Tips from an HOA Board for a Safe Halloween in Your Association

by HOA Manager –

little_girl_dressed_for_Halloween

Halloween is a kid’s delight. It’s a blast to dress up in costumes, go trick-or-treating, attend parties and most of all, eat a lot of candy. At the same time, Halloween can be scary for parents. Costumes can be dangerous, too much candy can be sickening and walking around at night can be risky, even in your homeowners association community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionoffers the tips below to make sure your little ghouls and goblins have a SAFE HALLOWEEN. It’s not too late for your HOA board to hand them out to the members in your Association.

Halloween Safety Tips:

S – Swords, knives and similar costume accessories should be short, soft and flexible.

A – Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Children should walk in groups or with a trusted adult.

F – Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see trick-or-treaters.

E – Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before they’re eaten.

 

H – Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help see and help others see you.

A – Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it when done to avoid skin irritation.

L – Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.

L – Lower the risk for serious eye injury by avoiding decorative contact lenses.

O – Only walk on sidewalks or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.

W – Wear well-fitting masks, costumes and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips and falls.

E – Eat only factory-wrapped candy. Avoid eating homemade treats unless you know the cook.

E – Enter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult.

N – Never walk near lit candles or other open flames. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

If members will be hosting a party in your homeowners association or expecting trick-or-treaters recommend they:

  • Provide healthy treats, such as individual packs of raisins, trail mix or pretzels. Offer fruits, vegetables and cheeses to party guests.
  • Use party games and trick-or-treating as an opportunity for kids to get their daily dose of 60 minutes of physical activity.
  • Be sure walking areas and stairs are well-lit and free of obstacles that could cause falls.
  • Keep candlelit jack-o-lanterns and other open flames away from doorsteps, walkways, landings and curtains. Place them on sturdy tables, keep them out of reach of pets and small children, and never leave them unattended.
  • Drive safely and watch out for trick-or-treaters.
  • Be aware of the Association rules, especially regarding decorations, parking, and noise.

It’s the role of the HOA board to protect, maintain, and enhance the homeowners association. Keeping members informed or even providing a place where they can gather to celebrate Halloween – such as the clubhouse – will help everyone have a fun and safe Halloween.

Encourage your HOA board members to pass out these simple guidelines to members to promote a safe environment to enjoy Halloween in your homeowners association for parents and kids too!

Bay Area Sprawl Has Put Homes in the Path of Fires — What Now?

A home burning in Napa’s Atlas Fire. (Sheraz Sadiq/KQED)

October’s historic fires in the North Bay are a stark reminder of a growing reality across California: during fire season, millions of people live in harm’s way. That number is only expected to increase as the population grows.

Many Bay Area cities are trying to halt the pattern of sprawl that has put so many homes on hillsides and in the path of fires.

“Certainly, it’s an opportunity for reflection and it is a moment where we can think about doing things a little bit differently,” says Teri Shore of the non-profit Greenbelt Alliance.

Shore works on land use policy, but was also one of the evacuees who fled their homes as fires roared across the Sonoma County for days on end.

“What became the Nuns Fire got within two miles of our home,” she says.

Her home was spared. Now, she’s focusing on how her community will rebuild. Even before the fires, housing was in short supply with high prices and low vacancy rates. Now, thousands of people will also need to rebuild. In Santa Rosa, fires razed fully five percent of the city’s housing stock.

Fire maps based on 2007 assessment.

Historically, cities expanded their boundaries as they grew.

“People wanted single family homes and were willing to drive for hours to have that American dream of the white picket fence and the home,” Shore says.

Those choices, made over decades, have put many Bay Area residents in the fire zone.

“Clearly, a lot of people are in dangerous areas,” says Jon Keeley, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

About a third of Californians live in the WUI, or the “wildland-urban interface,” as scientists call it. Studies show that could increase by a million more homes by 2050.

It’s an area prone to fires whether or not people live there, because many of the ecosystems evolved with fires.

“They are an inevitable feature,” Keeley says. “All you need is the conditions we saw in the North Bay. So, we need to respect the fact that these are going to happen in the future and we need to have communities adapt to the fires.”

