Archive for May, 2014

Berkeley housing suit drags on as parties talk terms

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Berkeley, California, 18 May 2014

More than two years after it started, a lawsuit involving a Berkeley senior housing cooperative remains focused on procedural issues. On 2 May, current and former directors of a housing cooperative named Berkeley Town House, defendants in the suit, filed (and later made corrections in) an appeal brief with the Court of Appeal in San Francisco, seeking to reverse an order that had found defects in their handling of a settlement proposal. They and plaintiff Jonathan Pool subsequently proposed that the remaining briefs be filed within 90 days.

Meanwhile, Pool filed a statement in Alameda County Superior Court on Friday saying that while the appeal is in progress he and the co-op are discussing possible settlement terms in the case and in another suit arising from it. In the related suit, two contractors offered to pay the co-op $224 thousand to settle claims against them, but questions arose about whether the co-op’s directors had negotiated that deal properly and for the co-op’s benefit. No details about the current settlement talks were disclosed.

On Friday, citing the appeal, Superior Court Judge George C. Hernandez, Jr., postponed for three months a hearing that was to have taken place tomorrow.

Sneer words from Adrian Adams

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

About a quarter of all residents of California live in common interest developments (CIDs), such as condominium associations and housing cooperatives.

They are governed under California law by boards of directors, which usually procure services from contractors.

Among the contractors serving CIDs are legal firms. Almost all such firms that emphasize CID law have CID boards as their sole clients. When conflicts arise between boards and CID members, these legal firms advocate the boards’ positions.

A prominent firm of this kind is Adams Kessler PLC. Adrian Adams, Esq., one of its attorneys, regularly blogs about legal issues affecting CIDs. As you would expect, his blog entries recommend that boards comply with the law, but also adopt the presumption that in any conflict it is most likely the member, not the board, that is in the wrong.

Rather than stating that boards tend to be right as a proposition, Adams prefers innuendo. Here is an example from his blog entry of 4 May (with emphasis added by me):

With fewer people, there is less chance of a crazy living in the development. The disadvantage of a small association is its lack of resources. If an 8-unit gets a Ted Bundy in their midst, they have no way of stopping him. He can terrorize his neighbors and cripple the association’s budget. Large associations have the benefit of healthy budgets that allow them to hire legal counsel and professional management to address disruptive homeowners.

“Scorpion” is another term that Adams has used to characterize CID members who make legalistic demands on their boards.

What Adams wants you to understand is that those who govern CIDs are responsible fiduciaries, whose beneficial work is beset by destructive constituents. Adams offers his “professional” services to help these boards cope with the nut cases among the residents.

Boards butter Adams’s bread, so his partiality toward them is natural. His style also serves his pecuniary interests. With his sneering insinuations that dissidents exhibit antisocial personalities, Adams encourages CID directors to treat dissenting members as infestations. Those who fall for Adams’s rhetoric will run, checkbooks in hand, to Adams for help. What they won’t do is to think of dissenters as concerned and attentive CID citizens making claims against the prudence or legality of the directors’ actions and deserving reasoned consideration and response.

If Adams happened to be on the other side, he might instead have written:

With fewer people, there is more chance of a crazy getting onto the board. The disadvantage of a small association is its lack of resources. If an 8-unit gets a Ted Bundy as president, they have no way of stopping him. He can terrorize the helpless members and hire ruthless legal hacks to defend his despotismcrippling the association’s budget. Large associations have the benefit of healthy budgets that can absorb occasional damage caused by disruptive directors or crooked contractors. There are also more members who might organize a recall campaign and replace the miscreant with a director willing to serve the community.

Alternatively, if Adams were dispensing genuinely professional advice rather than greed-based fear-mongering, his paragraph might have read something like this:

With fewer people, there is less chance of active participants living in the development. Another disadvantage of a small association is its lack of resources. If a chance uninsured disaster or serious error causes a major loss, the association’s treasury may be unable to absorb it. Large associations have the benefit of large budgets that allow them to hire professionals as needed, but they also have more homeowners who might be willing and able to perform tasks (from gardening to bookkeeping) as a community activity.

But why be responsible, when snide pandering makes more money and radiates smugness?