Features

Small white dog. The official dog of Oakmont. Incredibly cure. Attracts attention everywhere you go. Don’t leave home without it. An Oakmont resident artist, Steven Radice shares a timely inspiration.

Pictured, Iris Harrell and Gary O’Shaughnessy of Oakmont Village

Jennifer Levitz | Photographs by Rachel Bujalski for The Wall Street Journal
SANTA ROSA, Calif.—On a Saturday morning in retirement paradise, Ken Heyman stepped out to his front porch and found a brown paper bag. Inside was the chopped-off head of a rat.

Mr. Heyman was acting president of the homeowners’ association at Oakmont Village, an enclave in Northern California’s wine country for people age 55 and over. For months, the community had battled over the unlikeliest of topics: pickleball, a game that is a mix of tennis, badminton and ping pong. Some residents wanted to build a pickleball court complex that would cost at least $300,000. Others didn’t, saying they didn’t want to see their dues go up.

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The evening of October 8, 2017, was no different than any other evening. I had already drifted into the twilight level of sleep when the sound of three large clay pots crashing onto the front porch jolted me back into full consciousness. I was unable to imagine what had happened until I opened the front door to find my three 8 foot podocarpus trees lying on their sides. After convincing myself there was nothing I could do until morning, I retreated to the familiar safety of my warm bed. But the sound of the howling hurricane force winds had followed me there, the illusion of safety began to crack.

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Although the approval of the East Recreation Center (ERC) loan is old news, it’s been on my mind.  Taking loans for maintenance and improvement work on our facilities appears to be a new fiscal direction by our current OVA Board of Directors (BOD).  I recognize, as many others have, that our reserves are insufficient and deferred maintenance has occurred for OVA facilities.  I am a bit shocked to find out some residents don’t think we need any dues increases.  Inflation alone results in dues increases. However, the size of the 2018 and estimated 2019 through 2023 dues increases currently planned have me concerned.

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Fortunately, most Oakmont residents, despite evacuations and stress, did not lose our homes in last year’s fires, but we can no longer assume that these kinds of devastating fires are once-every-half-century events. We have already had red flag warnings this year, earlier than what used to be called “the fire season.” Fires in California are expected to be more frequent, burn longer, cost more and in Cal-Fire designated “Wildland Urban Interface” (WUI) areas, at higher risk of occurrence. Oakmont is in a WUI area due to the proximity to Annadel and Hood Mountain Parks.

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Many small (and large) newspapers are struggling as they compete with the overwhelming amount of content available for free on the internet.  A local publisher in Sonoma County is employing a novel approach, one that has been successful for other small newspaper publishers.

Last year Rollie Atkinson, the owner and publisher of The Healdsburg Tribune and three other weeklies in Sonoma County, was staring down a grim financial reality. The business model, he said, was ‘failing rapidly.’ He was tired of throwing his savings into the newspapers to keep them going, and weary of the ‘daily struggle’ of staying afloat in an environment where readers have access to a torrent of information for free.”

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