But for city and county governments, that often comes at the end of a much longer list of priorities.

“Historically, communities have by and large assumed the state and federal government will solve the fire problem and they’ve left fire issues to them,” Keely explains. “And the communities haven’t taken a real serious look.”

The Bay Area is expected to add more than 2 million people by 2040. And Keeley says where the housing is built will matter. Instead of sprawling outward, there are ways to reduce the fire risk.

“One is to take existing development areas and fill in those areas within the developments,” he says.

Building Inside-Out

Keeley is describing “infill development,” where housing is packed into the urban core, close to shops and public transit. The trend is currently on display in downtown San Jose.

“The question isn’t whether or not we’re going to grow,” says San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo. “The question is: how are we going to grow?”

Firefighters douse embers in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa. (Sheraz Sadiq/KQED)

Like a lot of cities, San Jose looks a bit like a doughnut: growing on the edges but not a lot going on in the middle.

“We’ve got a lot of work now to revitalize that middle,” Liccardo says.

Google is currently negotiating with the city to build a tech campus downtown, which would bring thousands of jobs. San Jose is trying to fast-track housing development nearby, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.

Infill is often more expensive to build; permitting and zoning can be more complex. San Jose has changed downtown zoning to make it easier there.

“That enabled a tower to get a permit within 66 days,” he says. “I’m told that’s a record in the state of California.”

Long Road Ahead

But many developers are still pursuing suburban subdivisions, like a 900-home development planned for the Evergreen foothills of San Jose. City voters could see a measure to approve it on the ballot next year.

“We’re gonna fight like heck on this because we can’t continue this pattern of sprawl,” Liccardo says. “It’s utterly unsustainable.”

In the Bay Area, the hills are often where the wildfire risk is highest.

“The North Bay fires are illustrative of the perils of hillside development, certainly,” Liccardo says.

In Sonoma County, many cities have instituted “urban growth boundaries,” which rein in the expansion of development outward. But the challenge has been figuring out where to build housing within city boundaries. Denser development often faces local opposition.

Shore of the Greenbelt Alliance says the region has a new opportunity for infill close to the public transit system, the SMART train, which just started running a few months ago.

“Most of the cities along the line have station-area plans that were adopted around ten years ago,” she says. “Now we need to do it. Stop talking and planning but actually start building in the right places in the right way.”

Regional planning agencies are trying to encourage denser development through Plan Bay Area, their transportation and land use plan.

Under that, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has restricted some funding for transportation projects, giving it only to cities doing infill development. The commission is seeking to link even more funding to those goals set by SB 375, a state law that requires regions to cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the number of miles driven by cars.

But many agree, the region has a long way to go to break the pattern that has put so many people in the path of wildfires.

Please stop calling the new Bloomberg HQ the world’s most sustainable office building. It’s not.

by Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter) –

bloomberg exterior

© Foster + Partners/ Bloomberg

It’s a great building with lots of green features, but there is more to sustainability than a high BREEAM score.

Mike Bloomberg is one of my favourite billionaire philanthropists, building his new European headquarters in London, one of my favourite cities, designed by Norman Foster, one of my favourite architects. But I do wish everyone would stop calling it “the world’s most sustainable office building,” which both Bloomberg and Foster (and every other website) do; it’s not.

Bloomberg walkway© Foster + Partners/ Bloomberg

There is a lot of green goodness in this building, and it did get a BREEAM score of 98.5 percent, the highest ever for an office development. (BREEAM is a sort of British version of LEED). There are some really interesting innovations, like the ceiling, described by Foster + Partners:

ceiling panels© Bloomberg via Archdaily

Integrated Ceiling Panels: Bespoke integrated ceiling panels combine heating, cooling, lighting and acoustic functions in an innovative petal-leaf design. The system, which incorporates 500,000 LED lights, uses 40 percent less energy than a typical fluorescent office lighting system.

greenf eatures© Bloomberg/ Green features

It has serious water conservation measures that reduce consumption by 73 percent, including vacuum toilets. There is also a Foster favourite:

