By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
She wrote that she moved into her new home only to discover that it was overrun with roaches. Water from a neighbor's dishwasher overflowed and seeped down on her kitchen cabinets and shelves. She complained to the homeowners' association, but because the matter did not involve the complex's common area, the association said there was nothing it could do.
Then the complex's cooling and heating system, which had served the building since it was built in 1960, had to be shut down.
"Reported no heat," she wrote. "Was told to buy a heater."
The problem, explains Scott Schaible, president of Windsor Place's Homeowners' Association board, had loomed ever since the underground pipes linking the condos to the chiller unit and boiler first began to crumble.
Schaible, 36, has lived at Windsor Place for eight years. He and fellow board members Steve Loomis and Leroy Heflin agree to discuss Rosa Anderson, they say, in an attempt to defuse what they describe as a smear campaign launched against them.
Schaible explains that plans to repair the heating and cooling system had been hatched well before Anderson bought into Windsor Place. Schaible and his fellow board members had levied a $260,000 special assessment on the homeowners, payable in three monthly installments, to patch the aged system.
Such fees did not sit well with the complex's homeowners, many of them elderly and many others absentee owners who grouse about spending any money at all. Schaible says many dragged their feet. Some, like Pat Snyder, fought the levy--$1,367 for a two-bedroom condo, $911 for a one-bedroom--and its three-month payoff as unduly harsh.
"They never came out with that in an open meeting," Snyder laments. "It's like everything else they do, all behind closed doors."
In the end, though, everyone--including Snyder and the woman who sold Anderson her place--paid up.
Linda Warren, Anderson's real estate agent, says her client was aware that the heating and cooling system was to be overhauled, and that the seller had paid an assessment. She adds that the heat still worked when Anderson bought her condo.
Still, Anderson and her neighbors had no idea what those repairs would entail. They were in for a rude awakening.
The repair plan called for the underground pipes to be bypassed entirely. A new set of eight-inch pipes would be suspended from a second-floor balcony. The pipes would enter each ground-floor condo above the back door. Once inside, the new pipes would connect to old ones that run up to the floors above. All connections were to be concealed inside the apartments by drywall.
While the measure may have eased interior views, it did nothing to erase the blight that the dangling pipes created outside.
"It looks like an oil refinery," says Pat Snyder. "They did not add any value to this property whatsoever."
Schaible admits the solution was more a nod to mechanical necessity than to aesthetics. He says the board would have preferred to run the pipes underground, but that would have cost an additional $400,000. He adds that the board may decide to conceal the exterior pipes once the funds become available.
"That way, everything will look nice again," he explains.
The contractors began their work in early April 1996. Anderson watched with growing apprehension as the fat pipes snaked their way toward her condo.
"My place would be where two connecting pipes would join," she wrote to the law firm. "I said no. They did not discuss this with me earlier. They told us we would not have any alterations. . . . I did not want my kitchen for a railway pipe station."
The only problem was, the decision had already been made and the work needed to proceed. Summer was rapidly approaching, and the condos above Anderson's could not be cooled until the pipes were connected in hers.
On April 5--Good Friday--Schaible and Joe Wilson, the complex's then-property manager, went to Anderson's apartment. What happened next is the subject of two divergent stories.
According to Anderson's letter, Schaible threatened her by saying that if she didn't allow the holes to be drilled above her door, he would call the police.
"I ask why would they call the police?" Anderson wrote. "I had not broken any law."
Her letter goes on to state that Joe Wilson told her she had to let the workers drill because it said so in the covenants, codes and restrictions (CC&Rs). The two men left. The letter continues:
"The doorbell rang--it was the police. They asked to come in. I let them in, they told me I should let the workmen do their job. I was holding up the work. The CC&Rs said they were supposed to come in and drill. They pointed to a line on the [CC&Rs] and read. I asked why couldn't they connect the pipes outside? They wouldn't listen to anything I had suggested."
After the police left, Schaible and Wilson drew up a hand-written statement promising that the pipes inside Anderson's condo would be neatly boxed in as soon as they were installed--work that had already been promised to all ground-floor homeowners. Yet by mid-May, more than a month after signing the agreement, Anderson still hadn't allowed the work to be finished.