Monthly dues emergency increase of $241???

Well, that got your attention. First of all, relax, there is no such planned increase (even if it was proposed, you’d all have to vote on it anyway). But there have been homeowners discussing the board’s decision to not overseed this year due to the state and CVWD’s drastic mandatory water conservation target directive. And that amount is potentially what it could have cost to ignore the CVWD’s directive and to pay the extremely stiff penalties.

Last year, every HOA and municipality in California was blindsided by the state (and local water district) demanding a 36% decrease in water consumption. To comply was an almost immediate cutback after they came up with that figure, not something where they gave us six months warning. Our desert HOAs especially were concerned, because historically we all use water at a much higher rate than anyone else.

Most boards opted to comply with the stiff reductions of the district, and met with their gardening and landscapers to determine ways to immediately comply. Other boards opted to ignore the potential penalties, what I call the “green grass no matter what, dammit!” approach.  Our board decided to comply, because the penalties looked pretty grave. We knew we would be taking a risk, because our turf would take a major hit. But in consulting with our landscapers, district officials, other boards at Cathedral Canyon and within the valley, we realized that this was a drought emergency, and not some whimsical philosophical decision that we could ignore. We would go along with most HOAs and let the grass go this year, as we contemplated how to approach our landscaping in this new era (once the cutback regulations would stabilize).

The boards who opted for the “green grass no matter what, dammit!” approach ended up with beautiful green grass, but their penalties were excessive. One local condo association which is similarly sized has had CVWD penalties of close to $15,000 A MONTH.  (That’s where we get the $241 increase per unit per month….not an precise number, but you get the point). This is exactly why your board made the conservative decision it did. And it wasn’t a light decision, as some people cavalierly assume.

While many in our association are quite passionate about green turf (including board members, who are also homeowners, don’t forget), we knew that violating a state and district mandatory directive was probably not the best decision, and we had hoped our membership would agree. And now that we’ve seen associations around the valley get pummeled with fines like this, we feel quite vindicated.

We know that the drought is not going away, and that the future continues to hold tight restrictions. And we are looking toward a future that involves less turf, so that we can have beautiful landscaping and still meet the district’s restrictive guidelines. We are happy to report that the district just gave us a slight reprieve and loosened the mandatory conservation target from 36% to 32% of previous starting March 1. That’s not much, but it’s something, and we hope they continue to give us desert dwellers more room in which to function.

So, as we move into 2016 and the years following, we will be considering a variety of alternative approaches–away from the emergency dead turf of this year toward something beautiful, sustainable and professionally done. We will continue to work with a variety of knowledgeable landscape professionals, and as we encounter different approaches to this solution, we expect to consider homeowner input as part of the decision-making process.

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