You want a bulldog-of-a-realtor if you’re going to buy a home in San Francisco. Which is exactly what we had. An agent you can unleash on unsuspecting sellers the moment you find the perfect place. Ours lunged in to an existing negotiation, chomped down on the opportunity, and with her jaw locked on to the other agent’s jugular, shook the deal relentlessly from side to side until it was dead with the other buyers and ours for the taking.
She knew what questions to ask and when. She knew how to extract valuable information from the sellers’ realtor. She also had this skill, an innate ability, of assigning a monetary value to the unquantifiable and intangible pros and cons of a home, its neighborhood, its vibe, etc. She helped us focus on value and not price and we couldn’t be happier with the experience. If only I could have listened to everything she told us.
You see, during the process we learned about the importance of the disclosure packet. In addition to looking for any major red flags that would need to be “disclosed,” it’s important to take note of how assembled and well kept the HOA documentation itself is. Find out if the HOA is meeting regularly to discuss the building, maintenance, and operation by looking at the meeting minutes for the last few years. Are any of the meeting minutes missing? If so, then ask why? What funds are in the reserve, and when was the last time an HOA reserve study was performed? All this is to say, when we bought our condo, our realtor pointed out the importance of a well-run HOA, and our disclosure packet seemed to support that.
“Maybe I’ll join the HOA?” I said.
“You might not want to do that.” Our realtor said. “I’ve got a lot of clients who buy their first condo and think the meetings are all mimosa brunches and weeknight wine and cheese parties. And let me tell you….that is far from it!”
“Oh don’t worry,” Jonathan said, “he only wants a seat on the board because he likes to gossip, and he thinks that’s what HOAs are all about.”
I would have retorted—but Jonathan was sort of right—and now, after nearly three years of being an HOA board member I’m finally getting a reality check.
Below is an email I recently sent to my fellow HOA board members and our brand new off-site building manager (Sally) who is so new to the gig, that we haven’t even met her in person yet.
Happy Friday evening Sally and Fellow HOA Board Members,
Someone in the building (probably in the 1900 tower) is putting their trash in the recycling bin. It seems to have happened more than once, and someone else in the building has now taken it upon him/herself to teach us ALL a lesson by putting the two offending bags in the entranceway near the mailbox with a note asking them to stop. The tone of a handwritten note can be hard to decipher, but in this instance, I’m thinking it’s meant to be scolding and stern or at least that’s what the use of double-underlined text means to me.
I’m assuming there’s a better way to handle a tenant putting trash in the recycle bin than putting the bags of trash in the entranceway with a note asking the culprit to stop. Not only is the entranceway beginning to smell (the bags have been there all day) but I’m sure bugs are the next to come. After that, there will be hail the size of golf balls, locusts, and the death of our first-born.
I almost want to walk to the other building to throw the trash out myself, but I don’t feel like going through the effort; mainly because I shouldn’t have to, but mostly because I don’t think that’s going to solve the problem either.
Since this has never been an issue before today, I can only assume it’s a “newer tenant” in the building. The only “newbie” I know of is one of the tenants in the unit across the hall from me. Suspicions aside, I’m not 100% sure who the criminal is and I certainly don’t want to throw anyone under the bus—or cable car for that matter—and it’s probably best if we have building management (we’ll be your favorite new client in no time….I promise!) send a note to all owners reminding them of the trash/recycling policy. The correspondence should include a point about making sure any tenants are informed as well.
Is this the most appropriate way to proceed?
From a presentation the company I work for put on in conjunction with the Berkeley Waste Management folks, it’s my understanding that the trash and recycling companies allow for approximately 10% inaccuracy with regards to rubbish. This accounts for people who categorize their waste incorrectly, don’t know how, or just forget to separate some items from one bin to the next, etc. If and when the recycling/trash companies say something to us about a problem we can take stronger action. I would think at that point the HOA would be at risk of getting fined by the city or trash/recycling companies and that’s when we would expect the fine to be paid by the unit owners responsible.
What say you?
