Bayport HOA: Too Militant?

I will admit, from the very early days the concept of an HOA has always concerned me. Not because they are inherently bad, but because their boards tend to attract people who want to control their neighbors lives. To dictate what people can and cannot do with their own homes. For the first 10 years we were in the house, the HOA was, for the most part, not acting unreasonably. Their main focus was on improving the landscaping to make it more economical to maintain, especially in light of water shortages and the rapidly increasing cost of water. Then came the parking disputes and the more militant board members.


Parking

Bayport covers a relatively large area (it is almost 500 homes). In some parts of the development, parking can be scarce. Everybody has at least two spaces in their garages, but they are not generous. If you have a larger vehicle, it might be difficult to get two in the garage and actually be able to get in and out of them. Others have more than two vehicles. Whatever the reason some people choose to park one or more cars on the street.

Additionally, those nearer the apartment complexes that neighbor the development often find, or at least suspect, apartment residents are parking overnight on their streets.

A committee was convened and made little progress for a number of years. Then the board changed and suddenly there was a proposal for new parking rules. The proposal had a number of significant issues, in particular it tried to make residents pay for permits to park on the street, and furthermore limit the number they could have. Feedback was provided and the board went away to try again.

Permission to have Visitors

Version two removed the payment and limit, but added license plate registration and some new rules for visitors. In particular, if residents have a visitor who needs to park their car for more than four nights in a month, they need to ask permission from the board. Permission to have a visitor. Doesn’t even need to be an overnight visitor since the patrol starts in the early evening.

Have somebody stay for a week with rental car, or just come by for a weekly event in the evening, they might need permission. Babysitters working in the neighborhood with their own cars may be even worse off: they may not sit for the same person more than four nights in a month, but could easily be in the neighborhood more times than that in aggregate, for different families.

It wasn’t that residents need to notify the management company either. It was that they need to ask for permission from the board.

Feedback about the various issues with the new plan was submitted, but the new board simply ignored it all and passed their new rules unchanged by the feedback.

Parking Privilege

Didn’t take long for the new board to find another use for the parking regulations that were claimed to be about stopping people from outside the neighborhood parking overnight on the streets either.

Just this month we receive a notice that the board wishes to make changes to the penalties they can impose when residents do not comply with their demands for architectural or landscaping related changes (more on this later). The first change on that list (and, based on the way the new board ignored the feedback on their parking proposal there is no chance they won’t just make these changes) was to remove the “privilege” to park on the streets from those who don’t do as they are asked or pay their fines. Yes, they plan to stop residents parking at their own homes to force compliance with their whims.

They also want to increase the amount for fines, which the management company backs since it gets them to the magical $1,800 threshold where they can start foreclosure proceedings.

These changes were introduced as being necessary to “protect property values.” This argument is often pitched by realtors as a positive feature of an aggressive HOA. Of course, that only works if the people buying houses don’t discover how petty the HOA is, and that they could be banned from parking in front of their house, or even having visitors stay with them, if they let their grass grow too long. Of course, it should come as no surprise that realtors care more about property values than about the quality of life: their income is directly related to transaction prices.

Security Out, Parking Patrol In

Another indication of just where the current board sees its priorities is the canceling of the security patrol to pay for a parking enforcement patrol. Instead of there being somebody patrolling the neighborhood, keeping an eye on things like packages left on doorsteps or kids causing trouble, we have a parking enforcement patrol the only purpose of which is to stick warning notices on cars that haven’t been registered with the HOA, and call the towing service whenever they can.

The HOA is now spending our dues to prey on us instead of providing a security patrol to protect us.

Alternative Agenda

I have always had my suspicions that the parking rules were not just about the nearby apartment residents parking on a few of the streets overnight. For a start, that affects so few of our streets. Then one of the board members confirmed as much in a private message to me on Nextdoor. A message where she misquoted me, and then proceeded to berate me for have a different opinion on the importance of the parking issue to hers, even suggesting I should move if I didn’t like the rules. In this message she makes it clear that her real complaint is that one of her neighbors parks his cars on the street and not in the garage, which she feels is unfair on her:

Not that it affects you, and not that I think you even care, but my neighbor and I park in our garages. Unfortunately we have neighbors near us with multiple cars who do not park in their garages. When we have company or workmen it can be problematic. Is that fair and equal?

Landscaping & Painting

Another recent notice, this one in a newsletter, stated that the board is also going to start being more aggressive about pursuing landscaping complaints against residents. We have also seen them being more aggressive about house painting, even demanding minor changes in color shades based on advice from a paid colorist. Subjective changes based on the personal taste of the head of the committee.

Militant HOA = Bad HOA

The pattern of recent behavior is very clear:

  1. Ignoring resident feedback (not even responding to it).
  2. Ramping up complaints about landscaping and painting issues.
  3. Imposing stricter parking rules with required registration.
  4. Increasing penalties, and using the new parking regulations to impose further penalties on residents at will.

I would argue that having an HOA which chooses to attack its members so aggressively is actually more damaging to property values. Personally, I value having a safe and friendly place to live far more than one where all the lawns are perfect and the houses are all uniform color schemes. The number of reported package thefts and car break-ins, which can be easily found online as public records, will impact property values far more than having a neighbor with an overgrown lawn, or one who parks their cars on the street. Yet the current board dropped the security patrol in favor of a parking patrol.

