Rancho Santa Fe California is an unincorporated community of San Diego County. It lies a couple of miles inland and just east of the coastal communities of Encinitas, Solona Beach and Del Mar- where the "turf meets the surf." It's also where many of the ultra rich in San Diego choose to live in sprawling Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean Revival style mansions. In 2011 Forbes listed Rancho Santa Fe as the 14th most expensive zip code in the US, and the 4th most expensive in California. The area of Rancho Santa Fe is patrolled by Sheriff's Deputies out of the Encinitas Sheriff's Station as well as members of the San Diego Sheriff's Aerial Support Detail.
One might imagine how easy it is for two deputies in the cockpit of a patrol helicopter to share stories, rumors and tidbits of information about various topics and points of interest as they traverse the county looking for the next "police activity." In fact It is quite common for a story to live on for years as it is passed from older pilots to younger crew members during routine patrol.
One such story centers on this mansion. Perched on a high point with commanding views of Rancho Santa Fe and the Pacific Ocean, one can only stare in awe as it passes by outside the helicopter's open door. At the time the home was built in the early 90s, the swimming pool, which passes through the house, set the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest swimming pool ever built in a residence at 286 feet. It was also the largest home ever built in San Diego County up to that time, with a square footage of 32,500 sq ft.
So what was the story involving this mansion and helicopters? According to the late Rocky Laws, the owner of this residence used to complain to the Sheriff's Department that deputies flying by in their helicopters were trying to look in his windows. But that all changed after those same deputies saved the house from a fast approaching wildfire. Deputies used their helicopter and Bambi Bucket to dip water from the pool and douse the fire which was moving uphill toward the home. From that point on the owner loved the Sheriff's Department and the helicopter unit. At least that is how the legend was told to me. Rocky also mentioned that the owner had taken pictures of the helicopter as it was dipping water from the pool. But they were pictures I had never seen.
While Rocky had always been solid with any information he passed on, I was never quite sure if this particular story had been embellished, not by Rocky of course but just over time. Well imagine my surprise when I opened an email a few weeks ago titled "Vintage ASTREA photos". The photos were of a San Diego County Sheriff's Department MD500D helicopter dipping water from the same pool I had seen from the air hundreds of times. There was no mistaking the location. But nobody seemed to know who was piloting the helicopter on that day.
Within a week of viewing the photos retired ASTREA pilot Bill Hubbard stopped by the office. Bill did almost his entire 30+ year career with the Sheriff's Department in the air support unit. Surely Bill would know something about these pictures. I quickly pulled the pics up on my computer and flipped the screen around so Bill could see. "Bill who was flying when these pictures were taken" I asked. "Oh that was me" Bill responded in an almost monotone voice and without hesitation.
Well at least this urban legend has been proven true, and the pilot was none other than Bill Hubbard. See the bottom of this post for additional information on the home, and links to recent indoor photos.
While doing research for this blog post I stumbled across this 1991 LA Times article about the construction of the mansion on Paint Mountain. The article identifies the original owner as Dale Rorabaugh an optometrist, inventor, investor and collector who was already a millionaire in his mid-40s.
I also found this page at billionaireaddresses.wordpress that has numerous, recent, high quality photos of the interior and exterior of this home. This website indicates the home is currently on the market for $12 Million and list the square footage as 23,787. This is different from the 32,500 square feet listed in the LA Times article. But the difference is likely interior square feet vs. both interior and exterior living spaces.
Where is Dr Dale Rorabaugh today? His Linkedin profile indicates he may be living in the San Francisco area but he is still involved with invention and product development with the launch of his latest project Cool Invent.