Friday, April 30, 2004 Life | Out of the closet and behind the gate
"The first gated community marketed at gays and lesbians is under construction in a small Florida town. Will it be a queer utopia -- or one more sign of the fragmentation of America?"

You may recall that the Public Policy Institute of California's recently published study about HOAs and gated communities concluded that this fragmentation was not taking place. They used quantitative methods and good data sources. But it is very hard to pick up the kind of fine-grained fragmentation that developers can create with HOAs. I don't know whether this gated community is being marketed as the Slate article says, but if it is, (and how about calling this niche the "gayted" community?) you'd never identify it using normal social science methodology.
Judge threatens to name receiver for embattled HOA
WEST PALM BEACH -- An irate judge Wednesday threatened to appoint a receiver to oversee a bitterly divided neighborhood, a rare move that could cost the community's homeowners thousands of dollars. "I'm tired of getting letters from people saying their homeowners association is falling apart," Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Tom Barkdull snapped at a court hearing. "These people need a definitive answer as to who's running the homeowners association."The dispute at Lake Charleston, a 10,000-resident community west of Boynton Beach, has given rise to two governing boards, with the current board annulling the decisions of its predecessor.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for passing this along. Here we have one of the failure scenarios I have been warning people about for years: implosion of HOAs under the pressure of internal conflict over governance issues. Read it and ask yourself what it would look like if there were many more such situations.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Anti-Privatisation Forum
Who knew there was such a thing? And in South Africa. I'm still trying to figure out what they are for, but I guess we know what they are against.
SB 1682 Senate Bill - AMENDED
Would reform foreclosure for unpaid assessments. I need to read this more closely but it looks like something that could conceivably pass.
AB 2610 Assembly Bill - Bill Analysis
This bill would fix the Le Parc and Oak Park Calabasas situation of bottomless pit liability for owners. It allows the association to re-incorporate without carrying the previous organization's liabilities. What I have linked has the text plus full explanation.
Wales - Sickles and galactic credits confuse many
TWO in five people think "sickles" - the money used in the Harry Potter adventures - is a real foreign currency, it was revealed yesterday. And around 25% reckon that "credits" - the currency in Star Wars - is genuine money used overseas, the survey from the Post Office found.

Some people think we should privatize money, on the theory that if you and I think are among the 40% and 25%, respetively, who think that sickles and galactic credits (or whatever) are valuable, why shouldn't we be able to use them as a medium of exchange?

But I'm sticking with dollars and cents.
BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | South East Wales | Wasp smoke-out sets house ablaze
The perils of do-it-yourself pest removal...and talk about adding insult to injury: the wasps stayed even after the house burned.

It is thought the woman had lit a small fire outside the house to smoke out the wasps but timbers caught, spreading the flames to the roof... Although the house was filled with smoke, the wasps remained in their nest until pest control officers were called to remove them.

Drowning detection, pool surveillance with Poseidon
This is from an advertisement:

Poseidon is the lifeguard's third eye that never blinks. It uses advanced computer vision technology to analyze activity in the pool, captured by a network of cameras mounted both above and below the surface of the pool. Poseidon helps lifeguards monitor swimmers' trajectories, and can alert them in seconds to a swimmer in trouble...The Poseidon System will soon feature an optional “After Hours Intrusion” mode. Designed to detect the presence of one or more swimmers, the alarm can be configured to sound locally, at a police station or other security monitoring station.

If such a technology exists, is there a duty to install it if the HOA can afford it, as in a big and well-funded place with no lifeguard on duty? And how would people feel knowing that they are being watched from below as they swim, by a "third eye that never blinks"?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

March 2004 Median Home Prices in California
This comes from the California Association of Realtors and is broken down by municipality. Unbelievable. Areas that were all middle class suburbs in the post WWII era are now out of sight except for the rich. In LA County, here are some samples. Pasadena: $468,000. Monrovia: $424,000. Gardena: $328,000 (Gardena?)

All of San Diego County rings in at a median of $420,000, and even National City has a median housing price of $327,500! No offense to residents of same, but...National City? It's basically a big shipyard, and historically one of the least desirable places to live in the area.

Every municipality in Orange County is over $300K, and the median county-wide is $478,000.

Perhaps you prefer the SF bay area. Like Marin County? How about a little pied a terre in, oh, say, modestly priced Novato for about $578,750?

How can people afford to live in California? Maybe they can't. The only prices that correspond to middle class salaries are in the desert, 70 miles plus from any urban center: Apple Valley, $170,000; San Bernardino, $157,000, and so on.

But there is a silver lining. As the accompanying press release notes, prices went up 22%, and sales were up 4%, from March 2003 to March 2004. So I guess people figure they will buy an expensive house for an investment, and what the heck, you can't buy anything that's really affordable anyway. : Florida Town to Use Surveillance Cameras--Florida Town Will Soon Have Cameras and Computers Running Background Checks on Every Car and Driver

Hyper-security: It's not just for gated communities anymore.---as evidenced by Manalapan, Florida:
One of the nation's wealthiest towns will soon have cameras and computers running background checks on every car and driver that passes through. Police Chief Clay Walker said cameras will take infrared photos recording a car's tag number, then software will automatically run the numbers through law enforcement databases. A 911 dispatcher is alerted if the car is stolen or is the subject of a "be on the lookout" warning...Next to the tag number, police will have a picture of the driver, taken with another set of cameras upgraded versions of the standard surveillance cameras already in place.

