About the San Diego Country Estates Association
The planned community of San Diego Country Estates was envisioned by Raymond A. Watt, national award winning builder, when in 1970 he purchased 3,250 acres of land located in San Vicente Valley, six miles southeast of the town of Ramona, California. At the time, the valley was home to three families and Ramona had a population of 5,000.
A Planned New Community Takes Form
Infrastructure for SDCE was essentially in place and all parcels sold by 1975. Watt's concept for the land plan was as an open space family oriented community with 42% or 1,350 acres, set aside for common area. Development would be of half-acre average building sites for 3050 single-family homes plus 400 condominium units and a variety of amenities. Those amenities were in place as lot owners started to build. They included an 18-hole golf course designed by Ted Robinson, an international equestrian center, a western equestrian center, a clubhouse with restaurant/bar, junior Olympic size, heated year round swimming pool, four newly surfaced, lighted tennis courts, 28 room guest lodge, and an oak shaded park with swimming pool and family picnic facilities.
Many people learned about SDCE from the celebrity promotional events Watt held during the marketing phase. Most famous of which was the first "battle of the sexes" tennis match between tennis greats Bobby Riggs and Margaret Court on Mother's Day 1973. It was televised in seven nations and helped fuel the tennis rage of the 1970's. Other notables who helped with early promotion included film stars' Charlton Heston, William Holdon, among others, and world champion rodeo star Casey Tibbs.
Development was to be environmentally friendly. Its 3,000 plus building sites, 43 miles of paved streets and seven miles of one hundred year flood control improvements were designed to conform to existing terrain to minimize mass grading. All utilities were under ground. The water system provided six million gallons of potable storage. Its award winning sanitation system was built to reclaim wastewater for irrigating the golf course and open space.
Watt's vision for SDCE families' involvement and control of their environment and facilities was assured by his deeding all amenity improvements and open space to the property owners in common. The San Diego Country Estates Association was formed which would own and manage them. Association members would be in charge of their own environmental destiny.
By 2010, all but a few home sites had been built upon. Population of the community approximates ten thousand. The Association's annual operating budget is $8 million plus and the variety of services and activities offered is supported by an employee staff and legion of volunteers numbering over one hundred. As we drive through the various neighborhoods one can't help but be impressed with the beautiful variety of homes and gardens and the obvious show of owners' pride. The dream Ray Watt envisioned has indeed come to fruition.
Trails: 55 miles
Condos: 4 Condo Associations
Lodging: 28 units
Population: approx. 10,000
Horses: approx. 600
Golf Club Members: 250 to 300
Equestrian Members: approx. 550
Schools: 2 Elementary Schools
Dog Parks: 2
After Watt's development plan was approved, the 3,250 acre SDCE covenant area was annexed into the Ramona Municipal Water District in 1972. Conditions of the County of San Diego's approval of the planned community also required that a public district assume jurisdiction for the sanitation needs of the new community. In 1973, the San Vicente Sanitation District was formed with RMWD exercising its latent power to assume ownership and control of the District. Watt built and deeded to the District, all improvements for that system which included collection and treatment facilities for a state-of-the-art water reclamation plant to handle the community's demands.
From the book "OFF THE MAIN ROAD, Revisited", a history of San Vicente and Barona, by Charles R. LeMenager, Eagle Peak Publishing Company, copyright 1983 and 2011. LeMenager has been associated with the planned community of SDCE since its inception. He was part of the team that master planned and developed it. Since then, as a homeowner, he has served often as a volunteer with the property owners' association SDCEA.