2011 has ended and hopefully much of what occurred that year will not repeat in the near future. The year began much like any other year but changed quickly. The results of a recall election, which began last year, were announced and for the first time in its 65 year history, director Brenda Carr was recalled from office. Wulf Bieschke was elected to fill Brenda Carr’s vacant seat. In a more normal turn of events, Director Mel Medeiros retired after completing his full term and Diane Wydler was appointed to replace him through acclamation, in that there were not enough candidates to warrant a general election.
It seemed like we would have some stability within the Homes Association, but that soon changed when Nancy Van Huffel, the administrator for the past 23 years, announced her retirement. Once again, the Board was faced with a personnel issue.
An extensive and time consuming search for a replacement was started. From a list of nearly 100 applicants, the Board whittled the list down to 10 and then eventually to 3. Just as the Board was considering which of the 3 to offer the job, we were faced with another problem. In addition to Nancy’s retirement, she needed immediate surgery for a medical condition, and her recovery from surgery would provide little or no turn-over time with which she could work with her replacement.
A solution was offered and the Board unanimously agreed to move in that direction. The current President, Kathy Martin’s, would resign from the Board and be hired as the interim Administrator for a period of no less than one year. Kathy had a thorough working knowledge of the HOA, having been on the Board for over 5 years and in her professional life, had a thorough knowledge of financial planning and office management.
I was selected to fill Kathy’s vacant position as President and Diane Wydler was selected to fill the vacant position of Vice-President. The Board was left with only four members for the remainder of the year. The Board felt rather than spend money on an election or appoint someone for the remainder of Kathy’s term it was best to function for the remaining 6 months with a 4 person Board and leave two seats up for election in the coming year.
Fortunately, with only four Board members, we were able to finish out the year and still perform our duties and get the work of the Association done without any deadlocks. As the year finished out, Wulf Bieschke indicated that he would not seek re-election; so there would be 2 open seats on the Board for the upcoming year with no incumbent seeking re-election. Fortunately, 3 people submitted paperwork for the annual election of Board members and for the first time in over 4 years our members had the opportunity to vote for their Board of Directors.
In addition to internal politics, Alameda County politics changed. Our previous Supervisor, Alice Lai-Bitker chose not to seek re-election and Wilma Chan was elected as Supervisor to District 3. It is fair to say that no one likes change, but I am happy to announce that very quickly after Wilma Chan took office, she established a new relationship with the San Lorenzo HOA. We have monthly meetings with her staff and she has already become involved in several of San Lorenzo’s biggest concerns and projects.
Chan has been an advocate for San Lorenzo in dealing with HARD about the condition of the San Lorenzo Community Center Park as well as general park maintenance. She is working to keep the San Lorenzo Library expansion alive and is actively working with the Bohannon Corporation to bring new retail businesses to San Lorenzo.
I am also pleased to announce that our selection of Kathy Martins as interim Administrator has proven to be the correct decision.
Immediately upon taking over the job, Kathy began reviewing the Association’s internal procedures, which was outside of the scope of work of a Board Member. Not surprising when replacing someone who had been in the position for 23 years, Kathy found many of our procedures outdated or insufficient.
Her first step was re-writing the employee handbook, which had not been updated since 1994. Many procedures and law changes had come into effect but were not reflected in the handbook. Additionally, all employee job descriptions were reviewed, including the job description of the administrator. Kathy re-wrote and updated the job descriptions of all HOA employees and instituted an employee performance appraisal process and reviewed and wrote 6 month reviews on all employees. Finally, she reviewed all of our job positions; permanent, part-time and contract and eliminated our gardening position and transferred his duties to our maintenance person, thereby saving the HOA money.
In another instance, she found that our hall rental procedures were insufficient. Often when someone rented the hall and caused damage to it, we were unable to hold them responsible. With some very basic changes to the process and additional training of Guards and Staff, we can now hold renters financially responsible for damages done while they rented the facility.
Kathy also found out our lease agreements with the Fire Department, Little League and Lollipop Lane pre-school had expired and needed to be re-negotiated and signed. All 3 were drafted this year and two have been signed.
Prior to negotiating the new lease with Lollipop Lane, the facilities covered by the lease were inspected and unfortunately numerous deficiencies were found in the maintenance and upkeep to the building and playground. As the property owner and lessor, the Board felt it was necessary to correct these deficiencies while renegotiating the lease and the new lease now clearly defines the responsibilities of each party.
Perhaps one of the most critical areas reviewed by the new administrator was our financial health. In that regard, I have both good and bad news to report. Deferred maintenance to all of the HOA facilities has begun to catch up with us. Playground equipment needs repair and may not be in safety compliance, the roofs have developed leaks, which are now beginning to cause damage to underlying structures, plumbing problems are becoming routine and routine maintenance and cleaning of employee work areas has become intolerable.
