The Paseo Real Median Islands are in dire need of refurbishment, both aesthetically and to reduce water usage. It’s important in our aging complex to keep refreshing what we can to reflect updated design principles; this is one of the many factors that goes into how property values are calculated.
← What is the Median Island project all about?
The purpose of the homeowner vote was to be let our homeowners know that some of the reserve funds would be going to this project. Once we got the nod, a huge amount of work had to be done to craft an agreement between Welk and our Association to cover the complex land arrangements, the multitude of project-related and future maintenance responsibilities, the insurance requirements, and many other facets. We had to do some research into the land issues, plus do a fair amount of negotiation with Welk.
We wanted to make sure to craft an agreement that was win-win for both our organizations, with a fair amount of accountability on a variety of issues. We went from no agreement (and a simple phrase in the Welk-Falcon Lakes agreement) to a 14-page comprehensive agreement that went through numerous revisions by our board members and legal team, and Welk’s managers, risk and legal teams. It took this long to reach agreement on all points, but we now have an excellent agreement that will take our relationship with Welk decades into the future.
Now that the agreement is signed, contractor agreements and insurance are being reviewed and approved by both sides. The contractors are coordinating their schedules and ordering materials. Actual work is expected to begin around July 6, 2015.
← We voted on this back in March. Why hasn’t anything happened yet?
Instead of the uniform evenly spaced super-tall palms, we are creating a richer look we call “Desert Lush”, with a number of Mediterranean Fan Palms, Willow Acacia Trees and Yellow Oleander Multi-trunk Trees, plus a variety of colorful desert flower, succulents, rock of various sizes and boulders.
← What is going to replace the palms, the torch bougainvillea and the turf?
We decided to employ one of the most noted landscape architects in the Coachella Valley, Ron Gregory of RGA Landscape Architects, to analyze the median and develop the design planting (including planting, lighting and irrigation). Mr. Gregory and his associates have designed beautiful medians and landscaping for many local country clubs and cities.
← How is this going to look?
While Falcon Lake Properties owns the lease for our development, we (and Welk and the other Associations) lease designated parcels. After reviewing an ALTA survey report, we determined that the Paseo Real median up to the south fence of the tennis courts is controlled by our Association, and north of this (all the way to Calle Cordoba) it is jointly controlled by us and by Welk. Also, from the south fence of the tennis courts and north, we control the east side of Paseo Real and they control the west.
This is the case prior to agreement with Welk. The agreement clarifies the actual control, and designates specifics on the control. The fact that we’ve initiated and executed an agreement with Welk, and this agreement largely consists of our specifications for continuing maintenance, effectively means that we’ve “taken over control”. However, there is no change in actual leasehold ownership.
← Who actually “owns” the Median Islands?
Welk has been responsible for median and roadway maintenance since 1990, but only up to the south fence of the tennis courts. North of that it has been a joint responsibility (due to split responsibility of the street and median) but previous boards have never reflected this. For decades, Welk has been paving a part of the street that we should have been paving. Part of our recent negotiations has us NOT reimbursing Welk for decades of this work. We have never had a maintenance agreement with Welk; all responsibility was because Welk assumed the responsibility from Falcon Lakes. We assigned our maintenance responsibility (from the tennis courts line south) to Falcon Lakes back in 1979. It’s still “our” leasehold land, but it was to be maintained by Falcon Lakes (followed by Welk). And the eastern half of the northern part of Paseo Real has always been legally ours to maintain.
← What has been the maintenance arrangement all these years?
It was important to get the real estate part of this completely understood. Now that we know who owns what leasehold-wise, we have a better idea of responsibility. We also realize that “maintenance” does not cover wholesale refurbishment, especially when absolutely no guidelines or standards existed in the original 1979 or 1990 documents. All it says is “shall maintain”. The maintainer has no legal obligation to improve the property. If our Association wants to substantially improve the street, we need to put some of our own resources into it.
← Well, if Welk has been maintaining the median, why can’t they just put money into refurbishing it?
For decades, they had no standards. Now they have clear and fair maintenance standards, with procedures to follow when we see something substandard. They will continue to maintain the median, including the rocks, boulders, plants, palms and trees. We wanted control of the quality of the non-palm pruning, so we retained this, but there is a complex system of reimbursement to us built into the agreement so that even though we hire the tree trimmers, much of the bill will be paid by Welk funds.
