An association’s governing documents may require association approval before a member may make a physical improvement or modification to the member’s property or to association common area. (Civ. Code § 4765(a); See also “Architectural Application & Approval Process.”) Such improvements and modifications are regulated by the association’s architectural standards. Administering the architectural standards and the application/approval process are tasks which are typically performed by the association’s architectural committee.
Depending upon the provisions of the association’s governing documents, the architectural committee may be referred to as any of the following:
- “Architectural Committee”
- “Architectural Control Committee”
- “Architectural Review Committee”
- “Art Jury”
- “Design Review Committee”
- “Environmental Control Committee”
- “Landscape Review Committee”
Many sets of association CC&Rs contain provisions that mandate the formation of an architectural committee that is separate from the board of directors. Where such provisions are absent, the board may either serve as the architectural committee or delegate its architectural control powers to an architectural committee that is created by the board. (See “Delegating Duties & Authority.”)
Scope of Authority
The scope of authority exercised by an architectural committee is impacted by the type of common interest development that the association was formed to manage:
|Landscaping improvements||Balcony flooring surfaces, plants, and furniture|
|Lot setback requirements||Hardwood and interior flooring installations|
|Structure and improvement design, placement, and height||Plumbing and electrical modifications|
|Exterior finishes, paint colors, roofing materials||Window tinting, design, and coverings|
|Fencing||Satellite dish placement|
|Satellite dishes||EV charging stations|
|EV charging stations|
An architectural committee’s approval powers extend to compliance with an association’s governing documents and do not serve as a substitute for any ancillary requirements imposed upon a member by local building codes or county ordinances. In most cases, a member’s proposed improvements or modifications will require separate approvals from the association’s architectural committee as well as local building/code enforcement entities.
Any decision regarding a member’s architectural application must:
- Be made in good faith and not be unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(2); See also Cohen v. Kite Hill Community Assn. (1983) 142 Cal.App.3d 642.)
- Not be in conflict with any “governing provision of law” (e.g., Fair Employment and Housing Act, building codes, laws governing land use or public safety, etc.). (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(3).); and
- Be made in writing. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(4).)
If an application is disapproved (rejected), the written decision of the architectural committee must include both an explanation of why the application was disapproved and a description of the procedure through which the member may request reconsideration of the decision by the board. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(4).)
Disapproval & Reconsideration (Appeal)
Where a member’s application is disapproved by an architectural committee, the member is generally entitled to reconsideration by the board at an open meeting of the board. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(5).) However, if the initial disapproval of the application was made by the board “or a body that has the same membership as the board” at a duly held board meeting, no reconsideration is required. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(5).)
Architectural Committee Meeting Minutes
Because architectural committees are typically comprised of volunteer association members and not members of the association’s board of directors, the meetings of an architectural committee are not “board meetings” subject to the requirements and restrictions contained in the Open Meeting Act. However, to the extent that an architectural committees has “decisionmaking authority,” Civil Code Section 5210 requires the architectural committee to keep and maintain minutes of its meetings, and to make such minutes available for inspection by the association’s members within certain timeframes. (See “Committee Meeting Minutes.”)
Related Case Law
- Woodridge Escondido Property Owners Association v. Nielson
(2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 559
[Architectural Control] A HOA’s architectural committee does not have the authority to approve an improvement which is in violation of the CC&Rs.
- Rancho Sante Fe Association v. Dolan-King
(2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 28
[Architectural Control; Architectural Standards] A HOA’s architectural standards could be used to define undefined architectural restrictions/terms contained in the CC&Rs.
- Pacific Hills Homeowners Association v. Prun
(2008) 160 Cal.App.4th 1557
[Architectural Control; Statute of Limitations] The 5 year statute of limitations under Code Civ. Pro. § 336 applies to both recorded restrictions as well as unrecorded restrictions such as architectural guidelines.
- Cohen v. Kite Hill Community Association
(1983) 142 Cal.App.3d 642
[Architectural Control; Duty to Act in Good Faith] When exercising its architectural control authority, an association owes a fiduciary duty to its members to act in good faith, and to not make decisions that are arbitrary or capricious.
- Dolan-King v. Rancho Sante Fe Association
(2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 965
[Architectural Control; Judicial Deference] An association may grant discretionary authority to an Architectural Committee to apply subjective, aesthetic criteria for approving member applications for proposed architectural improvements.