Opinion

Since coming to Oakmont five years ago, I have observed two macro tendencies that could bear improvement.  First, on issues of substantial importance to the future of Oakmont (Berger remodel/rebuild, pickleball court location, OVA relationship to OGC), there is considerable dissension within our community, lack of trust that the OVA Board of Directors will make the right decision, and resulting animosity, both toward members of the Board and toward other members of the community.  Secondly, the fact that approximately half the Board members are elected each year results in new policies and new directions almost every year, an unstable situation that contributes to the community dissension and lack of trust.

This year I have attended a number of Board meetings and committee meetings, learning how things get done, and I have begun to formulate opinions as to how things might be improved.  Central to reducing dissension and increasing trust is to have a common vision of Oakmont which, once established, is rarely changed [1].  Each new Board would need to, at a minimum, justify their actions to the community based on adherence to this “Oakmont Vision”.  But in order for this Oakmont Vision to reduce dissension, it must have the explicit consent of OVA members through a vote.  If I don’t like the vision, I would at least know that a majority of OVA members voting approved it.

On November 6 from 2 pm to 4 pm, there will be an OVA Workshop with the theme of “What Should Oakmont’s Future Look Like, and Who Should Decide?”  In deciding on this theme, the Board recognized the importance of having a vision of Oakmont’s future and addressing how to arrive at it.

What Should Oakmont’s Future Look Like

Before looking to the future, it may be helpful to consider what Oakmont looks like today. Oakmont is defined by a number of components. First, and most important, is who we are as individuals. Next is the nature of our homes, which vary from multi-family units built in the 1960’s to homes recently built or remodeled to serve those of us who are very well off. Next is the common property of the community, including all of our recreational facilities maintained and operated by the Oakmont Village Association. Finally, there is the property which is independently owned and controlled, including the golf courses and all of the commercial property within the boundaries of Oakmont.

Oakmont residents represent widely different demographics and come from all over the world. Some of us live primarily on our Social Security income and may have to sometimes choose between buying food and paying bills, while others have retired with considerable wealth and will never have to worry about money. Some of us have been athletic for all of our lives and relish the opportunity to use Oakmont’s diverse sports facilities, while others lead more sedentary lifestyles. Some of us are extremely social, and join numerous of Oakmont’s more than 130 clubs and organizations, while others rarely leave their homes except for necessary excursions. Some are focussed on family, either local or widely dispersed, while others have few living relatives and rely on Oakmont social opportunities to stay connected with other people.

Having a vision document for a homeowners association (HOA) is not at all unusual. References [2] through [5] show examples of similar documents from HOAs around the country.

In the near term, Oakmont’s future will look much like it does today, with the major change coming with the completion of the East Recreational Center remodel and upgrade. This is very well defined – we have all seen the artist’s renderings and the frequent progress reports.

But look ahead just a bit, and our visions of the future begin to diverge. My purpose here is not to describe to you what Oakmont’s future should look like, but to identify some necessary components of such a vision and then to address the second question, “Who should decide?”  In order to follow a steady course toward whatever Oakmont is to become in the future, we need a stable and common Oakmont Vision.  Such a vision would guide our Boards of Directors, both now and in the future, and, if derived from a consensus of all Oakmonters, would reduce dissension and hostility among us, as issues come up that divide us. This Oakmont Vision should include at least the following:

Fiscal and Facilities Vision: I treat the fiscal vision and facilities vision as one because they are inseparable – we can’t build, maintain and operate a new facility without paying the associated costs, and the assessments we will pay in the future are directly connected with how we maintain and expand OVA facilities. Among the questions we need to answer are:

• What type of budgetary plan should OVA follow, now and in the future? Should the OVA Board set a budget total based on an acceptable level of dues, and then adjust spending to fit? Or should it decide on what to spend, including both required maintenance and operations expenditures and capital improvements, and then set the level of dues to make the budget balance?
• Should the OVA property base be expanded with new facilities to meet the expectations of future buyers, or should it remain about the same, with only relatively minor capital improvements to accommodate new technologies and the changing needs of the community?
• How should OVA respond to changing technologies and the changing needs and expectations of residents? Should the OVA Board limit what they do, to keep dues low, or expand facilities and services, and raise dues to pay for them?

