Architectural standards (aka “architectural guidelines, “design standards,” etc.) set forth an association’s policies and procedures regulating a homeowner’s ability to make architectural improvements and modifications to the homeowner’s separate interest, as well as to common area and exclusive use common area. Architectural standards are operating rules which may impose additional architectural restrictions beyond those contained in an association’s CC&Rs, provided that there is empowering language in the CC&Rs to that effect. (Bear Creek Planning Committee v. Ferwerda (2011) 193 Cal.App.4th 1178.) An architectural standard may not be used to circumvent a contradictory provision contained in the CC&Rs (Ekstrom v. Marquesa at Monarch Beach HOA (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 1111), but may be used to clarify ambiguous CC&R provisions. (Rancho Santa Fe Assn. v. Dolan-King (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 28.)
Architectural standards often regulate exterior design elements such as paint colors, exterior finishes, and landscaping materials. Architectural standards often establish the procedure through which a homeowner may obtain the association’s approval for desired architectural improvements and modifications. (See “Architectural Application & Approval Process.”)
An association’s authority to establish and enforce architectural standards is premised upon the impact that aesthetics have on the property values of the association’s members:
“Maintaining a consistent and harmonious neighborhood, one that is architecturally and artistically pleasing, confers a benefit on the homeowners by maintaining the value of their properties.” (Dolan-King v. Rancho Santa Fe Assn. (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 965, 976.)
Preserving “the aesthetic quality and property values within the community” is recognized by courts as an “important function” of an association. (Cohen v. Kite Hill Community Assn. (1983) 142 Cal.App.3d 642, 648.)
Adoption & Amendment
Architectural standards are a component of an association’s operating rules that are adopted and amended by the board of directors. (Civ. Code § 4355(a)(2),(6).) The board must therefore comply with the procedural requirements under Civil Code Section 4360 when adopting or amending architectural standards (i.e., providing the membership with thirty (30) days notice of a proposed change to the architectural standards). (See “Adopting & Amending Operating Rules.”)
Administered by Architectural Committee
The responsibility for administering an association’s architectural standards (i.e., reviewing a member’s architectural application) is often delegated to an “architectural committee” that is separate from the board. Modern sets of governing documents contain provisions requiring an architectural committee and further regulating its duties and responsibilities. (See “Architectural Committee” and “Architectural Application & Approval Process.”)
Related Case Law
- 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.
- Bear Creek Planning Committee v. Ferwerda
(2011) 193 Cal.App.4th 1178
[Architectural Control; Architectural Standards] A HOA had the authority to adopt architectural standards beyond those set forth in the CC&Rs based upon empowering language in the CC&Rs governing the same.
- Ekstrom v. Marquesa at Monarch Beach Homeowners Association
(2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 1111
[Architectural Control; Board Powers] An association’s board of directors may not adopt rules that are in conflict with the CC&Rs.
- 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.