As residents of Oakmont Village, we find ourselves standing at a pivotal moment in the history of our community. Recent developments have illuminated a pressing issue that demands our immediate attention—the escalating Oakmont Village Association (OVA) dues and the potential for costly assessments that could irreparably change the fabric of our neighborhood. According to a study published in the Oakmont Observer, OVA gross dues have surged by an astonishing 358.7% over the past two decades, starkly outpacing the 78.8% rise in California’s cost of living during the same period. This discrepancy signals a tipping point that could jeopardize the ability of many Oakmont residents, particularly those on fixed incomes, to remain in their homes.

The essence of Oakmont has always been its community spirit, nurtured by residents who have dedicated their lives to serving others—educating our children, protecting our families, and providing essential services that keep us healthy and safe. Many of these individuals were on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating wildfires, risking their own well-being for the greater good of our community. They are the backbone of any community including Oakmont, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure they are not priced out of their homes due to financial pressures beyond their control.

Yet, as we face ambitious proposals for expensive building projects aimed at transforming Oakmont into a “premier” community, we must question the implications of such visions for our neighbors and friends. The allure of a new aquatic swim center, a performing arts center and auditorium, a new parking structure, and expanded OVA offices may seem appealing. See here for full list. However, these projects come with significant financial burdens that could displace the very people who have built and sustained this community.

A Wall Street Journal investigation quoted an OVA board member suggesting that Oakmont’s future should cater to affluent newcomers, implying that those struggling financially should consider options like reverse mortgages. This perspective, while it may aim to elevate Oakmont’s status, overlooks the value of inclusivity and the strength derived from a diverse community fabric.

Time to Decide

As we approach the March elections, we are tasked with making a choice that will define Oakmont’s trajectory and future. Will we opt for a future that prioritizes costly amenities and potentially displaces long-standing, middle-income residents? Or will we choose leaders who value prudent financial management, the maintenance of our infrastructure, and the thoughtful upgrading of amenities based on the real needs and preferences of our community members?

The decision we make will resonate for years to come, impacting not just our lives but those of future generations who will call Oakmont home. It is a time for critical thinking and a reaffirmation of our core values as a community. Let us choose a path that honors the contributions of all residents, ensuring that Oakmont remains a vibrant, welcoming, and inclusive place for everyone. The future is now, and it is in our hands to shape it with wisdom, compassion, and a deep commitment to the common good.

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17 Comments

  1. Jeanette Odgers on February 9, 2024 at 8:10 pm

    Well said

  2. Gordon Freedman on February 10, 2024 at 6:40 am

    I find this essay to be highly inflamable with old news from the Wall Street Journal from years ago. I am not aware that all the items mentioned are a wish list and that I believe probably none are front burners ready to start projects!

    • Greg Gewalt on February 10, 2024 at 10:11 am

      Gordon – It’s worth noting that the Wall Street Journal came to Oakmont and conducted in-person interviews with residents like Iris Harrell and Gary O’Shaughnessy, both quoted in the article.

      The crux of the ‘A Retirement Wealth Gap Adds a New Indignity to Old Age’ article remains as pertinent today as it was in late 2018.

      https://oakmontobserver.com/wsj-report-a-retirement-wealth-gap-adds-a-new-indignity-to-old-age/

      To further highlight Iris Harrell’s ambitious vision for Oakmont, this past December she co-sponsored a resolution and voted to approve $100,000 to hire planners “to prepare a minimum of three conceptual site plans to address the future needs and parking impact of the Central Complex, which includes Berger Center, the Central Activities Center and the Central pool.“

      https://oakmontvillage.com/article/board-meeting-recap-planner-okd-for-cac-study/

    • Bruce Bon on February 10, 2024 at 10:58 am

      To add to Greg’s comment, it has become clear that the vision of major improvements to the central area is a long-term plan, with careful and methodical preparation, of which the Oakmont 2030 Project and the December approval of $100,000 for architectural plans and a parking study are significant parts. Common sense and fiduciary duty say that the Board wouldn’t spend that kind of money to put the results on a shelf — the products returned will be used to plan exactly what changes are to be made, and they will certainly include projects that will cost in the millions of dollars. The fact that none of these projects are “ready to start” is simply part of the long-term plan — they will become “ready to start” once the professional planners’ product is delivered to the OVA Board and the Board chooses which alternatives to implement. Even then, and even with the borrowing that the Board has shown that they are willing to do, some projects will be so expensive that they won’t break ground for a number of years, but they will become a part of a master plan that the Board hopes will guide future boards until it is completed.

  3. Lyn Cramer on February 10, 2024 at 7:03 am

    If a majority of Oakmont voters want upgraded facilities, I will live with the results. But, I’d prefer we find a more equitable way to pay for these projects than our current flat dues structure imposes.

  4. Hugh Helm on February 10, 2024 at 11:16 am

    I think a fundamental issue that the candidates should be queried about is their philosophy of OVA governance. Do you think the board should exercise its power to decide whether to build expensive amenities, without a vote of the members, or do you think the members should have the final say through a democratic vote? The fact is, the board can either build expensive amenities using financial maneuvers that prevent any meaningful input from members, or they can put it to a democratic vote of the members, and agree to be bound by that. I personally will not vote for any candidate who did not pledge to put it to a binding vote.