Natural Ventilation: When ambient weather conditions are temperate, the building’s distinctive bronze blades can open and close, allowing the building to operate in a “breathable” natural ventilation mode. Reducing dependency on mechanical ventilation and cooling equipment significantly reduces energy consumption.

bloomberg roof© Bloomberg via Archdaily

Foster has tried this on a few buildings, notably the Gherkin, where nobody ever opens the windows. I suspect nobody will in the Bloomberg building either, given the awful air quality in London. But there are also “smart CO2 sensors that vary the amount of fresh air required when they are running the air conditioning, and a big combined heat and power (CHP) plant that supplies heat and power in a single, efficient system with reduced carbon emissions. Waste heat generated from this process is recycled for cooling and heating and, in use, is expected to save 500-750 metric tonnes of CO2 each year.”

All of these are wonderful things; Foster and Bloomberg deserve much credit. But calling it “the world’s most sustainable office building” just because it has a high BREEAM score doesn’t make it so. For example, CHP plants usually generate heat and power by burning natural gas. The most sustainable office building in the world wouldn’t burn fossil fuels.

Bullitt center© Bullitt Center

The Bullitt building in Seattle doesn’t; it has solar power and gets its heat through ground source heat pumps. But it’s not BREEAM; it is built to the Living Building Challenge standard.

The world’s most sustainable office building would consider the embodied energy of the materials in it; Oliver Wainwright notes that “the embodied energy levels are not slight, given that it contains 600 tonnes of bronze imported from Japan and a quarry-full of granite from India.” That doesn’t even include the embodied energy of the concrete in it.

Powerhouse Korbo© Powerhouse Korbo/ Snohetta

The PowerHouse Kjørbo, an office building outside of Oslo designed by Snøhetta, was designed to produce not only more energy than it needs from its solar panels, but “generates more energy than what was used for the production of building materials, its construction, operation and disposal.” It actually pays back its embodied energy.

bloomberg interior lobby and stair© Foster + Partners/ Bloomberg

The Bloomberg HQ is a lovely, very green building and London is lucky to have it. (Really lucky — Bloomberg might have built it somewhere else had he known Brexit was coming.) Bloomberg describes his ambitions for it:

We believe that environmentally-friendly practices are as good for business as they are for the planet. From day one, we set out to push the boundaries of sustainable office design — and to create a place that excites and inspires our employees. The two missions went hand-in-hand, and I hope we’ve set a new standard for what an office environment can be.

living wall in pantry© Bloomberg via Archdaily

It is a new standard, absolutely. But please, stop calling it the most sustainable office building in the world. It’s not.

This might explain why your electricity bill is so high

You’re wasting electricity and money. Here’s how to save on both.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Even when you turn off your electronics, they could still be wasting electricity. When you press the off switch, many electronics — like televisions, DVRs and satellite boxes– go into standby mode.

The Pivot Power Genius

Colin West McDonald/CNET

During standby mode, electronics don’t turn off completely. They perform updates, record your favorite shows and generally just wait for you to come back, sucking up energy as they do. This is called standby power or phantom load. The energy lost is called vampire energy or leaking energy.

According to the US Department of Energy, your electricity wasters account for 10 percent or more of your electricity bill.

It would explain how my colleague Jason Cipriani ended up saving $840 per year on his electricity bill.

Televisions, DVRs and satellite boxes aren’t the only energy users. Chances are, you have several chargers around your home and they stay plugged in 24/7. Phone chargers use around 0.26 watts when plugged in, but not in use. A laptop charger also wastes energy, using 4.42 kWh when not in use and 29.48 kWh with a fully charged laptop plugged into it. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has a full list of gadgets and how much energy they waste, here.

Test your home for excess energy usage

Want to see if your home is affected by leaking energy? Turn off your AC or heating unit and your hot water heater. Now, turn off everything in your home, but leave it all plugged in.

Then, go look at the electric meter box that’s typically located on the side of your home. Are the numbers still going up? If they are, that means that your devices are still sucking electricity.

Another, more straightforward approach is to use a plug-in device like the Kill-A-Watt or the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch that measures energy usage.

