Rancho Santa Fe is an unincorporated census-designated place in San Diego County, California, United States. The population was 3,252 at the 2000 census. It is the highest income community in the United States with at least 3,000 households.
Rancho Santa Fe has strict design restrictions. Many streets outside of the downtown area are lined with landscaping; on side streets the landscaping of individual properties provides ambient decor. Very few homes are visible from the road.
The downtown is centered around the intersection of Linea del Cielo/Paseo Delicias and La Granada/Via de Santa Fe. It is the site of offices of financial firms, restaurants, and small stores. A library and a school are also located here. Outside of this area, Rancho Santa Fe is exclusively residential except for a number of golf courses and country clubs.
Rancho Santa Fe has its origins as Rancho San Dieguito, a Mexican land grant made during 1836–1845 to Juan María Marrón (the first mayor or alcalde of the San Diego area). In 1906 it was sold to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company, which renamed it after the second transcontinental railroad to reach California. The Railway planted extensive groves of eucalyptus trees in the hope of having a near-inexhaustible supply of raw material for the railway ties they needed to expand in the Western American market. Eucalyptus wood, however, proved too soft, splitting when the spikes were hammered into it. One Sydney Nelson, about whom little else is known, helped finance the purchase of the ten square mile plot, as well as the construction of a golf course (today the main course of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club). Nelson also drew up rudimentary community plans.
Rancho Santa Fe gained popularity between World War I and World War II, finding special focus following the construction of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Bing Crosby is credited as an "early settler", hosting annual clambakes on the golf course at the Club. The present-day luxury tract home development "The Crosby Estates" stands on the site of his former estate.