■ Matt McPherson / Columnist
Since my previous article on two senior communities, threats to quiet enjoyment and the intimidation of HOA residents continues to evolve. Discourse among residents fuels accusations on both sides. One park, American Village, continues to swing the pendulum of accusations and violations back and forth between seemingly arrogant board members and frustrated park residents.
American Village in San Jacinto is accused by some residents of over-enforcing the Covenants, Codes and Restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws. From the federal and state level down to the community park level, the minutiae with which the community HOA seems preoccupied has enraged and frightened some residents within the once peaceful neighborhood.
According to park residents, the problems began in February 2012 when a board member resigned, creating a vacancy which was soon filled by volunteer Joyce Newsom. Newsom spent the next year studying the Davis-Stirling Act and the HOA bylaws and CC&Rs. After the newly-elected board president resigned and a recall campaign occurred, Newsom suggested training on these regulations. However, Newsom said this training never took place.
Around April 2013, the new president initiated some research into the lots surrounding the community garden, in addition to the lot on which the community garden sat. Eileen Wynne, HOA president, voiced some unhappiness with the stepping stones and trellis that gardeners installed.
The following month Newsom was informed an emergency executive session would take place. At the meeting, Newsom said she was browbeaten and accused of distributing a newsletter called “The Watchdog,” a publication that was circulated anonymously and with which she was not involved. After much bullying and intimidation by other board members, Newsom felt inclined to resign, which left nobody on the board to defend the community garden. Weeks later one of the remaining board members was asked to resign as a result of the continual harassment against Newsom.
Sadly the once beautiful, 16-year-old award winning garden was removed and replaced with a horseshoe pit and paved area with chained tables. The board rationalized its decision to designate the area as an emergency helipad in case a disaster that required air medical response occurred. Park residents call this excuse ludicrous, claiming the area is not wide enough to accommodate the landing of a helicopter.
Subsequently a few more developments have come to light in the park, creating more disputes among the inhabitants. A questionable transfer of a property at 1363 Congress Way by the HOA to an individual is directly under the microscope of the community members and is creating more questions than answers.
Recently, park residents who question the board’s authority and some actually running for the board have found themselves to be the victims of selective enforcement.
Jack Hale, a non-resident American Village homeowner, originally bought a home in the community for his mother back in 1991. His mother enjoyed playing bridge, gathering for coffee, and taking long walks with friends. After his mother passed away, Hale decided to retain the property in remembrance of the wonderful experiences his mother recognized in a once glorious neighborhood. Hale is a candidate for the Board of Directors 2017 election Jan. 24th. He has been extremely critical of the existing Board of Directors and CID Property Management and plans to pursue investigating the questionable transfer of 1363 Congress Way.
Such fines and violations continue and range from picking too many oranges from community trees, unauthorized shade screening over windows, to accusations of killing a pet cat.”
Regarding the Congress Way property, “it was never actually purchased by the HOA; it was foreclosed on by the HOA,” explained David May of the park’s HOA.
After the owner passed away, said May, a trustee sale of the reverse mortgage property took place by Wells Fargo (the bank holding the note) back in 2015 and due to years of non-payment of HOA fees, the HOA foreclosed on the property in an attempt to recoup the lost revenue. Wells Fargo was unwilling to release any information to the HOA and without the cooperation of the deceased previous owner’s family members, a foreclosure and resale of the property was the only choice. A major cloud on the title with the bank and a bank that was unwilling to cooperate made the foreclosure a much needed move.
A buyer was willing to take over the property and verified with a real estate attorney that it was a proper procedure. This obligated the new buyer to deal with any liens and clouded title with the bank and it was in the absolute best interest of the HOA to do so.
Wynn became the existing president of the board of directors again, according to Hale, when the previous president resigned as a result of community pressure after a racial slur was said to an African American tenant.
“This is a recycling board because we have not attained a quorum in five years,” said Hale. “I ran for the 2016 board and received 62 votes, which was 100 percent of votes cast, but it takes 112 to reach a quorum.
After the incident of theft, destruction of property and trespassing, a police report was filed on Eileen Wynn for the victimization of Joyce Newsom. Hale and another former board member sent a letter to the board asking Wynn to resign on grounds that she violated board member conduct.
On Oct. 20 Hale received a response in the form of a violation letter, citing that his aluminum window covering was not allowed in the park, and his roses were growing too high, which violated park rules. After Hale responded to the violation, he received notice on Jan. 10 that a hearing would take place, signed by the property manager, not the board.
“I find the timing of this violation and hearing to be nothing but harassment. Especially since while I concur my roses were taller than usual they were budding and my tenant asks to allow them to bloom for Christmas,” said Hale. “I agreed, considering the roses across the street are the same height. My aluminum window coverings are in fact a ‘solar shade,’ and there are two other homes in the community with wood coverings.”
Such fines and violations continue and range from picking too many oranges from community trees, unauthorized shade screening over windows, to accusations of killing a pet cat. The absurdity within the park perpetuates as the residents persevere hoping for some or any kind of resolution surrounded by a multitude of frustration.
Hale attributes all of the problems to “board weakness and a fear of the Davis-Stirling Act, and an opportunity to demonstrate their power and control, all instilled by the property management style.”
Please contact me if you are experiencing a threat to your quiet enjoyment within your HOA as this seems to be a very popular topic here in the valley with so many senior communities.
Matt McPherson, 6th generation in the valley
951-315-7914 or McPhtown@aol.com.