As an example, the toilet in the employee bathroom had been leaking for several months to a year, finally causing damage to the subflooring. It finally became so bad, the entire bathroom had to be shut down, gutted and repaired.
The same conditions can be said for the employee office. The carpet was threadbare and repaired with tape, ceiling tiles had fallen from the ceiling while others were held with tape or thumbtacks. Employee desk drawers were broken and unusable and one employee did not even have a desk, but was working on an old table adjacent to a card table. These conditions were inexcusable and needed to be corrected so the Board authorized the employee office bathroom and office space to be reconfigured and updated.
This was also an opportune time to evaluate the storage of the HOA files and clean out the 16 plus filing cabinets that were in the office. Much of the work was done with volunteer labor and a fair amount of the furniture was replaced with used office furniture. While the work was being done, some office construction was done to make the office more efficient for employees and more inviting and comfortable to homeowners who visit.
The good news is that our reserve account was nearly 96% funded based on our current reserve study. The bad news is that some service areas were grossly undervalued and that fixing things, like leaking roofs, will deplete funds from the reserve account, and will require the HOA to begin to rebuild those reserves.
The roof repairs may cost over $30,000.00 for each of the 6 roofs with documented problems. The playground equipment account had been underfunded and simply did not account for the true cost of replacement in 2012 dollars. What had originally cost $12,000.00 to buy 15 years ago, would now cost the Association $30,000.00. Other maintenance items, like painting and cleaning had simply never been considered before as a reserve item.
The good news is that our new administrator has found ways to increase revenues. Many of the fees we charge for hall rental and real estate packets had been set many years ago and didn’t reflect the true cost of doing business. The HOA has increased the hall rental fee to non homeowners, instituted a cleaning fee and has begun collecting for damages to the hall by the renter. We have also raised the fees real estate companies pay for documents we provide when they sell a house in the village. And fortunately, real estate transactions within the village have increased, so we currently are receiving almost 2 1/2 times as much income in transfer fees as we had budgeted. Unfortunately, some of the additional income generated by fees is not sustainable for a long period. As the real estate market changes, so will our income.
Your Board of Directors will have a difficult task this fiscal year producing a balanced budget without considering additional ways to generate income for the Association.
In addition to the below listed violations, the Board attempted to implement a new, “targeted enforcement” program. Each month, in addition to the random reports of violations we receive, 5 designated areas would be selected for targeted enforcement. Each month a new 5 areas would be selected (roughly 400-500 letters mailed out to homeowners) until all Village streets had been reviewed. The process is too new to tell if it is successful, but we will continue to try this new program in the upcoming year.Violations Jan. to Dec. 2011 2010 Letters Vehicle Storage or Repairs 99 167 Boat/Trailer kept off Lot 55 86 No Maintenance/Lawn Care 968 972 Parking on Unpaved Area 47 55 Other: Noise. Bldg.; Animals 328 291 Holiday Lights 45 84 Total 1542 1655 Formal Hearings 189 209 Attorney Referrals 0 0 County Referrals 129 147
A CC&R Ad Hoc committee has been formed to review all of the CCR’s and Policies to determine if they are current and effectively address the violations which members report. If not, the committee will recommend to the Board possible changes that may make the CCR’s and Polices clearer to understand and easier to enforce.
The HOA also instituted a “House of the Month” recognition process. All too often home owners only hear about homes which are in violation of the CC&R’s. Hopefully, rewarding homeowners who maintain their homes to an exemplary standard will encourage more homeowners to follow suit. Every other month, a nominated house will be selected as the House of the Month and the owner will receive a $50 gift card and be recognized in the current edition of the Village Briefs.
Community Engagement Activities
Throughout the year, the HOA continued to look for ways to increase member participation within the community. The CEC (Community Engagement Committee) planned and executed the following events. In April; in coordination with the Alameda County Redevelopment Agency, the COPPS Unit and Supervisor Chan’s office we had our 3rd annual Earth Day Clean Up. Over 250 citizens helped to clean the streets of the Village and hundreds of pounds of litter, debris and old furniture was picked up by willing volunteers. Everyone who participated was treated to a free lunch cooked and served by Sheriff’s Deputies and the Board of Directors. This event continues to grow each year and it’s rewarding to see a sense of pride in the Village.
In August “The Villagers” came out in force once again for Alameda County’s National Night Out which returned to St. John Catholic School after being held in Castro Valley in 2010. Burgundy T-shirts could be seen throughout the event as we showed our San Lorenzo Pride and enjoyed a delicious Barbecue dinner courtesy of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. We continue to offer our support for events that the COPPS Unit holds each year such as: National Night Out, their two Flea Markets and the Cop Shop Barbecue. Community Policing is an integral part of our life in the unincorporated area and our partnership with this unit is essential.
