Bay Area Property Services declares war on free speech

In only two months at Berkeley Town House, community manager Bay Area Property Services has already demonstrated skill at alienating customers and repeatedly breaking laws and rules.

Bay Area Property Services, in Walnut Creek, California, manages common interest developments (CIDs), including condominium associations and housing cooperatives. It appoints one member of its staff as the manager. He interacts with the CID board of directors, any staff, and the rank-and-file membership. He attends board meetings and advises the board on proper procedures. At least in theory.

Our cooperative (Berkeley Town House) hired BAPS in October this year, and it began work in November.

The initial impression made by BAPS and by the manager that it appointed for us, Christopher Stanley, was generally good. Stanley seemed to understand the complexity of managing a diverse urban residential community. He initially reached out and offered to provide records to me on request; when I asked for one document, he sent it to me promptly.

But things went sour later. First, Christopher Stanley failed for a month to respond to complaints by at least 3 residents about a defective ventilation system and did nothing (as far as we could tell) to get it repaired. Second, he also failed to provide access to a contract for a couple of shareholders who had requested it, violating the law on open records.

Third, he disregarded the CID’s rules about use of the common areas and fabricated rules of his own fantasy, demanding compliance. Where the actual rules said that we all have free and shared use of the common areas, and we have limited privileges to reserve them for our private use, Stanley alleged, with no basis in fact, that the rules require us to request permission to use the common areas for “a meeting of any kind”. Thus, if, for example, three of us want to meet in one corner of the lounge to discuss current events, Stanley alleges that one of us must submit an application form at least 2 weeks in advance and pay a $25 deposit, then wait to find out whether the corporation will approve our request. If we’re lucky and it does, then, after our meeting ends, we must summon a member of the board of directors to inspect the spot where we met, perhaps to verify that we didn’t drool on the floor. Only then does the applicant get the deposit back. No residential community in its right mind would adopt such draconian restrictions on the ordinary social interactions of its members, but Christopher Stanley considers such a virtual lock-down perfectly normal. He told me, “the Board has obligation to know what is happening in the common areas”. In other words, Big Board is Watching You. I expect him to recommend the purchase of interior spy drones any month now.

Fourth, Stanley announced that he had singlehandedly repealed the corporation’s policy of distributing the draft minutes of each board meeting to the shareholders in time for their comments before the board’s vote to accept the minutes. From now on, he said, draft minutes will not be available to shareholders at all, and final minutes will be available only on request, and only after they have become final by means of a board vote. Some directors expressed doubt about the wisdom of this action, but no director questioned its legality. In fact, Stanley has no power to repeal any corporate policy. Moreover, his decree violates section 1363.05(d) of the California Civil Code, which requires that minutes be made available to CID members within 30 days after each meeting. Since the board meets once a month, the next meeting is often more than 30 days after the previous one, and therefore compliance requires making draft minutes available.

As a last straw, convincing me that I owe it to prospective BAPS customers to warn them about this firm, Stanley at today’s meeting of the board of directors actually shouted down two of the shareholders as they were just beginning to address the board. The moment he thought he understood what they wanted to talk about, he used his microphone to drown each of them out, repeatedly saying he would not allow them to speak. This is despite the CID Open Meeting Act, which guarantees every member and resident of a CID the right to address the board at each meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the president, with Stanley’s approval, announced that the board would go into executive session immediately. This, too, was probably illegal, though the Civil Code on that is a bit confusing. As I read it, this is legal only if the meeting’s agenda includes the executive session and its topic. But today’s agenda didn’t mention an executive session at all.

Whether BAPS has any competent and civil managers I don’t know. But, if it does, Christopher Stanley isn’t one of them, and any CID that he manages, including Berkeley Town House, will suffer from his tyrannical style.

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