We negotiate to satisfy our interests. Interests are our needs and wants. They underlie our hopes and fears and protect our core principles”.

Don McPherson’s explanation of the BATNA approach for negotiations provides a concise process to help solve the complex and difficult agreements that almost every community HOA organization faces.  BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) may seem to be a complex format, but it is one that can bring alternative perspectives to a community in conflict; and, the OVA BOD is currently in conflict with its membership. 

Three important decisions will be made by the BOD by the end of 2020. 

  1. The current golf course and Quail issues/negotiations.
  2. The newly formed Central Complex Committee.
  3. Hiring/contracting a General Manager.  

All three could benefit from a best alternative to a negotiated agreement in order to accomplish realistic positive outcomes.  

Golf

Many years ago, I learned a major lesson about the economics and infrastructures of a sport that I enjoyed playing vs the realities of the actual business as an investment. That is, the actual business side of the hospitality venture was much less fun as an owner than it was as a participant.  Trying to combine a service business such as the OVA with a totally different one (golf and resturaunt) requires direct knowledge of the new venture as well as some intense negotiations among all parties. Those parties include the Oakmont membership whose BOD has left them out of the conversation. The BOD should be the “voice” of the membership. Instead, the OVA BOD has become reluctant to share basic financial and operational information under the cover of NDAs and other legal doublespeak. Hiring an expert to negotiate the AGP deal did not provide a suitable positive result. Using the BATNA format to select a golf and restaurant management company would at least be a good start.   

I sincerely hope that golf (and the Quail) will remain and prosper in the Oakmont community even though most of the national data is against golf’s long term survival. Oakmont is in the middle of CA’s wine country, close to SF, coastal beaches, and normally has lots of things to do. Oakmont and its golf courses are part of that broad north bay travel and visitor experience as well as being a great place to live. Currently, with fewer things to do because of Covid, golf has been a great way to keep your mind off that problem at least for a few hours. Even when the solution is found for the virus, golf will hopefully continue to provide many Oakmont residents with some exercise, an outing with golfing friends, and a respite from other life challenges  – or as some have coined “lifequakes”.  

That hope for golf is dependent on the selection of an appropriate management team that has sufficient financial resources and the knowledge base to meet a changing recreational and financial environment.If a management team is not found that can operate without significant continued funding from the OVPC/OVA, a long term contract should not be signed.       

Again, BATNA should be the tool for that process since the original concept turned out to be ill conceived and did not work. I believe that most Oakmont residents would rather have a shorter temporary deal (one to two years) than a long range one so that a reevaluation process of the golf project can take place.  

As a coincidence to the above, I just received my summer 2020 digital edition of Golf Inc. The Virtual Summit is nearing.

Maybe the entire BOD could attend virtually (or view session videos at a later date), to learn some of the finer points of golf management. It is sponsored by one of the golf attorneys involved (Addison Law) in the OGC/OVPC sale and/or AGP contract. The opportunity to learn more about golf management would benifit those directors who may not adequately understand golf as a business. The AGP failure was not one sided. It is also interesting to note that AGP was not mentioned in any of the publicity remarks of the Golf Inc’s Virtual Summit. 

Central Complex Committee

Why has the OVA BOD formed yet another committee to consider a major restructuring of the Central complex – Berger, CAC etc. There is very little question about the need for some updating of the facilities and revising some of the space for more efficiency.  Although prior committees had suggested that concept and provided some basic facility changes, no formal committee has indicated that a totally new building should be considered. 

What has changed? Was it older long term residents who were not satisfied with the current facilities or programs? Or maybe it was newer and younger residents who wished to follow the latest trends in senior communities?  Neither of those were in the majority of the 2015 community survey that explicitly indicated that a new Berger was not needed, but a repurpose of some space would be a more favorable option.  Now that the golf courses are under the ownership of the OVPC/OVAA, a more realistic answer may be that the current BOD has made a decision that  a major change in the Central Complex facilities is a significant community need but it will not need the approval of the community it serves. 

It is also interesting that the CCC is composed of members from other committees who would then take the ”pulse” of the “stakeholders” –  See the June 30th CCC minutes. Those “stakeholders” are leaders of other committees who (I guess) would poll participants of those various groups/clubs etc.  Although the 6/30/20 CCC minutes note that “Decisions about the future of the Central Complex will be made by the BOD with input from the community”.  No effort for a community-wide survey of the membership was mentioned in the 6/30/20 CCC minutes.

Finally, with the purchase of the golf courses and the Quail, a change to the configuration of the golf courses will not be a roadblock for land to build added facilities. Even if golf (as currently structured) is said to be a priority for this BOD, changing of the golf course(s) format is now on the table. The BOD should present the community with their long term goals before entering into any architectural or design concept expenditures. Using the new CCC as a way to get approval or commit to a major project(s) before the end of 2020 (and before the April 2021 election) will be a problem and further undermine the trust of the BOD.   