Aging in Place Vision: Technology is changing ever more quickly and we are living longer. Most of us would like to remain in our homes as long as possible, and various services and devices may allow us to remain longer than ever before.

• What type of services and devices do we want in the near term, and what will we want five or ten years from now?
• How much of a role should OVA take in making services and devices available? Should they be provided to residents on a fee-for-service basis, paid for from dues and assessments, or should outside businesses be solicited to provide resident services?
• Should OVA be taking actions to encourage independent business, who can provide needed aging-in-place services, to locate in the various business buildings in Oakmont?

Golf Courses Vision: As recent events have shown, the golf courses and restaurant belonging to the Oakmont Golf Club (OGC) impact the community in various ways, and their failure would create temporary chaos and a large amount of uncertainty and risk to our home values.

• Should OVA move toward eventual integration of the golf courses into OVA, which would involve major expenditures for purchasing the property and ongoing costs for maintaining it, if memberships and greens fees are not enough? Are OVA members willing to undertake the costs and risks involved?
• Or should OVA maintain strict independence from OGC, accepting the possible consequences should OGC fail?  What will the fairways look like if OGC fails?  Should OVA make contingency plans, either to take over the property and convert it to other uses or to lobby some external entity to make some acceptable use of it?
• Or is there a possible solution somewhere in between, providing support and cooperation to help OGC continue to exist? If we choose this route, how much are we willing to pay in dues increases, and should strings be attached to the aid?

This list of questions is certainly not complete, but these are some of the types of things that should be asked in developing an Oakmont Vision, and which you might want to think about, leading up to the November 6 OVA Workshop.

Who Should Decide?

This is the truly crucial question, and there are two divergent views, with little room between them:

1. The Board should decide. We have a representative governing body, the OVA Board of Directors, and, when we elect them, we delegate to them all responsibility for decision making, including duties to supervise the OVA professional staff, to decide on all budgets and expenditures, to establish all OVA policies, and to authorize clubs, classes and service groups. The Board must listen to OVA members during Open Forum at Board meetings and may accept member input at other times, but the Board makes all decisions and has no obligation to abide by member wishes, however, expressed. They have a fiduciary duty to OVA and its members, and the authority to decide how best to execute that duty. — This view is elitist, deeming the Board the only ones qualified to make such a decision, but it is the view supported by our current governing documents.
2. OVA members should decide. OVA members are the ultimate authority because they own the 3,200 homes in Oakmont (and the leases in the Gardens) and they are the voters that the Board is elected to represent. OVA members should be given the opportunity to express their visions of Oakmont, those visions should be melded into a credible Oakmont Vision, and OVA members should then vote to approve it or not. — Having an Oakmont Vision, approved by a vote of the membership, would not only provide a more stable vision to guide Boards of Directors, as their composition changes over the years but would also reduce dissension by providing a vision that was demonstrably approved by the majority of voting OVA members.

The current Bylaws and other governing documents give the Board the authority, so answer 1 is the current “law of the land.” We can hope that the Board will ask us in some fashion, perhaps with another Oakmont survey, but they have no obligation to do so, and I have no indication at this point that they intend to do so, beyond holding a workshop where all of us are allowed to speak.

If the Board consents to do so, a survey or poll of some sort could be held, and the Board could establish an Oakmont Vision document using the results. This would be better than not having an Oakmont Vision, but there are a couple of problems with this approach: (1) the Board-developed document might not be fairly representative of member visions, or, even if it is, might not be accepted as such, because it would not have been approved by vote of the membership, and (2) any future Board could easily replace the document with a different one, matching their own visions, or could vote to simply eliminate it from the set of OVA governing documents.

A better alternative would be to amend the OVA Bylaws to define what the structure of the Oakmont Vision document is to be and to require the development of the document, plus the approval by a vote of OVA members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Might a Process Look Like For OVA Members to Decide the Oakmont Vision?

The process described below is not required by our current governing documents, and the constraints on how the Oakmont Vision document is changed and approved do not exist. The OVA Board could follow this process but is in no way required to do so, unless amendments to our Bylaws are made to enforce it.

