If you live on the eastern side of Chula Vista, you likely belong to a homeowners association. The association governing Eastlake III and its 32 neighborhoods, located in the Otay Lakes area, has been a hotbed of political struggles for years.
Conflict began for the EastLake III association in 2012, when large residential developments, which were not in Chula Vista’s master plan, began to be shoehorned into the Otay Lakes area. As quality-of-life issues such as traffic and parking became aggravated and developer’s promises of amenities failed to appear, members of the association began to ask the seated board to take a stand on these issues. The association did not get involved, but 40 or 50 concerned homeowners began going to city-council meetings and speaking out about Lake Pointe and Casa Lago developments.
Then the activists began to focus on HOA issues and vied for board seats.
Association relations became so contentious in the past six months that the association had to hold two elections for board seats. Police have also been called to association meetings.
The first election, on April 8, could not be validated by ACE Inspectors, the company hired to conduct the procedure. The inspectors maintain that interruptions the night of the election and ballot irregularities impeded validation. ACE Inspectors wrote in an email to HOA president Barney Reed: “Most of the ballots/proxies were faxed or hand delivered and were never in envelopes…”
Shortly after the April election, ACE Inspectors offered this explanation to boardmembers and FirstService Residential, the property management group, as to why they declared the election invalid:
“…We also asked why the ballots were not mailed per Civil Code section 5115. If we had contested the annual meeting that night [April 8], it would not have looked good for FirstServices [the management company]. Most of the homeowners who were present were under the impression that transparency is gone and that the meeting was not ‘objective and fair.’ We truly believe that it would look good for FirstService…to re-do the annual meeting and have the homeowners send their ballots in the double envelope to the Inspectors of Election. In this way, you will not be seen as the management company who is siding with a certain group and not ALL.”
Cindy Collins, vice president of FirstService, fired back to ACE Inspectors: “I had forewarned you that this would be a heated election and yet you appeared to not to be prepared or equipped to handle the situation…. As for the inference that you were in some way protecting FirstService by not contesting that annual meeting...I believe if that was your true motivation, that you were negligent in the performance of your professional duties and loyalty to your client, the Association.”
Another contentious election took place in August that gave the activists another seat on the board.
Since becoming association president, Reed says he has learned things that surprise him.
In a September 21 interview, Reed said, “In an at effort to resolve the parking issues for the community, I went through a discovery process to find out who owned the properties around Eastlake III neighborhoods. Through this process I discovered that the 3133 residents of Eastlake III homeowners association are paying for water and landscape maintenance for a local church and other sections of private properties. In the interest of transparency and fairness it’s important for the residents to know where their HOA fees are going. We could potentially be talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
On September 23, the Reader called Debra Vaca, FirstService property manager for Eastlake III, inquiring about Reed’s allegations regarding water and landscaping. Vaca said someone would call back with an answer — that didn't happen.
So far, the association has racked up more than $20,000 in election costs, Reed said.
“And now there is an attempt to recall the entire board, adding even more costs.”
Reed says he wanted to enlist the assistance of Chula Vista’s District 1 council member John McCann to resolve some of the property issues, but McCann lives in one of the Eastlake III neighborhoods and McCann’s wife Myllissa has already signed the petition to recall Reed and other boardmembers.
The Reader also contacted boardmember Ritch Adair to ask about the recall petition. Adair said that all questions should go through the attorney and if any other boardmember was giving out information they were outside their authority.
(corrected 9/25, 11:55 a.m.)