General Manager 

In most community based organizations, the BOD has two main functions. (1) Set policies for the operation of the organization using a consensus of the community as the base for future change or new directions; and, (2) hire and or fire the General Manager. Although they have the legal right, various OVA BODs seem to have ventured beyond that normal format and taken on added authority for administrative decisions usually handled by the GM. 

There have been three general managers for the OVA in the seven years we have owned property in Oakmont. It is not an easy job for several reasons.  Seniors (myself included) have opinions and time to voice, vent, suggest, or publish statements that sometimes may not agree with a general manager’s or BOD’s decisions. It goes with the BOD’s and GM jobs.  Per Oakmont’s bylaws, as well as many other HOA communities, the Board President is the CEO of the organization. That can be a major problem with a community that may change board officers every year or two. Oakmont has had (at least) six different presidents of the OVA BOD in the past seven years.  Although the maximum continuous term for a board member (and president) could be four years, that has not occurred often (or maybe never) over the past twenty years.  

General manager candidates that have the appropriate skills and certificates to manage recognize that his/her style may not fit with the governess policies of certain organizations, including the OVA.  BATNA may not be the formal process for negotiating with a new GM, but there are issues involved in which the BATNA format may be useful. Those who have a concern with OVA’s policies may not apply without some compromise vehicle available.

It has been noted that the current GM vacancy resulted from a “personal preference to return to his previous home area”. That may be the case, but there is some concern about that not being the only issue for the resignation. 

John MacInnis – Oakmont Dr  

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7 Comments

  1. Yvonne Frauenfelder on August 17, 2020 at 6:01 am

    *John McGinnis provides a concise overview of the important decisions to be reached by the BOD this year. *

    1. The current golf course and Quail issues/negotiations.
    2. The newly formed Central Complex Committee.
    3. Hiring/contracting a General Manager. 

    None deserves more attention that the expansive plans for Oakmont’s downtown. He writes:

    Why has the OVA BOD formed yet another committee to consider a major restructuring of the Central complex – Berger, CAC etc. There is very little question about the need for some updating of the facilities and revising some of the space for more efficiency.  Although prior committees had suggested that concept and provided some basic facility changes, no formal committee has indicated that a totally new building should be considered.” 

    To wit:

    The consensus of this committee based on the work done to-date is that the OVA facilities can currently adequately support the requirements of the Oakmont organizations for meeting room and activity space, and, since Oakmont is now built out, we should be able to continue to provide adequate meeting room and activity space into the future.
    * Central Project Committee Report Phase 1, July 2016

  2. Lance Wallace on August 17, 2020 at 8:06 am

    I appreciate the efforts of the two reporters (MacInnis and McPherson–two Scots? no wonder they cover golf) to keep us aware of the dealings behind the scenes. It’s unfortunate that there is no organized movement to demand accountability from the BOD.

  3. Bob Tanner on August 17, 2020 at 8:30 am

    Many excellent points in John’s overview and I’m in agreement with Yvonne’s comment above. It seems as though our current BOD continues to form committees until one returns the opinions they desire – ultimately and consistently ignoring the wishes of the community as a whole.

    • Patricia Violetti on August 17, 2020 at 2:05 pm

      I agree with both Yvonne , John and Bob’s views, very wise, I also think that the only restaurant that would work in Oakmont is a great bar and grill ( if we decide on a golf course). No one is going to make a detour off of Hwy 12 to drive thru a RETIREMONT COMMUNITY for an evening out when you can just keep going a few miles thru beautiful country side to many great restaurants. Remember we had one of the best restaurant people in Santa Rosa try to make it work a few years age and it did not work. The view is not the answer since you cannot see the view at night. PLEASE give this careful consideration.

  4. Ron Manning on August 17, 2020 at 10:11 am

    I think a fourth major issue facing Oakmont is home hardening in preparation for Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) fires. The Oakmont Board of Directors passed a Fire Safe Landscape Policy on July 22. The required 28 day comment period expires soon. This topic is on the BOD August 18 Agenda. The concept “prepare for wildfires” is something most every one can agree on. However, details matter. The version of the Policy the board passed includes specific provisions such as:
    “The above Fire Safe Landscape Policy will be enforced in phases but can be
    implemented by property owners sooner than specified if desired.
    Phase 1 – beginning immediately upon Board approval of this policy and to be
    completed by August 21, 2021
    ALL OAKMONT PROPERTIES:
    (1) Property owners shall remove plants on OVA Flammable/Do
    Not Plant List from within 5 foot defensible space zone
    (2) Property owners shall remove all bark within 5 foot defensible
    space zone.”

