Beaumont Tashjian Law Blog

Monday, July 5, 2021

RIDGELINE PROTECTION ORDINANCE: REZONING THE BEL AIR BEVERLY CREST NEIGHBORHOOD

As you may be aware, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission is currently considering two ordinances meant to protect the City’s ridgelines: (1) the Ridgeline Protection Ordinance (CPC-2021-3001-CA), and (2) the Zone Change Ordinance (CPC-2021-3059-ZC). If implemented, these proposed ordinances would create a two-step process whereby the City Planner would re-zone much of the area located East of Interstate 405 to Coldwater Canyon Drive between Mulholland Drive and Sunset Boulevard.

The Ridgeline Protection Ordinance coupled with the Zone Change Ordinance establish a new district in the Los Angeles Municipal Code and are intended to address maintenance of the ridgelines within the city. In short, this ordinance will be used to re-zone the lots located closest to ridgelines, create two new zoning designations, RP1 and RP2, and implement development regulations to “preserve and protect” the ridgelines that surround the City of Los Angeles.

If approved, future buildings would be required to follow strict guidelines for construction, improvements and development including height and grading restrictions on nearly all of the lots between Interstate 405 and Laurel Canyon. Additionally, any existing buildings in these zones which do not comply with the new regulations would be prevented from making any changes or improvements to their lots, including repairs for damage caused by fires, earthquakes, and other natural causes. 

One important concern for many homeowners regarding this zone change is that any houses that are currently within the RP1 or RP2 zones mentioned above that do not conform to these restrictions will be deemed a “legal non-conforming use.” This designation will significantly limit owners’ abilities to make changes to their homes and other structures located on their lots. Additionally, this could lower property values and have other negative effects regarding financing.

The City Planner is only accepting comments and objections until August 2, 2021 so we encourage you to get involved as public input is crucial. Below are a few resources which can be used to learn more about the Ridgeline Protection Ordinance and to submit input, concerns and/or objections.

  • The ordinance can be found on the LA City Planning website under “Ridgeline Protection Ordinance”: Proposed Land Use Regulations | Los Angeles City Planning (lacity.org)
  • Submit comment and objections to the Department of City Planning, no later than August 2, 2021:

Susan Wong, Department of City Planning
200 North Spring Street, Room 667
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Email: planning.ridgelines@lacity.org

This is a major zoning change that will have a lasting affect on the area should it be passed by the City Planning Department. While the City Planning Department is pushing this ordinance as a means to protect the “pristine ridgelines” in the City is has the potential to dramatically affect the current and future homeowners who call those ridgelines home. Owners in the affected area should continue to take action by reaching out to the contacts above and getting involved.

 

THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH DEFERRED MAINTENANCE

As we all know, the association has a duty to maintain, repair and replace the common area. This duty is set forth in Civil Code Section 4775 and the association’s governing documents (in most cases). Although it may be clear that the association has a duty to maintain, repair and replace the common area components, determining how to “maintain,” “repair” and “replace”, how often, and to what extent is rather ambiguous.

Creating a maintenance plan is crucial to avoid the pitfalls of deferred or irregular maintenance practices, which may result in significant unbudgeted repair and remediation costs, as well as increased insurance, legal costs, declining property values and resident complaints.

Standard of Maintenance

So, what does “maintenance” mean?  Often, the CC&Rs will speak to the standard of maintenance required (i.e., “clean and attractive condition” or first-class condition”). Generally, maintenance means upkeep such as cleaning, painting, trimming, free of debris, etc. “Repair” tends to refer to refurbishment or any action that does not amount to a full replacement. “Replacement” means the removal of an existing item and installation of another item with similar purpose.

The goal is to avoid deferring maintenance to the point where the only possible cure is a complete replacement of the component(s). While the board is granted deference in determining how the common areas are to be maintained, an association may be held liable for its failure to investigate maintenance problems and to take reasonable action. Thus, short and long-term maintenance planning are recommended, as outlined below.

Reserve Studies Required

California Civil Code Section 5550 places a duty on the board to inspect the common areas at least once every three (3) years and prepare a reserve study. The reserve study is then used to determine the amount of reserve funds that should be set aside for the maintenance, repair and replacement of major components the association is required to maintain, repair and replace with a remaining useful life of less than thirty (30) years. (Civil Code Section 5550.)

While there is no minimum reserve funding requirement imposed by law, it is imperative that associations strive to keep an adequate reserve fund; failing to update the association’s reserve study regularly may result in inadequate funds to address failing common area components.

