By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Donie Vanitzian’s column in the L.A. Times is a great inspiration for my Sunday blog. This week’s Q&A addresses a very common source of conflict in increasingly dense housing governed by private homeowners’ associations: parking restrictions.
But don’t just read the column. Be sure to read the comments, too. Oftentimes, comments provide a shocking, even disturbing glimpse of just how unneighborly common interest communities can be.
Q&A HOA parking restrictions should be rooted in reality, not for sake of appearances
QUESTION: My parents purchased a five-bedroom home with a small two-car garage in an “exclusive” homeowner association, and I am beginning to think they made a huge mistake.
Over the years, they have become disabled and require full-time assistance. But that’s a problem for the caregivers since my parents park their own vehicle on one side of the garage and use the rest for storage — and the association makes it difficult to find parking.
The association prohibits parking in owner driveways and overnight on the street, and allows street parking only during the day with a temporary permit that lasts three days.
What’s more, it’s a Scrooge about issuing them, since the board is obsessed with keeping the development looking upscale. Each household can get only one per month, and renters aren’t allowed any.
As a result, costly revenue-generating tickets are issued in abundance, which I suspect is another underlying motive. And for over eight years, hundreds of guests, renters, caregivers and owners with more than one car have parked at a small lot outside the development owned by the association.
And how about this eye-opening comment:
In summary, homeowners in this unidentified community are being harassed and fined by their HOA for parking too many cars in the driveway, and they are not permitted to park cars on the street either. In the comment section, the reader can see this is a problem not isolated to just one neighborhood.
Problems with development planning, home design
Let’s look at the big picture, and understand that parking problems start with allowing too much density – permitting an excessive number of homes to be placed on a too-small parcel of land – assuming that the owners and residents should not be allowed to have more than one or two cars.
Let’s face it. Some well-meaning urban planners have become enthusiastic Disciples of Density. They can be a bit self-righteous with their “curb your carbon footprint” attitude.
But the primary reason behind this nonsense of minimizing parking and road space is maximizing profits from home sales for the developer. And, let’s not forget that local governments enable increased density in order to yield the maximum number of taxable properties.
While we are at it, let’s also acknowledge that parking disputes and crazy HOA rules start not only with very poor urban planning, but also poor architectural design. What some of the commenters do not seem to understand is that it does not matter how many bedrooms a home has. That home can still lack adequate storage space for the number of residents living in the home, especially for large items, outdoor toys, and equipment or tools that just aren’t suitable for indoor storage.
Here in the northeast part of the U.S. where I live, most homes have basements, but that is not the case in some parts of the country, including California. Basement or not, it may be impractical or impossible to store some furniture and equipment either up or downstairs, particularly if a homeowner or resident is disabled.
And here’s another consideration: believe it or not, some people with multiple bedrooms actually use them as sleeping quarters for live-in extended family members. Maybe they have three or more children. Sometimes, two of the adults work from home and use rooms as office space.
It is frankly none of the neighbors’ business how these owners use the space inside their homes and garages.
But, under an HOA regime, a small minority of homeowners often make it their business to dictate how their neighbors can use the space inside and outside of their homes.
The big problem with all association-governed regimes is that, perhaps 10-20% of homeowners play into these inevitable parking dilemmas with their inexplicable attitude that their “community” can only look attractive if all vehicles are stored in garages, out of sight.
More comments from the above referenced article:
Unbelievable how insensitive and downright mean some people can be when they make anonymous comments. And keep in mind that this is how HOAs operate. Many encourage neighbors to report “rule violations” to the HOA or its management agent, without ever requiring the residents to actually attempt to talk to each other about the alleged offense.
Fair Housing lawsuit exposure?
Of course, it’s also important to highlight the fact that sometimes HOA rule enforcement violates the Civil Rights of persons with disabilities.
If the HOA is making it difficult for a disabled resident to receive care in her home, then the board and management agent are potentially engaging in violations of the Fair Housing Act. (The Americans with Disabilities Act – ADA – governs accommodations for the disabled in public spaces, while the Fair Housing Act governs fair treatment of residents in private housing.)
That opens up the Association to a lawsuit that could result in hefty fines and payment of damages to the affected homeowners and residents. And, to the extent that insurance policies do not cover defense costs when the courts rule that behavior violated the Fair Housing Act, each and every homeowner in the HOA will be paying their share of the legal costs.
My guess is that a hefty special assessment and bad publicity for an HOA does far more to reduce property values than the appearance of cars parked in driveways or on the road in front of homes.
Plus, making life more difficult for one’s neighbor with a disability is just plain unkind. Consider that, according to the Council for Disability Awareness, one in four Americans will face their own disability – either temporary or permanent – at some point in their lives. Chances are, many of the insensitive folks who think their diabled neighbors should simply move out of their homes will find themselves in the same boat as they age, or following an unexpected accident or illness.
See the link below for more information on the prevalence of disability.