Starlight Mesa Homeowners Association
Board of Governors Meeting
July 31, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
Board Members Present:
Greg Goeckner (GG)
John Andraos (JA)
Alex Benderskii (AB)
Karen Levin (KL)
Derrick Pan (DP)
Charles and Jo Berryman (CJB)
Joe Bergen (JB)
Benjamin and Silvia Paz (BSP)
Hanjoo Kim (HK)
Jim Mulligan (JM)
Benderskii/Vargas front landscaping proposal: AB presented his family’s request for approval of a new landscaping scheme for their front lawn. They will replace their front lawn with drought-resistant ground cover, rock and flagstone covering about 25-30% of the lawn area, flowerbeds and drip line irrigation. AB presented a sketch of the proposal. They will undertake maintenance of this new landscaping and ask that Jose Toribio only maintain the hedges. AB expects to receive a rebate for taking out the grass on his property. KL noted that Dayton Jones had installed a similar landscape scheme. JB said that at least 4 houses in the Mesa have similar landscaping now. BSP suggested that the Board look at installing similar landscaping for the parkway areas in the neighborhood and suggested that the association could look into a rebate for the entire Mesa. KL asked whether the CC&Rs require that homeowners have front lawns. JB advised that there are no specific standards in the CC&Rs related to landscaping, though they might restrict the installation of fountains. The Board unanimously approved the proposal to change front landscaping (AB abstaining).
Hanjoo Kim request to move fence: HK presented his letter to the Board requesting permission to move his back fence back toward the pool area, close to his rear property line. The proposed fence would be wrought iron, under 6’ tall, similar to his current fence, which is about 5’. JB noted that residents are not allowed to build fences higher than 6’ without special permission from the city. Fences up to 42” high can be installed without a permit and fences higher than that but less than 6’ require a permit. HK stated that he had paid the appropriate fee to the city and was talking to a licensed contractor about building the fence. The contractor would obtain the permit for the fence. GG asked about the impact of the new fence on the surrounding area. HK stated that the new fence would not touch the sidewalk leading to the community pool and that the fence would be in line with the fence built by JB and the fence proposed by Kirk Gerbracht (see below).
AB asked about drainage in the area between the existing fence and the proposed new fence. He observed that this drainage might be managed by the city and this could be an issue. JB responded that the drainage at this spot was not managed by the city. It is possible to tell which hillsides in the neighborhood have been graded; all graded hillsides have swales, such as the hillside behind the Hillers’ house. The area behind HK’s house is not marked on the community maps as a drainage area. The community needs to make sure that the swales are maintained for drainage; the community owns and collectively maintains the swales. HK’s proposed fence would not obstruct drainage in the area. The only county drainage in the community is between the Coates’ and the Colemans’ houses, with the walkway for JPL workers.
CJB pointed out that the area of common maintenance had been set up with the fences built on the common maintenance lines and questioned whether it is permissible for individual homeowners to enclose those common maintenance areas. JB responded that the dotted lines showing the areas of common maintenance had been drawn before the streets and building pads were laid out in the Mesa. He stated that the common maintenance areas date from CC&Rs dated in 1966 but our current CC&Rs date from 1967. He also advised that some of the dotted lines showing common maintenance areas actually go through some existing houses in the neighborhood. The common maintenance area line goes halfway through his backyard. CJB responded that this is a legal issue and the revision of the CC&Rs needs to resolve the issue.
KL commented that all residents could see where their fences were placed and should have been aware (from their deeds) when they bought their houses that their property extended beyond their fence lines. KL stated that her property line went further than her fence line. If everyone’s fence were moved out to his or her property line, it would change the whole ethos of the area. The entire neighborhood should vote for that before changes like that are made.
JB asked about prior moves of fences into the common area. KL responded that those issues are in the past. However, she did not want to vote to authorize this move without knowing the impact on the entire area. She wanted everybody in the area to vote on it. GG added that he was also hesitant to let individual homeowners move their fences until there is a community consensus on the subject.
JB then presented a petition, which he said had been signed by 31 homeowners, asking to have a discussion of the CC&R revision process as a community.
DP stated that he agree that the community needs to set up standards for moving fences like this.
HK asked why he needs permission to move his fence. GG explained that changes like moving fence lines are governed by the CC&Rs. CJB pointed out that the tract map for the neighborhood includes the common maintenance area lines and that an individual homeowner cannot change those lines without community permission. GG added that all homeowners bought into this area as a member of the community and that the community has an interest in how the area looks. CJB noted that there has been a long history of these issues. There was an issue related to possibly moving the fences in the putting green park area some years ago. Permission to move the fence at that time was denied. The community cannot have everyone move their fences to their property lines; it would change the entire character of the community and would make the parks feel like tunnels. The Mesa maintains many areas of common maintenance, paid for by all homeowners; but not all lots have those common maintenance areas and so do not benefit individually from that maintenance.
