Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 28, 2020

I see you’ve met Cynthia

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

You know that Geico commercial about HOAs?  It’s funny to those of us living in an HOA because it’s true.  Have I mentioned how much I dislike living in a community with an HOA?  The solution, I guess, is to find a non HOA home, but that would require moving and I really like my house.

But the problem with HOAs is that there is a tendency toward exclusion if you get just the right make up on your HOA Board.  There becomes talk about no trespassing signs, parking patrols, and “well-being committees” (because you can’t legally say that HOAs are doing anything about security) in order to keep order.  For those of us with a much more laissez-faire attitude toward being a neighborhood in a larger community it can be frustrating when we pick up our heads to pay attention to what out HOA is doing.

And HOAs have a lot of power over the community it controls, but with HOAs there comes a lot questions about whether communities with HOAs are duplicating the redlining or racial covenants of the past.  In 2019 there was a study out of UC Irvine about the rise of HOAs in the US.  From a post from the Kinder Institute for Urban Research out of Rice University:

[T]he research also points to another possible factor influencing the spread of HOAs: race. The larger the black population in 1960, right around when HOAs were being popularized and just before legislation took aim at housing discrimination, the higher the modern-day “premium” that HOA residents were willing to pay to live within an HOA.

“It’s hard to avoid thinking about the relationship between HOAs and racial segregation because there is, from a historical perspective, there is a lot of discussion about the extent to which HOAs rose up as a substitute for racially restrictive covenants prior to the 1960s,” said Freedman.

Today, HOA residents tend to be disproportionately white and Asian, according to the study, as well as wealthier than non-HOA residents. The researchers also found that HOA premiums were “higher in cities where the average white resident who takes the [Black-White Implicit Association Test administered by Harvard University] has a harder time associating good adjectives with ‘black’ faces, relative to their speed at the same task with ‘white’ faces,” according to the study.


“HOAs aren’t kind of arising in a vacuum,” he said. “They’re often arising in part because local governments can be very positive about HOAs…they allow for new development but the local government doesn’t have to pay for all of the expenses associated with new development.”

But Freedman continued, cautioning, “There may be some social costs associated with these HOAs… We want to be careful about encouraging HOA growth if it is, in fact, contributing to segregation.

Here’s a notable bit from the study’s literature review of other HOA studies:

McKenzie (1994) portrays HOAs more negatively. He argues that HOA buyers are often unaware of extensive CC&Rs before buying or lack a non-HOA alternative in their local market for the type of housing they want. He also characterizes HOAs as an instrument of exclusion and a successor to racially restrictive covenants that the Supreme Court ruled unenforceable in 1948 and that the Fair Housing Act outlawed entirely in 1968. McKenzie (1994) additionally explores how HOAs’ basis in contract law allows them to legislate details of residents’ lives and limit speech in ways that exceed the police power of municipal governments.6 The authority of HOAs to regulate personal activities could be viewed as particularly problematic given that HOAs are exempt from the one-person, one-vote rule that applies to general-purpose governments, and that only owners, and not renters, may vote in HOA elections.

It’s definitely something Alameda should look toward discouraging in the future.  After all, Alameda already has a robust system to recapture revenue for services required by new residents in the Municipal Services Districts format, there really is no other benefit to Alameda to have a neighborhood like mine have a separate HOA.   I can understand having an HOA for a condo style development where maintenance for the building itself and insurance is shared, but HOAs for a bunch of single family homes is just a recipe for the stereotypical gripes about militant HOA board members expecting conformity.


  1. One thing I wonder how HOA are able to enforce covenants around the style of windows when the windows installed in 80s are not energy efficient. Replacing windows should be about energy efficiency instead of having the color of the trim and whether there are stripes on the window panes.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — July 28, 2020 @ 6:42 am

  2. So our blogmistress dislikes HOA living, but has bought 2 homes within this racist construct.

    She doesn’t particularly even like Alameda, which we gather from her frequent sighs of “that’s so Alameda” and other sneers down her nose at the rest of the community not in Facebook friend loop.

    She’s raising children in a racist community (she’s called her Bayport neighbors that) in a racist HOA in a Measure A (hella racist!) compliant home.

    Things that make you go hmmmmm……

    Comment by dave — July 28, 2020 @ 7:37 am

    • You must not understand one method of Asian parenting. See, for things that we love and care for we don’t constantly commend and stroke and say “you’re doing fabulous!” when they are clearly not. No, for the things that we love and care about we criticize and expect more from in hopes that they can reach their full potential and be the best [insert whatever] they can be. For me that extends from my kids to my family to my neighborhood to my community, and to the city that I live in.

      I mean, you could start a site detailing how everything is fine and good in Alameda, but we most of us know that’s not the case.

      Comment by Lauren Do — July 28, 2020 @ 8:17 am

      • So charitable of you to come down and remake us in your holy image.

