Saturday, May 21, 2005

Janice Rogers Brown
I have received a couple of forwarded posts about Janice Rogers Brown, the California Supreme Court Justice who has been nominated by President Bush to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but who has been filibustered by Senate Democrats. The Democrats, in support of their claim that she is "out of the mainstream" [I can't find that language in my copy of the Constitution for some reason], cite one decision. Here's some typical opposition language from the web site of People for the American Way. It is a quote from her dissent in the San Remo Hotel v. City and County of San Francisco case, followed by PFAW's characterization of the majority's ruling:

[P]rivate property, already an endangered species in California, is now entirely extinct in San Francisco…I would find the HCO [San Francisco Residential Hotel Unit Conversion and Demolition Ordinance] preempted by the Ellis Act and facially unconstitutional. …Theft is theft even when the government approves of the thievery. Turning a democracy into a kleptocracy does not enhance the stature of the thieves; it only diminishes the legitimacy of the government. …The right to express one’s individuality and essential human dignity through the free use of property is just as important as the right to do so through speech, the press, or the free exercise of religion. [Dissenting opinion in San Remo Hotel L.P. v. City and County of San Francisco, 41 P.3d 87, 120, 128-9 (Cal. 2002)(upholding San Francisco ordinance calling on hotel owners seeking permission to eliminate residential units and convert to tourist hotels help replace lost rental units for low income, elderly, and disabled persons)][

The claim that she is an extremist seems to be based on her outspoken libertarian sentiments. Now, which way does that cut if you are an HOA unit owner? Does she come down for individuals to use their own property as they see fit, despite what their privatized local governments says, or (as I suspect) does she support the rights of the developer to create any rules he or she wants, and the rights of the purchasers to be forever bound by them if they make the "free" choice to buy an HOA unit? Libertarians seem to be coming down in favor of HOAs as private governments. At least, the ones I know do.
Loose chickens subject neighborhood to fowl play
That's what you get for moving into a neighborhood called "Barnside." From Fred Pilot:
The Barnside neighborhood in Columbia is living up to its name. Since March, Barnside residents and police have been frantically trying to track down nearly 20 chickens and roosters who have run amuck in the community - clucking, crowing and waking residents up in the early morning hours. "They wake people up at 5 in the morning," said Gerrie Bischoff, the president of the Barnside Condominium Association, which is located near Howard Community College in the heart of Columbia. "We had one man come into our meeting demanding to know who was raising chickens."

County Commission hears complaints about loose dogs--
Fred Pilot says the commissioner's suggestion is "ascanine."

Eastern District Commissioner Bill Farnham suggested to Eversole that the residents in the neighborhood form a homeowners association, by which they could form a board and make rules dealing with dogs in the neighborhood.

Condominiums: they aren't just for Americans anymore...
Nancy Levy forwarded this. From the Saskatchewan area in the land of Eh, you hoser:
Residents of Bridger Drive will have to wait until the new mayor is elected to find out if a condo unit will be built in their area. A three storey condominium has been proposed by Remai Construction Group to Town Council. Remai would like to build an 18 unit condominium on 1 and 2 Bridger Drive. Some of the residents on Bridger Drive are upset by the potential neighbourhood addition. They say they did not expect high-density housing to be built in the area.
245 townhouses OK'd off PGA Boulevard
What's wrong with this picture? Even some board members say they don't like these townhouses, but the board approves them anyway. From Fred Pilot forwarding something Nancy Levy found:

PALM BEACH GARDENS — City Councilman David Levy wouldn't want to live in one. Councilwoman Jody Barnett doesn't like them either. But a majority of city council members agreed Thursday night that 245 Abacoa-style townhouses should be built near PGA and Central boulevards. The development of two- and three-story townhomes, called Southampton, won initial approval from three of four council members, despite concerns that its "traditional neighborhood" style won't fit in with nearby communities. Protest stalls bill to raise condo taxes
Nancy Levy sent this, which follows up on an issue I posted something on a few days ago:

