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Christine Korenthal: Meet your new HOA, the city of Santa Clarita

Posted: June 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.

I will never forget when my husband, Kevin, and I began looking for our first house. It was an exciting time for us as we began our search to find the new place that we would call home.

We had a number of things that we considered as we started our quest to become homeowners. One of the things that we weighed when contemplating and discussing our options was whether to move into a community run by a homeowners’ association.

This is a big consideration for many people when buying a home. After all, if you are going to spend a considerable amount of money on a piece of property, do you really want someone else telling you how to run and maintain your investment — and then pay them for the privilege?

On the other hand, if you are going to invest that much money, do you want to take the chance that a less-than-considerate neighbor could drive down your property’s value?

It really is quite a decision, but ultimately, it is up to each person to reconcile whether the perks of having a tidy little cookie-cutter neighborhood are outweighed by the costs and restrictive nature of HOA community standards.

Unfortunately, when people move to the city of Santa Clarita now, they will not have the right to decide that issue for themselves.

Meet your new HOA, the city of Santa Clarita. If you desire to live in our fine city, you are going to keep your property up to the codes that the city has deemed acceptable.

Admittedly, I thought it was a joke when I first heard it, as well. Then I read City Ordinance No. 13-06, Chapter 23.10-30, and the joke was on me — or rather, all of us.

This ordinance regulates so much about how private citizens can use and maintain their property that it is almost indiscernible from many HOA standards.

A general nuisance, which is very broadly defined as anything indecent and/or offensive to the senses, is just the first of many new restrictions being placed on property owners.

Painting a building, wall, fence, etc., a color that is considered garish or "out of harmony or conformity with the standards of adjacent properties" is considered a violation under designated nuisances.

Any paint, chalk, ink, etc., on external structures, including cement, is considered graffiti and is not allowed to be within the public view for more than 24 hours. One has to wonder if little Susie’s sidewalk chalk art will result in citations for graffiti.

No broken windows, cracked driveways, or any other "unsightly" external features will be tolerated, and front yards and landscapes must have city-approved ground cover to be in compliance with this city ordinance.

Not only does this ordinance regulate visibility of everything from clothes lines to trash bins, but there are two glaring differences between an HOA determining, implementing, and enforcing these standards and the city of Santa Clarita doing so.

First, an HOA is a small group of private citizens who usually live in the same neighborhood that their guidelines affect. Their power is limited, and the likelihood of abuse is small.

There’s a big difference between an HOA and a government body with all of the power and bureaucracy that comes with it.

The person or persons responsible for enforcement are not elected and, thus, are unaccountable to the electorate. The process that a property owner must go through if he or she cannot afford to pay a fine or comply with the order is lengthy and, as with most government dealings largely without compassion or understanding.

The second and bigger difference between a private HOA and this city ordinance is that most people are aware before they buy their home whether or not they are moving into an HOA community and what the HOA guidelines include.

They were able to choose. Under this ordinance, homeowners don’t get to decide if they want to live under an HOA’s rules and guidelines because our elected City Council persons have already decided for them.

As a citizen and a proud conservative, I am disheartened that these men and women took it upon themselves to grant our local city government this kind of power.

Everyone loves a pretty neighborhood, but this big-government move on the part of the council proves that even some who refer to themselves as conservatives can get carried away and unwittingly expand the size and scope of government.

To them I say, "Get off my lawn."

Christine Korenthal is a resident of Canyon Country. "Right Here, Right Now!" appears Fridays and rotates among Santa Clarita Valley Republicans.


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