Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Long-Distance Picketing: Wave of the Future?
Grocery Workers Protest at Home of Safeway CEO--sort of. Unfortunately for them, he lives in a gated community

Wed Jan 28, 4:01 PM ET

Ann Notarangelo

Hundreds of grocery store workers marched on the Alamo estate of Safeway's CEO Wednesday

Some religious leaders from Southern California joined the group in asking for Steve Burd to end a bitter strike in Southern California.

The marchers were stopped about a half-mile from the gates to Burd's home, but later, a delegation of five clergy members were allowed to deliver messages from the union members and their supporters.

Full story here
Thanks to the redoubtable Fred Pilot for the tip to this story. Police, process servers, picketers, presidential candidates...nobody can get into these places. The mighty waves of democracy are crashing into vapor on the gates of private communities--is that about the size of it? There is a French Revolution smell to this whole thing. I wonder what the name of this place is...Thermidor Acres? Robespierre Place? Girondin Gardens?

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Are local government perennially endangered?
The last quarter century has given us the end of the Great Society programs with their emphasis on federal aid to cities; the property tax revolt that clamped down on the ability of municipalities to jack up property taxes whenever they felt the need; the rise of homeowner associations and other forms of privatized local government alternatives; and a tremendous increase in hiring and spending by local governments. With slashed revenue sources and competition from the private sector, local government as a sector grew like crazy anyway. And all this amid predictions of doom and gloom from pundits like me.

Remember that movie Halloween where the monster keeps gets "killed" but every time, no matter what happens to him, a few minutes later he suddenly sits bolt upright while Jamie Lee Curtis is finally calling the police like she should have done about five minutes into the film?

Now, I'll grant you that some municipalities are indeed in sorry shape. There are some inner-ring Chicago suburbs--Harvey, for example--that are in desperate condition. Crime, no tax base, horrible schools, property values through the floor. I don't know what will become of places like that. But it is surprising how many inner ring suburbs have found some way to make it all work. Maybe they find a way to take advantage of their location, architecture, famous former inhabitants, a natural disaster, some part of the natural environment, a lawsuit--there are many ways.

And even if you can't do any of that, if you can just attract new common interest housing, then you can impose major concessions on the developer ("Build us a new high school!"), followed by impact fees and double taxation of the new HOA residents. And then, Bob's your is good.

Gilbert, AZ, mandating HOAs
Thanks to the Yahoo group "hoanet" for some excellent work on developing the facts on the most important trend in the rise of residential private government: the increasingly common practice of cities requiring developers to create HOAs in new housing as the price of building in lucrative high-density PUD zones. This practice eliminates choice in the new housing market and conscripts people into HOAs whether they want them or not, and then forever after they are told by the courts that they chose HOA living of their own free will.
So...check out Gilbert, AZ, where you can read the Public Review Draft of Article 3.104 B-9 of its Unified Land Development Code. The section provides that, for developers who want to build in the planned development areas where higher density is permitted,
"The Planning Commission may recommend, and the Town Council may impose, conditions of approval including, but not limited to, the following matters:...9. Requirements for establishment of homeowners or property owners associations or other mechanisms to assure continued maintenance of landscape areas, trails, open spaces, shared parking and access areas, homeowners association facilities, fences.."

Now, this is what is being done in other parts of the nation, including right here in Chicago. Builders want to develop in the most desirable and profitable areas where higher density is permitted. Cities require them to create HOAs as a condition of entry into these areas. Why? Because the HOA does the city government's job in large part, and the city collects the same amount of tax dollars from the new owners without having to build the infrastructure or provide services. Pretty sweet, isn't it? In short, HOAs are a cash cow for local government. But then when the owners start complaining about loss of basic liberties and foreclosure, and other problems, the city suddenly becomes deaf. Solving the problems is somebody else's job--like, well...the court system, paid for by the state.
How long will this be allowed to continue?

Read the code for yourself right here.
Oh, and I read elsewhere that the house referred to in the story below, that was sold at foreclosure auction for $70,000, was recently appraised at $280,000. I can't confirm this, but that doesn't seem high for California.
Couple lose their home over $120 debt--state legislator promises bill to strip HOAs of foreclosure power
By Michael Kolber -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 a.m. PST Saturday, January 24, 2004
COPPEROPOLIS -- A retired couple's dispute with their homeowners association has spiraled out of control in this Calaveras County community -- and now they have lost their home less than a year after failing to pay $120 in annual dues.
Anita Radcliff, who owns the home with her husband, Thomas, said she had little hope of winning back the house, which the association's collection firm sold at a foreclosure auction in December for $70,000....Their case is a reminder that associations have the power to foreclose for past-due bills, regardless of the amount. State Sen. Rico Oller, R-San Andreas, said Thursday that he plans to author legislation this year that would take away the rights of associations to foreclose.
"It was $120, and they're going to take away his house. That should never happen in America," Oller said. "This is a case of an association exercising what is arguably their right, but in a totally unreasonable and extreme way."
Read the whole thing here.
California Law Revision Commission receives comments on its recommendations for architectural review procedures
The Commission grinds onward with sixteen pages of comments it has received from three people on its recommendation that existing California case law on architectural review should be codified--meaning, written into statutory law. The subtance of the law would say that architectural review decisions (request by owners to alter or add to their separate unit or interest) should be "made in good faith, pursuant to a fair and reasonable procedure, and that the decision not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious." Decisions would have to be put in writing, and if denied, the owner would have a "right of reconsideration by the board of directors" who denied the original request.
You can read the whole thing here.
Florida Legislature Select Committee Recommendations
From: Florida House of Representatives--
Representative Julio Robaina,
District 117:
First Report And Recommendations By Chairman Julio Robaina,
--Some of the highlights of the recommendations:
--“Buyer Beware,” requiring a new Question and Answer sheet to be given to the potential buyer at the time of contract and again at the closing
--Background checks for potential board members
--conflict of interest reforms
--Issues voted on by board members that create a fiscal impact or hardship for the owner, must be approved and voted on under a special election by the majority of the unit owners
Full Report here.