Donie Vanitzian’s murderer  still waiting trial after 4 years

Three days after Xmas on Dec. 28, 2017, L A. columnist and strident homeowner rights activist Donie Vanitzian died at the hands of her husband of 35 years, Tom Foster. She was 67. It was a murder-suicide incident according to the police. Foster was charged with murder and plead “Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.” The case is still pending with a series of pretrial conferences scheduled for a number of years now, which I believe must be related to his insanity plea.

Please note that criminal court records are accessible by the public either at the courtroom or remotely by means of computers at the courthouse.  This April 22 another pretrial conference is scheduled and I am hoping someone can drop by the courthouse and access the minute/orders and bring us up to date.

The January 2018 British Daily Mail article, describing Foster as “a former British nightclub tycoon,” depicts their relationship.

Many long-time advocates will remember Donie Vanitzian (1950 – 2017) and her strident, outspoken activism displayed in her emails, in her L. A. Times column, Associations, and in her texts: Villa Appalling!: Destroying the Myth of Affordable Community Living, Vanitzian and Glassman (Villa Appalling Publishing 2002); California Common Interest Development — Homeowner’s Guide,  D. Vanitzian (Thomson-West Legal Publishers, Series: The Expert Series (2006).

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I worked with Donie from 2006 – 2016 on CLRC ‘s rewrite of the Davis-Stirling Act and in defending her, when she called from time to time at wits end,  against attacks by the Evil Empire attempting to remove were LA Times column and to discredit her in general. We fought like hell, along with Elizabeth McMahon (AHRC), to get a member’s bill of rights included in the rewrite but failed. I admired her and had respect for her knowledge and energizer bunny activism.  We chatted in private. She had a JD but kept on failing the Bar exam and I understood why. She did not accept the establishment’s version of justice and the judicial process.  She had those to-the-point views and criticisms of the Evil Empire and its loyal followers.

In 2006 with her help pretending to be doing research as an adjunct professor,  I was able to get a copy of the 400+ page, 8 ½ x 11 The Homes Association Handbook, TB #50 at a cost of $180.  We split the cost. You will not find this document anywhere, not even on Amazon.

You can read the Jan. 7, 2018 L.A. Times tribute to Donie by Andrew Khouri.  Champion of Homeowners’ Rights

In memory of Donie’s dedication to justice, fair play, and to protecting homeowner rights, I would like to list a number of events that I had recorded as a Commentary over the years, and  revealing a number of incidents that I had occasion to record.

·         Realtors: Are they protecting buyers or the HOA? (May 2006)

·         Common Interest Developments – Homeowner’s Guide (Thomson-West) (Oct. 2006)

·         Homes in HOAs are Lifetime Collateral for HOA Survival (Oct. 2006)

·         AB 1921: The CLRC recommended HOA special interest bill (Jan 2009)

·         Why is CAI member firm of Adams Kessler allowing criticism of LA Times HOA column? (Oct. 2011)

·         Is there a CAI game plan to rewrite HOA CC&Rs to restrict member voting powers?  (Feb. 2012)

·         LA Times column: protecting your HOA property (Nov. 2016)

Why is CAI member firm of Adams Kessler allowing criticism of LA Times HOA column?

Scanning the Adams-Kessler Blog, Davis-Stirling Condo Law, under (not a government website) revealed some 6 comments critical of the LA Time column written by Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian. Just in the past 3 weeks, and nothing before the week of Sept. 18th. I am wondering what’s up?

Glassman and Vanitzian are also the authors of Villa Appalling!: Destroying the Myth of Affordable Community Living (2002). Vanitzian is the author of the Thomson-West legal treatise, California Common Interest Development — Homeowner’s Guide (2006-2007). Glassman is a practicing lawyer and Vanitzian holds a JD degree.