Developing the Oakmont Vision, based on OVA members’ visions of Oakmont, would proceed in several phases:

1. Ask OVA members carefully selected questions, on which to base the Oakmont Vision. Assign the Long Range Planning Committee to develop the questionnaire, and administer the questionnaire by including it with an annual election mailing. In this way, every OVA member has the opportunity to express his/her vision. Those who do not respond will not have their views represented, the same as if they don’t vote for the Board of Directors. Note: the 2015 Voices of Oakmont survey, which was acclaimed by some and criticized by others, provides a wealth of information, much of which is relevant to developing an Oakmont Vision. But a more focused questionnaire, with the specific purposes of designing an Oakmont Vision, including asking where Oakmont should be in 5 or 10 years, is very important.

2. Study all questionnaire responses, as well as the Voices of Oakmont survey, and develop a unified Oakmont Vision based on them. The Long Range Planning Committee would also do this, with open workshops to provide members with the opportunity to influence the document content, and the Board would approve the draft before submission for a membership vote.
3. Present the draft Oakmont Vision to OVA members, either at a special election or at the next annual election. If passed, the Oakmont Vision document becomes an official governing document, to be changed only by a future vote of the membership. Failure of the vote would require at least a re-casting of the draft Oakmont Vision (step 2), and possibly going back to step 1, with new questions to discern why the vote failed.
4. Any OVA Board could propose any change to the Oakmont Vision document and put it to a membership vote for approval. But the Oakmont Vision document could not be amended or repealed without a vote of the membership.

In order to make the Oakmont Vision effective, the OVA Board Mission Statement or the Bylaws would also need to be changed, to make it the duty of directors to follow the Oakmont Vision, to the best of their abilities.

Final note: Having a vision document for a homeowners association (HOA) is not at all unusual. References [2] through [5] show examples of similar documents from HOAs around the country.

No matter what your view is on this subject, I encourage you to show up at the November 6 OVA workshop and make your views known. It is an important meeting!

References

[1] Visions of Oakmont, Bruce Bon, 10 September 2018, https://oakmontobserver.com/visions-of-oakmont/ .

[2] Creekside Village (Grand Blanc, Michigan) HOA Mission Statement: Our Vision, Mission Statement of the CVHOA Board, Guiding Principles of the CVHOA Board,
https://www.creeksidevillagegrandblanc.com/hoa-mission-statement.html

[3 Vision, Mission & Values Statement, Kinney Village Homeowners Association (Tuscon, AZ), https://sites.google.com/site/kinneyvillagehoa/home/vision-mission-values
Includes Board of Director Objectives and Member Objectives.

[4] Vision/Mission Statement, Willow Dell HOA (Spring, TX), https://www.willowdellhoa.com/p/VisionMission-Statement
Includes Vision, Mission, Values and Guiding Principles for the Willow Dell Board Members.

[5] Mission/Vision/Values Statement Examples, 4 examples from different HOAs, https://arrowcreek411.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/arrowcreek-mission-vision-values-examples.pdf

Spread the word(s):

9 comments

  1. Shirley Phillips

    Bruce–this is a very insightful, well-reasoned, article–producing Oakmont’s Vision–and I think it is
    very necessary. I know four friends who are leaving Oakmont because of rising costs–from individual homes associations within Oakmont–and the fear that the golf course will become a major cost if we agree to aid. They say they are getting out early, while they can. Oakmont is a beautiful community–we moved here, from the Midwest, because my husband loves to hike within Northern California. We also felt safe and secure and people were friendly. Yet, I know we live in a time of change. A survey, driven by the long range planning committee, plus Oakmont resident input, seems prudent to me. On a personal level, I know you don’t start major expenditures for your home or life without doing some assessment as to priority.

    Thank you for this article. Really major food for thought.

  2. Yvonne Frauenfelder

    Bruce Bon is to be congratulated for authoring an impressive and well thought through step by step primer in how to achieve a “Vision for Oakmont.” His proposal to allow the residents of the community to decide our future is timely and wholly appropriate, considering that yearly and major changes to the board composition render planning haphazard.