ALBANY - State lawmakers who proposed a bill designed to tax some house-style condominiums at the same rate as traditional houses retreated this week after facing a groundswell of opposition from Long Island and Rockland County residents. Senate and Assembly companion bills that critics say would have as much as tripled taxes for some condo owners have scant chance of advancing before the legislative session ends on June 23.
Homeowners divided
Here's a story about some sub-associations seeking their independence from the central authority. Reminds me of 1776. Nobody in the picture looks much like Mel Gibson, though. (From Fred Pilot via Nancy Levy)
Bill offers framework for disputes
From Fred Pilot by way of Patrick's HOA seems the Garden State may be adopting the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act (UCIOA), but it would still have to pass the state senate and be signed by the governor:

Legislation passed this week by the Assembly would codify the way homeowners' associations, including Kings Grant in Evesham, operate. The bill, which is modeled on legislation passed in 16 states, would establish uniform rules for the homeowners' associations of communities like condominiums, townhouses, co-ops, lake associations and time shares.

High interest in interest-only home loans / POPULAR BUT DANGEROUS: If home prices flatten, borrowers could lose
Fred Pilot sent this. Astronomical housing prices have people stretched to the breaking to afford it? Interest-only loans, usually variable rate, that are extemely risky:

Two out of three Bay Area home buyers are choosing interest-only loans, and some experts warn that the popularity of the controversial form of mortgage debt is a sign that the overheated housing market is boiling over. These loans, which allow borrowers to avoid paying any principal for three years or more, have grown explosively in recent years to become the favored mortgage for buyers in the region, replacing the standby 30-year mortgage preferred a generation ago. They accounted for nearly 70 percent of home purchases in the first two months of the year in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties, up from 18 percent in 2002 and 59 percent in 2004, according to data compiled for The Chronicle by San Francisco mortgage research firm LoanPerformance, a unit of title giant First American Corp... But housing experts warn that these loans are loaded with risk. Borrowers who put down small or no down payments and who do not elect to pay principal rely almost exclusively on price appreciation to build equity. If home prices flatten or fall, borrowers could end up owing more than the home is worth.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Head's up: Bill would ban soccer headers

I may need to create a special section for "Municipal Ordinances That Are So Supremely Idiotic They Rival HOA Restrictions." It seems that a man who suffered a brain injury by falling down the stairs when he was two... asking lawmakers to stop a potentially damaging practice among K-12 students: "headers," or when soccer players hit balls with their heads. "Brain injury or a concussion can change a soccer player's life if all soccer players uses his or her head as a battering ram," Edwards, 54, told the Legislature's joint Education Committee yesterday. Public and private school students also would be required to wear helmets during soccer matches under a bill Edwards crafted.

Six Flags reserves right to kick out sex offenders
Here we have another example (see below) of private property-based exclusions of undesirables.

CHICAGO - Six Flags is warning convicted sex offenders that they're not welcome. The amusement park has added a message to its season passes stating that it can refuse entry to anyone convicted of a sex crime. Six Flags doesn't actually plan to run background checks on everyone who enters its 30 theme parks. However, visitors seen acting inappropriately could be subjected to a check and thrown out. A Six Flags spokeswoman says the warning was added on the advice of the company's attorneys. A ride operator was sentenced to prison in 2000 for molesting three girls. The company has paid nearly $1.5 million to two of the victims.
Caveman shopper hoax: off-topic, but too funny not to post
STAFF at the British Museum have been left with red faces after discovering a hoax exhibit on display: a cave painting of a primitive man - pushing a supermarket trolley [that would be a shopping cart on this side of the Atlantic]. The "rock painting", titled Early Man Goes to Market, depicts the outline of a spear-wielding caveman next to the outline of a pig, with the man pushing a trolley. The painting was planted by anonymous "art terrorist" Banksy, whose work failed to raise eyebrows at one of London's most famous museums.

BBC NEWS | England | Kent | Visitor rise at 'hoodie' ban mall
See the things you can do with private property that you can't do by municipal regulation? Note that they did this after conducting a survey.

Bluewater shopping centre enjoyed a sharp rise in visitor numbers on the first weekend since it banned youths wearing hooded tops and baseball caps.
Some 23% more people visited the Kent mall last weekend than during the same weekend in 2004, the centre claims. Managers introduced a code of conduct on 11 May aimed at clamping down on anti-social behaviour at the complex. It also outlawed swearing. Prime Minister Tony Blair later expressed support for the move.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Better Days in Druid Woods
Way back in March 2004 I blogged about an article called Bad Day in Druid Woods, concerning a Georgia development where the owners were hit with a $7650 special assessment. I just had this message from Dr. Samuel Fernandez-Carriba, who lives in Druid Woods, who has permitted me to post his observations on how things have turned around there. Thanks to Dr. Fernandez-Carriba for the update.

