Not to say this could only happen in Southern California, but it's just s-o-o-o typical.
An Irvine woman is battling her homeowner association, claiming it has let a youth swim league, mostly made up of nonresidents, dominate the swimming pool. The problem, she says, is that the youngsters use most of the six lanes during key parts of the summer, sometimes leaving only a single lane for association members.
If you think adults should be able to solve problems like this, I regret to inform you that you're sorely out of touch.
To the contrary, Alisa Ross's claim against the Turtle Rock Park and Recreation Assn. is coming up on 2 years old. It has been through Orange County Superior Court and featured three days of testimony from Ross.
The judge's initial ruling supported the association, prompting it to tout the findings in its newsletter. However, in a subsequent order, the judge ordered the association to guarantee two lanes at all times for association members.
Now not nearly so thrilled with the judge, the association is appealing.
Yes, your math is correct: It is appealing the judge's decision to guarantee that its own association residents have at least two lanes out of six to swim in whenever they want.
Along the way, the issue has divided the community of 550 homeowners. Ross says she's been threatened for her pursuit of the case, and in court papers, the association wonders aloud about Ross and her husband's TV viewing habits.
In sifting through the nuttiness, I began with Ross, a 40-year-old mother of three.
Over the years, she became increasingly irritated that the Irvine Swim League, with its 100-plus youthful members, got permission to use four or five of the pool's lanes for its practice and competitions.
The league, with approval from the association's governing board, uses the pool for 10 weeks starting in June and ending in August. The league generally gets the pool four days a week from mid- or late-afternoon until about 6 or 7 p.m. On some Saturdays, competitions are held, during which residents can't use the pool.
Ross and her husband think it's all a bit much, especially since the pool generally is open only from Memorial Day weekend through September or October. Ross says she has no huge objection to the league using the pool (although she'd rather it didn't), but thinks it should share the lanes more equitably. Another pool at the site is smaller, features a diving board and, unlike the six-lane pool, isn't heated.
Coming Up a Lane Short
Still, Ross accepted Judge Mason Fenton's ruling last year when he overwhelmingly sided with the association, ruling that it had the authority to let the swim club use the pool.
However, a month after his initial ruling, Fenton ruled that the association must leave "two swim lanes always open for the general population" of the association.
Whoa, judge, the association said. It argued that the league needs five lanes--especially during the first three weeks of the summer--to accommodate the numbers of youngsters getting instruction.
Rosa Kwong, an attorney representing the association, says Fenton's ruling "might have been an effort at appeasement, which the court sometimes sees as its role." Laudable, perhaps, but Kwong says limiting the swim club to four lanes will cause big problems.
"During swim competitions, when outside teams are invited to participate at the pool, you're talking about two teams totaling 200 children who are trying to compete in just four lanes," she says. "I need not elaborate on the logistical difficulty of that, not to mention, it's totally unsafe."
Kwong says the competitions, while meant to be low-key, are good for the children.
Ross understands that. She just wonders why, as a dues-paying association member, she and her children (ages 10, 9 and 6) could swim in only one of six lanes on summer afternoons.
Sounds like a logical question to me. Kwong disagrees, saying surveys indicated that not many residents swam during the hours used by the league. Ross says that's because they've quit trying after the swim club's takeover.
The association has spared little in fighting Ross. As part of her package of evidence, Ross says, she took an overhead photo of children in the pool.
The association says the photo session upset some youngsters and parents. In this rather shameless passage entered into evidence, the association argued: "She was seen videotaping swimsuit-clad children in the pool, to the discomfort of their parents. The purpose of the videotaping is both mystifying and sinister. (Are plaintiff and her husband viewing these tapes alone at home at night? Who have been invited to watch these tapes?)" For the record, Ross says she used only a still camera.
Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, the next group to hear this case will be the state appeals court in Santa Ana, where I'm betting the justices will roll their eyes and plug their noses before diving in.
Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers may reach Parsons by calling (714) 966-7821, by writing to him at The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or by e-mail at email@example.com.