Lawrence Stirling, co-author of the California laws, is a Senior Counsel at Adams Kessler. Adrian Adams and Gary Kessler are members of Community Associations Institute, CAI, and Kessler is active in CAI’s legislative action committees (LAC) helping to shape the national lobbying organization’s (that’s CAI’s) view of the HOA industry. Among other things, in 2004 CAI had cautioned the NJ appellate court in the Twin Rivers free speech case against “the unwise extension of constitutional rights to the use of private property by members (as opposed to the public) . . . .” (Amicus curiae Community Association Institute (“CAI”), Committee For A Better Twin Rivers v. Twin Rivers Homeowners Association (TRHA), Docket No. C-121-00., p.19).

It seems that CAI California is feeling the heat from homeowner advocates like CAI is feeling in Arizona. The criticisms of the column shown below, except for the outright hostility and ignorance of the posters of the Oct. 2nd and Sept. 25th entries, centered around the authors’ statement that the hired-hand (my wording) management company people have no place at a board meeting. “Management employees, like any other vendor, do not belong at association board meetings. Although they may be invited to attend, they should not be taking minutes or offering suggestions on the conduct or content of the meetings.” This reply came under the September 4, 2011 column heading, How can you break management’s hold on board? It concerned a homeowner’s letter that the “board is so entrenched with this management company that it can no longer act in the best interests of our owners and the association.”

I was surprised that A – K did not provide a response with respect to the legal status of the management people, who are neither board nor HOA members. In my view, they are like the typical member who can be seen and not heard unless asked a specific question, and otherwise not participate in the discussions.. Otherwise, the cry of “we are poor volunteers” rings hollow as the board has turned the management of the HOA over to hired hands, while forgetting its ultimate legal responsibilities to the HOA, and to oversee acts and actions of its management agent.

Given the Blog as is, with its entries and lack of A – K responses, it seems that CAI is feeling the heat and felt the need to counter-attack voices for homeowner rights, and to silence Glassman & Vanitzian, the true advocates who are fighting for homeowners who live in regimes that deny their constitutional protections.

Adams Kessler Condo Law Blog

(Oct. 2)  LA Times. The discussion I had with the LA Times “Readers Rep” in 2005 got me nowhere. I think having their authors billed as HOA specialists is akin to having a self-proclaimed racist writing a column on fair housing. Sure, they are somewhat familiar with the issues but their take on them is biased and does not serve the public well. -Marla H.

(Sept. 25) LA Times. The LA Times columnists who pontificate about HOAs and present such misleading information regarding the operation of HOAs are a thorn in everyone’s side. Their views are so inaccurate and counterproductive to creating harmony between owners, board members and managers. Surely there is some avenue for rebuttal? Why is the LA Times so resistant to permitting rebuttals to the content of the column? Any ideas as to how we can find an avenue to present truthful information? -Diana S.

FEEDBACK (Sept 18)

LA Times #1. Thank you for your thoughtful response to whether managers should attend board meetings and take minutes. Sorry to say, the Los Angeles Times places little value on providing balanced information. The writers of the column have a clear bias against boards, attorneys and managers. If they could, they would abolish all HOAs. Why would you abolish a form of ownership that has made affordable housing possible to millions of people? I think it’s important to make it very clear that these people give bad advice and boards should not rely on their column for any guidance. -Judy C.

LA Times #2. Thank you for your rebuttal to the L.A. Times article!!! -Jan H.

LA Times #3. It is clear that the author has a bias against management companies. The manager’s job is to provide advice to the board that keeps them on the straight and narrow. Can the board assign some of its duties to its manager? You bet! Should it? This is a matter of contract, but in most cases it is a resounding “yes.” It has been my experience that the larger the association, the more complex it becomes, and with this comes the need for a manager with greater and more diverse skill sets. -Jim S.

LA Times #4. Managers at meetings???? Of course. We pay them to help manage and advise us even though all final decisions come from the BOD. They advise us when we might need an attorney’s advice and many other issues a board member might not be privy to. Come on guys wake up and smell the roses! -Gloria F.