Letters to the Editor March 1, 2017
Open letter to Susan Gorin re: Hwy 12 safety
Dear Supervisor Gorin,
As you regularly travel Highway 12, you are certainly aware of the dangers posed by our beautiful, but over-hanging trees that line both sides of this highway. The recent near death (by seconds) from the limb that fell down without warning by the Kenwood Post Office is a stark reminder of this ongoing threat to all of us who routinely drive along this scenic roadway. I try to dissuade my family from driving on it any time we have moderate rain and/or gusting winds as this increases the odds of the inevitable crashing limb(s) that will occur sooner or later. I almost never ride my motorcycle through that section if there is even a slight wind, as even a small branch falling could be deadly for me.
I was mentioning this to a friend recently and was told by him that he routinely avoids this section of Highway 12 when going into Santa Rosa from Kenwood by turning onto Pythian Road and driving through Oakmont then re-entering it at the light by the entrance of Oakmont. I'm curious how many others also see this as an ongoing threat to life or just a beautiful bower of trees lining the highway? In reading the Press Democrat, I see where we are expending funds to remove dead trees in the forests at quite a cost, and I don't disagree with that need, however, I would argue that the more pressing need is safety… and that can be addressed by trimming back these over-hanging branches now. This section of Hwy 12 is designated as a scenic highway, however, it certainly isn't a lightly traveled bucolic road by any stretch of the imagination. It now has stopped traffic from Oakmont to Lawson's corner every afternoon, so it should be regarded from that perspective first and foremost.
Your consideration and hopefully action would be greatly appreciated.
Varying views on OVA Board of Directors election:
A vote for “We Are All Oakmont”
I have lived in Oakmont for six years. It is only in the past few years (and past few Boards of Directors) that I have witnessed a level of discord and dysfunction that is truly unsettling for our community. Much of this discord flows from the way the Board has conducted our affairs.
When over 1,200 people signed a petition objecting to a controversial and expensive capital project, they were ignored. When five percent of the membership requested a meeting to vote on this project, an attorney was brought in to facilitate the Board's denial of a vote. Board meetings were moved or scheduled to accommodate those board members who supported the project to ensure their agenda was advanced, even when Directors with dissenting votes were unable to attend rescheduled meetings. This was a slap in the face to those association members who elected these Directors to represent their interests. The current Board has been dismissive in not responding, or in selectively responding, to questions posed at open forums and to members' emails. They have hired an out-of-town attorney, who appears to facilitate their contentious actions, vs. previous attorneys who encouraged peaceful solutions. Implied and real legal threats have been employed to scare members into silence. Not surprisingly, our legal fees have doubled in the past year.
It's time for a new approach. I am supporting the We Are All Oakmont candidates: Carolyn Bettencourt, Greg Goodwin and Ken Heyman. They have pledged to consider the needs of all members in their decision-making and to act in the best interests of the organization as a whole. I hope you will join me in supporting these fine candidates.
Dues and deferred maintenance in Oakmont explained
It was with some dismay that I read the Guest Editorial by Oakmont resident Michael Connolly in the Feb. 15 issue. It is filled with insinuation, misinformation, fabrication. In other words, a great representation of what is now known as “alternate facts.”
Nowhere does it mention the FACT that the City of Santa Rosa will not permit the use of any of Oakmont's tennis courts for pickle ball. $2 million in “deferred maintenance” is plucked from thin air since we have almost no deferred maintenance. In the 22 years I have lived here, dues have been increased 19 times, and from 2010 to 2017 dues have increased 45 percent, not “almost doubled” (100 percent).
I could go on and on, but room does not permit. Suffice it to say that I dread the outcome for Oakmont if the four self-nominated candidates should be elected. That is why I urge residents to vote for the slate selected by the OVA Nominating Committee, Frank Batchelor, Stephanie Curry, Bill Lucker, and Al Medeiros.
Reflections on stewardship in Oakmont
With the much talked about advent of pickleball as a preferred sport for seniors, tennis courts across the nation are being converted with great success and at minimal costs. Oakmont enjoys the very same opportunity. Our ample tennis facilities are increasingly empty and the wisdom for a partial repurposing of the courts should be clear to everyone. With soundproofing mitigation included, the expenses would be a minuscule fraction of the budget breaking $410,000 for redundant racquet courts.
If the savings loom paramount, further benefits accrue from this scenario. The putting green behind the Berger Center - erstwhile planned location of the new pickleball courts - would remain the domain of water fowl and song birds. Across the viewshed the eyes of the visitor are led over a green expanse of grass beyond to the fir-clad hills of Annadel, while sunbathers at the pool enjoy serenity and tranquility, as would the guests on the CAC patio, the adjoining homeowners and office dwellers.
Finally, with the Berger Center to be either remodeled or newly constructed, and the Central Pool Area potentially enlarged, that adjacent spot of vacant land should be held in reserve as property inventory for possible future needs. In the meantime, however, let's think creatively and develop a little park with a gazebo - right in the middle of our downtown. That effort would accomplish infinitely more for the ambiance of our central plaza, and markedly contribute to an Oakmont legacy.
To “We are all Oakmont” candidates Carolyn Bettencourt, Greg Goodwin, Ken Heyman and Wayne Van Bockern - running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and careful stewardship of our resources - we give our votes, reflecting on the more than 1,200 residents who were signatories to the petition for financial judiciousness and the retention of this precious open space - a little corner of paradise with its reed-filled vernal pools.