Now I’m not one to have regrets. I think what’s happened in the past is indeed in the past, and it’s best to just solve the problem in front of you so you can move on. But when you’re realtor warns you about the time-suck and liability that comes with joining a condominium HOA board in San Francisco, that’s advice you should heed.
Michael Chiarello’s Coqueta San Francisco
And after a day of HOA board members mudslinging curt emails back and forth like desperate middle-aged men with arthritic hips competing for a dodge ball trophy; I need an escape. That usually entails a stiff cock….tail…I meant cocktail, and some delicious food. Fortunately, we had dinner reservations at Coqueta on Embarcadero with friends—recent transplants from NY.
Nestled on the northern end of Pier 5, Coqueta—Chef Michael Chiarello’s latest Bay Area endeavor—sits on the waterfront with a modern rustic charm that’s both inviting and new world fresh. You enter the restaurant through the bar where you can check in with the host and grab a drink if you’d like.
I enjoyed the most beautiful gin and tonic I’ve ever had. It’s called the Barça Gintonic which is Bloom London Dry Gin, Fever Tree Tonic and a wedge of grapefruit. Served in a large stemless wine glass it’s stunning to look at, and I found myself staring at its beauty with each sip.
There was a private event in the bar that night, and they asked everyone waiting to be seated to “stay out,” which was hard to do with trays heaping with cheese and prosciutto flew past us hungry guests writhing with anticipation. It was painful to say the least, but all was forgotten once seated.
We’d been hearing only good things about the food at Coqueta, all of which is a subtle twist on traditional Spanish cuisine. The menu is broken into embutidos (sliced, cured meats), quesos (the cheeses!), pintxos (bite-size skewers), tapas fritas (cold small plates), montaditos (open faced sandwiches), tapas calientes (hot small plates), raciones y verduras (larger family style plates and market vegetables), and the arroz y paella (the rice and paella dishes). Staying true to flavors of Spain, Coqueta brings a San Francisco locavore’s breath of fresh air into the true flavors of Iberian cuisine, all within a restaurant that feels like a giant jewel box of floor-to-ceiling windows, thick wood support beams, and hearty cast iron accents, fixtures, moldings, nuts, and bolts. My only complaint is with the service. It was non-existent at times, and our waiter didn’t seem to know the menu as well as he should for the caliber experience the price-point and media blitz eluded us to. Come to think of it, the entire restaurant staff’s timing felt off that night, but I’m assuming it was all just “new restaurant kinks” that have been ironed out by now.
Here’s what we devoured:
House cured Jamón Serrano
“El Plat Cap de Queso” the chef’s selection of Iberian cheeses served with membrillo, Marcona almonds, and extra virgin olive oil tortas.
Between the four of us dining, we had one of each of the pintxos:
- House cured boquerones—white anchioves, olives, pearl onions, and guindilla peppers.
- Chorizo—roasted artichokes and piquillo peppers.
- Jamon Serrano—manchego and apricot-sherry conserva.
- Baby beets, caña de cabra cheese, citrus, and spring onion a la plancha.
Roasted Padrón peppers with Jamón Serrano and sherry vinegar.
House-cured white anchovies
Baby beets with Sausalito watercress, beet vinagreta and tierra, and cabrales blue cheese snow.
Tortilla “Andres” with sweet onion, organic potato, and piquillo pepper aioli.
Vineyard greens Catalan style with caper-raisin puree with raisins, pine nuts, and garlic.
White gazpacho with Marcona almonds, grapes, syrah reduction and syrah-grapeseed oil.
Pan con tomate of cristal bread and tomato fresco con Jamón Serrano.
Patatas Bravas of freshly dug, crispy new potatoes, lightly smoked, bravas salsa, and garlic alioli.
Gambas al negro are the olive oil poached head-on Gulf prawns with black garlic and chili.
Chicken and English pea croquetas with cured Cara-Cara orange slices.
Wood-grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes, pimento, and olive oil.
And for dessert we had the Churro “Fantasia” which are Coqueta’s crispy Spanish doughnuts with drinking chocolate and mixed berry powder.
Manchego cheesecake with caramel popcorn which is delicately balanced in that delicious zone between savory and sweet.