    According to the author, the Long Range Planning Committee is to be tasked with developing and administering a comprehensive questionnaire to be included in the yearly election mailing. Presenting the draft agreement “VISION OAKMONT” to OVA members either at a special or a board election, would result in a legal document, to be changed only by majority vote.

    The enforcement of this process necessitates an adjustment to our Bylaws which are at this time under review.

    It is to be hoped that the current board will seriously consider the Bon roadmap in that they share most people’s desire to have a voice in the direction that Oakmont should take for the next five to ten years.

  3. Gordon Freedman

    Congratulations on a well thought out look at our options for all things and process in Oakmont.

    I served on the 2015 long range planning committee that developed the survey and vision.

    The Board at that time desolved the committee and the survey and report went into limbo.

    I believe it would take a 2/3 vote by of owners to change the bi-laws. With a third of Oakmont homes being rentals, I think it will be impossible to make changes to the bi-laws.

    Thanks for starting the discussion.

    1. Gordon — it’s not quite as bad as you suggest. Article XI of the Bylaws defines the voting requirement to amend them as a majority of the voting power of the Association, or around 1600 votes — difficult to achieve, but not impossible. This morning, the Bylaws Revision Committee is having one of their twice monthly meetings to consider essential revisions, since the Bylaws haven’t been changed for 26 years and some provisions no longer conform with California law. The BRC will make recommendations to the Board, which expects to put Bylaws revisions up for voting with the spring election. I expect the full PR power of the OVA to be exerted to convince people to vote, and this is as it should be. I don’t expect Bylaws changes such as suggested in my article to be on that ballot, because I don’t think the current Board would support them. I hope that the Bylaws amendment process will be made a little easier (but not too easy), so that desirable additional amendments might be applied sometime in the future.

  4. Richard Feibusch

    While we should well consider improvements and additions, I am concerned with the cost over runs on present projects and would like that the people who are coordinating the construction to do a better job of inspections and including enough funds for contingency surprises. No, I am not a pro construction manager, but owning income property in Venice, CA for over 30 years, and remodeling four kitchens, two bathrooms and 3 complete apartments, I pretty much knew what was there and what was needed, and “surprises” tended to be in the 10-15% over area. Yes, I know that there has been considerable inflation and since the fires, construction costs have also risen, but the amounts here on present projects seem, to me, unreasonable. Maybe it is poor planning, insufficient inspections, or an actual intended under quoting in order to get approval, but I think that, as comedian Jim Jeffries says, “We all can do better.”

  5. Sylvia Edwards

    Bruce, thank you so much for such a well thought out and well reasoned plan. I only hope that your “road-map” can be adopted, as many of us are of a like mind.

  6. Anthony Schukle

    Bruce, in response to your long winded discourse, in my opinion, I feel that 70-80% of the residents of Oakmont do not care nor want to be involved in the every day decision making process. This comes from conversations with several friends and neighbors here in Oakmont. A good example is the recent issues with the Golf Course. We failed to look at what happened to the values of the homes that surround Adobe Creek Golf Course. What would have happened to Adobe Creek if there would have been some financial involvement. I want to thank the people on the Oakmont Board for their willingness to serve. It is a Thankless job.
    Tony Schukle

    1. Anthony — you could be correct, but I think that people are likely to care if their dues are doubled, which happened over the past 10 years and will happen again in another 6 years, if the current 12% per year increase rate continues.

      We absolutely need a better way to ascertain what Oakmonters really want. The only way I know to do that is through some sort of membership voting process. If that takes place, and 2/3 of the eligible voters don’t vote, then those folks don’t get a voice, and that is just. But I believe that we should all get a chance to vote on any issue that will substantially change Oakmont from what it was when we bought to something different. Nobody suggests that residents should be involved in “the every day decision making process”. But if the Board proposes, for example, to spend several million dollars building a new facility, then as one of the voting members of OVA, I want them to ask our permission before proceeding!

      The central point of this article is that, if we could come up with a Vision of Oakmont through a process that most Oakmonters agreed represented them, and if the Board was tasked with following that Vision (rather than each new Board making up their own vision, every year as new boards are elected), then we would all be happier and at least some of the dissension of recent years might be avoided.

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