Saturday, August 14, 2004

Los Angeles Times: Ledger War at Leisure World
The battle between a determined cadre of Leisure World residents and managers of their Seal Beach retirement community escalated Friday after management lawyers vowed to sue to keep financial records secret.

Seven residents — who are members of the nonprofit foundation that runs Leisure World — went to small-claims court in June to compel the foundation to open its books, saying that because they pay monthly dues, they have the right to inspect the books to see where the money is going.

But in a small courtroom Friday, attorneys for the Golden Rain Foundation said they would preempt the residents' argument and file their own Superior Court lawsuit to keep the books out of the residents' hands.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Russian Alien Spaceship Claims Raise Eyebrows, Skepticism

So...Mulder and Scully were right, all along...

An expedition of Russian researchers claims to have found evidence that an alien spaceship had something to do with a huge explosion over Siberia in 1908. Experts in asteroids and comets have long said the massive blast was caused by a space rock.

The new ET claim is "a rather stupid hoax," one scientist said today. And it's one with a rich history.

The latest claim was written up by news wires and was making the Internet rounds Thursday morning. According to Agence France Presse, the scientists say they've found "an extra-terrestrial device" that explains "one of the 20th Century's biggest scientific mysteries," a catastrophe that flattened some 800 square miles of Siberian forest in a region called Tunguska.

What does this have to do with HOAs, you ask? It's all related. You'll see how in the last episode.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Yahoo! News - Living in the clouds
Here is a wonderfully literary article sent my way by Fred Pilot. It is from the San Diego Daily Transcript, the legal newspaper for SD. Note the use of metaphor, imagery, and other things that tell you somebody with a background in English lit wrote it. Not your typical J-school grad, I'll wager.

Hundreds of condominium owners in San Diego own something nobody can see because it isn't really there. It's a fictional cloud in the sky designated as the common area.

The cube of airspace is located 50 feet from the ground above the property. Some people define it as a prism of air, others, a cone or a disk. The cloud is one foot thick and covers the entire property. Cloud condo owners have a shared interest in the airspace and are responsible for its maintenance.

[more--a lot more]

Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - Zombie movie filming at Chernobyl - Aug 10, 2004

Some places are gated communities but don't need to be. Then there are the places that aren't gated, but should be. Exhibit A: Chernobyl, soon to be the set for "Return of the Living Dead IV--Necropolis." Let's take a vote on whether "Necropolis" is a good or bad name for a gated community.

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine (Hollywood Reporter) -- You might have thought that Chernobyl was off-limits, closed to the outside world behind a rigidly patrolled exclusion zone since reactor No. 4 went into catastrophic meltdown April 26, 1986, spewing radiation to the four winds.

Not a bit of it. The reactor's deadly core was buried in a concrete and steel sarcophagus, but the adjoining reactors carried on producing electricity until they were finally decommissioned a couple of years ago.
Now, for the first time, a Hollywood feature film -- the zombie movie "Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis" -- has gained access to the infamous site.
The zombie-free Chernobyl scenes are for the opening, in which a rogue ex-CIA agent is seen stealing the world's last five canisters of Trioxyn gas, the lifeblood of the living dead.

"Chernobyl is very spooky and serves our purpose -- we are shooting in all these abandoned towns and villages, with rusting equipment lying around everywhere," Fradis says.


Yes, I'll just be there are lots of abandoned towns and villages around Chernobyl. What, I wonder, is the going rate for acting in a movie being filmed at the location of a major nuclear accident? How desperate for work can you get?

Monday, August 09, 2004

Bombshell from the California Law Revision Commission?

This report lays out the framework for a state agency to oversee common interest developments in California. Whammo. It's just a conceptual paper, but recommendations from the CLRC are taken pretty seriously. With foreclosure reform actually on the doorstep, could state oversight be next? -- Business -- Opening the door to starter condos
Nobody can beat developers at coming up with euphemisms. Condo conversions are now "adaptive reuse." How sustainably diverse of them.

Sacramento developers often complain that sharp increases in land and construction costs have made it nearly impossible to build homes affordable to families of modest means.
For one local real estate investor, the Nehemiah Sacramento Valley Fund, the solution is to avoid the cost of new construction altogether.

The fund has invested nearly $4 million to help a developer buy and renovate a 20-year-old North Highlands apartment complex, where all 116 units will be resold as condos.
Plans call for the one-, two-and three-bedroom units to sell for $139,000 to $157,000. That's in line with Sacramento County's median price of $155,000 for resale condos and well below the $238,000 median for new condos. For all homes, the median is $305,000.

"With the increase in prices of land, building materials and labor costs - as well as the lack of government subsidies available - it's much less expensive and much quicker to get affordable units on the market by doing an adaptive reuse (converting apartments to condos)," said Peggy Jones, director of community development at the Sacramento-based Nehemiah Corporation of America, which created the fund.

Deadly condo dispute fuels mediation push
Yours truly is quoted in this story by crime reporter Frank Main, concerning the way condo/hoa disputes can lead to violence in the absence of some sort of intervention:

When Rita A. Hohmeier was shot to death last month in a condominium dispute in west suburban Franklin Park, the news hit home Downstate.

Monica Sadler -- a Knox County woman who says she's racked up more than $750,000 in legal bills fighting her homeowners association -- was horrified. Yet she understood the frustration of alleged killer Zdzislaw "Wally" Kuchlewski.

Washington's Road to Outward Growth (
Thanks to Daniel Bliss for passing along this link. Here we see Southern California-style long-distance commuting taking hold in the DC area. How many metro areas will develop like this?

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- The vast new home development under construction here lies so far beyond the last ring of Washington suburbia that even rival developers marvel at its audacity.

The 3,200-home Huntfield community has been laid out according to neo-traditional town planning principles and designed with nostalgic American home architecture. It boasts front porches, lots of parks and an obelisk at the entrance. New four-bedroom homes sell for about $270,000 -- at least $150,000 less than the cost of a similar house closer to Washington.

But the real-life price for the vast majority of residents is a daily commute that takes about an hour or more. The subdivision of super-commuters sits across the Blue Ridge Mountains and more than 25 miles from the nearest job center, in Leesburg, and even farther from offices in Reston, Tysons Corner and Washington.

AP Wire | 08/07/2004 | Foreclosure ban would make California first among Sun Belt states


Associated Press

SACRAMENTO - If California bans the majority of its homeowner association foreclosures, it will become the great exception among major Sun Belt states where private communities thrive.

Like California today, associations in Florida, Texas, Arizona and Nevada all have authority to ultimately collect their members' unpaid assessments by selling their homes. Combined, the five states represent much of the nation's development and more than half its supply of association-governed housing.

In Virginia, where nearly all housing in new suburbs outside Washington, D.C., are in associations, nonjudicial foreclosure - actions taken without a judge's oversight - are also the norm. This year, the Legislature tightened the rules, giving homeowners more notice of a potential sale and requiring independent trustees to conduct it.

But the rest of the United States remains a mixed scene of varying laws and approaches.

Another excellent Jim Wasserman story, this one showing the variety of approaches to foreclosure over unpaid assessments. There is one method he doesn't mention. Here in Illinois we use forcible detainer. In other words, the condo owner is treated like a tenant who hasn't paid the rent. The condo association takes you to eviction court and can throw you out of your own home if you don't pay. But you still retain ownership. Strange, but true.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

SB 1682 Senate Bill - Bill Analysis
Looks like California is about to enact major foreclosure reform. Here's a status report on the Senate version of it, and this one has a good summary of the state of affairs.