Saturday, September 25, 2004

Bright future for professionals behind the communal garden gate / Homeowners groups in need of managers, lawyers
This is an article by Deborah Rich that just appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. She graciously quoted me:

Looking for a surefire way to make money over the next 10 to 20 years? Try homeowner association litigation. Or if you don't cotton to going back to school and cramming for the bar exam, become a professional property manager instead. No degree or certificate necessary; a business card will get you in the door.

Both lawyers and property managers are certain to be in high demand as the number of Americans living in developments owned and managed by homeowners associations swells.
"Homeowners associations, being private organizations, cannot violate the Constitution, no matter what they do. They can tell you to take down your Christmas decorations, your American flag, whatever," says Evan McKenzie, political science professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, lawyer and author of "Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government'' (Yale University Press, 1995)
"People go to see a new development and say, 'Wow, isn't this beautiful,' " says McKenzie. "They say, 'We have a pool, we have this, we have that, and it's all clean and neat because someone is enforcing all the rules and nobody is going to put a trailer in their front yard. Isn't this wonderful?' And, yeah, it is. And guess what? You have to run it. And the other thing is, isn't it nice that your neighbor's house looks so clean and neat and orderly and uniform. And guess what, yours has to look the same way."


It's a long article, and I think it is interesting and well-written. And this McKenzie fellow sure seems to know what he's talking about.
AP Wire | 09/24/2004 | Governor signs bill aiding buyers in private communities

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO - Prospective buyers eyeing homes in California's 37,000 private communities won new help Friday to get clearer pictures of what they're getting into financially.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, responding to numerous complaints of real estate agents, signed legislation requiring homeowners associations to better explain the true costs of living there.

The California Association of Realtors sponsored the bill, saying too many buyers are complaining of unexpected hikes in their monthly or yearly assessments soon after moving in. The bill makes associations specifically spell out for potential buyers the amounts of monthly dues and precise amounts that dues must rise in years ahead to maintain the community.

...Backers said the bill will help buyers in the private neighborhoods that represent 60 percent of California's new housing determine if they can afford both a mortgage and monthly dues that may rise in years ahead. Most Californians pay between $100 and $200 a month in assessments that maintain streets, buildings and landscaping held in common by all the residents.

...Schwarzenegger also signed legislation expanding the rights of associations and residents to mediate their differences instead of going to court or hiring an arbitrator. The bill, by Assemblyman Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, allows residents to appeal decisions made by their association boards, and says the board cannot refuse to meet with a resident over a dispute.

But the governor still has not taken a position on the year's biggest homeowner association bill, which would ban private communities from foreclosing on members' homes over unpaid debts under $2,500.

Good for the bill's sponsor, John Laird, and also three cheers for the Governator, because this is a good piece of legislation. And now we'll see what he does with the big enchilada--the foreclosure reform bill. He has only until September 30, so we don't have long to wait. CAI is reportedly lobbying him to veto it.
Homes: Protecting homes, protecting people
The role of homeowners associations is changing with society in the early 21st century, and more change is on the way.
By JUDY STARK, Times Staff Writer
Published September 25, 2004


Time was when people thought their condo or homeowners association existed simply to collect the monthly maintenance checks and keep the guy next door from painting his house purple.

But that's changing, a result of demographics and events in society, experts say.

After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, people in master-planned communities said that safety and security were their No. 1 priorities. They didn't want to leave what they believed were the safe confines of their community for the dangerous wider world. They began to look to their associations to provide entertainment and activities, said Randy Jackson, a planner from Costa Mesa, Calif., at last month's Southeast Building Conference in Orlando.

"Formerly, associations were there to enforce the rules. Now, they're there to put on social events," he said.

Let me see if I understand this. After September 11, people decided they needed a homeowner association to coordinate their social lives because they were too frightened of terrorist attacks to go off the HOA property? Yeah, sure. If you say so.

And they keep telling us that the mainstream media have all these layers of oversight and scrutiny to keep pure nonsense from getting in print. Dan Rather, calling Dan Rather...what is the frequency, Kenneth?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 True Ozarks Mosquito-breeding basins annoy residents, officials
Here's an item sent along by Fred Pilot that illustrates what I think will become a regular occurrence: HOAs asking for some sort of help from municipalities to perform functions that were originally given to the developer or the HOA. In this case it is about mosquito abatement. The article explains that the developer created an HOA but it never got going or collected dues. Now there are these nasty little detention ponds on the subdivision property that are home sweet home to zillions of skeeters, and no developer or HOA to fix them.

The city is turning to the courts to address problems with neglected detention basins in Turnberry Estates. But any permanent solution to the development's problem with swarms of mosquitoes bred in the basins remains elusive, and tension between residents and city staff has escalated.
Janell Milton, a Turnberry resident, appeared before the Ozark Board of Aldermen on Monday night, demanding city codes be followed. "For the city to enforce the law, it's every citizen's right," said Milton, who brought in a petition signed by more than half of the 297 households in Turnberry.
But the city faces a harsh reality. The company that developed the subdivision and retains the title over common grounds — Buster-Hayes Properties — no longer exists

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Chicago moving to 'smart' surveillance cameras | CNET
So, what was that all the lefties were saying about John Ashcroft being a threat to civil liberties, and those crazy folks living in gated communities having such an irrational fear of crime? You were saying, Michael Moore? Come on, I can't hear you.

A highly advanced system of video surveillance that Chicago officials plan to install by 2006 will make people here some of the most closely observed in the world. Mayor Richard M. Daley says it will also make them much safer.
Police specialists here can already monitor live footage from about 2,000 surveillance cameras around the city, so the addition of 250 cameras under the mayor's new plan is not a great jump. The way these cameras will be used, however, is an extraordinary technological leap.

Sophisticated new computer programs will immediately alert the police whenever anyone viewed by any of the cameras placed at buildings and other structures considered terrorist targets wanders aimlessly in circles, lingers outside a public building, pulls a car onto the shoulder of a highway, or leaves a package and walks away from it. Images of those people will be highlighted in color at the city's central monitoring station, allowing dispatchers to send police officers to the scene immediately.

Sunday, September 19, 2004 - Ambulances endure rough ride
A dozen speed bumps along Toronto's tony Bridle Path and Post Rd. are delaying critically sick or injured patients from reaching Sunnybrook hospital, say paramedics and residents in the Don Mills area.

Homeowners along the mansion-lined Bridle Path thoroughfare insist the bumps are needed to control traffic and reduce speeding.

For seven years the issue has simmered, but now ambulance, fire and transit officials are lining up with residents' groups in the Don Mills area in a campaign to "dump the bumps." It's a battle that pits concerns over emergency response times for thousands against safety and tranquility in one of the city's most exclusive neighbourhoods.
Bob Rose, former president of the Bayview Heights Residents Association, which represents homeowners in the area of The Bridle Path, says the traffic-calming devices are there to protect children.


How many of you believe the part about "it's for the children"? That has a vaguely Clintonian ring, doesn't it?