Dear Dr. McKenzie,
I wanted to contact you regarding the article "Bad day in
Druid Woods" posted in The Privatopia Papers last March 2004. I am a
resident and recent Board member at Druid Woods Condominiums in Decatur,
Georgia, and I thought you might be interested in the turn of events that has
taken place at Druid Woods in the past year. I was probably one of the angriest
homeowners one year ago and now I can only be proud and impressed by what
can be done when people work together. We all, including members of the
different Committees, Board Members, etc., all volunteers, have
definitely made of this a better place. A new social committee was created
and it has been extremely active organizing social events for all the
residents: we had a Luau only one month ago that was a complete success. The
old newsletter was reactivated (find attached the most recent edition) and a
web site ( is under construction. Several
landscaping projects have made the property look even better. An Open House
event will take place this Saturday, May 21, to promote the Real Estate
market within the community. And probably more important than all, a reserve
study has been conducted that lists present and future improvement needs,
which will allow us to be ready for what will have to be done. We expect
the future to be better, and we have learned that the best way for a
community to reduce conflict in the face of difficulties is with openness and
communication. Dr. McKenzie, we are having a really "good day in Druid

Samuel Fernández-Carriba, Ph.D. - Debate Pits Private Property Against Powers of the State
Nancy Levy sends this free Wall Street Journal piece on the pending USSC case of Kelo v. City of New London, which I have blogged about earlier. The issue is the meaning of the term "for public use" in the Fifth Amendment Takings clause ("nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation"). Specifically can a city use eminent domain to take private property for the stated "public use" of economic development, and then simply sell or lease it to other private owners who will develop it as a mall, condos, or some other use that is deemed more beneficial than its current use as an old, established, residential neighborhood? The case has been argued and a decision should be coming soon. Some of the briefs are on line. This article is a debate between economist Don Boudreaux and Harvard Law professor David Barron, who I happen to know. Thanks to Nancy for sending this, because it is very informative.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Telegraph | News | Woman kept 246 dogs, 16 cage birds and 7 cats in her home
I have to admit, here is one place where an HOA would be handy.
Trafford Publishing: The Texas Homestead Hoax
A new book, one that I have not read. Fred Pilot forwards the link to this announcement of Harvella Jones' opus:

Step into the shoes of a black woman while she takes you through a legal hellhole that has lasted more than thirteen years. The Odyssey began in 1988 when she moved to Kingwood, Texas, approximately 23 miles from Houston. What started as a fairy tale ended up as a realty nightmare, having unknowingly bought into a planned community with foreclosable maintenance fees, her family and she had no idea what was ahead. At closing, she thought they had protected their property. Find out how Texas' dirty little secret began and how the judges, Community Associations Institute (CAI) attorneys, constable and even HUD are involved in the cover-up in this cottage industry; and it is just not in Texas. The author, Harvella Jones, President of The Texas Homeowner's Advocate Group, co-founded with her husband Johnnie, in 1996, will give you a bird's eye view of what it was like to lose her homestead after a five-year intense battle to save it and fight to save her mind as well as her life after stress threatened to take both...

368 pages; Perfect bound; catalogue #04-2266; ISBN 1-4120-4458-8; US$27.95, C$35.00, EUR22.75, £15.77

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Shady cash fattens towns' coffers along drug routes
On the municipal finance front, here's a creative alternative to forcing developers to build private communities so you can tax new residents like crazy while making them pay again to their HOA for the municipal services you aren't giving them:

HOGANSVILLE, Ga. — For years, this small town nestled in the pine forests off Interstate 85 has struggled to keep its police department financially afloat. But the town is riding high these days on a $2.4 million windfall, thanks to drug dealers who happened to be passing through. A police officer, aided by a drug-sniffing German shepherd named Bella, parks his cruiser on the side of the expressway three or four days a week, looking for any vehicle that seems suspicious — a broken taillight, an expired license plate or simply a car that changes lanes excessively. That is all it takes to pull over someone who might be a drug courier. If the officer is lucky, he confiscates not only drugs but bundles of money.

