In my last Council Corner I wrote about how we, as your City Council, champion the life we have here and talked about some of the work we have done and some of the work we plan to do to keep Foster City a great place to live, work and play. Since more than sixty percent of the homes in Foster City are part of a homeowners' association (HOA) or multi-family development (MFD), I thought it important to talk a bit more about what we have done and some of what we plan to do that directly addresses some of the issues that are unique to HOAs and MFDs.
Over the past few years, as we have instituted some significant changes here in Foster City, we have made a major effort to reach out to HOAs and MFDs. For example, prior to instituting our new water rate structure, the City, through its Environmental Sustainability Task Force, held a series of town-hall style meetings at which we presented our then-proposed new water rate policy and discussed with those attending the new methodology and its impact.
We then followed up that informative presentation with a workshop specifically designed to help HOAs and MFDs with issues related to the change in water rates. At that workshop City Staff reviewed individual HOA and MFD budgets and discussed the various programs that HOAs and MFDs could take advantage of to not only conserve water, but to improve their facilities, with City assistance. For example, City Staff presented the HOAs and MFDs that attended with the opportunity to have a free landscape irrigation audit, free water meters and low interest, on-bill financing for those interested in segregating their irrigation water from their domestic water. We also advised the HOAs and MFD of significant rebate programs being offered, including rebates for synthetic turf, smart energy controllers, high-efficiency toilets and high-efficiency washing machines, to name but a few. In addition to the workshop, City Staff also held a series of private meetings with some HOAs and MFDs to provide specific information and assistance to them.
When we moved to the new recycling and trash collection programs, the City again held a town hall meeting to provide information for residents and some specific information to HOAs and MFDs about the new program, about how they would participate and about how they could lower their trash collection costs.
The City, again through the Environmental Sustainability Task Force, created the "Go Green Speaker Series" presenting a number of programs on how to make property improvements that were not only sustainable but which could take advantage of the rebate programs and other funding sources that would reduce the cost of such improvements. In addition, the City held a symposium for HOAs on creating energy smart homes and even developed a video for that program that focused on, among other issues, residential green retrofits for existing developments.
The City has also worked over the past few years to reduce the cost of updating and upgrading for HOAs and MFDs. For example, the City adopted a policy of waiving architectural fees for amendments or new prototypes for standard or routine improvements during certain months of the year. This allows HOAs and MFDs to do certain routine improvements without having to spend the time or money to come back to the City to obtain permission to install material or products that have been pre-approved. In fact, in one case, the City made a small loan to an HOA to help offset some of the burden of fixing some of the deferred maintenance issues.
This list shows but a few of the things we have done over the past years that I have been on the Council as we have pursued a goal of reaching out to and helping our HOAs and MFDs. We are, however, far from done. In fact, as I see the future, the City's outreach to HOAs and MFDs is only just starting. Some of what we are looking at doing in the upcoming years include making code enforcement more standardized and uniform, amending existing codes to facility greater flexibility, investigating and implementing new and additional rebate and investment programs, increasing HOAs and MFDs involvement in long term planning, and fully integrating HOAs and MFDs into the Sustainable Foster City Economic Development Plan.
City outreach to HOAs and MFDs is critical because so many Foster City residents live in an HOA or MFD. As I hope this article has demonstrated, we as your City Council not only recognize that fact, but have, and will continue to work find ways to ensure that the HOAs and MFDs have our assistance in dealing with the types of issues that are unique to such entities. As I said when we started, we are your champions too and I know that we will continue to be your champions well into the future.
Those are my thoughts. You can always share your ideas with me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (650) 286-3504.
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