Whether by design or encouraged by the city of Santa Rosa, H.N. Berger, a successful Southern California entrepreneur, planned and built Oakmont to attract buyers hailing from a variety of financial backgrounds.

To this end, he built single family homes, as well as duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes. He even contemplated, but later abandoned, the construction of apartment houses.

Oakmont located in the world renowned Valley of the Moon has thrived and prospered during the ensuing 57 years. Today the village counts 3200 households and approximately 4800 residents.

After more than half a century, the march of time necessitated repairs and adjustments, and newly bought residences saw the remodeling and rejuvenation of the local housing stock.

Predictably, the public buildings followed the imperative for improvement. The West and the East Rec Centers were, therefore, successfully refurbished during the last few years.

Remaining to be redeveloped is Oakmont’s downtown, consisting of its principal hall, the Berger Center and the Community Activity Center, the so-called CAC.

Over the course of four years (2013-2017) board appointed committee after committee were initiated to address the projects, and to formulate ways and means to achieve the changes.

Foremost loomed the fate of the Berger Center. Was it to be torn down, rehabilitated and/or combined with the construction of a new hall – Berger II?

In 2015 a comprehensive and community-wide survey, Voices of Oakmont, established that 63 percent of residents favored solely the rehabilitation of the Berger Center.

In February 2018 the then board voted on a remodel for the Berger Center at a cost of $3.6 million, avoiding the costly need for creating additional parking. Former director, Karen Oswald, recently described the board’s decision with her fine ‘Guest Editorial’ in the Kenwood Press and recent comments here on the Observer.

Thus combined brings us to the year 2020, a pivotal time for our community. The new board has decided on a markedly expanded direction, namely exploring and planning the redevelopment of the entire Central Oakmont site – including the construction of a new and second Berger.

With a $30,000 retainer the architectural firm of long standing to Oakmont, ArchiLogix, has been tasked to provide site and preliminary plans for the core area of the village.

The price tag for remodeling the Berger center, the construction of a new building, the enlargement of the CAC and the necessary re-configuration of the parking lot, cannot be inexpensive.

Numbers in the vicinity of $10 to $15 million have been mentioned; but history has taught us that preliminary figures are ephemeral. The near doubling of costs for both the East and West Centers rendered that point very clearly.

As was the case with pickle ball and the golf courses, the community is, once again, divided by opposing opinions. On one hand are the occupants of million dollar homes and on the other those on strict retirement budgets, living in the multiplexes and smaller homes. As of now, fees and dues – set uniformly – amount in some cases to close to $500 per month for a retired couple living in a sub-HOA.

A prevailing view holding that Oakmont, due to market pressure, has become a wealthy enclave, must be countered by the fact that a substantial number of residents live in what has to be considered a middle class environment by Valley of the Moon standards. What is of little financial consequence to some people, represents a burden to other neighbors.

H.N. Berger had the vision of a village consisting of residents from all walks of life. And as such they came and bought properties in his development. Could he possibly have imagined that his democratic vision in 1963 would create hurtful interpersonal and communal tensions, culminating in the year 2020?

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  1. Rick Feibusch on September 1, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Great piece Yvonne, pretty much explains the crossroads we are facing. Unfortunately, we have to face it in the midst of a global pandemic, uncertain financial future, a potential concern with the County facilities across the highway that will possibly be affected by the uncertain financial future, and now, fire season. It is time to table all of the whimsical dreams and table discussion of that (that should be accompanied with a well explained and well promoted community poll) and concentrate on sorting out the golf courses (and seriously considering repurposing one), repairing and cosmetically improving what we have (perfect time, while they are not in much use), getting a new manager and making the Oakmont we have, working and looking as best as we can afford for the residents who presently live here, before we attempt to rebuild our home to accommodate all those rich folks from Silicon Valley. The main impetus seems to be the promise of increased property values. How many present residents are that concerned about how much their house will be worth? Most will leave for assisted living, or to downsize, or pass on.

    The situation needs to be explained as, what is more important for Oakmont? The health, safety, and enjoyment of the people who live here now, or the profits of the home flippers and real estate interests who fully intend to turn our comfortable little senior enclave in The Valley Of The Moon into their cash cow. And at who’s expense…

    • Charles Gresalfi on September 1, 2020 at 12:18 pm

      Well said ,Rick. In times of deep trouble we hold fast, not to adventure into unknown expansions.

  2. Yvonne Frauenfelder on September 1, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you, Rick, for your thoughtful and sensible response.
    Once the issue of the golf operation is satisfactorily arrived at, the Berger remodeled and the local and national outlook improved, we can consider how important a Berger II Is to the whole community. As Jeannette Luini likes to remind us, many HOAs go out to a vote for major principal expenditures. Perhaps, Oakmont needs to catch up with the times, by asking all its residents for their needs, desires and wants.

    • Cyndi Fink on September 4, 2020 at 11:30 am

      If your suggestion were a motion, I would second it. We moved in two years ago. I never thought to encounter the hostility that exists in Oakmont. What is the solution to this? Can dues be collected based on the value of your home or your ability to pay? What is the best path to making the fewest people unhappy?

      We all need to get along with each other, especially during this pandemic. I have lots of friends who live in communities; my parents retired to an AAC, Adult Active Community. Their clubhouse was incredible. When I went to visit my friends or parents, it was a treat to go there for lunch or dinner. When I first saw the Berger Center, I was shocked. I’d just come from Silver Creek Country Club in San Jose, where I had lunch with a friend. There is no comparison.

      It’s time to come together, not throw barbs at one another. Let’s join forces and work together. Both sides need to willing to accept the outcome. I would vote for a new Berger Center, but I want my community to be happy. I don’t want Oakmont to ever grace the pages of The New York Times again.

