Anytime you speak up, you open yourself up to criticism. Fair or not, that is just the way it is. When I write a commentary, I understand that some might not agree with my point of view, but it is just that — my point of view. Yet, I must take umbrage with individuals who want to put words in my mouth. That happened at the June Stevenson Ranch Community Association meeting when a board member accused me of saying the HOA board was “incompetent.” I never said, believed, or thought that word.
What I have said is the Stevenson Ranch Landscape Maintenance District is in a death spiral. Our community is looking worse off because of the shoddy landscaping, and something drastic needs to be done to fix this dire situation. I’ve also said the HOA board, which has purview over the management of the LMD, dropped the ball in allowing the landscaping to descend into such disrepair. But I never said the board was incompetent.
In my opinion, the HOA board made the wrong decision in not taking over the LMD when the idea was first presented seven years ago. Making a wrong decision does not make the HOA board incompetent. In hindsight, it was simply a bad decision. The most important thing now is for the HOA board to acknowledge that wrong decision and take the necessary corrective action.
The board knows there is a landscaping problem. Many Stevenson Ranch homeowners know there is a problem. Even L.A. County leadership and its Department of Public Works know there is a problem. Yet, the landscaping situation continues to deteriorate.
For years, I wrote publicly about the landscaping issues. Then, over a year ago, I wrote to the HOA board with my concerns and suggested actions to remedy the abysmal landscaping problem. I pressed the HOA board to appropriately notify homeowners that the monthly meetings were continuing during the pandemic and how owners could attend via Zoom.
Until that point, it was the HOA board and several county representatives meeting with little or no homeowner participation for lack of notification. The board complied and started notifying Stevenson Ranch homeowners via email a week before each monthly meeting and supplied the Zoom link. The homeowner attendance remained anemic or non-existent.
I also started questioning the HOA board at the monthly meeting about the landscaping but was quickly shut down. I was interrupted repeatedly, patronized, and the board instituted measures to silence or make it more difficult for some homeowners to participate.
Fortunately, this newspaper has afforded me an outlet in print and digital to directly reach out to the Stevenson Ranch homeowners and present my views. Because of that, the attendance at the Stevenson Ranch HOA meetings has been steadily increasing. At the June meeting, there were nearly two dozen homeowners in attendance. A number of them pressed board members over the ongoing landscaping problems.
Further, Supervisor Kathryn Barger has taken an interest and has put forward a motion to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to look into all 31 LMDs countywide. This motion is a significant step in re-examining how the LMDs operate and an entry point into a possible BOS solution to the worsening LMD landscaping problem, not just in Stevenson Ranch but across the county.
These are incremental, positive steps resulting from speaking up and attending the HOA meetings. The more that Stevenson Ranch homeowners attend the monthly HOA meetings, the more pressure will be exerted on the board to move quickly in remedying this landscape nightmare.
If the lack of homeowner participation persists, then the HOA board will continue to move at a snail’s pace in addressing the landscaping issues in Stevenson Ranch. Recent news reports have shown disastrous results when HOA boards wait years to fix serious association problems.
Just look around Stevenson Ranch at the bare spots on the slopes. Have you noticed soil washing down onto the sidewalks after a rainstorm or just regular irrigation? That is due to the lack of vegetation holding the soil in place. What is that visible erosion doing to the integrity of those slopes? DPW has spoken of slope integrity in the past in relation to stump removal. There are homes located at the top of slopes throughout the Stevenson Ranch community. Could there be a slope failure?
At the rate the landscaping is deteriorating, it is only a matter of time before it will be necessary for a special assessment to fix the problem. The LMD fees are a fixed amount, but if the county does examine and make changes to the current LMD structure, one change could be an annual inflation increase to those fees. No matter how you slice it, the homeowners will be left holding the bag either with a special assessment, an increase in LMD fees, or both.
If that board member wants to use the word “incompetent,” that is on them. I simply want the landscaping problem fixed, not in years but now.
The next meeting of the Stevenson Ranch HOA is on Tuesday, Aug. 17.
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.