As input to the May board meeting five owners sent the board letters about the proposed idea to withdraw or rescind Appendix I (View Impairment) of the Architectural Standards. Also, two owners attended the board meeting to comment on this matter.
Appendix I was originally adopted in 2015 to allow for owners to comment on common area landscaping that may interfere with a view. A motion was made at the February board meeting to withdraw this rule change as it appeared to set false expectations about the ability to remove or trim landscaping on common areas to help improve views.
At the May board meeting on May 18th the board decided to maintain Appendix I in place to allow for owners to comment on common area landscaping as it relates to views.
The following is detailed background on the discussion held at the May board meeting that might be helpful to understand.
The idea of allowing for comments on common area landscaping has always existed and will continue to be there. In 2015 the board thought about putting some additional structure around commenting on views that might be impacted by common area landscaping and potential remedies. With or without Appendix I a member is always welcome to bring comments regarding the Association’s landscaping to the board or Landscaping Committee. Since 2015 when this Appendix was adopted not a single owner has been able to meet the criteria outlined in the Appendix which are very necessary.
There are various criteria that are included in the Appendix that would need to be met in order for the Landscaping Committee to consider taking some action on common area landscaping to assist with improving views.
- First of all, the board cannot take an action that would solely benefit one member or selected members to the detriment of one or more other members. Every member must be treated equally. The job of the board is to protect, maintain and enhance the community of exactly 500 homes. The board tries extremely hard to treat all 500 homeowners equally and consistently. Everyone has the same voting power. If an owner wanted to have landscaping trimmed or removed from a common area like a slope, they would need to gain agreement from any and all owners who might be impacted. The Landscaping Committee would need their written agreement and that needs to be sought by the owner requesting such relief. As an example if an owner who lives on Lynwood Drive is considering asking for a tree or shrub to be removed or trimmed they would need to seek agreement from all of the owners below them that that could be negatively impacted. No owner to date has ever gotten past that first hurdle.
- Secondly, the Landscaping Committee is responsible for managing and overseeing the maintenance of all common areas in Encinitas Ranch which comprises of over 29 acres of land with 12.5 acres of slopes. They need to be a key participant in any request to alter a slope. They are also responsible for the overall aesthetics of the community. They have spent considerable time just in the past six months reviewing three different requests for landscaping relief on slopes and the committee reached unanimous consensus that altering the landscaping on any slope for such request is not in the best interests of the community. It would have a significant negative impact on the aesthetics.
Furthermore, they are extremely concerned over slope stability. If a tree or shrub that might be removed for something other than disease it could create the right conditions for a slope failure. Were that to happen it would open the Association up to enormous liabilities. The committee will always err on the conservative side with regard to creating potential conditions for slope failure.
- The third party that needs to be involved in any such decision needs to be our community arborist who is an ISA (International Society of Arborists) Certified Arborist who has worked with us for over five years. The arborist is responsible for the health and safety of the trees in the community and there are over 1700 trees across Encinitas Ranch. He directs his crew to maintain, trim and prune trees and he continually reminds the Landscaping Committee that the slopes are incredibly diverse with interconnected ecosystems. The root systems of all the pine trees as an example are tied together and by trimming or removing one you create the environment to damage many others. He also reminds the board and Landscaping Committee that trying to control the shape and size of a tree is a never-ending battle and would require significantly more maintenance at a cost that does not make sense to the community. He is very much opposed to removing tree or attempting to control the size or shape.
- Lastly the owner requesting any trimming or removal of trees or shrubs would need to pay for all costs and those costs could be perpetual. The more you trim the more you will need to trim in the future. Any incremental work done or the benefit of a single or group of owners would need to be paid for by them.
If an owner or owners can get past those criteria then there is room for further discussion with the Landscaping Committee but to this point no one has.
Appendix I may have caused some owners to incorrectly believe that they have a right to a view or demand or determine how common area landscaping would be maintained. Appendix I does not grant individual owners the authority to interfere with Association decisions regarding common area landscaping. The sole rationale for repealing Appendix I was to clarify and remove any confusion but Appendix I will remain in place.
Consistent with what was stated in Appendix I, the ultimate decision on common area landscaping is left to the discretion of the Association and its Landscaping Committee.
Finally, no Owner has a right to any view nor do they have a right to prevent view impairments from other Lots in accordance with the CC&Rs (Section 6.1.23) and California law. Appendix I did not, and could not, change what is already in the CC&Rs as any rule that conflicts or is inconsistent with the CC&Rs is invalid. The board has no authority to protect views and that is clearly stated in Article 6.1.23 of the CC&R’s.
If any owner wishes to request a meeting with the Landscaping Committee to discuss further please notify management.