Creating a Maintenance Plan

The board should begin by evaluating the governing documents to ensure they meet the needs of the community. CC&Rs often consist of paragraphs of text which are unclear and ambiguous. An effective maintenance plan will clearly outline the needs and requirements of the community, as provided by the CC&Rs and applicable law. The maintenance plan should also list the monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual tasks that need to be completed to avoid premature aging of your common area components. This will ensure preparedness for rains, winds or other natural emergencies, such as fires and earthquakes.

Next, the board should outline what its contractor or business partner will do and when. This list of maintenance tasks, when coupled with dates for completion, turns into a schedule of maintenance tasks and a basic preventive maintenance plan.

Every building and most common area components, including concrete, require maintenance. The ultimate goal of a maintenance plan is to get the longest possible life out of each common area component. Another goal is to reduce emergencies such as roof leaks, floods and other expensive repairs. Ultimately, associations will receive the greatest value from common area assets if boards regularly maintain them.

Implications of Deferred Maintenance

Consider a situation where a building has undergone routine exterior maintenance to keep the wood trim sealed and water-tight. While paint may peel or flake, the overall condition of the building will likely remain in good shape, requiring only minimal repairs or touch-ups annually. The cost to make minor repairs (i.e., apply a new coat of paint) would likely be in the association’s budget.

On the other hand, a building lacking annual maintenance with, for example, peeling paint and defective sealant, would likely expose the building materials (such as wood) to the weather. The lack of paint and sealant will arguably allow the wood to deteriorate at an accelerated rate and subject the building structure to water intrusion, etc. As a result, the wood will need to be replaced requiring the removal of building surfaces, such as stucco. This type of repair or replacement is much more significant in scope and cost.

The foregoing scenarios outline why regular maintenance and upkeep are crucial and benefit the community as a whole. Consider the following deferred maintenance conditions:

  1. Dry Rot – cannot be repaired and all affected wood must be completely replaced.
  2. Roofs – uncleaned roofs can lead to premature roof failure, roof leaks, decreased life expectancy and/or dry rot.
  3. Plumbing- failure to maintain plumbing lines and fixtures can lead to significant water intrusion impacting a wide range of units/lots and/or mold growth.
  4. Termites – can result in significant structural damage, treatment and eradication costs, etc.
  5. Pavement – failing to seal and/or coat the pavement may result in cracks.
  6. Painting/Deck Resurfacing – protects against wear & tear and deterioration. Deck leaks can also lead to other leaks throughout the building and potentially structural damage.

What to Include in Your Maintenance Plan

  • Regular and routine maintenance
  • Landscaping
  • Irrigation
  • Pools and spas
  • Gutters
  • Lighting
  • Pest control
  • Annual Inspections
  • Trees
  • Exterior Components
  • Roof
  • Decks
  • Siding
  • Stucco
  • Pavement

Takeaways

Delayed and irregular maintenance can lead to unbudgeted repairs, remediation costs, increased insurance premiums, legal costs, and unhappy residents. To avoid these unfavorable outcomes, the board should work with management, legal counsel and its business partner and licensed professionals to create a maintenance plan and update the reserve study regularly (i.e., at least once every three years). With proper maintenance, the community will be enjoyed year-round without the stress of emergency repairs.

 

HIGHLIGHTS AND SUCCESSES

CAI-Channel Islands Chapter's Havana Nights

Congratulations to firm partner Lisa Tashjian, Esq, and Sean Allen, with Roseman Law, for winning the Best Speaker of the Year award from the CAI-Channel Islands Chapter for their Legal Q&A Webinar. Way to go Lisa and Sean!

CAI-Channel Islands Chapter's Red, White & Blue Community Faire

Senior Partner, Jeffrey A. Beaumont, Esq., spoke at CAI-CIC's Red, White & Blue Community Faire on June 29th at Spanish Hills Country Club, along with Sean Allen, Esq., Roseman Law, APC. They discussed "Dealing with Conflict in your Community."

Our VP of Operations, Tawnee Guerra, and our Marketing Director, Karla Barcenas, were also at the Community Faire exhibiting.

Beaumont Tashjian recently obtained a permanent restraining order on behalf of a board member and manager of a Santa Clarita association, as they were being harassed and threatened by an aggressive owner in the community. BT also successfully defended against the owner’s attempt to obtain a restraining order against the board member and manager. The restraining orders protecting the board member and manager will be in place until at least 2023.

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

CAI-Channel Islands Dinner Program: Risky Business

Partner, Lisa A. Tashjian, Esq., will be speaking at CAI-Channel Islands Dinner Program: Risky Business on August 5th at 5:45 p.m. at Los Robles Greens along with Dennis Brooks, Design Build Associates.

This program will cover:

Construction contracts & working with contractors

What are common contract flaws and what is the board's fiduciary duty?

What are the risks and legal ramifications of deferring maintenance?

 How do you convince boards to spend the money?

REGISTER NOW


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