Conflict of Interest?

Remember that claimed reason for the changes to the penalties for non-compliance? To protect property values. Two of the current board are in an interesting position with respect to that. It can be argued that protecting our property values helps us all, but it helps two of the current board in a more significant way: they are realtors actively working with houses in Bayport. That means that changes in house values affect their income.

The standard for recusal for a board member from a decision is when a board member has an interest, especially a pecuniary one, in a decision that is not shared by all other members of the board. I believe that means the realtors should recuse themselves from any decision relating to “protection” of property values.

AirPods: Buy Again?

I have had a set of Apple AirPods for over a year now, and used them heavily for conference calls, listening to podcasts and occasionally for music too. Having had them for a while though, and noticing that the battery life on them was dropping (especially the left one), I started wondering whether I would choose to replace them with AirPods again when they do finally fail.

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BenefitWallet: Customer Service At Its Worst

The HR service my new employer uses, JustWorks, does not, it seems, partner with the best service companies. Our health insurance is with Aetna, and is awful by comparison with other plans. The dental and vision benefits are also through Aetna, and worse than the more common plans I’ve had previously.

All of that is nothing compared to BenefitsWallet though. JustWorks are using BenefitsWallet to provide the FSA and HSA options. They sent me information to sign up in the middle of June, and again on July 1. I was traveling however, and only got around to it trying to sign up this evening.

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Protecting Personal Information

Do you know what personal information it is important to protect? Have you ever thought about what could happen if people manage to piece together the various bits of information about you that are stored in various databases or filing cabinets to create a more complete picture?

More specifically, most people in the US know not to share their Social Security Number with people at random. How about your driver’s license number, or state ID card number? Your passport number?

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Jaguar I-Pace Sales

One of the electric cars that I was eagerly awaiting was Jaguar’s I-Pace. I visited a local dealer one weekend when they had one on loan to show off; I went for a test drive in it at the San Francisco car show last year. And it was great. In fact, of the three cars I had been watching from the day their concepts were announced, the Jaguar was the only one that stayed true to the concept car in my mind.

Reviewers around the world also love it, and while its lower than expected range was a disappointment, it is still over 200 miles between charges, and it is capable of 100kW charging (if you can find a charger capable of delivering that).

Yet sales, even from the start, seem to be slow. When I first asked the dealer, they didn’t expect to have any available until early 2019 for those that had not pre-ordered. Just a few weeks after launch, they called to say they did have some in stock for immediate purchase, and that has been true every time I’ve checked their website. In fact, all the dealers here have them in stock. So what is wrong?

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Mojave

Fujitsu S1500M

I’ll admit, I am typically slow to update to the new versions of Mac OS X, mostly out of fear of what peripherals I have that might stop working completely, or require me to jump through hoops to get working again. In the case of Mojave, the risk was my venerable Fujitsu document scanner, an S1500M, which I love and since it is still working perfectly I am loath to even consider replacing (even more so since I’ve been told that newer ScanSnap devices have a faulty license manager on the software that causes headaches at every update). Back to Mojave… I checked the interwebs for information, and on the Fujitsu site I found this statement:

ScanSnap S1500/S1500M does not support macOS Mojave. There are no plans for adding support in the future since the support for ScanSnap S1500/S1500M has already ended.

Fujitsu Global Support

Not promising, and right now we enter the craziness of tax season here in the US, the scanner gets more use than at any other time of the year.

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Scooter Shares in Alameda

I received an email over the weekend from Bird, one of the companies behind electric scooter sharing here in the SF area stating the following:

The City of Alameda will consider banning shared electric scooters at a City Council hearing on December 4th at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall! Let’s remind city leaders that Alameda residents want access to affordable, environmentally-friendly options such as Bird in their city. 

The backlash against these scooters in San Francisco came as a surprise in a city that claims to be progressive, and it was disappointing to see the city ban them, then decide to run small scale trials of them with different companies from the two who pioneered the service, and in limited numbers. To see Alameda follow this crazy, illogical path is even more depressing.

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Uber’s Response

[This is a follow up to my earlier post about this issue.]

Over the weekend, Uber’s escalations team replied to the ongoing email thread, though the reply was basically the same as all their others. At least this one did not try to say that it was because I had explicitly opted not to use the credit, but their position is still “tough luck – we changed it, didn’t tell you and we don’t care.” Not a great bit of customer service.

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Uber’s Amex Credits Scam

One of the benefits that comes with my American Express card is a monthly $15 Uber credit. I don’t use it often, but on our recent trip to Florida, the timing worked perfectly for us to make use of it for both our trip to the airport at the very end of September and on the return about 10 days later in early October.

It appears that during our trip Uber made a change to the way this scheme works (although at least some of their support people seem unaware of that).

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Clippercard Brainstorm

On the way home tonight on the ferry discussion turned to Clippercard, the SF Bay Area’s NFC-based transit payment card, and some of the strange limitations it has. What followed was a collection of ideas for how to improve it, some quite practical and others less so.

Here’s a few of my favorite’s, and while I don’t expect the folks at Clippercard to implement any of these, it is fun to think about what could be done with a card like this.

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