Once again the HOA hosted the annual Halloween Parade and Game Extravaganza in memory of Ophelia Bohannon and the event once again exceeded our expectations. Our parade was led by Supervisor Wilma Chan and her San Lorenzo Staff and over 1200 kids attended. Many county and community groups manned booths and the weather couldn’t have been better!
The HOA also hosted the 2011 Winterfest and Tree Lighting with over 100 community children receiving free Santa pictures and approximately 500 people attending. For the third year in a row, local resident Steve Stewart led the kids in caroling and the crowd enjoyed lighting the new Association Tree.
Lastly the Board hosted five Meet and Greet events for the community. These events offer the opportunity to learn about different aspects of the community and allow one on one access to Board Members and a free meal. These activities continue to grow each year and serve as a method to encourage community involvement and participation.
The Farmer’s Market continued to be a summer time activity and handing out the Village Voice at the Farmers Market was a great way to communicate with home owners on a weekly basis. The Homes Association will continue to utilize the Farmers Market as a way to better interact with our Homeowners and get information out in a more timely fashion.
The HOA also sponsored 2 Casino Night Fundraisers; one was in conjunction with San Lorenzo Little League that helped the league raise thousands of dollars needed to defray their program costs. The second was done in conjunction with Lollipop Lane and the proceeds from that Casino Night were used to help pay for upgraded playground equipment. Both events were very successful.
Your Board members also served on the Library Advisory Board, Redevelopment Citizens Advisory Committee, H.A.R.D Citizens Advisory Board, Neighborhood Advisory Group, Sheriff’s Advisory Committee and many others. These committees are invaluable as a means of communication between the HOA and many varied County activities. Board members continue to advocate for the rights of the people of San Lorenzo and the unincorporated area.
As a result of the communities input and in cooperation with Supervisor Chan’s office, HARD designated the San Lorenzo Community Park (AKA The Duck Pond) as 1 of 2 parks as “master planned” parks, which means the potential for significant improvement and renovation of the park is in our near future.
Alameda County installed the new Gateway Park at the corner of Grant and Via Alamitos; they purchased the Lorenzo theater and agreed to spend money to prevent future deterioration; The Lewelling streetscape project has shown slow but steady progress and an end is finally in sight. And the HOA renegotiated a lease with Alameda County regarding the current library and the land for future library expansion.
Unfortunately, Redevelopment Agencies have been dissolved per the California Supreme Court and with that brings uncertainty. What will become of the Lorenzo Theater? Will the library expansion take place? What will happen with discussions with the Bohannon Corporation to bring additional commercial development to San Lorenzo? What is the status of the Mercy Housing Project? These are all questions we have and will have to wait for answers.
Zoning & Planning Department
The HOA requested member input on 2 zoning proposals that affect San Lorenzo; one was a proposal for a gun shop near the corner of Hesperian and Lewelling. Since there was no clear consensus from the community, we expressed the concerns brought up by some members and stated that we would not oppose it “if it met all of the conditions established by the county” for a gun shop to be located at that location. The proposal was initially approved by the BZA, but has been appealed for a variety of procedural issues. No decision has been reached on the appeal.
The second proposal was for a liquor store to be opened in the shopping center located at Hesperian and Hacienda. Once again, there was no clear opinion expressed by the community, so the HOA’s position was that if it was not in violation of any zoning regulations, the HOA would not oppose it. No decision has been reached on this proposal.
The Board is constantly trying to find ways to more efficiently and effectively communicate with our members. We have attempted to collect email addresses, but still we only have about 1000 email addresses in our data base. That leaves us with traditional mail.
Currently, we mail the Village Briefs to all home owners and renters, 6 times a year (every other month). The Village Briefs is produced “in house” and has been unchanged for many, many years. It serves a good purpose, providing members with mandatory information, however, it falls short on encouraging members to read it and in being a means to communicate with the members – rapidly!
To that end, the Board is currently looking into having the Village Briefs produced by an outside source, a vendor that has publishing experience and can make the Village Briefs a more desirable and readable publication. Additionally, the Board will be looking at new ways to communicate with members, when we don’t have the luxury of waiting 2 months to get a response. This could take the form of email blasts; phone trees or even mass mailings.
I’m looking forward to a new and challenging, yet productive year. We have 2 new members on the Board and new members means new energy and new ideas. We have an interim Administrator who has had a chance to begin to identify deficiencies and attempt to address them. At some point we will have to begin a new search, for a new, full time Administrator. But I believe we will be in a stronger, more stable position, so that our future, permanent Administrator will be able to take over an efficient and effective Home Owners Association.