The following is an open letter sent April 21 to the OVA Board at firstname.lastname@example.org and others
Many Oakmont residents (myself included) would be sorry to see golf eliminated from the community. The courses provide an appealing residential setting and a great recreational activity for those wishing to participate. Since play is open to the general public, it creates a more vibrant and inclusive atmosphere as opposed to the concept of a gated retirement committee mmunity. Oakmont is not a “private golf community” but rather a “community with golf courses integrated within its boundaries”. Even though golf was not the primary reason why many of us moved here, but it was likely a factor in that decision.
Per Mr. Spanier: “The cheapest way to buy land in California is to buy a golf course.”
Question: “DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, OVA? WELL, DO YOU?”
Most informed Oakmont property owners would not wish to base the future of Oakmont on LUCK, and the future of California land prices. The may be a few who would agree, but the great majority of Oakmont property owners would never ask the 3200 other owners to do so. If luck is part of a “success formula”, one should purchase some Mega Bucks tickets or roll the dice in the casinos.
Since the OVA seems to be moving to “control” the OGC property and directly manage any future change that could occur, it should be careful about the processes used. Granted, the prospects of “outsiders” using all or part of the former golf courses as areas for open space and natural growth or for major density development is unnerving at best. That would surely create operational, financial, and legal minefields for years to come. The main questions are: “Who or what entity could adequately manage the process ?”, and “Does the process selected adhere to the legal boundaries of state and federal regulations in addition to OVA articles and bylaws?”
Under most any scenario, the OVA is not qualified to purchase and then administer a golf property. It is also not qualified to manage any redevelopment efforts that may be related to the OCG property. Also, the OVA HAS NO EXCESS MONEY to do a deal. Loans and assessments are the only alternatives. How to finesse that issues are at the crux of the problem. The engagement of Ken Arimitsu, with Madison Marquette does seem to be an appropriate entity for advice. That advice and suggestions should be shared with the entire community before any OVA offer is made. There also must be the recognition by the OVA BOD that the OGC is a business with all the risks and shortfalls that exist in a very competitive and changing entertainment/recreation market. Even a modest undertaking would need added research and in-depth presentations to all, especially if the OGC were to declare insolvency.
For the majority of Oakmont residents, a sale of the OGC to a buyer willing to keep golf on both courses would be preferable; and, that would seem to coincide with the wishes of the OGC members. However, if there was an actual financial and development plan presented (possibly by Arimitsu ) to the OVA membership which proposed some participation by the OVA with a future OGC owner, that idea could be considered an appropriate undertaking. If that proposed plan was financially doable without excessive burden on current OVA members, the OVA membership may be more agreeable to a positive vote on the merits.
We all know that the current golf discussion is not the first time for a golf course purchase to be a headline issue in Oakmont. It was debated thirty years ago when the Oakmont community opted out of an offer to purchase the golf facilities. Whether that decision was a good one or not is history, it did indicate that in 1989 a significant number of Oakmont residents were not in favor of the OVA participating directly in the golf facility. Added to that history is the recognition that over the years golf has evolved into a very sophisticated business with higher financial risk, added operations regulations, and a declining number of participants. As such, before making any decisions on any (even partial) purchase, the OVA BOD should consider all of the current and projected financial realities of the OVA as a not for profit organization – including the possible long term negative repercussions to that non profit status that owning/operating a public golf property may bring. There is no financial way to take the golf enterprise to a member only entity.
Over the past several years (and many OVA boards), the OVA has experienced several financial missteps and decisions for facility upgrades and/or replacement estimates. Those issues have created some valid concerns by the OVA membership as to the capacity of the various BODs to prudently manage the OVA assets. There is also a question regarding the adequacy of asset and operational reserves. More recently, a less than adequate fiscal oversight for upgrade costs to both the west and east recreation centers has shown a lack of understanding and/or control of the processes used. And then there was the infamous “pickleball issue”.
With 2020 fees (including a probable 20% increase) scheduled to be up to $180 (2x$90) per month per couple in owner managed property and up to $505 per month for a couple in a managed property. Residents who reside in “managed areas” pay sub-HOA fees of $200-$325+ per month in addition to OVA dues and those properties with a single resident pay only one OVA assessment per month.) Those may not be large amounts to some, but it will become a definite concern for many residents on a modest fixed income who will eventually need some added support. Note that the above amounts do not include nor anticipate any added special assessments for other projects.
In addition to the financial concerns, there is now a question of “trust” in the decision-making process of the OVA BOD. As with many of life’s issues, the uncertainty of the future creates anxiety which in turn can promote distrust for those who are in charge of the process. Questioning of leadership is not only directed at OVA BODs, but it is now part of changing political systems fostering “alternative facts” and unethical conduct. Financial missteps may be explained as the result of inaccurate planning or market changes, but the negative effect of “lack of trust” is a much more difficult problem to overcome. The “trust issue” becomes even more pronounced and more difficult to correct in a small senior community.
To regain trust, the OVA BOD must keep everyone continually informed during the governing process. Community meetings are one way to present information, but meetings can be “stacked” with one-sided opinions and may, in turn, exacerbate the trust issue. Community meetings are also difficult for many older residents to attend and/or voice their opinions. Surveys and personal contacts should be a large part of the process. TheOVA BOD might be encouraged by the outcome if full disclosure of the process and the intended results are made available to all. It is not a question of “YES or NO”, it is “WHY, HOW and AT WHAT COST” that concerns most of us.
Finally, the OVA BOD should provide the OVA membership with the opportunity for involvement in the final decision of any significant property purchase through a vote, even if the regs do not mandate it. “Not required” does not mean “Must Not”.
John MacInnis – Oakmont