  5. Lyn Cramer on February 10, 2024 at 12:31 pm

    I agree with Hugh’s thoughts. One question. I’ve been told that a binding membership vote would undermine a board’s fiduciary responsibilities established in law. So, best have an advisory vote. I don’t like this interpretation but am unsure. A more informed opinion would be welcome.

    Bottom line, every candidate should declare his or her position on this issue.

    • DELORES STANGHELLINI on February 10, 2024 at 12:51 pm

      I am copying Hugh Helm’s response “I personally will not vote for any candidate who did not pledge to put it (major improvements issue) to a binding vote of the owners”.

      Also, I agree with Lynn Cramer’s response “Bottom line, every candidate should declare his or her position on this issue”.

      • Lee Vander Heide on February 11, 2024 at 1:59 pm

        Delores,
        Amen, Ditto on both of those statements. I believe there are at least a couple thousand Oakmont residents who would also agree.

    • Bruce Bon on February 10, 2024 at 3:36 pm

      Admitting that I am not a lawyer, much less an expert HOA lawyer, here is my best understanding. First, fiduciary duty means a legal requirement to act in the best interests of Oakmont and to ignore the director’s own private interest if there is a conflict, BUT in general the only breaches of fiduciary duty that have ever been successfully prosecuted involve misuse of funds – fraud, embezzlement, favoring a family member or friend in awarding contracts, etc. One part of Davis-Stirling that is fairly clear is that it is the fiduciary duty of directors to properly maintain existing association property. But it is very clear that capital improvements which involve new or expanded facilities and are not required by law (e.g. for ADA compliance) are NOT required by fiduciary duty. I would argue that it should be the fiduciary duty of every director to keep very tight control over dues inflation, because to not do so will do significant harm to OVA members who have difficulty paying dues that are more than twice as high as they were ten years ago and still rising several times as fast as inflation.

      Some directors or candidates have argued from time to time, as though the “best interests of Oakmont” was very specific and that, because the Board is required to serve the best interests of Oakmont, they are not allowed by law to let the membership vote on anything not specified by law as requiring a membership vote. This, quite frankly, is Bull with a capital B. As long as the decision resulting from the election met the standard of fiduciary duty, then there is no legal reason that the election cannot be held, and there is (in my opinion) no possibility of a successful legal action against directors for holding such an election. In the unlikely event that some one decided to sue them for holding the election, they have the protection of OVA’s insurance so cannot end up with any personal liability.

      I would agree that it is the fiduciary duty of directors to avoid putting any alternative onto a membership ballot that would violate fiduciary duty. For example, if the law was changed to require some new feature, say a safe walkway to allow Oakmont Gardens residents to cross the street to get to Berger, the Board might hold an election that allowed the membership to select between an overhead pedestrian bridge for $1,000,000, or a cheaper option allowed by law (a crossing gate?), but could not include on the ballot the option to do nothing, which would violate the law.

  6. Pete Hogan on February 10, 2024 at 2:48 pm

    Hopefully the position of each candidate regarding potential expensive upgrades to Oakmont, as well as corresponding monthy dues increases, will be presented at the Candidates Night scheduled for February 21st. It is imperative that all Oakmonters have this knowledge before making their final decision on whom to support in the upcoming OVA Board election.

    • Bruce Bon on February 10, 2024 at 3:12 pm

      It is up to us, as members, to ask the right questions. But I plan to ask almost exactly that!

    • Greg Gewalt on February 10, 2024 at 3:29 pm

      Pete – For additional reference, here is an article covering the opinion from attorney, Steven Weil:

      https://oakmontobserver.com/the-directors-make-most-decisionsthe-big-ones-are-made-by-members/

      • Lyn Cramer on February 10, 2024 at 7:35 pm

        Thanks, Ellen. I suspected as much, but wanted to be sure the argument had no merit. In most and current examples we are talking about discretionary upgrades, not essential maintenance or safety expenditures. The glass here isn’t half empty, it’s empty.

  7. Ellen Leznik on February 10, 2024 at 4:39 pm

    Lyn, unfortunately whoever told you this interpretation was incorrect. There is nothing in any applicable law that prevents the Board to have a binding membership vote. In no way does such vote undermine Board’s fiduciary duties. In fact, it is very nicely aligned with the duty of loyalty which requires HOA board members to act in good faith to promote the best interests of the entire association.

  8. Jeannette Luini on February 10, 2024 at 6:46 pm

    It is the fiduciary responsibility of the BOD to maintain and replace the existing facilities as needed. The membership is not allowed to vote on the BODs fiduciary responsibility. Capital improvements are an entirely different issue. The BOD has no obligation to build new or improved facilities.

  9. Fred Nashawaty on February 12, 2024 at 5:59 pm

    It is a long range plan, that will happen in a short period of time…. This board has done a terrible job of disguising it.. Iris hasn’t changed since the WSJ opinion piece.. I’m hoping they have exposed themselves to the majority of the membership for who they are.. Tom at this time, sub manager of Oakmont, is the driving force behind all development within.. Now is the time to start our long range program.. There are 3 people who must be voted out….

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