        Comment by dave — July 28, 2020 @ 10:31 am

      • The idea of HOAs being somewhat, or to a great extent, separate from the municipalities in which they sit is certainly not a new academic concept. It’s one of their obvious and advertised reasons for being. Whether it is racist to live in a SFR HOA environment may depend on how expansive your definition of racism is and the facts of the particular case. Maybe you can say the same thing about living in Alameda with Measure A.

        Simplifying, you might also say that Measure A is an “overlay” on the city’s existing zoning ordinances in a way similar but not identical to – and with the same effect on building new multi-family housing as – covenants governing HOA communities, which exist apart from the underlying zoning.

        State laws affecting local governments’ ability to enforce zoning ordinances are in flux. A major proposal concerns the extent to which local zoning should be superseded or preempted with respect to land within a certain distance of mass transit. Like zoning, Measure A would be subject to the superseding effect of state law, and is also subject to exceptions the City Council makes within its authority to interpret Measure A. Some have argued that Measure A is itself more the exception than the rule given the Council’s discretion to interpret and superseding state law.

        ADUs and Alameda Point aside, and removing Measure A from the equation, a majority of the land on the main island is zoned for some form of multifamily or has permitted multifamily housing. Were Measure A removed, the city would also be able to more effectively modify, or create additional overlays on, the underlying zoning in other parts of the city not zoned for multi-family. Also, the state can do pretty much what it wants with respect to overriding local zoning ordinances, including Measure A.

        That still leaves the question of what to do with HOAs. Without affirmative legislative action by the state, or perhaps the city, or perhaps action by the HOA members themselves, they certainly remain as a legal barrier to property owners’ ability to build new multi-family housing, in a way similar to Measure A. (SFR parcels within HOAs tend to be smaller, but if you look around older parts of Alameda, the concept of combining parcels in order to build multi-family buildings would not be novel). They cover a substantial portion of land in Alameda.

        Right now, only Measure A is on the ballot. There is no known movement, either inside or from without, to remove or render unenforceable HOA covenants that are to the same effect. One can speculate as to the reasons for that. Surely not all of them are racist, at least at one level. Someone might simply think that they like their house and their HOA neighborhood and, as much concern as they have for regional housing prices, think that treating land governed by HOAs the same as the rest of the city isn’t going to have a big effect.

        Comment by MP — July 28, 2020 @ 1:14 pm

    • Dave – you live in America, you love America, but you’re not allowed to criticize America for its genocidal and racist past? Isn’t “more perfect union” a part of the preamble of the Constitution?

      I think we can all try and work to make a more perfect Alameda.

      Comment by JRB — July 28, 2020 @ 9:39 am

  3. Your argument that HOAs could be racist, in the sense that it keeps “others” out is plausible as an effort to impose “standards” (but whose standards?). But what about John Knox White’s shutting down of Alameda streets? Look at the City’s description for Slow Streets:

    “By limiting traffic on these streets, the City will create more places for our community to safely walk, run, bike, scooter and roll, in alignment with its Vision Zero efforts to provide safer streets for all. Emergency vehicles, and local traffic that must use these streets to access a final destination, are allowed. The City encourages others to use alternate routes.”

    Who do you think they are referring to when they say “OUR community” in paragraph one, or when it reads “The City encourages OTHERS to use alternate routes? These are clearly non-residents (from neighboring and more racially diverse and even poorer communities) who are directed away from primarily wealthier and whiter areas.

    Like the effect of an HOA, the message to not come down our street unless you live here is about as UnAmerican as it comes. But it’s “progressive” you say….Progressive movements in the 19th and 20th centuries imposed “scientific” standards to clean up cities and the nation. They did this by imposing controls on city and national governments, spawning laws about Eugenics, birth control, voting, IQ tests and immigration restrictions. This is just more of the same.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — July 28, 2020 @ 8:54 am

  4. I’ve never understood why anyone would buy a home in an HOA area. In essence it makes buying meaningless since in reality you are still paying ” rent” in the form of HOA dues. Worse still- those HOA fees tend to go up and the decision to raise them tends to come from the wealthier members of the community as they demand more and more services. My brother had a girlfriend who lived in an apartment she had bought in the 90’s for under $100k. But over time the HOA fees had risen to $400 a month meaning the HOA was costing her more than what she paid for the home. All so that the pool was cleaned and heated and that the plants got watered.

    Comment by john doe — July 28, 2020 @ 9:02 am

    • You’re basically swapping exterior housing upkeep cost with HOA dues. Pay a fee and someone will take care of the common lawn, common areas, security, things you might otherwise pay for yourself if you were living in a non-HOA area.

      We only hear about the bad HOAs but the good ones quietly keep things humming.

      Comment by JRB — July 28, 2020 @ 9:42 am

      • Yeah but I can do all of those things myself. And its under my own personal control and timing as far as when to do them, how and what materials to use. I mean for example I actually painted the entire exterior of our house myself. Sure- it took a few weeks but in the end it was $500 for the paint and materials. Professional painters would’ve charged me $8,000. All an HOA does is use contractor labor and fees to keep things up that could otherwise be done for a lot less by a typical homeowner

        Comment by john doe — July 28, 2020 @ 11:50 am

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