← In the past, Welk did 100% of the median maintenance, and they didn’t do a very good job. Now what are they responsible for? And how can we be sure they will do a better job?
Not at all. While some week-to-week maintenance is now minimized for them, from this point forward they have many more trees and plants of which to take care–according to our standards. So this all balances out. And even though the Association will be pruning the non-palm trees, we will get partially reimbursed for that. We normally have a huge budget for common area landscaping and the amount we will spend on this will be minimal.
← Isn’t Welk getting away easy on these projects? And our association now has a great burden in the future?
No, they cannot. There are now specific standards for maintenance of the trees and plants, including replacement of dead plants and removal of weeds. Before, we had no legal teeth to enforce these standards, now we do.
The agreement also specifies that Welk cannot change out plants with something new (which is what they used to do with our median).
← Can’t Welk just stop taking care of the plants if they want to save money in the future?
Our Association’s legal counsel advised us that county-recording of this non-real estate agreement would be unnecessary. Recordation is really for sales, leases and assignment of real property. This agreement deals purely with maintenance standards and involves no transfer of real property. It is completely enforceable and complete on its own, and it was signed by corporate officers of our Association and of Welk Resort Group to make it legally binding. Our counsel also indicated that an unnecessary recording of the contract would have to involve the lessor and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which would multiply the legal costs and delay the project by months by dealing with unneeded bureaucracy.
← When we had our Annual Meeting, you promised that the agreement with Welk would be recorded with the county. Why isn’t it?
Well, instead of water constantly overspraying the medians and running down Paseo Real, there will be bubblers feeding a much smaller amount of water directly to the plants and trees. This saves a major amount of water and also helps reduce the damage to the street surface.
← How is this going to affect water usage?
The Board of Directors is charged with a fiduciary duty of taking care of the physical assets of the Association with regard to maintenance and aesthetics. If we did not do this project, we (and Welk) would face huge water bills and probably fines, or suffer a lot of dead grass in the median in warmer temperatures (as you see today). And people driving down Paseo Real would still call it “tired” and “long in the tooth”. You will notice that most of the medians in our development and on city streets have been remodeled with desert landscaping in the past 3 years.
← How can the Board of Directors make a decision like this? Shouldn’t we have just left this alone?
While there’s a reserve item for $70,000, first this will be adjusted downward in our next reserve study because of the land survey how much of the median is actually ours. Then Welk is putting over $13,000 of cash and labor into the project. Finally, several of our fellow Associations contributed over $19,000. So this will end up being a bit over half of the original reserve item amount. And after these adjustments, our reserves will still be over or nearly at the desired 100% funded level.
← I heard that our homeowners are going to be on the hook for over $70,000 for this project. Is that true?
This project is funded out of reserves, and any future maintenance (mainly some of the pruning) will be out of operating budget. However, it’s a miniscule amount of money when compared to the overall budget, and shouldn’t affect future budgets. It’s pennies per month when looking at a monthly assessment, and this would be balanced out elsewhere in the landscaping budget. We could have let Welk trim the new non-palm trees, but we want an outstanding arborist who doesn’t just wack and decimate trees. We want to maintain a high quality look.
We should note here that in the past 6 years, we have had declining or stabilized monthly assessments, and NO special assessments. We are very careful with our budgets.
← This is surely going to raise our monthly dues, correct?
They will be permanently removed, to be replaced by spot lighting and under tree lighting, all of the warm LED variety.
← What will happen to the lollipop lights currently in the median?
The current lighting is inefficient and the street is not that bright even when all lollipops are on. The best lighting for safety around your unit is obtained when you turn on your porch or wall light. The board is also evaluating a variety of lighting improvements to improve ambient lighting on Paseo Real and our other streets and walkways.
← Won’t that make the street darker?
Almost all other medians within Cathedral Canyon have been replanted with desert plants and better accent lighting, as well as almost all medians within the 9 cities of the Coachella Valley. It’s for water savings and a modern desert aesthetic. This is not 1974.
← Are we the only ones doing this?
Our design plan is “desert lush”, with a more saturated look of color and trees once everything reaches maturity. It should be fuller than what you often see elsewhere in Cathedral Canyon or on many of the main roads. It will take a couple of years to get fully beautiful and filled in, but it will be worth the wait.
We could have specified more mature plants to be planted, but that would have multiplied our acquisition costs.
← Will the plants be spread out (or sparse) like with some medians?