Aside from their regular monthly mortgage payments, tax bills insurance premiums, and homeowner association fees, Point Loma Tennis Club condominium owners also have to worry about another potential drain on their finances: fines for breaking the rules. In the sixteen years since the 368-unit complex was built just west of Worden and north of Valeta streets in Loma Portal, the homeowner association’s seven-member board of directors became increasingly frustrated in trying to get condo owners to adhere to its rules, says long-time board member and past board president Barbara Brandmier. So instead of merely sending out terse letters of reprimand, Brandmier says, the association several years ago decided to fine violators anywhere from twenty-five to one hundred dollars per offence.
Brandmier says the list of offences has grown ever since; as of last April, there are a total of twenty-three. Riding a bicycle, a skateboard, or roller skates on Point Loma Tennis Club carries a fine of at least twenty-five dollars, as do “loud social functions,” persistent loud yelling,” “loud music and playing of radios and televisions so as to disturb neighbors,” using balconies, porches or carports to dry “unsightly” articles such as bathing suits, towels or rugs, and a failure to obey posted pool rules such as the one calling for “no excessive noise, no shouting, no splashing, no floats, no mats, no children under fourteen unless accompanied by an adult, and no games’ on weekends between the hours of 1:00 and 6:00 p.m. Persons who park illegally or whose cars drip “gasoline, oil, grease, solvents, paint, antifreeze, or other fluids” on driveways and streets are subject to fifty-dollar fines, as are condo owners accused of an “imprudent waste of water by not repairing dripping faucets or constantly running toilet tanks” or a “tardiness in repairing leaks.” And any homeowner charged with refusing to cooperate with the homeowner association “in its authorized enforcement” of the various rules may be a fined a minimum of one hundred dollars.
As soon as the homeowner association receives a complaint, the alleged violator is summoned before a grievance committee to “prove his innocence,” Brandmier says. And unless the homeowner does so – or, if possible, he agrees to remedy the situation – the appropriate fine is assessed under threat of a lien on the guilty party’s property. “We just want people to be good neighbors,” Brandmier says. “But we have to have some was of enforcing our rules, and this method has proven to be the most effective.”
One Point Loma Tennis Club property owner, however, feels the association has gone a bit too far. John Calaprice, who owns two condos, says some of the rules, such as the pool regulations aimed primarily at children, violate basic constitutional rights; others, he says, are simply “penny-ante” or too vague or ambiguous to be properly enforced. So on November 23, Calaprice sent out a letter to all homeowners, urging that the fine policy be overhauled and the current board of directors be recalled because, among other reasons, “they knowingly passed rules that are in violation of the Unruh Civil Liberties Act” (the pool rules and another prohibiting children under the age of fourteen from dumping garbage into the dumpsters). Calaprice also calls for reforms in the way fines are assessed: the grievance committee hearings, he says, are “kangaroo courts,” and the “guilty unless proven innocent” policy is inconsistent with the American system of justice.
Board member Brandmier, however, says Calaprice “has a history of causing problems,” and terms the rules necessary to proper condo living. In the last year, she says, fewer than a dozen condo owners have been fined. “In most cases they come before the grievance committee, say they’re sorry and promise not to do it again, and we just forget about the fines,” she says. Brandmier does concede, however, that after Calaprice’s letter and several other complaints about the fine situation, the board has be reassessing its policy in levying fines. And already, she says, the weekend pool rules have been dropped after another condo owner, questioning their legality, threatened to take the board to court.