Duke Energy also has a nifty calculator that can help you see just how much your devices and appliances may be wasting… without getting out of your chair.

How to kill vampire waste

The most obvious way to stop energy leaks is by unplugging everything when you aren’t using it. But this can be a huge pain, especially when you use various items throughout the day or the outlets are behind heavy furniture.

One way to make things a little easier is by using power strips. Whenever you aren’t using your devices, flip the switch on the power strip to cut off all power to your devices so that they can’t go into standby. Some power strips even come with remotes so you can shut off power from across the room, like the Conserve Switch AV Surge Protector or the Uninex Surge Protector.

Smart power strips take this idea a step further. They have outlets that are meant for different types of devices. Some of the outlets are designated for items that need to stay on all the time, like your DVR. Other outlets are for items that go into standby mode or use energy, but don’t need to be on. When you shut off a device or disconnect your device from its charger, the power strip senses it and will shut off all power to the device.

Another option is programmable outlets, like the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch and Quirky Pivot Power Genius. These plug into your regular outlet and have an app you can use to schedule your devices to shut off remotely.

Replace energy-hogging appliances

In some cases you might decide that replacing a device or appliance is the best solution. For instance, Jason found that his old secondary refrigerator cost him $40 per month, enough to justify a more energy-efficient replacement.

The California Report

October 24, 2017

Largest Fire Cleanup in State History Begins in North Bay

In Northern California, local, state, and federal agencies are launching what they call the biggest fire clean-up effort in state history.

Pigs Fleeing North Bay Fires Find Refuge in Half Moon Bay

Those whose homes burned in wine country have to live somewhere else for awhile. That includes animals, as well as people. I recently attended a Pumpkin Patch day at a farm in Half Moon Bay that’s offering refuge to some of those animals.

Federal Agency Promoted Ranger Five Months After His Gun Was Stolen and Used in Steinle Killing

A Bureau of Land Management ranger is expected to testify in a high-profile murder case over the slaying of Kathryn Steinle on a San Francisco pier in 2015. The trial opened in the city yesterday.
Steinle was killed with ranger John Woychowski’s gun, which was stolen after he left it unsecured in his car.

Half of California Children Live in Household with Immigrant Parent

In California, nearly half of all children live in a household where they or one of their parents is an immigrant. That’s according to a new study released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

State Senate Hires Outside Firm to Investigate Sexual Harassment

Fall out continues at the State Capitol over claims of sexual harassment within Sacramento’s political circles. The leader of the state Senate has hired two outside firms to investigate the problem.

Fierce Santa Ana Winds Predicted for Southern California

Just as extreme fire conditions are easing up in Northern California, they’re heating up down south.

Fresno Hopes ‘Nothing’ Is Enough to Attract Amazon Headquarters

Some cities are going to great lengths to get the company’s attention: New York temporarily turned the Empire State building orange, to match the Amazon logo; Stonecrest, Georgia offered to rename itself “Amazon.” And, of course, lots of cities are hoping to win the company over with massive tax breaks. But one California city is taking a gamble on a different offer: nothing.

Post-Disaster Checklist: Returning Home After Evacuation Order Lifted

 

The Valley Fire swept through the Spezza family’s rural community in Lake County in September 2015, destroying more than 1,300 homes. (Courtesy of Carolynn Spezza)

By Miranda Leitsinger and Michelle Cheng –

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Returning to your home after a natural disaster can be tough — emotionally as well as practically. KQED gathered advice from FEMA, Sonoma County and Rob Goodman, who lost his home in the 2015 Valley Fire in Lake County, to help out those who have been given the OK to return to their residences.

“Some may not want to return, because of the difficulty of seeing your home and possessions in ashes. And seeing your neighbors’ homes gone as well,” Goodman said in fliers he created for survivors of natural disasters. “When we first returned to our street, we were shocked to see every home gone. Seeing our home in ashes left us feeling numb.”

“If you do decide to return I must urge great caution,” he added. “Your site will be toxic — containing everything from metals to plastics to wiring, plumbing, etc. Everything that was in your home will be melted and covered in ash.”