Makes for interesting reading. Check it out.

Minutes from April 15 meeting of CLRC
The California Law Revision Commission minutes from their latest meeting are up. There are some reports on the status of proposed legislation on financial privacy, unincorporated associations, dispute resolution, state oversight, and owner liability for torts of the association.

Monday, April 26, 2004

The Onion | America's Finest News Source?: Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department
CHEYENNE, WY--After attempting to contain a living-room blaze started by a cigarette, card-carrying Libertarian Trent Jacobs reluctantly called the Cheyenne Fire Department Monday. 'Although the community would do better to rely on an efficient, free-market fire-fighting service, the fact is that expensive, unnecessary public fire departments do exist,' Jacobs said. 'Also, my house was burning down.' Jacobs did not offer to pay firefighters for their service.
I love it. Free market humor. Now two cougars reported in Lake County
This just keeps getting better all the time.
My Way News: New Home Sales Rise 8.9% in March

Sales of new homes surged by 8.9 percent in March, the largest monthly increase in nine months, as mortgage rates bottomed out for the year before a recent, steady ascent. The increase pushed sales of new, single family houses to a record seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.228 million last month. That was up from 1.128 in February, the Commerce Department reported Monday.The monthly increase of 8.9 percent was the highest since June 2003. By region, new home sales soared by 19.3 percent in the South, hitting a record rate of 613,000. But in the Northeast, sales plummeted by 24.3 percent to a rate of 78,000. The West posted an increase of 5.1 percent to a pace of 349,000, and in the Midwest, sales rose by 5 percent to a pace of 188,000.

Wow--an annual rate of over 1.2 million new homes. The boom in new housing continues, and remember that the lion's share of these new homes are in common interest developments. Because the new housing stock is so heavily loaded with CIDs, low interest rates are tantamount to federal promotion of more CID housing, albeit unintentionally.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Diaperless Babies Seen As Earth-Friendly Solution -- 04/22/2004
"There is a way to have a baby and NOT use diapers," says one website advocating diaperless babies. Parents are urged to get in tune with their infant's body signals and hold babies over toilets, buckets and shrubbery or any other convenient receptacle when nature calls.

No, thank you. Please go away. Live in a forest and let your kids poop outdoors if you like, but you are herewith banished from public discourse for life. I have put this to a vote. Isabel, age 6, says, "That's crazy." Conor, age 6, says, "It's insane."
County hires cougar ace
OK, now this is more like it. Privatization in action--government contracts out the service to a professional. No point in having the Health Department employees try to do something they can't. Especially when they could get eaten.

A Fox Lake man with dogs that are used to track large game in Wisconsin has been hired by the Lake County Health Department to be on call in case authorities receive a bona fide cougar sighting... Wayne Russell has used his dogs to track bobcats, wild boar, bears and raccoons in Wisconsin. The Health Department said his dogs are able to track a scent as old as 12 hours depending on the conditions. "Our goal is to trap the cougar, but we'd like to avoid killing it if at all possible," said Dale Galassie, executive director of the Health Department. The plan is to have the dogs run the cougar up a tree, which is what would happen in a real hunt, and then an animal control officer would tranquilize it, using a dart gun. The animal then would be tranported to a Wisconsin sanctuary for cougars.

But don't tell the cougar. This won't work unless it's a surprise.
Quebec man dies after he forgets health card and is forced to return home
Advocates of the single-payer approach are fond of pointing out incidents like this when they happen in the US, which they don't much anymore. Now here's one in the land of single-payer bliss. Go figure.
Arizona: Landowners thirst for fair play by HOA

Thanks to Fred Pilot for telling me where to find this story. There's a controversy playing out in AZ now over the announcement (I haven't seen it, but people are claiming it happened) that an attorney who was involved in a water dispute involving an HOA will now be running for city council. Seems that the HOA he represented shut off the water supply to some homes where the residents therein said they didn't belong to the HOA, but the HOA said they did. Here is a link to an article about the water dispute from May 25. HOA activists may be organizing opposition to his campaign.

It was, they thought, paradise. Until the letter arrived from attorney Augustus H. Shaw IV, who noted that there is "some uncertainty regarding whether you are a member of the Association." After laying out all the benefits of joining, Shaw dropped the bomb: "Please be aware that if you choose not to join the Association or it is determined that you are not a Member of the Association, you will not be entitled to the privilege of receiving Association provided water service." Three months later, on a 106-degree September day, the Saguaro View Homeowners Association cut off not only the Baynes' water but also that of their neighbor, a man whose family was living on the land long before Saguaro View ever devised a single covenant, condition or restriction.

Arizona in the summer? 106 degrees Fahrenheit? No water? That's serious business. There have been a few of these cases where an HOA essentially drafted people into the development and required them to pay assessments and obey rules. These are difficult disputes to compromise, particulary if the owners say they have never been in any association but the newly-drawn property lines somehow include them, and the association is delivering some sevice--in this case, water--to the homes in question. As for the lawyer, it will be interesting to see if the HOA activists are able to influence the vote.