The pandemic has been difficult for the entire Tahoe Donner community, both members and staff, and my heart goes out to those who have been affected by the virus.
To ensure Tahoe Donner’s speedy and full recovery:
First need to ensure the safety of our members and staff as we carefully reopen our amenities. No current board members and none of the candidates running are credentialed healthcare professionals. So the best approach is for us to follow state and local health department guidance.
Second, we need to make sure that Tahoe Donner bounces back financially. To develop a strong recovery plan, we will need to rely on expert guidance from both the financial professionals on Tahoe Donner’s management team and from the seasoned business minds that volunteer on the Finance Committee.
Third, now even more than ever, we must communicate effectively with members. The pandemic has created so much uncertainty for this community. Tahoe Donner needs to reduce that uncertainty, not add to it. That means communicating effectively with you about how amenity access will work during the reopening process, and what the financial challenges could mean for your pocketbook.
If the pandemic has reminded me of anything, it’s that Tahoe Donner is a community of neighbors and we’re all in this together.
Just like you, I really miss our amenities, and I know my kids and their friends are excited to get back into the pool and go to the beach. These are the principles and values that will guide my thinking for getting you back into the amenities.
First, we must ensure the safety of our members and staff as we carefully reopen. So we need to follow expert state and local health department guidance to make sure we do it in the right way.
Second, I want to ensure that we provide the best experience we can for you during this pandemic. It will be a different experience, and it must be a safe experience, but I want to make sure it’s as enjoyable as it can be given the difficulties.
Third, because of social distancing requirements, we will have limited capacity at our favorite amenities. We may need to make reservations. We may only be able to be there for a limited time.
No matter what system we need to use, we need to be certain the system is fair to ALL members.
It’s not enough just to listen to members. We need to understand you, the members. To understand another person, you need to be open minded enough to see things from that other person’s point of view. That’s been missing from “member communication” over the last few years. Maybe the board listens, but it doesn’t take that extra step to really understand.
That’s why so many in Tahoe Donner feel like they aren’t being heard, and feel like the board doesn’t empathize with them or understand them as people.
I have a lot of experience understanding the diversity of Tahoe Donner’s members because my extended family represents so many of the diverse groups in Tahoe Donner. My parents, my in-laws, my brother, and I have all owned different properties in Tahoe Donner. We’ve been full-time, part-time, retirees, young families with children, and we’ve rented our home.
We all see things from different perspectives, but we all put in the work to understand one another because we are family. I want a board that treats the members like they are family, putting in the work not just to listen, but to understand. That’s what I will do for you.
If we do the work to understand each other, that brings the community together, and it will help us determine the best direction for the association as a whole.
We have two capital reserve funds, the Replacement Reserve Fund and the Development Fund.
When I was first elected to the board, the Replacement Reserve Fund was woefully underfunded because the annual assessment had been kept artificially low for decades. The Replacement Reserve Fund pays for the upkeep of our existing facilities.
HOAs with underfunded Replacement Reserve Funds always stagnate and deteriorate. My previous board did not want to see that happen to Tahoe Donner. So we made the tough but responsible decision to increase the Replacement Reserve funding to a healthy level for an HOA of our scale.
Today, the Replacement Reserve Fund is healthy, but the Development Fund is not. The Development Fund pays for the modernization and expansion of our facilities to meet member expectations.
Our original amenities, now almost 50 years old, were severely undersized, and never expected to be sufficient for when our community was fully built out. Though we have replaced and expanded a number of our facilities already, some of our original amenities remain virtually unchanged since 1971. This includes the Downhill Ski Lodge and the Clubhouse. The Development Fund is underfunded to address these needs.
Show me an HOA using special assessments to pay for planned capital investments, and I will show you an HOA that has failed to plan its finances appropriately. That's why I believe we need a long-term financial plan to fund the Development Fund at a responsible level. I am committed to making sure that Tahoe Donner has a long term plan to appropriately and responsibly fund the Development Fund.
Tahoe Donner’s original amenities were severely undersized, and never expected to be sufficient for our long term needs. While we have made some progress expanding our facilities to meet our needs, crowding issues remain at certain facilities, particularly during peak times.
At some amenities we have the ability to expand in order to increase our capacity to meet member needs and expectations. In fact, I took the initiative to begin the design and planning process for the Trout Creek Expansion project, which was recently completed. By making better use of interior space, and by expanding the facility modestly, we were able to increase safety, improve your experience, and more than triple the gym’s capacity. Wherever possible, we should invest in our facilities to serve our community.
But the Marina is different. Unfortunately, we can't expand the beach. Because we can’t expand at the Marina, we will never have a perfect solution to crowding. There will always be tradeoffs, and I expect it will always be crowded at peak times.
I know management has had some ideas and proposals to try to manage crowding at the beach. While I can’t give you a perfect solution today, I can tell you this: no matter what solutions may be proposed in the future, I will never compromise on fairness or on maximizing member enjoyment.
Our original amenities were never expected to be large enough for the full build-out, and underfunding the Development Fund undermined our ability to expand facilities to meet our needs.