The Holy Grail: Scene 8
The link immediately below reminded me of the following exchange:

If you will not show us the Grail, we shall take your castle by force!
You don't frighten us, English pig-dogs! Go and boil your bottom, sons of a silly person. I blow my nose at you, so-called Arthur King, you and all your silly English k-nnnnniggets. Thpppppt! Thppt! Thppt!
What a strange person.
Battle of stucco and stone: Neighbors fighting resident's plan for `medieval castle' of a house
What ho, thou varlet! Let not thy castle spring up in our fair village! (From Sir Fred De Pilot, and also forwarded to me by Beth Young)

In the suburban empire of Ashbury Park, Larry Gies is pushing hard to prove a man's home is his castle -- and much of the kingdom is not amused. Gies, a 62-year-old business owner, wants to renovate his two-story home on Osman Avenue. And Gies has a whole new look in mind for his pale stucco home -- something that breaks from the Conway neighborhood's muted palette of eggshell, off-white and dusty peach. He wants to cover the house in a tannish stone fa├žade; a look that some neighbors say would be fine for a Connecticut farmhouse. But here, they say, the renovation would stick out like an El Camino up on blocks. "I call it the 'medieval castle,' " said Christine Williams, who lives around the corner from Gies. "I think it'll be completely out of place in the neighborhood." The community's architectural review committee and its homeowners association agreed. They rejected Gies' request, saying the stone facing would be too radical of a departure from the rest of the neighborhood.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Las Vegas SUN: HOA threatens fines over battery-operated toy
Fred Pilot says, "more bad press for CIDS." Yes. How trivial can you get?

Little Benjamin Firestone likely does not know the trouble he caused by riding his Fisher-Price Power Wheels in front of his home. Neighbors objected to the noise and liability. The Spanish Springs homeowners association sent the Firestones warning letters that threatened fines.

Through the city at nearly the speed of light
In case you were wondering what it would be like...
Pocono Record Top Story: Homeowners to review latest legal twists
Sure is a lot of news from the Poconos recently. This one was sent by Fred Pilot:

STROUDSBURG — A magisterial district judge's rulings on criminal charges in the Eagle Valley Homes case will be among topics discussed Sunday during a general membership meeting of the Pocono Homeowners Defense Association. The homeowners group, formed in response to home-sale fraud allegations in the Monroe County area, will examine issues surrounding several criminal and civil cases winding through various courts, said Executive Director Al Wilson. Members also will make preparations for a mass protest this summer — probably in July — seeking appointment by President Judge Ronald Vican of an out-of-county judge and jury for the expected trials of six defendants in the Eagle Valley Homes case.

I think the author of this web page... unhappy with the leadership of his condo association. From Fred Pilot, who is "Howlin Laffin" today.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Boston area: 2 historic homes may be history

From Nancy Levy, this story of urban redevelopment:

Brighton neighbors fighting dense development will face more brawls on the horizon as two local developers look to demolish historic buildings and turn them into condominiums.
Cashing Out Their History: Descendants of Slave Settlers Sell Prince William Enclave

Nancy Levy sends this, with a note: "Isn't this a shame?"

An acre of land in Gainesville wasn't worth much in 1865. It was worth so little, in fact, that white landowners were willing to rent it to freed slaves who had traveled there in search of land. In a flurry of sales during the 1880s, many of the former slaves bought property for $10 an acre or even less.They called the land, which lies roughly along Routes 29 and 15, the Settlement. It became one of Northern Virginia's most significant, and most stable, black communities. The original settlers believed land was power. They held on to it tightly, parting with bits only when they were desperate for cash. They educated their children on the value of a dollar and the greater value of land. But time and circumstance have altered those lessons. Pursued by developers offering as much as $300,000 an acre, dozens of families -- many of them descendants of those original pioneers -- are opting to sell their property, and a part of Prince William County's African American history is being transformed into hundreds of luxury houses.

Unhappy homeowners: Frustrated Brookside residents take complaints to Web and end up in court

From the Land of Lincoln:
A three-year struggle over the management of a Tinley Park townhouse association has escalated from letters, meetings and Web posts to Cook County Circuit Court. A faction of owners in the Brookside Glen townhouses questions the practices of the association's managing agent, Rosemary Schrank of Schrank & Associates in Orland Hills. They're mounting a campaign to oust three members of the association board whom they say are Schrank's puppets. Now, Schrank is suing two homeowners over allegedly defamatory comments posted on an open Web forum that focuses on the sprawling Brookside Glen subdivision in the fast-growing southwest area of the village. The townhouse area of the subdivision consists of 196 homes built in the late 1990s.

