What’s In A Vision?
On Tuesday, May 7, an OVA workshop was held, billed in an E-blast announcement as Vision of Oakmont 2030. The official documentation of this workshop may be found at:
- 05-07-19: LRPC VISION WORKSHOP – news story, includes complete video of the workshop
- What We Heard from Oakmont – slides used in the workshop
- Session Notes – notes taken in real time during the workshop open forum
This workshop was comprised of an official presentation by Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) member Jeff Young, documenting the results of extensive interviews, conducted since last summer, with residents, club presidents, realtors, other “stakeholders” and California retirement communities. In order to make the results easily understandable, the presentation largely consisted of “stories”, each one a slide headed by a “theme label” title followed by a list of word-for-word quotes from representatives of a particular category (residents – 17 stories, realtors – 6 stories, clubs – 2 stories, competitor surveys – 2 stories). This was a very effective way of representing the diverse opinions of the people interviewed, although it failed to capture the prevalence of any of the opinions. There was also one story (p. 7) entitled “Who Lives in Oakmont” consisting of demographic data from the 2010 census.
Following the slide presentation was an open forum in which anyone could express their opinions on the topic and ask questions of the speaker. The Session Notes are an attempt to capture the content of the open forum, but the recorder couldn’t keep up with the various speakers, so I recommend that, if you want to really comprehend what was said at the workshop, you should watch the video HERE, skipping the slide presentation which you can find HERE.
The LRPC is to be commended for the large amount of time and effort its members spent interviewing stakeholders and assembling the results into a form that can easily be understood. I do have some concerns, however, which I will express below.
First, and most important, the LRPC Conclusions slide (p. 32) misrepresents the stories that preceded it.
The content of this slide is as follows:
Through interviews, the LRPC identified the following needs:
- There is a critical need for more space to properly support our activities, clubs, and fitness center.
- We need to keep Oakmont competitive and attractive so we can continue to attract new home buyers.
- A performance venue would be very useful to our residents and clubs and could be a source of revenue.
- A community gathering center would enhance our sense of community and improve social interactions essential for this time of life.
Meeting these needs is essential to keep Oakmont competitive over the next 20 years and would be seen as affordable to new buyers and most existing residents.
While is is true that there were a number of the stories supporting this expansionist vision of Oakmont’s future, there were also a number of stories urging a more conservative vision:
- Keep Oakmont a Small Town (p. 8)
Key quote: “I am concerned we will lose our small-town feel. We need to keep our plans in scale.”
- I Want to Keep Oakmont the Way it Currently Is (p. 9)
Key quotes: “Focus resources on maintaining the EXISTING facilities at a high level of quality.”
“It is an excellent senior community. Keep it attractive but don’t worry about keeping up with the high-end Jones’.”
- I am Concerned I Won’t Be Able to Afford to Live Here (p. 18)
Key quote: “There are many people here that live on a single income and are stretching their budgets to be able to be in this wonderful place.”
- I am Concerned We are Spending Money We Don’t Have (p. 19)
Key quote: “Let’s not take on too much debt.”
- I am Concerned We Are Creating Grandiose Plans We Can’t Afford (p. 20)
Key quote: “We have a wealth of amenities right now. I am concerned about raising dues or adding assessments to build new amenities that we don’t really need.”
- Keep the Dues Increases to a Minimum (p. 22)
Key quote: “Work on ways to keep HOA fees as low as possible without having the property appearance decline over time.”
- Our Leaders Need to Think Beyond Their Personal Interests (p. 28)
Key quote: “Recognize that Board members have a fiduciary responsibility whose basic job is to represent their constituents and not simply to propose and advocate those projects and policies which they personally consider important.”
The bias toward facilities expansion is evident, and I believe that it represents an over-weighting of the views of realtors, who are naturally prejudiced toward keeping Oakmont “competitive” in order to attract new buyers and increase their commissions. While all agree that OVA should maintain our facilities and not let them slide into disrepair, many residents could care less if Oakmont is seen as competitive with other, largely newer senior communities in the region.
Second, the Recommended Next Step slide (p. 33) seems to have redefined the concept of a vision.
Hire a community architect to create a vision of our future community we can all see.
- A baseline vision to meet our essential needs. MINIMUM NEEDS
- An enhanced vision of what might be reasonably possible. ENHANCED
Many HOAs around the country have established vision statements. For example:
- Creekside Village (Grand Blanc, Michigan – first section of HOA Mission Statement)
- Kinney Village Homeowners Association (Tuscon, AZ – first section of Vision, Mission & Values Statement)
- Willow Dell HOA (Spring, TX – first section of Vision/Mission Statement)
- Mission/Vision/Values Statement Examples, 4 examples provided by Arrowcreek HOA, Reno, NV
In fact, in 2013 Larry Maniscalco of the old LPRC prepared an excellent draft for an OVA Mission & Vision Statements document, which I recommend everyone read – it would be difficult to improve on that draft. But rather than adopting that draft or developing a fairly simple vision statement, such as those included in the above examples, the Recommended Next Step seems to envision something more like a long range plan (e.g. see the various draft Long Range Plan elements developed by our own LRPC in 2012-2015, HERE) or a strategic plan, e.g. the ArrowCreek HOA 2017 Strategic Plan. There is nothing wrong with this, other than its redefinition of the word “vision”. But it is very different from the 2013 LRPC draft or from the Oakmont Vision, Mission Statement and Guiding Principles document that I proposed several months ago in Visions of Oakmont. Frankly, I think it is a bit of a cart-before-the-horse. The LRPC has collected hundreds of opinions from residents, but has not yet coalesced them into a unified vision of Oakmont, which should precede any attempt to flesh out the details for implementing the vision.
Finally, I brought up two vision proposals in the Open Forum. These are represented somewhat in the Session Notes of the Open Forum, but I also sent a more cogent version of them in a separate Email to the LRPC, so I am hoping to see them in some form in the LRPC report that incorporates workshop input. These two elements of my vision for the future of Oakmont are:
- A goal of evolution toward participatory democracy, in which OVA members have a direct say in the most important OVA decisions.
- A serious goal of maintaining Oakmont’s affordability for middle-class owners. Keeping Oakmont affordable will require keeping dues increases comparable to inflation, and that will require a policy that dues should not rise much faster than inflation unless there is a real emergency. The exception to this is expansion of facilities or services if and only if they have been approved by a vote of the OVA membership.
Overall, the LRPC has done very good work at assembling diverse opinions about the desired future of Oakmont. But nothing has been done to resolve the conflict between free-spending expansionists and keep-our-dues-low fiscal responsibility advocates, other than providing a conclusions slide that clearly favors the expansionist view. I foresee continual conflict between people with these different perspectives unless and until alternative Oakmont visions are composed and put to a vote of the membership. Such a vote would let us know what the majority want, and the minority would be more likely to accept the majority vision, whichever that might be.
ADDENDUM 20 MAY 2019
Attending today’s LRPC meeting, I learned:
- The formal LRPC report on the activities reported on May 7 was delivered to the OVA Board on March 25, with one of the four documents containing recommendations. This report has not been reported on in a Board meeting, and the documents have not yet been included in a Board meeting packet, although it is expected they these things will happen in a future Board meeting (but not tomorrow, May 21).
- Because the report was delivered over a month before the May 7 OVA workshop, none of the member feedback provided at the workshop, or by any other means after the May 25 delivery, is or will be included in the LRPC report.
- It was recognized that the use of the terms “community architect” and “vision” in the Recommended Next Step slide was misleading and confusing. “Community architect” should probably be replaced with “community planner” and “vision” should be replaced with “long term plan” or perhaps “long term facilities plan”.