HK noted that he pays property taxes on the area of common maintenance on his property. GG responded that property taxes are set based on the value of the property at the time it is purchased, and that reflects the value of the property with the fence where it was, not with the fence at the property line.
JA commented that the community needs to follow consistent standards and those standards need to be followed over time to preserve the character of the neighborhood. GG closed the discussion by noting that the Board was not rejecting the request but was not prepared to grant it either, until there are agreed standards within the community for evaluating this type of request. The Board then voted unanimously to defer the pending request until the community adopts better standards for evaluating such requests.
Kirk Gerbracht request to move fence: Mr. Gerbracht had presented a request to move his fence, virtually identical to HK’s request. However, Mr. Gerbracht did not attend the Board meeting, although he had been advised that the request would be on the Board’s agenda at this meeting. The Board voted to table the request.
Shirley Callahan Roof Replacement: Following the meeting, Shirley Callahan requested approval to replace her roof with a stone-coated steel shingle product called Metro Cottage Shingle Walnut 60-HD. After examining a sample of the proposed roofing material, the Board unanimously approved the request.
KL advised that Jose Toribio had finished the brush clearance for the year. KL and AB did a walk through of the cleared areas with Jose. The work was done well. There has been no contact from the fire department, so we do not anticipate any additional clearance requirements this year. The brush clearance was less expensive this year because a lot of clearance work was completed last year.
KL reported that Jose had advised her that his crew had found burned schoolbooks in the lower clearance area. During the final brush clearance check, Jose, AB and KL found further evidence of burned schoolbooks. The books contained the name of a student at a local private school. KL contacted the school, the school advised that the student was in their 8th grade and the school made contact with the teenager’s parents. The parents were very apologetic about the incident and the student has been required to perform community service as a result of the incident. KL has asked Jose to keep an eye out for any similar incidents and suggested that no smoking signs be erected in that area.
AB advised that a no smoking sign also was placed near the gazebo and that he would erect more no smoking signs around the Mesa common areas. He had received requests from neighbors to replace the lighting in the common areas and had replaced five solar powered lights in the putting green park and one light on Starlight Crest. He also had placed ground lights at the park entrances to illuminate the signs that say “private property” and had put lights at the eastern edge of the gardener’s shed to discourage teenagers from congregating there.
AB also reported that the putting green park should be fertilized again.
Pool Renovation Options:
JA reported on his continuing efforts to investigate options for renovation of the community pool. He had obtained 2 bids from commercial pool contractors. Both contractors had advised that it did not make sense just to replace the piping and that the pool required a thorough renovation. The cost of this renovation would be about $100k, which would include the pool shell, the pipes and the decking. Any work on the pool would have to be done by a contractor with a commercial pool license. JB stated that when he was last on the Board, they had made a 5-year financial plan to renovate the pool, but that this assumed that a commercial pool contractor would replace the pipes and resurface the deck but would not do the other work included in the current bids. It is likely that when the water is drained below the intake lines in the pool, the plaster will dry out. At the time, JB had obtained a bid of $37k to complete this work. JA requested that JB send that bid for review. KL said that she also would look in her records for that bid. JB noted that the project to resurface the decking around the pool house was an experiment for replacing the pool pipes and resurfacing the decking around the pool later. GG asked that the Board be provided with all of the older bids for review. JB advised that the contractor that did the pool-house work was no longer in business. BSP suggested that pool contractors may be busier now with the improved economy and that may explain some of the increase in the bids. JB promised to call the old contractors to see if they are still interested in doing work on our pool. He also advised that the community pool was brought up to code when the new pumping system and filters were installed 3-4 years ago. This involved compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Act related to pool intake pump shutoff standards.
Gazebo Replacement Options:
GG circulated brochures he had obtained from Amish Country Gazebos for gazebo and pergola kits, which he suggested might be an option for replacement of the community gazebo. AB stated that a low-maintenance option was important. JB suggested that the vinyl kits did not need to be painted. JA also pointed out that the community’s insurance would cover any wind damage to the gazebo. He suggested that we should ask the manufacturer about wind tolerance for these kits. AB stated that he liked the metal roof options for the gazebo. KL suggested that the community find a contractor to build the gazebo. JB noted that contractors do not like to deal with HOAs. He observed that the pergola kits should eliminate wind issues and the vinyl kit should hold up well since the vinyl in the children’s park fence had held up for 6-7 years.
Proposal to Retain Security Guard Service:
DP reported that he had contacted two security guard companies about making security patrols of the Mesa community areas. Post Security came out to look at the area. They suggested creating a deterrent to trespassers by have a patrol come around twice a day. They would charge $850/month for a minimum 3-month term. The other firm never showed up.