Rumble in the Desert...
This was posted on the CHORE/Yahoo group, sent to me by Fred Pilot. Hold onto your cowboy hats, because this looks to be the biggest Arizona dustup since the shootout at the OK Corral. I wish I could be there.


CAI, Community Associations Institute is holding their

May Conference in Tucson.

On Thursday, May 19 there will be a Panel Discussion on the subject of


this will be OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

The PANEL DISCUSSION will be from 4:30 PM to 5:45 PM in the

"General Session Room"

Pat Haruff and Barbara Epperson have been invited (and we accepted) to participate.

This will be at the Westin La Paloma Resort located at

3800 East Sunrise Drive, Tucson

Phone number of the resort is 520-742-6000

4:30 pm TO 5:45 pm

Condo owners beware
Fred Pilot sent me this link to a story originally located by Nancy Levy that bodes ill for NY condo and co-op owners on the taxation front.

When Elayne Wolfenhaut bought a one-bedroom condominium in Woodbury Heights after her husband's death, a big selling point was that the property taxes were a fraction of what she was paying on her house in Monroe. Wolfenhaut, 60, had planned to stay in her condo indefinitely. But now she's learned that legislation pending in Albany could double her $2,200 annual tax bill. She figures that's more than she can afford on her salary as a legal secretary. "Some people can't bear the burden of one more dollar," Kim Chiapperino Schuessler, president of the Woodbury Heights Homeowners Association, said yesterday. "It's just not right. And it's not right that we haven't heard anything about it." Bills are quietly moving through both the Assembly and Senate in Albany that would change how condominiums and cooperative housing complexes in New York are assessed for property tax purposes.
North Jersey Media Group: Standoff in Passaic: Home stormed over code violations!'s another example of the phenomenon mentioned immediately below--are municipal officials feeling pressured to keep up with HOAs in enforcement of property maintenance standards?

PASSAIC - A crackdown on city housing violations escalated into a standoff Monday when a homeowner refused to cooperate, prompting authorities to call in a SWAT team, one that broke down a door and shot her with non-lethal weapons. Code enforcement officials arrived about noon, wanting to talk about, among other things, broken windows and a deteriorating porch - violations written three months ago, said Community Development Director Donald Van Rensalier. It just so happened that 109 Quincy St. was smack in the middle of an area targeted in Operation Clean Sweep, one of the mayor's initiatives to rid the city of substandard housing.
Fight Against Code Violators Ongoing - from
Fred Pilot passes along this example from HOA-loaded Tampa, FL, of a phenomenon I've been pointing out recently: cities that seem to be starting to emulate HOAs in the severity with which they approach code enforcement:

Mayor Pam Iorio made code enforcement a priority when she took office in April 2003. She followed that by signing an executive order in March that allows the city to foreclose on property owners who do not pay fines for violations. Along the way, she gave code inspectors laptops to enable them to spend more time on the streets and less in the office. She also helped streamline code violation cases in the criminal justice system by establishing a criminal code enforcement division. The council last month approved stiffer fines for code violators. Maximum fines for first-time offenders increase from $250 a day to $1,000 a day. Maximum fines for repeat violators climb from $500 a day to $5,000. People who repeatedly break city codes and don't pay fines could wind up in jail. A few people have.

Daily Herald | DuPage County, Illinois: Naperville woman’s 100-pound dog fights off attacker
This dog is 70 pounds over the typical limit found in HOA covenants. Do you think an HOA-legal 30-pounder could have done the same thing?

Naperville police are crediting a woman’s 100-pound dog with saving her from further harm by an assailant near her apartment.Sgt. Joel Truemper said the woman, who police did not name, had taken her dog for a short walk around 11:30 p.m. Thursday when she was jumped from behind, knocked to the ground, choked and punched in the face. The woman’s dog, a Great Pyrenees, bit the attacker in the face and chest, she told police...

----------- which point the 200 pound assailant decided discretion was the better part of cowardice and fled. He hasn't been located yet. In my non-HOA neighborhood nearly all the dogs are in the 50-pounds-plus category. There's a good reason for that.