Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
The Bel-Air Association (BAA) recently had a rebirth of democracy.
Homeowners have suspected for years that they were living under the rule of a board “aligned with developers, not residents.” That’s because, for the past several years, developers have been building BIG homes. In fact, Bel-Air developers are creating mega-mansions the size of the White House, up to 100,000 square feet. By contrast, the average sized home in Bel-Air is 6000 square feet.
Construction of this magnitude requires heavy equipment and massive trucks. All of those trucks must navigate narrow, winding roads with blind curves. But the general contractors are not taking safety precautions – no flag men, no flashing lights or warning signs. According to the Bel-Air Homeowners Alliance (BOHOA) it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
And, as you might imagine, all of that heavy equipment makes a lot of noise. It starts as early as 7 AM, and continues even on weekdays.
Homeowners expressed their concerns to the HOA board at the time, but those concerns fell on deaf ears. Lawsuits ensued, alleging lack of transparency, failure to disclose information as required, and incorrectly filing tax forms with the IRS. Homeowners smelled a rat.
So BOHOA organized themselves and managed to vote in a new 9-person board of directors, with the predictable aftermath.
Bel-Air Bust Up: New Bylaws Passed, New Board members Elected At Bel-Air Association Special Meeting
Immediately after the meeting, the new board took action by heading to the BAA headquarters to begin serving their community. Upon arrival, the board members found that the office had been wiped clean – all association records have been removed, as well as the BAA’s computers, but the new leadership was able to change the locks on the building. Former Bel-Air Association Director Bruce Kuyper attempted to intervene, but to no avail.
Then the new Board proceeded to amend their ByLaws to create fair election procedures (my emphasis added) and greater transparency. At the same time, they have begun to review some documentation of communications among the previous Board, that appear to prove their suspicions have been correct all along. Check out the details in this Beverly Hills Courier article.
Documents Show Former Bel-Air Association Leaders Firmly Aligned With Developers, Not Residents
Now, as the newly elected leadership takes charge and begins combing through BAA property and belongings, it appears many of the community’s worst fears were a reality.
In a document obtained by The Courier, saved notes on the laptop of former BAA Executive Director Paulette DuBey detail an apparent conversation with local realtor Jeff Kaplan that appears to confirm the growing theory that the former BAA leadership was aligned with developers, not residents.
The note paints the picture that although former DuBey, former BAA President Ron Hudson and former BAA counsel Bruce Kuyper were often the public faces for the organization, it may have been Kaplan who DuBey turned to for help on attempting to put a positive spin on development in Bel-Air.
Under previous BAA bylaws, Kaplan, who owns numerous properties in Bel-Air, got a separate vote on BAA matters for each property he owned. Under the newly-passed BAA bylaws, each resident gets one singular vote, regardless of how many homes they own.
Here is the applicable section of the ByLaws, posted transparently online for all to read.
Membership in this Corporation shall be limited to persons, firms, or corporations owning real property situated in Bel-Air, or the spouse of any such person. No person, firm, or corporation shall be entitled to own more than one membership in this corporation regardless of the amount of real property in Bel Air owned by such person, firm, or corporation. No person, firm, or corporation shall be entitled to more than a single membership in the Corporation, and all persons owning real property in Bel Air shall be entitled to a single membership. In the case on firms or corporations, the legal or beneficial owners, officers, and/or directors shall jointly be entitled to only a single membership in the Corporation, irrespective of the number of lots, parcels, or property owned by such firms or corporations in Bel Air.
Now, before we hear the HOA industry proclaim, “See? Homeowners can make a change if they get involved,” let’s put this into perspective.
The homeowners in Bel-Air are affluent enough to afford civil litigation. They are well-educated, well-heeled, and sophisticated enough to know when they are being fed a line of bull. And they have the time to spare. Clearly, Beverly Hills residents have very little in common with the average American homeowner living in an Association Governed Residential Community.
Nevertheless, kudos to BOHOA, and the newly installed BAA board. HOAs across the U.S. should follow your lead and amend their ByLaws to limit votes to one per member, rather than one per property owned.