Lucig Danielian Candidate Statement
This turned out longer than expected – if you don’t have the time or inclination to read it all, I hope you’ll take a quick look at my background and why I’m running. And make sure to participate in the vote!
My parents bought our home on Robin Drive in 1969 way back in the days when a school bus would take us back and forth to Hollywood High. I did my undergraduate degree at UCLA, masters at USC, and PhD at the University of Texas, Austin. I’ve held professorships at the University at Albany, SUNY, and the American University of Armenia where I served as Dean of the School of Political Science and International Affairs and Director of the Center for Policy Analysis. As Vice President and Chief Operating Officer I was responsible for the creation, implementation and oversight of annual budgets, finances, and construction projects. As Provost, I led successful efforts to become the first international university to receive US accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. I am the recipient of several national fellowships and grants for field research on democracy building, including a Fulbright to lecture in the USSR. My areas of expertise surround the issues of political participation and consensus- building in policy making, legislative processes, and the mass media. I have served as principal investigator for dozens of research projects funded by USAID, World Bank, UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, OSCE, and the EU and am expert in survey and polling research and applying quantitative and qualitative research methods under difficult conditions.
I have been committed to working and advocating for civil and human rights both here and internationally throughout my life. For example, I led the first independent election monitoring project in the former Soviet Union, chaired the Soros funded Open Society Institute Armenia Assistance Foundation, and founded one of the first post-Soviet organizations to defend the rights of political prisoners.
I always came home to Robin Drive a couple times a year and moved back permanently eight years ago. We’ve stayed all these years because we love it up here. I do respect the hard work of the board, but I question the direction being taken by the current board as demonstrated in the draft rules last year – that is not the kind of development in which I want to live and it is not the one our governing documents created. And, I’m not sure why so many hours were spent creating those rules without first finding out what homeowners want.
Our Declarations of Restrictions were registered in 1959, the same year our Sunset Doheny Homes Association was incorporated, and focuses on building guidelines. We have always been governed by California Nonprofit Corporation Law – and still are. The board has decided we should now also be governed by the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act under the Civil Code — a law that came into effect way back in 1985 to govern developments such as condominiums and gated communities with common areas like private streets, pools, clubhouses, and tennis courts owned by an association or homeowners and financed by monthly dues.
Our Declaration does not have any common area, and so I’ve asked the board repeatedly to explain its legal justification in making this sudden and significant change in which California laws govern our association. In a meeting last year we were told it was the Doheny Estates sign that was common area, but then were informed a year and a half later at the next board meeting that it turns out this reason didn’t hold water and that instead there is a recent court decision on view easements upon which the board is now relying for its rationale that we have a common area.
I have requested that court decision but it has not been provided. I have requested a written statement on the board’s decision on Davis-Stirling but it has not been provided.
I’ve done lots of research and can find no court decisions on view easements that apply to our status as an association and, anyway, our Declaration has no view easements! However, I have found court decisions that define the requirements for a development to fall under Davis-Stirling, what a common area is under Davis-Stirling, and that restrictions are not easements and cannot be considered common areas under Davis-Stirling. (One of the court decisions was for a neighboring homeowners association that was dissolved a few years ago.) It is clear to me from these court cases that Davis-Stirling does not apply to our association.
Even Davis-Stirling states it clearly, “Nothing in this act may be construed to apply to a real property development that does not contain common area.”
Finding a way to more easily increase our assessments seems to be one of the main reasons for why the board now wants to be under Davis-Stirling – it takes only 28 homeowners voting yes to increase annual assessments for all the rest of us under Davis-Stirling. Our Declaration’s current requirement of 84 votes to make increases to assessments would end under Davis-Stirling. I am concerned that if the board uses the wrong law to increase assessments we may be opening our association up to more costly lawsuits.
We were told at the last meeting that the board is now functioning as if it is under Davis-Stirling (even though homeowners have received no written decision on the reason for this significant change). If that is the case, then there may be a slew of new problems being created. For example, Davis-Stirling requires that:
■ the “board shall not take action on any item of business outside of a board meeting,” meetings cannot be conducted using emails, phone meetings must include all homeowners, and that both open meetings and executive sessions require prior notification to homeowners. An item of business is any action within the authority of the board.
■ annual assessments can be increased only once and that even a 20% increase in annual assessments requires a vote of the homeowners because mandatory documents have not been provided to homeowners and required timelines have not been met.
■ board members must review financials monthly following specific guidelines and that the monthly financial reviews must be ratified at a board meeting and reflected in the minutes.
There also are the many requirements of our governing documents and California Nonprofit Corporation Law that must be met. For example, that elections must take place annually in March, that our fiscal year starts July 1, that all association assets and liabilities must be reported
in audited or certified annual financial statements provided to all homeowners, that lawsuits adversely affecting homeowners should be disclosed, and that all expenditures be restricted to the purposes delineated in our Declaration.
Why I’m Running for the Board
I am not against change – our governing documents and California Nonprofit Corporation Law allow us to make changes to our Declaration and bylaws. In fact, the Declaration has been changed a few times in the past. If the board wants to propose changes, it should create opportunities for homeowners to have a voice in such decisions. We should come to consensus as homeowners on any changes we may believe are needed – and I am for using our governing documents and the correct laws to make them.
We should work in a transparent manner on board decisions, including finances. Our bylaws call for regular monthly board meetings and even specifies when these meetings shall be held – the board should make sure these monthly board meetings are open to homeowners and put all meeting minutes on the website for those who cannot attend.
Financial reporting requirements are not optional and must be met – right now, homeowners have no idea what the assets and liabilities of our association are, even though our own bylaws and California law require that they be reported annually. Homeowners have no way of knowing if the association is solvent or facing bankruptcy — and why — without such reporting.
I do not agree with the current board’s argument that we either dissolve our homeowners association or raise annual assessments to $1200 (with even more increases following later; one suggestion was $2400). We need to be open to finding ways to create a reasonable budget based on the requirements of our Declaration – it is that document that legally defines budget items. If an expense is not in the Declaration, it cannot be in the budget; homeowner association budgets cannot be wish lists. Also, the board gave some inaccurate information at the last meeting about how our Declarations of Restrictions might be in jeopardy if the association is dissolved. Actually, the Declaration provides that restrictions continue without an association and that they can be enforced by individual homeowners indefinitely until we decide in a vote to cancel the Declaration.
We are a small self-governing homeowners association. We can easily develop ways for all of us who want to participate to do so and create methods to keep us all informed on a regular basis. That’s why I’m running for the board – to help find ways to be more transparent in decisions, create more responsible finances and reporting, increase communication, and build consensus while ensuring that the building restrictions in our Declaration are followed for the benefit of homeowners and the neighborhood.
Finally, I want to state that I have no known conflicts of interest.
If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org