    Regarding enforcement, the OVA policy is “If the OVA or its designee must enter a non-compliant property to correct one or more violations, the cost of such action may become a special individual assessment levied on the property owner. Such assessment may be collected in a manner consistent with the OVA’s Collection Policy” (see https://oakmontvillage.com/article/fire-safety-and-control-policy-rules-regulations-and-best-practices/ ).

    So the OVA is mandating all Oakmont homeowners change out a sizeable portion of their landscaping, at what will be significant expense for many homeowners. While getting rid of flammable plants and mulch seems like a good idea, other equally dangerous fuel sources such as wood fences are being ignored. Are such fuel source removal activities the most useful action? Given our high-density, urban environment, one fire expert told me “In Oakmont, once one house catches fire, there will be a domino effect. It won’t matter what’s in between.” Maybe creating a defensible space (border) around all of Oakmont, in effect treating Oakmont as a single structure, would be a better first step.

  5. Sherry Balletto on August 17, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    Very well researched and written. Much to consider and I totally agree other voices must be included and considered when spending the money of the community. People here often question community involvement and yet perhaps not being allowed involvement has become the discouraging factor. Are we interested in this being a community for all people or just a select few?

  6. Karen Oswald on August 20, 2020 at 10:48 am

    When I was appointed to the OVA Board in 2017, one of the issues on the table was the remodel, update or ??? of the Berger Center. At that time the Berger Action Committee (BAC) was charged with presenting to the Board for consideration THREE options: 1) Repair and Remodel with no upgrades; 2) Repair and Remodel with updating and upgrades; and 3) a rebuild on the same footprint.

    As usual, we received our Board Packets on the Thursday prior to the Board meeting, allowing for five day to read and review the information, question any committee members about information submitted, including budget question, and three full business days to investigate information with outside sources, confirm or deny information provided etc.

    As for the the three options the Board requested from the BAC – What did we, the OVA Board, get? 12 options!!! not what the Board asked for and not what the Committee was charged with providing!

    Frankly, I was rather appalled that the Committee so completed disregarded the directions given by the Board and after reviewing the materials provided by the BAC, I was even more concerned by the cost estimates and numbers presented by the committee. So, in doing my due diligence I contacted two outside contractors and requested “rough” estimates on the materials provided, without providing them with the figures from the BAC to prevent any “low-balling”.

    Both estimates came back millions of dollars higher than the figures provided by the BAC. Please remember that this was PRIOR to the 2017 Wildfires, Prior to the shortage of contractors and materials due to those fires, Prior to the 2019 Wildfires, and prior to the continued inflation rates.

    In reviewing the 2015 “Voices of Oakmont”, an extensive, balanced, and professional survey conducted by Professional in the field of surveys, concluded that the vast majority of Oakmont Residents wanted a Re-model only of the Berger. In addition, in the month prior to the Board meeting at which this issue would be decided, the Board had posted all drawings for potential remodels or new build provided by the BAC on public display at the Berger for Residents consideration and comments. The vast majority of those comment confirmed what the 2015 survey showed – the overwhelming majority of Oakmont Residents wanted a modest Remodel ONLY.

    At the Board meeting the BAC ,with input, comments, recommendations from Iris Harrell, presented a presentation with the drawings and the “estimated costs” that had been provided to the Board. After comments and consideration, the Board voted for a Remodel with upgrades, which was in-line with the evidence provided by the overwhelming majority of the community. If any of you attended that meeting you will recall that the BAC reacted explosive anger at the vote and resigned en masse.

    Fast forward a few weeks to the 2017 Wildfires and the evacuation of Oakmont.

    Upon the return to our community the Board established revived the Central Park Committee, to which I served as Liaison. The Committee was comprised of a number of individuals with building and contracting experience, design and gardening knowledge, and a commitment to developing a beautiful, gathering place for Oakmont Residents to enjoy and a memorial to honour the First Responders that had saved our homes, our pets, and our Community.

    The Committee continually met resistance and sabotage from certain staff and a few community members wedded to a new BIGGER, BETTER (read Extravagant and EXPENSIVE) Berger.

    Like the “hidden” agenda of buying the Golf Club, the attention now focusing on the CAC and Berger is simply an old agenda with new drivers forcing another cost prohibitive project on the community that LIVES HERE, not some mythical swarm waiting to buy mid-century ranch homes at inflated prices.

    And then again, let us not forget Ms. Harrell’s comment to me when I was trying to get staff to clean up an repair the devastation on holes 3 and 4 of the Golf Course, where the Central Park was to be, “don’t even think about putting anything where I am going to put my parking lots”.

    Clearly, there is much that continues to go on behind closed doors and remember that it is YOU that are going to pay and PAY for the over ego-inflated wants of few intent on their own selfish desires, rather than the Community they should be representing

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