Working Together - Solve HOA Problems

Working Together Will Solve HOA Problems
Open letter to the Planning Commissioners

Our homeowners association is reaching a critical stage with parking and other problems. I understand your concerns as to where people with too many cars will park. Please let me assure you the problem will be greater if it comes to NO place to park because there are too many people with too many cars. That’s where we’re headed if something is not done to curtail both the number of people living under one roof and the number of cars they own.

By starting now to let residents know having so many cars is not to their benefit, perhaps we can "nip it in the bud.” Maybe they will purchase homes in areas that allow for more cars, such as non-overpopulated condo associations. Maybe they will donate their old cars to charity rather than keeping them. If the city ever chose to cite these owners, it would eventually get too expensive to keep cars parked on the streets. We do our part by suggesting in our newsletter they donate their cars; our CC&R’s prevent them from storing them in open parking on the property, and is enforced by our private security company and HOA fine process.

As an HOA board, we levy some pretty hefty fines for different types of HOA violations. At our September board meeting, we levied a fine on a homeowner for $2,500 for not complying with our architectural policy. Lest you think that is too much, we have given the homeowner almost two years to comply, and he ignored the violation letters. Now we’re going to see how fast he complies. I can tell you he has already made some of the changes required.  

I don't understand why the city can't work in the same way. Why does an HOA have more "power" than the city? I really don't think we do – we are governed by the same state and local laws. We can't just walk in and fine someone. We have to work up a case, give all kinds of warnings and all kinds of chances. Homeowners have to be called to a hearing before they can be fined. As one possible difference, an HOA can reverse a fine as it sees fit once homeowners are in compliance. We don’t want their money, we just want compliance. We work with our attorney (an expert in condo law) who guides us as to what we can and cannot do. We really aren’t so different from the city. Perhaps the people on an HOA board feel more strongly about property values since they usually live in the same area and want to maintain the property and values. Perhaps the city is more detached from the citizens. There just isn't much difference in the ultimate goal. We have a budget we have to stay within, just like the city.  

If the city won't paint our curbs red, can we paint them ourselves? Will the city enforce the red curbs if the HOA does the painting? We wouldn’t have a problem painting the curbs red, as we use red paint in our driveways and cul de sacs to prevent residents from parking behind garages, etc. If the city won’t paint the curbs red, will they at least paint the intersection red where the crosswalk should be to prevent vehicles from parking in crosswalks? Currently, this is a safety issue for our residents. Will the city paint the curb in front of fire hydrants red to prevent parking at the hydrants? Just in case there is a fire, a car is usually parked in front of every hydrant on the property, which is another dangerous situation.

In the early ‘70s when this property was built up as condominiums, residents parked wherever they wanted – in front of fire hydrants, behind garages – everywhere. A fire broke out on Via Pimiento, the 23000 section, and an entire building burned to the ground. Fire trucks couldn’t access the fire hydrants due to cars parked everywhere. It took approximately two years to rebuild due to the fighting back and forth with insurance companies. At that time, the Fire Marshal deemed all areas other than the assigned parking stalls to be painted RED. It has been that way ever since. 

A few years later, another fire broke out in the 22000 block of Via Pimiento when someone left the house with a candle burning by an open window, and lacy curtains billowing in the breeze caught fire. Fortunately, it was seen and called in soon enough to prevent another major disaster. After that, there is not an area on the entire property that is not marked as a Fire or Emergency lane. 

Today, if a fire engine were to try to get into our driveways, with cars parked to the very end and in some cases extending into the driveway, it would be difficult to navigate. These curbs need to be painted RED and enforced by the Police Dept.

The cars parked on the streets belong to residents who have their garages packed so full of storage (JUNK) that they cannot park their cars inside. They would rather risk having their $20,000+ vehicle parked outside – subjected to vandalism or being sideswiped – than clean up 20 years’ worth of accumulated junk that will never be looked at again. Our CC&R’s state that each resident must be able to park his or her car inside the garage. We have yearly garage sales to help residents get rid of junk, and in past years we have rented huge Waste Management dumpsters to dispose of the junk.

We will be starting garage inspections in October to encourage residents to get rid of JUNK and clean up. We are also getting ready to start a huge painting project, which will take about a year to complete. Our goal after that is to install new rollup garage doors, and residents will have to clean up their garages due to the configuration of the mechanical apparatus for the doors. We ARE doing our part to get cars off the streets and prevent people from living in garages. All we are asking for is the help and support from the city to prevent this area from becoming a "Little Santa Ana" as we have been referred to in the past. The problems we are facing here are the same problems other areas of Mission Viejo will face or have begun facing if we don't start somewhere to prevent the process of decline of the city.

I just this afternoon received a follow-up email from city staff members informing me that they had done a return inspection at a residence in our HOA for having a garage converted to living quarters. Prior to having notified the city of this code infraction, they (residents) were unable to park in their garage. With two cars, they needed both their garage and their parking stall, but since they were using the garage as a bedroom, they were parking one vehicle on the street. Little by little the process works. They are now parking in their garage and in their parking stall, taking one vehicle off the street. As I keep saying, if we force them to use their garages, they will. In turn, that will improve our parking situation. It’s proof that by working together, we can make changes.

Kathy Miramontes
President, Aliso Villas Homeowners Association