa Fe as nation’s wealthiest town

By Seth Hettena, The Associated Press
Wednesday June 05, 2002

RANCHO SANTA FE –The schools are outstanding, there’s almost no crime and the sun shines 320 days a year. Only residents can join the community’s world-class golf club. 

“It’s a wonderful place,” said Annie Perez, who owns Bolero Mexican cafe in the tiny downtown area and lives nearby. “This is the best life.” 

But only the rich need apply. Rancho Santa Fe ranks as the nation’s wealthiest community with 1,000 households or more, according to Census figures released Tuesday. 

The per capita income of more than $113,000 puts Rancho Santa Fe ahead of the Bay Area enclaves of Atherton and Woodside as well as Palm Beach, Fla. and Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Census figures show. Indian River Shores, Fla., ranked No. 1 in 1990, was seventh in the latest survey. 

The average per capita income in the United States was less than $22,000 a year, according to the 2000 Census. 

Rancho Santa Fe was also the most expensive place to buy a house in the United States over the past year. The median single family home price is $1.7 million, according to DataQuick Information Systems of San Diego. 

But few residents are complaining about high home prices. 

“I consider myself lucky,” said Albert Plattner, who lives a short walk from his real estate office in Rancho Santa Fe’s two block downtown. “I think it’s the greatest place to live in the world.” 

What’s luring the wealthiest Americans? In a word, privacy. 

Rancho Santa Fe’s rural feel has been zealously guarded for 74 years by a strict set of rules, called the Protective Convenant. Most properties are a minimum two acres. All homes must meet the standards set by a design board that calls itself the Art Jury, which strives to ensure that even 18,000 square-foot homes blend into the landscape. 

“To buy a property up here you have to invest a lot of money,” said Keith Behner, Rancho Santa Fe’s planning director.  

“But once you invest a lot of money you don’t have to worry about a McMansion going up next door that’s flamingo red.” 

Only residents can join the community’s golf and tennis clubs or use the 26 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.