To My Homeowners Association: Please Don’t Break My Daughter’s Heart
This is my front yard.
When you first look at this photo, what comes to your mind? A family lives here? Yes. It’s a nice safe neighborhood? Very much so. The landscaping needs a little work? Definitely. And, most importantly, do you imagine there are young children living in this house who take unbelievable joy in the simple luxury of playing outside in their yard? Well, you would be right.
Eight years ago, when my husband and I were newlyweds looking for a home in which to raise our future family, this vision of a front yard is exactly what we looked for. We studied neighborhoods in search of bikes and wagons and signs of young children at play. We analyzed front lawns for the perfect tree to which we could attach a future wooden swing. These were the types of front yards upon which our fondest childhood memories were built and we only hoped to provide our own children with the same innocent, unadulterated fun.
I now have two beautiful daughters; an eighteen-month-old and a kindergartner at Abby Reinke Elementary. Every day, after I pick up my eldest from school, I can barely pull the car in the driveway before she’s hopping out of the backseat, dropping her backpack, and running to her beloved swing. It’s just a piece of wood with a few drilled holes, suspended from a tree by some Home Depot rope but, to her, it’s the place where she spends most of her time. It’s where she waits for her friends to pull up in their own driveways, drop their backpacks and come running to get in line for their own chance to take a ride. It’s her meeting place, her clubhouse, of sorts, and now someone wants to take that all away.
Recently, my husband and I received a letter from the Paseo del Sol Homeowners Association Board of Directors, dated January 9th, 2015, stating that there was a vote held on December 1st and a new rule was adopted regarding “play equipment.” The rule reads as follows:
“Play equipment, including toys or bicycles, may not be stored in front yards, front porches, driveways, front sidewalks, or front patios. Swings of any kind are not permitted in front of the house, including hanging from tree branches. Swings must be removed when not in use.”
My heart sank. The very thought of explaining to my daughter that her most valued plaything, that homemade wooden swing, had to be removed. This isn’t something that can be easily clipped to a branch and removed at a moment’s notice. It is a permanent fixture of our home and if it comes down, it’s down for good.
Now, I realize it’s the job of the HOA to keep the neighborhood looking its best, but to issue this rule insinuates that they think our children’s playthings make us look somehow trashy and undesirable to future homebuyers whose opinions, I can only assume, are what the board is concerned with.
And I have no problem with the first part of the new rule. I can have my kids park their Power Wheels in the garage and I’ll make sure the bike helmets are absent from the middle of the yard when nobody is outside to use them. But that swing, the symbol of my daughter’s happiness, well, that’s not going anywhere.
I’m not trying to publicly shame the Paseo del Sol HOA Board of Directors but I am asking them to reconsider their decision on the swings. It was the wrong decision on behalf of all the young families, their neighbors, for whom they are expected to represent. Asking us to remove our swings is like asking us to remove everything those swings symbolize in our lives. In a world saturated with iPads, video games and childhood obesity, shouldn’t an HOA be fighting to preserve an outdoor lifestyle for our children?
For my readers, whether you live in Paseo del Sol, elsewhere in Temecula, or just feel that the board is in the wrong, I ask for your support in showing the Paseo del Sol Board of Directors that the family atmosphere that this photo represents is a coveted treasure; one that so many others envy and so wish to be a part of.
I am using this column as a form of online petition. If you agree with me that the swings should stay, please leave us a comment, sharing your thoughts, or just simply say “save the swings!” You can also post on our Facebook Page. No need to contact the HOA directly and I am definitely not looking to cause any chaos or concern. I will simply use your support to plead my case to the board. All I want to do is save the swing that means so much to my little girl.
Now, look at the picture of my front yard again and imagine it without the swings and the bike on the lawn. What happens to your view of the neighborhood now? What happens to those kids? The core family values that the City of Temecula has built itself upon seems to be stripped away, leaving nothing but a hollow, cookie-cutter tract house without warmth, without soul, and without children. Do you see what the HOA sees; undesirability or disarray? Neither do I.