Last week, in recapping the accomplishments of this past year’s RSF Association board, I emphasized our focus on transparency and inclusiveness. The law that governs homeowners’ associations (HOAs) in California is known as the Davis-Stirling Act. This law, along with various other “sunshine” laws, creates a baseline for the transparency and inclusiveness a board must provide its members. I am proud that the RSF Association board has continued to operate far above this baseline.
The Davis-Stirling Act, for example, addresses inclusiveness in its extensive rules on voting rights and election rules. The act requires that the board disclose annual budgets, financials and other information on a regular basis. It does not, however, require that a board include its members in every decision-making process. Doing so would create unnecessary delay and would defeat the very purpose of establishing an efficient body of government.
Nevertheless, the RSF Association board has provided a high level of transparency and inclusiveness by holding open discussions on nearly every contentious issue.
Moreover, our board includes members in a wide variety of ways. First, there are the standing committees which historically have had input on policy decisions in their respective areas. These standing committees are the Covenant Design Review Committee (aka Art Jury), Finance Committee, Osuna Committee and Trails and Recreation Committee.
In addition, over the past several years, we have created new ad hoc committees to help the Board address complicated issues. We have many examples of ad hoc committees: Committee on the Natural Environment (CONE), Technology Infrastructure Committee, Legal Advisory Committee, Voting Rights Committee, Health and Fitness Club Committee (which has many sub-committees), Intersection Study Committee, and Community Awareness Committee. Dozens more RSF Association members have become involved in studying the important issues facing us all through these new committees.
It is my belief that the most effective boards are those that choose to be transparent and inclusive, even in situations where it is not required by law. Each and every committee and department in the RSF Association is encouraged to be transparent in all their activities and to solicit the input and participation of community members, even when we are not required to do so.
On April 29, we held a Town Hall meeting that was not required, but which we felt was essential to our decision-making process. It was an opportunity to discuss the issue of traffic along the Paseo Delicias-Del Dios corridor and the question of what to do at the three main intersections — an issue that has been before the board for almost 15 years.
This meeting came over two years after the board held the last public meeting on the issue, with approximately 140 people in attendance. At that 2013 meeting, the board discussed the same traffic problems and potential solutions that we revisited this April. In response to member input, the 2013 board directed staff to work with the county to prepare a design study of traffic signals at each of the three intersections, as an alternative to roundabouts.
In the summer of 2013, the board established the ad hoc Intersection Study Committee (ISC) to work with staff and the engineering consultant to evaluate the designs. The board and staff were careful to make sure varying viewpoints were represented on the committee. The county agreed to temporarily delay action on the EIR until the Association had an opportunity to offer its input on both roundabouts and signals.
Then, at our March 5, 2015, board meeting, our staff presented the findings of the ISC to the community members in attendance. The findings presented three options for taking action on the traffic situation: build roundabouts, put in traffic signals, or “do nothing.” Rather than take action at that meeting, however, the board voted to hold one more public meeting for members to give input.
On April 29, 2015, the board held a “Town Meeting,” which included a staff presentation and opportunity for member comments. Over 150 members attended. Although there were many passionate commenters on both sides, the majority of attendees favored traffic signals over roundabouts.
Finally, at the May 7, 2015, board meeting, based on the ISC report and community feedback, the board voted unanimously to make a recommendation to the county to install traffic signals.
This traffic issue has been before the RSF Association board for nearly 15 years because there is no “right” answer to whether we should install signals or roundabouts. So, for 15 years, previous boards kicked the can down the road rather than make a decision that some members of the community would inevitably be upset with. This board decided that the right decision was to act — to determine, after consulting with the members, what the likely best choice might be for the community, and convey it to the entity with the authority to act — the county.
It is always difficult to balance the board’s obligation to act on behalf of the whole community with the policy concern that members’ opinions count. To that end, we must find ways to keep members informed and to ensure that their informed opinions reach the board during the decision-making process. I am proud to be a part of this RSF Association board, which has taken great strides in this direction, in the spirit of transparency, inclusiveness, and responsibility.