Re: Architectural review and related topics
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2013 15:10:16 -0700 (PDT)
On Oct 12, 2013, at 5:31 PM, Pat Elliott <pdelliott43 [at]> wrote:

> We have CC&Rs prepared by the developer's attorney which by their terms have 
> priority over any community agreements we might adopt.  Many feel the CC&Rs 
> shouldn't have any power over our community since we didn't approve them by 
> consensus in any meaningful way, way back in the development phase, or at 
> least that consensed community agreements should have priority over the 
> CC&Rs.  Others feel the CC&Rs should be controlling, no matter what.  Have 
> you faced a similar situation regarding priority of CC&Rs vs. later adopted 
> community agreements and how have you dealt with it?

CC&Rs are definitely binding and signing a contract to purchase will include a 
phrase somewhere that says you will abide by the CC&Rs. People joined an 
existing group when they joined and there were agreements in place. If these 
were all written by the developer than may not include many individualized 
paragraphs and be standard paragraphs.

I have found that since we moved in those standard paragraphs and attitudes 
toward them have changed significantly. The original anarchists have either 
moved out or changed their minds as they experience the realities of living 
with them not enforced.

We still have a problem with enforcement -- no one wants to police -- but 
almost no one says, ignore that. The bylaws were for the bank, not us. The late 
fees, for example, were never enforced until a new member became treasurer and 
automatically started enforcing them. Many of the new people have lived in 
condos before and accept the norm as the norm. 

Sometimes that is a problem such as when a new member on the board said "You 
don't tell members about board decisions -- it just causes trouble."

Other times it has given voice to what others needed said but had given up on 

When there are no rules, individuals make their own rules and the loudest or 
the quietest voices reign. We have one member who rarely speaks up but goes 
about her business making all kinds of decisions without a wit of consultation. 
Some people are glad not to have to deal with decisions but others are not. 
Sometimes it is months before a decision is discovered and then the defense is 
we've always done this. 

See my blog post about the tyranny of structurelessness. It's a long post but 
you get the idea if you just read part of it.

On taste, it might help to take pictures of various housing complexes and 
discuss them as a group. Don't argue, just do rounds. Each person speaking for 
themselves and themselves alone. Just listening to each other in reaction to a 
specific example will bring the group closer together and change a lot of 

My do anything you want will be very different than someone else's do anything 
you want. My could never conceive of some of the things people have done. Like 
leave compost bins outside their doors with no lids! We are an apartment 
structure, not lot development with single family homes. I have to walk by that 
stuff daily. Or decide they can park their strollers in the foyer of the CH 
because that's what foyers are for.

Eventually, awareness dawns. 

> Soooo, we have a few challenges ahead.  In addition to sharing any relevant 
> documents, can you tell us what is working or not working for your community 
> in this regard (i.e. architectural review/control issues and priority of 
> governing documents)?  What would you do if you were starting all over?  What 
> should we definitely not do?  Etc.

I think the earlier suggestion to use "preview" is a good one. And explain to 
people if you are a condo, that they do not own anything outside their interior 
walls. This is a very hard concept for some people to grasp. They cannot make 
decisions about the exterior of their unit unless it is covered by the 
community agreements.

> You can send documents not available on the internet to me at pat6 [at] 
>  Please send a link to useful things on the internet.  Thank you for 
> your kind attention.

All ours are online at:

It does work out -- or many things will work out.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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