Don't be mislead by We Are All Oakmont
It was with a great deal of angst that I read Michael Connolly's Feb. 15 guest editorial promoting the election of three members to Oakmont's governing board. It is sad that editorials cannot be fact checked the way hard news is (or should be). This missive was full of half-truths and misinformation and I don't have the space nor inclination to fully address this deceptive attempt to influence naïve Oakmont voters.
The claims of fiscal mismanagement and our dues “almost doubling since 2010” are almost laughable. Regretfully, although they call for civility, the “We are ALL Oakmont” candidates (Bettencourt, Goodwin and Heyman) have aligned themselves with a most uncivil and contentious current OVA Board member who did not prevail in the great pickleball decision. Were these candidates to be elected it would be a major step backward for Oakmont.
More than any other in memory, this upcoming election will have a major impact on the direction and long-term viability of Oakmont and our property values. I would encourage all Oakmonters to look beyond the smoke and mirrors wielded by Connolly and company and NOT support these candidates.
Oakmont needs a change of leadership
When I bought my home in Oakmont, one of the highlights was the central pool and deck with its expansive views of the golf course and Annadel. I love to float in the pool while listening to birds singing in the trees. Frogs and water birds frequent the little marsh next to the deck. The CAC deck is a treasured amenity to innumerable Oakmont residents who enjoy reading and relaxing in the sun.
When I first heard that an ad hoc committee, consisting largely of pickleball and tennis club members, had recommended the construction of pickleball courts just a short distance from the pool deck, I thought that our BOD would bring a fast end to the absurd proposal. Not only would 8-foot-high fences block the view from the pool deck, but the serenity of the deck would be destroyed by the loud ping, ping, ping of pickleball. However, successive BOD majorities ignored the mounting costs of the project to more than $400,000. Instead, two of our eight underutilized tennis courts could have been converted to six to eight pickleball courts for less than $50,000.
Santa Rosa required an acoustic study for the proposal. The acoustic report indicated that an 8-foot high fence covered by acoustiblock would reduce noise by 10dBA. Instead our BOD approved a plan to erect a plexiglass shield that will reduce noise by only 5dbA on the pool fence. The plexiglass shield will block breezes from the golf course making the pool deck uncomfortable for pool deck users. The acoustiblock covered fence on the far side of the courts will still block the view of Annadel and the golf course. Worse yet, reduction in ventilation may allow chloramines to accumulate at the pool surface increasing health risks to active swimmers and our grandchildren.
Oakmont needs a change of leadership. I trust Ken Heyman, Carolyn Bettencourt, Greg Goodwin, and Wayne Van Bockern to bring fiscal responsibility and equitable representation to our community.
Oakmont dues amounts explained
I have to respond to Michael Connolly's guest editorial missive. So many of his contentions are inflated or incorrect that it makes you wonder where he gets his information.
I would like to address one of his statements as a prime example. Mr. Connolly states that our Oakmont Village monthly dues have nearly doubled since 2010. This is interesting, since historically (in five year increments) from 1996-2000, there was a 52 percent gain, from 2001-2005 a 55 percent gain, from 2006-2010 a 76 percent gain, and from 2010-2015 a 21 percent gain. The 2010 dues were $52 and are now $58 (the same as in 2014). There was a special increase of $4.75 for one-and-a-half years in 2015-2016 to get our capital improvement and maintenance funds up to $2,000,000 - a very healthy level.
There are more than 55 senior retirement communities similar to ours in California. Two have dues less than ours, while the rest range from $120-$800 in monthly dues. Of the 55, 11 communities have a flat rate of $125 to $135 per month and seven between $125 to $217 per month.
I find it interesting that Mr. Connolly and others find it necessary to vent their grievances in this widespread manner when we have an avenue available in the Oakmont News. It makes it sound like we are a loony bin over here. We actually are an intelligent, well-educated, accomplished and active community that does not always agree on who we want to handle our affairs. With 4,700 residents, what else would you expect? This is my first and hopefully last need to write in this forum.
James R. Oswald DDS FPFA (retired)
Pickleball 4 vs. We Are All Oakmont
Four seats are open in this month's BOD election in Oakmont. The current Board, through its own OVA Nominating Committee, has hand-picked a slate of candidates (aka The Pickleball 4: Frank Batchelor, Bill Lucker, Al Medeiros and Stephanie Curry) and all are in favor of building expensive new pickleball courts near the Central Pool, currently estimated at more than $410,000. Batchelor, as an incumbent and former president of the Board, has been instrumental in gaining Board approval of this project, even voting several times to exceed his own stated cap of $200,000. The other three candidates are affiliated with the tennis and pickleball clubs, who together have vehemently opposed converting some of our underused tennis courts to pickleball courts at a fraction of the cost.
Can we really afford more of the same business as usual? As we consider these candidates for our future Board of Directors, let's not forget their past actions and special interest agendas.
It's time for a change. Let's elect new voices who will be fiscally responsible and pledge to represent the interests of all Oakmont residents. Please vote for Carolyn Bettencourt, Greg Goodwin and Ken Heyman. (Also, Wayne Van Bockern is endorsed by these three “We Are All Oakmont” candidates and deserves your vote for the fourth seat).