Instead of planning to meet the needs of ALL members, recent boards adopted policies to deter people from using our facilities. That’s why, in recent years, it seems like we’ve been adopting policies to ration member enjoyment. That’s the wrong direction for Tahoe Donner. Tahoe Donner should maximize the value and enjoyment members derive from owning a home here.
Rationing member enjoyment has meant higher prices. It’s important to me that our amenity access fees are welcoming and affordable, even for those members with large families, or for those who enjoy sharing their homes with their friends.
It has also meant new restrictive access policies. This is why we recently began to charge “accompanied” and “unaccompanied” member guests different rates at our amenities.
Because this policy favored some member guests over other member guests, some members felt the board was playing favorites, not playing fairly. Guests are always an extension of members. If the board, through its policies, is telling me that my guests are unwelcome in Tahoe Donner, then I as a member won’t feel welcome here either.
Some members also thought the new guest policy that discriminates between accompanied and unaccompanied guests was adopted without sufficient notice and member discussion. To them, the process wasn’t transparent and it took them by surprise. All amenity access policies should be developed through an open, transparent process.
We have too much division in this neighborhood, and policies that are perceived as unfair only increase that division. Therefore, I would support returning to the old guest policy, which was in place in Tahoe Donner for decades. Under that policy, all member guests were charged the same rate at the amenities. It was a simple and fair system. It should be restored.
During the last big drought, I spearheaded the board’s effort to install snowmaking at our ski hill.
Climate change means that our snowfall is more unpredictable than it used to be. Without a good December, Tahoe Donner’s financial health is in jeopardy. Snowmaking has delivered the financial predictability we need at the ski hill. And it wasn’t just about ensuring financial health. Snowmaking was also about making sure that you, the members, have a great recreational experience when you’re here with your family for the holidays.
A lot of people doubted snowmaking at the ski hill. They said it was too expensive, that we’re not big enough, and that we don’t need it. I am proud to say that snowmaking paid for itself within a few years. And I am also proud of the role I played to bring this great investment to Tahoe Donner.
Because of continuing climate change, today we are looking at adding snowmaking to other vulnerable amenities, including Snowplay and our Nordic center. Our previous investments in snowmaking proved beneficial for the association. The information I have seen so far suggests snowmaking would improve the financial performance and member experience at other vulnerable facilities. So I fully support moving forward with those efforts.
I am a volunteer on the Downhill Ski Lodge Task Force. So far, the only recommendation we’ve made is to tear down the nearly 50 year old lodge and build a new one. The board agreed with us that the remodel idea is not a cost-effective approach.
The task force has not reached any conclusions about lodge sizing because we don’t have all the information we need to make a recommendation. Until we do, it’s important to keep an open mind.
The task force has looked at the issue from many angles, and we’ve consulted with experts and outside professionals. So far the best information we have suggests that a larger lodge may be warranted.
Recently, we started working with a respected local architect who has experience designing similar facilities. He suggested dismantling our ski school yurt in favor of integrating that operation into the new lodge. That would certainly affect the new Lodge’s design and size.
Once we have the architect’s drawings, we should gain a better understanding of the advantages, disadvantages, and the tradeoffs associated with various size options.
I fully support the quality of life amendments to the private property rules that were adopted last year. These amendments consolidated, clarified, and amplified existing regulations related to noise, lights and commercial activity. I support these rules because I believe they provide clarity, prevent conflicts, and help ensure a great quality of life here in Tahoe Donner.
I also support the short-term rental rules that were adopted last year. The ability to rent your home, whether long-term or short-term, is part of an owner’s package of rights guaranteed by Tahoe Donner's governing documents. Board members are obliged to protect the package of owner rights they guarantee. However, while all owners have the right to rent their properties, all owners also have an equal duty to ensure their guests abide by the rules protecting the right of others in Tahoe Donner to enjoy peace and quiet in their neighborhood.
All newly enacted rules should be reviewed after some time for fairness and effectiveness, and to make sure the fine structures are appropriate. Ultimately, I believe all our rules should be fair and effective, and I will always be open-minded toward improvement to the rules that will make them fairer and more effective. However, I would oppose any effort to roll-back either the Quality of Life Rules or the Short-Term Rental Rules.
In the past, I have personally rented event space in Tahoe Donner for school functions, birthday parties, and family celebrations. I have also attended the Giving Fund’s Annual Dinner and Silent Auction, which has been held both at the Alder Creek Adventure Center and in the event tent. So I believe Tahoe Donner needs appropriate, year-round event space to serve our member needs.However, I never believed the event tent offered an appropriate long-term solution to provide for our event space needs. In fact, the tent was never intended to be a permanent solution. It was intended to be a temporary and seasonal measure until a permanent solution could be built.
There has now been discussion about building a suitable event space in Tahoe Donner for more than a decade. Unfortunately, there has never been any effective action toward this permanent solution, which meant that the event tent remained in use far longer than it should have.
While I understand that the tent will be used at least once more later this, I remain opposed to the continued use of the event tent, and I support the development of an appropriate, year-round event space to serve our member needs.