In spread-out suburbia, people pass each other in cars, behind windshields, meeting bumper-to-bumper, rarely, if ever, face-to-face. College Heights has a small town, informal ambiance; a quiet oasis without traffic, making for easy informal encounters, for neighbors to bump into and get to know each other.

The design invites people to stroll and linger outside, weather permitting, and to get to know each other in a front-porch-sitting kind of way.

  • Informal interaction along walkways, in parks, in Village Center around the square, café, store, ATM, and service counter, and on Village Bus
  • Village Center with facilities for meetings, fitness, banquets, and events
  • The Village Van for school busing and group trips for shopping, San Francisco culture, and community events.

Pets are a boon to community, and are allowed within regulation limits. College Heights limits pets to two per pets unit maximum, with cats remaining indoors. Dogs are indoors or leashed, except in a fenced dog run along the Foothill Trail.

HOA Assets. Residents own their homes and, collectively, the HOA assets. These include walkways, Community Center, Corner Store, café, Village Square, Village Bus, Village Van, an electrocart, podium parking, short-term parking, security system, and landscaping including the pocket parks and Foothill Trail, and the energy system.

Homeowner Associations. When condominium complexes first became popular, legislation was lacking for adequate maintenance and operations. A big legislative fix put those problems largely behind us. Dues are now adequate to cover on-going needs and professional HOA management firms have become more effective.

College Heights takes what we have learned and improves on it. Condominium bylaws will implement best practices and innovation in HOA governance to foster community. The Board will be elected and have over-lapping terms and can include available seats for unelected owners to participate in governance. Seats will rotate among residents for training, leadership development, and involvement and inclusion of shy or senior residents, therefore every few years a different resident can become involved and get to know their neighbors and the issues. The Board will thus balance the needs for institutional memory, experience, competence, turnover, and new voices and ideas.

Privacy. College Heights provides for the social interaction missing in suburbia, but HOA Board members and management need to be sensitive if a resident feels a need for more privacy and is shy about it. The rules and conversation need to ensure that privacy is protected. College Heights will be a nice place to live, not a utopia.

Professional HOA management. With about 1,800 residents, College Heights is large enough to require professional management. The HOA Board would retain professionals and have on-site managers. The Manager could be paid $100,000 per year and the Assistant Manager, $75,000, in both cases this remuneration includes the market-rate rental value of their apartments in the community building.

Management responsibilities

Bad Behavior. Any neighborhood will inevitably have behavior problems from time to time. The Board would work with HOA managers on personal conflicts, which are difficult for a volunteer board.

Most problems can be prevented or solved with clear “good neighbor” conflict resolution procedures. The HOA management will have power to manage problems caused by absentee owners, renters, and, for that matter, occupying owners.

The management would have an explicit responsibility to know everybody informally and manage problems before they escalate. New residents would have a conversation, not just read a check-off list, with the on-site manager and an HOA Board member so they know what they are getting into beforehand.

Mediation would be a required first step. Anyone familiar with human nature will be more reassured than put off by this realism. Serious problems may require more serious actions. The management and HOA Board will have powers similar to a rental agent.

The vast majority of renters are responsible and should not get an automatic bad rap. However, the HOA Board will have authority to vet prospective tenants and disapprove those with bad records, or to evict tenants for ongoing, unrepentant bad behavior.

The HOA Board and management have the power and responsibility to maintain the value of the project. As with noise issues, there are some aspects of a dense neighborhood that need more careful management than in single houses widely scattered along a street.

Businesses. The management would manage five businesses: the café, the Corner Store, the Village Bus, leased parking, and short-term parking. Ownership by the residents provides a strong incentive for good management for revenue that lowers the HOA dues.

The managers and HOA will:

  • Support Board meetings and administration,
  • Manage accounts and HOA dues collection,
  • Manage security and safety,
  • Manage vouchers for public car trips,
  • Maintain open space, landscaping, and building exteriors,
  • Maintain the interior and exteriors of the Village Center,
  • Answer the phone, texts and email,
  • Manage the meeting room for rentals, meetings, banquets, performances, parties, clubs, movies, and other events and for fitness,
  • In-residence, on-site HOA managers on duty/on call. Service desk staffed 24/7,
  • The Homeowner Association Board involves all who are interested, oversees managers, and puts on community events,
  • The on-site HOA managers assure quiet and privacy.

Community Events. The management and Board will sponsor and provide four holiday-related community events per year, probably on MLK weekend, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving with music, movies, and cookouts, unless residents by vote desire other days.