A Checklist From FEMA and Sonoma County:

What to Bring/Wear

☐ Sturdy shoes (steel toes and shanks are recommended)
☐ Heavy-duty mask (N95)
☐ Heavy-duty gloves
☐ Long pants and long-sleeve shirt
☐ Garden cultivator to sift through ashes
☐ 5-gallon bucket for any possessions
☐ Battery-powered radio to listen to emergency updates and news reports
☐ Battery-powered flashlight to inspect a damaged home

General Tips

  • Do not use your water if you suspect or have been told it is contaminated.
  • Keep hands clean during an emergency to help prevent the spread of germs.
  • If your tap water is not safe to use, wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected or use a large water jug that contains clean water.
  • Foods exposed to fire can be compromised (including canned goods).
  • Clean and sanitize your household after an emergency to help prevent the spread of illness and disease.
  • Hazardous chemicals and conditions may be present.
  • Inspect propane tanks for visible damage before turning on.
  • Be aware of slip, trip, fall and puncture hazards.
  • Watch out for animals, especially venomous snakes.
  • Stay off the streets. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads and sidewalks.

Rob Goodman’s Lake County home, which burned down in the 2015 Valley Fire. (Courtesy of Rob Goodman)

Before You Enter Your Home

Take care around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.

Do not enter if:

  • You smell gas.
  • Your home was damaged by fire and authorities have not declared it safe.
  • In the case of flooding, floodwaters remain around the building.

 Going Inside Your Home

When you go inside your home, there are certain things you should and should not do. Enter the home carefully and check for damage. Be aware of loose boards and slippery floors. The following items are other things to check inside your home:

  • Natural gas
  • Sparks, broken or frayed wires
  • Roof, foundation, and chimney cracks
  • Appliances
  • Water and sewage system
  • Food and other supplies
  • Basement
  • Open cabinets
  • Household chemical spills

Call your insurance agent. Take pictures of damage. Keep good records of repair and cleaning costs.

More details from FEMA and Sonoma County (Español).

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Updating Your Association’s CC&Rs

governing-docs*Asked & Answered

Asked – Our documents were created in 1981 and have not been updated since that time.  I imagine that we are out of legal compliance with some of the items listed within both documents.  The HOA membership does not want to pay to have them rewritten and brought up to the codes and I am not sure what the implications are if we do nothing.

Answered – This a common question asked by many of our clients, especially those with governing documents that look like they were typed on a typewriter and digitally stored on microfiche.  However, it is important to note at the outset that just because your documents are old, does not mean that it is necessary to amend/restate them.  Nevertheless, there are several reasons why an association may want to update its documents.

The first, and most obvious, reason why an association may want to update its documents is to address particular issues affecting the community. While an association’s operating rules can easily be amended to tackle many of these issues, not all can be addressed through adopting an operating rule.  Thus, certain situations may require a CC&R or Bylaw amendment.

The second common reason why an association may want to update its CC&Rs is to remove developer-specific provisions. When an association is formed, the developer’s attorney prepares the governing documents, including the CC&Rs. And while the California Bureau of Real Estate exercises some oversight, many of the provisions are drafted to benefit the Developer and not necessarily the individual homeowners. Accordingly, it may be worthwhile to remove these provisions and reallocate the rights and responsibilities to the Association and its members.

Other reasons why an association may want to update its documents is to reduce quorum and membership approval requirements, and to address changes in the law. For example, a recent change to the Civil Code further defined the maintenance and repair responsibilities of the association and owners concerning Exclusive Use Common Area (“EUCA”) components. For condominium associations that have traditionally held owners responsible for EUCA repairs, changes in the law may require them to change that position if the provisions in their CC&Rs fail to address the issue.

California HOA lawyers Board members should be aware that amending an association’s governing documents can be an expensive endeavor. The expense is often exacerbated by the difficulty experienced in obtaining membership approval, either because of the unpopularity of the proposed amendments, or membership apathy. The foregoing is meant to underscore the importance of discussing potential updates with the association’s legal counsel to determine if they are necessary and/or advisable.

-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Matthew T. Plaxton, Esq.