Creating Community: From Developers to Community Associations

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By Susan M. Hawks McClintic, Esq.

If you are looking for a newly built home in San Diego County, the odds are that home will be in a community association. When done right, community associations provide an immediate sense of community for new homeowners.

Community associations are typically found in condominiums or planned developments where the homeowners share common amenities such as pools, clubhouses, parks and playgrounds. According to a 2016 study by the Community Associations Institute, there are approximately 45,400 community associations in California, with an estimated 9.16 million residents.

In San Diego County, the vast majority of new homes are located in developments with community associations. Community associations are usually set up as a nonprofit corporation with a board of directors. While the development is being built, the board of directors consists of representatives of the developer and some homeowners.

Eventually, the association is turned over to the homeowners. This usually occurs after a certain number of properties have been sold. It’s important to have a good transition team, not only for the handover but also to set up long-term goals and success for the association.

“Strong, focused leadership at the outset of a community sets the tone for the future of the community,” said attorney Susan Hawks McClintic, co-managing shareholder at Epsten Grinnell & Howell. “Developer representatives on the board of directors can play an important role in transitioning from constructing buildings to building relationships and a sense of community.”

The board of directors guides the community association. By serving on the board during the development, the developer is able to continue the vision of the original development plan. As the transition continues, that vision is passed on to the new homeowner board members.

“You may have heard some grumblings about someone monitoring whether you mow your lawn or paint your house the right color, but community associations offer many positives. Besides, do you want your neighbors to paint their house bright purple?” McClintic said. “In the 2016 study by the Community Associations Institute, 87 percent of the responding residents in community associations rated their experiences with the association as positive or neutral.”

It’s important for homeowners to get involved. Serving on the board is not for everyone, but all homeowners can attend meetings. Anyone interested in becoming a board member can learn the statutes and laws and get training on how to lead an effective association.

Homeowners need to share their vision of community from the start. Should it be a place with social events so neighbors can meet one another? Is a community garden important? What about quiet time? Planning some long-term goals is a great way to get the conversation started about the vision for the community.

Don’t hesitate to bring your ideas to the table. Working with the developer representatives on the board of directors is the best way to create a welcoming community and lay the groundwork for preserving the value of that community’s properties.

[1] This article was originally published by the San Diego Union-Tribune on August 16, 2017