What is the Homeowner Representative Board?

 

It is best perhaps to start by clearing up a common misapprehension. The HRB is not – to repeat, it is NOT – University Hills “management.” Management is in the hands of the Irvine Campus Housing Authority (ICHA), a non-profit corporation created by the UC Regents. The HRB is advisory to ICHA and its professional staff. Thus, the HRB works not on behalf of management but instead, serves as a “voice” for University Hills residents.

The HRB is the Homeowner Representative Board, an elected body of volunteer home-owners who serve as an intermediary between ICHA management and UH residents. Its six members are elected on a one-vote-per-household basis each December to serve overlapping two-year terms.

The HRB originated as the “Architectural Review Board” with the opening of University Hills. Its scope has evolved considerably since then, expanding from the scrutiny of new homeowner landscaping plans to a body that is part resident lobby group, part community watchdog, and part neighborhood council.

It meets monthly to provide ICHA management with:

  • residents’ perspective on operations (including maintenance and use of common landscaping and recreational amenities),
  • to facilitate the resolution of neighbor-neighbor or resident-management disputes, and
  • to provide input on longer-range management issues (including future construction).

Our focus thus extends from the small (minor quick “fixes,” or matters affecting only a few households) up through a middle range (what some view as “rule-making,” affecting large groups of residents) and occasionally beyond, to the strategic.

Many smaller issues, such as landscaping approvals, have become routinized and are delegated to ICHA management. The HRB also gathers and synthesizes community input, and recommends and approves policy for use of common facilities including pools, picnic areas, and ball playing facilities. Recently, we have worked with ICHA to refurbish landscape, to plan the addition of a restroom in the Vista Bonita Park, to design policy and signage aimed at minimizing nighttime disturbances in the Garden Park, and to install trash cans and doggie bag dispensers along popular paseos.

ICHA management and the HRB routinely communicate face-to-face; ICHA staff attends HRB meetings as consultants and commentators and, since 1997, an HRB representative attends regular ICHA board meetings on a reciprocal basis. Currently HRB members served on several ICHA ad-hoc planning committees.

Does the HRB have any real power? Basically, we have only the power of persuasion, but this really does count for something. Through the years, the HRB and ICHA management have developed a mutual respect that results in the two parties working more often as partners than as adversaries. There remains ample occasion for honest give-and-take, but nearly always tempered by the realization that neither management nor residents can accomplish much without the other.

HRB influence can be seen in some tangible successes. Chief among these are the refinements to (if not the very existence of) most common area and recreational amenities, a tree-view policy intended to balance the preservation of both trees and views, and an amendment to the ground lease that offsets poor past performance of the Marshall & Swift Index (the housing industry index formerly used as the exclusive benchmarks for UH housing price appreciation). Beyond such major accomplishments, however, to a significant degree the viability of our community rests on the HRB’s continuing ability to make the case that prudent management of University Hills entails careful listening to its residents.

HRB members are as diverse in perspective as the community itself. By preference it works informally and strives for consensus, a mode of operation that is being challenged, perhaps inevitably, by the increasing age and size of University Hills, and by the diminution of “elbow room” both within the neighborhood and outside its immediate boundaries. Still, members of the HRB try to be good and reasonable neighbors, whose overriding goal is to foster a sense of community that enhances everyone’s quality of life.

Ultimately, HRB effectiveness rests on the willingness of volunteers to stand for election. If elected, the core commitment is typically for a single monthly meeting, with most other business worked out via e-mail. The entire community benefits when a cross-section of homeowners shares pro-actively in its management (see elsewhere in this web site for the roster of present and former board members). The call for HRB candidates is sent out in January each year, with elections held in February.

Written by the HRB with inspiration from an article originally written by former HRB chair Chris Reed, and originally published in the September, 1998 newsletter.

ICHA’s assistance in compiling the information on past members and chairs is gratefully acknowledged.