At the May Stevenson Ranch Community Association meeting, the L.A. County Public Works Department presented its plan to rehabilitate the landscaping in the Stevenson Ranch Landscape Maintenance District. On the surface, it was a plan to deal with the deteriorating condition of the landscaping. Yet, it felt canned — homogenized, processed like a TV dinner.
I am suspicious of this plan.
First, the landscaping has been in a death spiral for nearly a decade under the county, more than six years with DPW. During that time, the DPW management fees have continued to increase while the landscaping maintenance has decreased. The fact is DPW has told homeowners that when the LMD contract is renewed in 2022, the community will pay more in management fees and get even less landscape maintenance.
Second, the plan presented at the May HOA meeting called for a “workshop focused on landscaping elements.” As a homeowner, I did not receive notice of an HOA workshop in “early spring 2021,” as stated in the presentation.
I also must question the legitimacy of the DPW coming up with a plan to fix the dilapidated landscaping when, in fact, it was DPW that managed to let the common area landscaping collapse as it has.
In July 2020, I wrote to the HOA about the abysmal condition of the landscaping and asked that the HOA for the following:
Dissolution of the LMD: I am asking that the HOA board discuss and vote to initiate dissolving the Stevenson Ranch LMD; begin the process of separating from the county, including engaging legal representation, to take over management of the landscaping.
Accounting audit: I ask that the HOA board discuss and initiate an independent accounting audit for at least the last three fiscal years to determine where millions of dollars of LMD fees were spent, including a line-by-line review of all county LMD management salaries paid for by this LMD zone.
Landscape design and maintenance plan: I am asking that the HOA board discuss and vote to engage, at the appropriate time in the process, a landscape architect to prepare a comprehensive and viable plan to redesign, rehabilitate and make associated recommendations to bring the Stevenson Ranch Community common area landscaping back up to the esthetic level due the community. To be funded out of LMD reserve.
To date, the HOA board has done little in a meaningful way in examining the dissolution of the LMD aside from blowing off the idea with excuses. There has been no follow-through on an accounting audit to see where our LMD fees have been spent. Millions have gone to “management fees.”
On my third point, the HOA board hired a landscape architect to review the DPW landscaping plans and not “prepare a comprehensive and viable plan to redesign, rehabilitate” the landscaping in the community. As I suggested, this can be funded with a small portion of the $3.3 million currently in the reserve fund.
No doubt, there will be excuses as to why the community cannot use some of the reserve funds to fix the dire landscaping problem. Yet, when the Tesoro del Valle community across town took over their LMD, they had a windfall from the reserve fund. That community looks spectacular — well-manicured and maintained landscaping, which adds curb appeal and value to their community, and there is still a reserve fund.
But as the excuse-laden HOA board says, Stevenson Ranch is three times bigger and has slopes, and yatter, yatter, yatter. Tesoro del Valle also has slopes, and as far as size comparisons are concerned, it’s not that difficult to scale up landscape maintenance.
As presented at the May HOA meeting, the plan calls for completion of final landscape plans, to share with the community, and installation of select landscape materials by “mid-late spring 2021.” DPW did present a plan and planted seasonal flowers on the medians along Stevenson Ranch Parkway and some small replacement trees.
For the summer, DPW plans irrigation controller upgrades, to finalize “design” projects, and to repair bench drains at the base of slopes. Then in the fall, commence “additional projects” and irrigation infrastructure. So, in three seasons, DWP will miraculously reverse a decade of mismanagement and landscape collapse. Complete baloney.
The plan presented was nothing more than an appeasement to homeowners who are complaining about the shoddy landscaping — nothing more, nothing less. I’d like to see a real plan, as I asked for a year ago, that lays out a timeline to address the severe landscaping issues throughout our community. What was presented was a glossing over, something thrown together to satiate homeowners who are concerned about the appearance of the community.
Stevenson Ranch homeowners need to start attending the HOA meetings, on the third Tuesday of the month. Contact the Stevenson Ranch community management company, FirstService Residential, on how to participate. The next meeting is on June 15.
Dave Bossert is a long-time community volunteer who serves on several boards. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organizations he is affiliated with or those of The Signal.