Friday, July 7, 2017

Riding the Glacier, With an Amazon Delusion

What's the difference between a government which exists in perpetual partisan gridlock, and AmazonPrime which can deliver a park bench to my front door tomorrow?

Tons of Liability insurance? - Probably
Smarter people? - Likely
Desire? - You bet

I joined AmazonPrime because it made a whole lot of sense. My family orders everything - shoes, tools, jewelry, headphones, vitamins, furniture, clothes, coloring books, and baby food on Amazon. In the 21st century, finding a brown cardboard box on the front porch every day and knowing the UPS driver by her first name is normal. 

Browsing the Sears catalog is not. 

I thought of this comparison as I tried to make sense of a particularly difficult homeowner in the middle of a kitchen water loss renovation. I don't have space here to elaborate on the delays which nudged this owner of already questionable mental stability even closer to the brink. Sewer leak, bad advice, slow response, stubborn resistance, insurance dispute, board apathy, busy vendors - need I go on? By the time this owner was presented with a plan for repairs to their stripped kitchen, they were demanding their pound of flesh - and they weren't exactly being nice about it.

I was called to help and was up to my eyeballs before I realized I was in the swamp with crocodiles. It wasn't long before I wanted out - you know? Months passed as no kitchen materialized. As decisions were metered out, I felt sorry for the owners, even though I routinely checked my truck for IED's before pulling away from their townhome. 

And then, as construction finally began, the harried homeowners obsessed and anticipated each step in the process as if it should be delivered by a Fed Ex driver. That's what made me think of AMAZON.

The owners imagined:
Order cabinets, place in cart, choose next day shipping.
Select granite, place in cart, choose next day shipping.
Select flooring - you get the idea...
If you've ever been within a hundred miles of a kitchen remodel you know this is a ridiculous concept - but to be fair, they had been riding the glacier of HOA politics and were ready for some action.

So here's the contrast...A rising cultural expectation of immediate gratification vs. the tortuous path from problem to resolution in HOA-Land.

I know you've experienced the helpless feeling too. Telling a homeowner that, what should be a very simply resolved issue, won't even be discussed until the quarterly board meeting. I don't want to come across as naive'. I understand the need for process and protocol to beat back chaos and anarchy. But set aside the fact that, yes, they should have read the CC&Rs before buying that condo and embrace the possibility that there is a better way.

I said, "there is a better way" with confidence, and even from this side of the computer screen I sensed a flicker of hope as you imagined I had found the holy grail. And there is a better way but - let's face it - we're still looking for it. And we must continue to look for it or go mad.

Davis-Stirling predates the iPad, smartphones, and Amazon. In previous posts, I described the outdated construction methods that went into building many condos and townhomes. Granted, Davis-Stirling may not have been grossly defective like some of those buildings, but what's being done to bring outdated HOA governance into the 21st century?

Like in construction, some processes just take time. But just like construction is taking technological leaps forward, so can HOA governance, and I would love to create some dialogue in the following newsletters to get your thoughts. Here are just a few ideas to ponder:
Professional boards are probably a bad idea - right? Or are they? Is there another way to incentivize board participation?

Board decisions without an official meeting are bad - right? Or are they? What if there was an app...?

Vendor checks should only be signed and sent once work has been inspected by a committee member - right? Or should they? What if there was an escrow account that paid vendors timely, but at the same time, a Bond to hold them accountable?

I know you have some great ideas, and critiques of mine. Let's have 'em

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