BSP asked about installing video cameras at the community entrance; the biggest deterrent to trespassers would be the ability to find them later. JA suggested that legal consent of the neighborhood might be needed. JB noted that the issue of trespassers in the parks happens every year. The community hired a security guard one summer and discovered that Mesa teenagers were involved in the problem. The issue was brought under control when a system of fines was implemented. The problem is much less serious now. Community members can call the Sheriff’s office and ask them to create a “check” of the area, which will result in regular patrols. At one time, Sheriff’s deputies used to walk into the pool area twice a night. The community should get back on that checklist by calling the Sherriff’s station in La Crescenta and asking to be put on the list. JA observed that the Sheriff’s deputies come when they are available. AB noted that there might not be as many HS students in the Mesa now as in the past, but that the problem will recur as the younger children in the area grow up. JM stated that he liked the idea of video cameras at the community entrances. He believes that the community entrances are public places and that pictures can be taken. JB noted that the fake cameras installed at the gardeners’ shed had been effective in controlling issues there. GG said that he had recent experience with installing a new video security system at work and would look into the requirements. BSP said that cameras should be installed wherever they are needed as a deterrent. JB suggested that a sign is legally necessary and SS suggested that video surveillance signs be installed everywhere, even if no cameras are installed. JM observed that added security helps keep the neighborhood safe and improves home values.
JB observed that the gas company originally laid out the Mesa and that there were gaslights everywhere.
DP reported that at the end of June the community operating account had a balance of $36k, but that after outstanding checks clear, the balance would be $18k. The beginning of July saw dues collections of about $26k, so at the end of the month the account balance should be over $30k. The two big anticipated expenses – the gazebo and the CC&Rs update – could be funded from this account. The reserve account has a balance of $42k, with a target of $62k. Only one household is significantly behind in its dues payments. Completion of the annual audit report is awaiting completion of the rep letter; DP anticipates a clean audit report.
Preparation for Annual Picnic:
KL suggested that a projector could be obtained from someone in the neighborhood and that a screen can be rented from a Pasadena company. Glenn Cunningham organized that last year. She will ask Trang Tran about renting tables and chairs. The Kim family provided a movie to show last year. AB will ask John Hsu about use of his projector. KL will take care of renting the screen and tables, tablecloths and chairs. Food for the picnic can be discussed next month. DP knows someone who has a taco truck; he will look into that. JA will get pricing from Carousel Restaurant in Pasadena for their food truck. JA will donate the beer and wine, dishes and cutlery. KL will arrange for water and soda. Desserts will be potluck. KL asked about ticket prices. DP reported that the funds in the community budget could underwrite some of the cost. GG reported that tickets last year were $20 for adults, $10 for ages 5-14 and free for under age 5. The Board approved keeping the same prices as last year. AB will handle all media issues. JB suggested that the screen/projector company also could provide popcorn carts; AB will look into it. KL reported that the Board traditionally does the cleanup after the picnic.
GG reported that Alex Fan had offered to provide drought resistant plants for neighbors during the picnic; the Board thanked him for that offer.
GG raised for discussion several issues that need to be resolved for the CC&R revision project. First, does the community want to incorporate the HOA? Incorporation is not required and many smaller HOAs are not incorporated. However, incorporation is often needed if the community wants to take out a bank loan. Incorporation also helps to insulate homeowners from individual liability for injuries on community property. Those liability issues also can be handled with decent liability insurance. Generally, incorporation seemed like a good idea and the CC&R re-write would be the right time to do it. It would add about $2k to the cost of the project. JB noted that the corporation would have to pay an annual tax to the state of $800 and asked about taxes on profits. GG responded that he assumed that the HOA would be incorporated as a non-profit. DP did not think incorporation is necessary. JA favors incorporation because of the individual liability issues, even with good insurance. JB asked how a community would hold title to the common areas; would the community corporation own the common area lots?
GG next raised the definition of what level of maintenance the community should provide for common maintenance areas, including individually owned front lawns and those areas of individually owned rear lawns within the common maintenance area. He assumed that sewer lines and other underground utilities were not included. In addition, he assumed that the installation and design of new landscaping should not be included and that tree trimming would not be included. Maintenance of existing landscaping in these common maintenance areas would be included – a “mow, blow and go” standard. Installation and maintenance of sprinkler systems would be up to individual homeowners, as would watering of lawns. The community would handle irrigation and brush clearance on hillsides within common maintenance areas. JB reported that there was an interpretation of this issue several years ago; Jose Toribio’s crew will trim trees and bushes as long as they can reach them without a ladder. CJB suggested that the Board look to the maintenance definition in the current gardener’s contract for the agreed scope of maintenance in these areas. KL will find that contract language. CJB noted that some irrigation of hillsides is on Mesa meters. JB noted that those meters all are marked with yellow paint; some meters were connected to cut down on the cost per meter.
The next HOA Board meeting will be August 19, 2014, at 7:30 p.m., at JA’s house.