  3. Richard Savage on September 1, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    I came to live in Oakmont Village 1.5 years ago just as the OVA plans, meetings and deliberations were heating up. The golf community boosters were also gearing up with strong financial and political support to keep both the East and West golf courses. The opponents, not well funded tried their best to question the ability of the OVA to save the failing golf operations. Being in business for over 30 years assisting tech start-ups and well known technology companies and my background working for city, state and foreign governments. My first question is where is the “Business justification” for maintaining two large high maintenance, costly courses in a small community of Oakmont. Who did the marketing analysis of the demographics of golfers living in Oakmont and within a 50 mile radius who might visit to play a game or two? How many active golfers in the community are there and how often do they play?

    The main demographic that still plays golf are the aging and dying baby boomers. The next cohort the millenials are not keen to embrace golf like their mothers and fathers. Oh yes, the cost of housing in the Bay Area has skyrocketed almost every year since I moved to the Bay Area in 1976.

    Who did the necessary homework and analysis of thefinancial status of HOA and community golf courses in California and across the U.S. Not a good prognosis. So now for some analysis so we can take out the emotion. Now that AGP has flown the coop. We need a sober, intelligence and business-like knowledge to determine what the market needs are two golf courses and the financial stability of the OVA and our fellow residents. Here are some reports to read:

    1. Golfmak, Inc. associates Mike Kahn, Bill McIntosh, and Cameron White “Failing Neighborhood Golf Course Closure Trends” January 2018. …Retirement communities are also being hit the hardest because of demographics. Such golf communities rely on baby boomers, and we are aging. Unfortunately, Juniors, Millennials, and Gen-X people are dropping out of golf in huge numbers. So, as our community turns over, a lower percentage of residents are likely to be golfers….


    2. Forbes July 2018, Forbes Real Estate Council: Homeowners Will Pay The Price For A Backyard Golf Course, One Way Or Another”


    3. There are many more articles like this. There are solutions. But the past is the past.

  4. Gerry Gwynn on September 2, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Richard Savage,

    Your comment offers many critical questions and facts. Thank you for posting.

  5. Lisa Symonds on September 2, 2020 at 10:56 am

    The estimate for this project is a joke. One only has to look at the cost other communities have spent on similar facilities to understand the costs are 7 to 10 times higher than the current estimate. Similar to obtaining approval for public projects, this board throws out Initial estimate numbers without proper scoping and conceptual estimates, then moves forward impacting our future dues with a moving target. After the project is initiated new scope is identified ( oh but we could not have foreseen these items) which drives the cost up! There is too much risk going forward with a new facility at this time. We need to replenish our reserves, plan budget for preventing wildfire impacts, improving energy efficiency, reducing our carbon footprint, addressing climate change impacts on our community and ADA compliance before we add more square footage and higher annual expenses.

    • Brenda Steele on September 3, 2020 at 6:06 am

      Well-said, Lisa. It’s time to get real about this pie-in-the-sky vision of creating a “Downtown Oakmont” for those who say we have to prepare for the well-heeled Silicon Valleyites who are coming to Oakmont to live. Let’s face facts here. What causes anyone to think that Oakmont is the one and only place which will be sought out? I would venture to say that there are other places which do not have a homeless shelter across the road which could very well-become a low-barrier site. There are other places in the Bay Area and in Wine County that provide far better ways out when wild fire evacuations occur every year. As brought up in your posting as well as in others in this string, we have a lot to work on right now for those of us who are living here. It’s downright nonsensical for the BOD to engage in discussions and presentation touting the fantasy world some live in, that we HAVE to create a “Downtown Oakmont” when we have to, need to, take care of what’s here already. One would think from those discussions and presentations that we are living in a third-world country or in a near-slum. I still say as I have said before, “If you choose to buy a house here then you are choosing what’s here and if you don’t like what’s here, then choose somewhere else to live which gives you what you want or need.”

  6. Patricia Violetti on September 2, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    Very good observations, let us hope enough home owners think about them.

  7. Malka Osserman on September 2, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    Thank you Yvonne for an excellent article. Very well written and illustrated. High quality journalism. Thanks for all the wise replies. It is now the time to fight back by thinking of the board elections in April 2021. I lived in a golf community in Boca Raton ,FLA that expanded and spent money uncontrollably. I lost my home there because it went underwater. We just bought here and I am watching the same out of control spending. This time I am going to fight back!!

    • Charlotte Lesch on September 2, 2020 at 9:50 pm

      I moved here 18 years ago and don’t plan on being run out of Oakmont by new residents that feel entitled to having everything replaced. I too, will not be on the sidelines. The present board members need to resign if they can’t be transparent, be conservative in spending our money and let the property owners vote for major projects (vs 12 percent).

  8. Yvonne Frauenfelder on September 3, 2020 at 7:09 am

    The Oakmont membership has to unite in electing four new, fiscally aware, OVA Board members this coming April.

    It is time for residents to come forward and place themselves in nomination. With a new board majority awaiting placement, and speaking out NOW against the radical and costly – $15 to $20 million – redevelopment of our village core area, most specifically the building of a new Berger Center, the tide can be turned in the community’s favor.

  9. harry a kleiser on September 4, 2020 at 9:01 am

    While I understand that the current board has our best interests at heart, I believe they are on the wrong track. Who lives here? People on fixed incomes. While many of the newer residents may have large retirement packages and thus be able to afford a more lavish lifestyle, many people in retirement communities are on really fixed incomes ravaged by inflation. Personally, I thought buying the golf course and leasing it to a golf management company was a mistake in judgement and an expense many of us cannot afford. Now the Board wants to initiate a redevelopment program? In addition, they want to change the ground rules for amending the Bylaws, which seems to me like an attempt by them to make it easier for the Board to make decisions without resident input. This Board is out of control.

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