The Kenwood Press
Guest Editorial: 11/01/2013

Oakmont – To preserve and to build

Yvonne Frauenfelder

Oakmont Village was recently honored as Best Senior Community in Sonoma by the Press Democrat Readers’ Choice poll for 2013. As the proud villagers savor the accolades and reminisce about the joyous 50th birthday celebrations, a steadily increasing number of residents are lining up in opposition to a proposed signature building, the first administration complex, ever, to be owned and managed by the association, since its inception in 1963.

In letters to the editor [Oakmont News], urgent comments posted on social media, nonstop email exchanges, two videos featured on YouTube, a town hall meeting initiated by residents, a petition drive gathering hundreds of signatures, and a new group named “First things First,” opponents to the development give voice to two concerns. First, the building, to be located between the Berger and the Central Activities Center (CAC), is in the wrong place. It takes away far too much of the greensward or lawn area, thereby destroying the aesthetics of our “downtown.” Alternative proposals feature additions of various configurations to the CAC, as was planned years ago.

Second, and equally important, questions are raised relating to the fiscal soundness of the proposed enterprise. A forensic report issued by an engineering firm cited a plethora of repairs and/or rehabilitations needed at most of the “public” facilities. Considerations such as: 1) what is the estimated useful life of each major building component; 2) what is the amount necessary to replace, restore and maintain all of them, and; 3) what is the actual cash set aside in the respective reserve funds?

To alleviate these uncertainties, OVA President John Taylor (Oakmont News, July 15, 2013) stated, “We have the reserves to do all that.” Apparently not quite, because on Oct. 15 the board approved the 2014 budget, which included a $2 increase of dues in addition to the $0.50 levied earlier in the summer. There was no explanation as to why on Oct. 1 (letter by John Taylor to the OVA Directors) we had all the necessary monetary resources, and on Oct. 15, a four-fold increase was voted in (as part of the budget) unanimously and without any relevant board discussion.

On April 25, 2013, the Hunter Group, developers of the acreage, fronting on Hwy. 12 and Oakmont Dr. (The Meadow) agreed to pay OVA $540,000 in impact fees (from 36 homes) to be applied either toward an office or activities building. In a quid pro quo, the Hunter Group “may” (at their discretion) build the new multiple purpose complex – without charging for administrative overhead or profit – or else, and more likely, revert back to a 2007 agreement (Carinalli) and pay the fees up-front, after final map approval by the city for the initial residential lots.

The new central office complex, which according to OVA President John Taylor has been enlarged since April 24 of this year when the development agreement was signed, is to accommodate the OVA offices, meeting rooms, electrical infrastructure, and storage areas for pool equipment. The costs for the new 3,000-square-foot building is projected at $1.13 million ($376 per square foot) of which OVA is responsible for $600,000, if the Hunter Group were to be the contractor.

For a long time, the proponents have dreamt of owning an administrative building, and month after month, indeed year after year, they worked on such plans, ever since the CAC had to be reduced in size, due to lack of parking. The recession held up further building progress. Now we have arrived at the point where we could build, but we have also awakened to the fact that not only do people age, but so do our recreational facilities, both indoors and outdoors. As alluded to above, nobody has a handle on how much money is required for repairs and rehabilitation, therefore, we are unable to ascertain how much needs to be set aside in reserves.

Against this background and in view of the of the many residents for whom the greensward is of paramount importance, and, in the interest of exploring an addition to the CAC, may I propose to the OVA Board of Directors a pause in these proceedings? We erred with the dues; let us not miscalculate our future needs for repairs and rehabilitation of our aging buildings and recreational infrastructure.

Finally, allow me to submit that we leave the green central meadow as it is, add flowers, benches, and, yes, a fountain. Open space is priceless; once paved over, there is no more. Can you equate a green common, a wide expanse of nature, with the price for a structure that could be annexed to an existing facility, giving us the amenities you seek, while keeping intact an irreplaceable natural feature of Oakmont?