Adams Stirling PLC


Committee Name. An association's architectural committee is referred to by many different names. Despite the variety of names, all architectural committees have the same general purpose, as described below. Following are some of the names:

  • Architectural Committee (AC)
  • Architectural Control Committee (ACC)
  • Architectural & Land Control Committee (ALCC)
  • Architectural & Landscape Review Committee (ALRC)
  • Architectural Review Committee (ARC)
  • Art Jury
  • Design Review Committee (DRC)
  • Environmental Control Committee (ECC)

Purpose. The general purpose of an architectural committee is to ensure compliance with architectural standards established by the association. In condominium developments, the architectural committee is primarily focused on internal (i) alterations and improvements that impact the common areas (ii) window treatments that are visible from the outside, and (iii) balcony and patio issues. In planned developments, an architectural committee is primarily concerned with exterior aesthetics. Following is a chart of the kinds of issues that a committee would regulate.

           CONDO              PLANNED DEVELOPMENT
  hardwood floors   lot setback requirements
  plumbing   structure placement
  electrical   structure height
  window tinting   structure design
  window drapes & shutters   paint colors
  window design   roofing materials
  balcony floor surfaces   fencing
  balcony plants & furniture   landscaping
  satellite dish placement   satellite dish-solar panels







Aesthetic Standards. One of the functions of an architectural committee is to make subjective decisions about aesthetics. This is a recognized function of the committee and their decisions on such issues control even where an owner may strongly disagree.

"attractiveness" and "artistry" are, like beauty, well within the eye of the beholder. fn. 11 Such qualities have never been measurable or quantifiable. Therefore, we conclude as a matter of law the Association and its subordinate entities maintain the power under their enabling covenant to apply both subjective and objective criteria when evaluating the merit of proposed improvements to covenant property. (Clark v. Rancho Santa Fe Assn. (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 606, 619.)

…where the record indicates the Art Jury and Board acted within the authority granted to it by the Covenant, pursuant to a reasonable investigation, in the best interests of the community and not in an arbitrary manner, we will respect and uphold their decisions. …The Board’s action upholding the Art Jury's decision was also well within its discretion and authority. The Board is empowered to rely upon the Art Jury's recommendation. (Dolan-King v. Rancho Santa Fe Assn. (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 965, 979-980.) evaluation of a proposed solar energy system--just as any other proposed improvement--would involve the consideration of aesthetics. (Tesoro Del Valle Master HOA v. Griffen (2011) 200 Cal.App.4th 619, 633.)

Developer Control. The structure and composition of architectural review committees during the early years of a subdivision when the development is under developer control is purely a creature of the Department of Real Estate's Regulations which state (Regulation 2792.28(b)) that until 90% of all of the subdivision interests are sold or five years have elapsed from the date when the original final public report was issued, the subdivider [not the "subdivider in its capacity as a director or directors of the association] may appoint a majority of the members of the ARC. That same regulation begins by saying that until the first anniversary of the issuance of the original public report the subdivider may appoint all of the members of the Committee. Subparagraph (c) states that after the first year and until the 90%-five year thresholds are met, "the governing body of the Association [i.e., the Board] has the authority to appoint one of the members of the ARC."

Board versus Committee.  If an association's governing documents do not call for an architectural committee, then none is required and the board can review and approve architectural submittals. If the documents call for the appointment of a committee and the committee is empowered to make architectural decisions. The governing documents normally establish the number of committee members, whether they are appointed or elected, and the committee's powers. If the board fails to appoint a committee, then it takes on the role of the committee. Associations should amend their CC&Rs so the board automatically becomes the architectural committee in the event no committee members are appointed. Doing so should eliminate potential challenges to decisions made by the board in the absence of a committee.

Architectural Fees. Boards may impose architectural fees to defray the costs of reviewing plan submittals. (Civ. Code § 5600.) This includes copying costs and other expenses associated with the review, such as the cost of a consultant or architect to assist the board or architectural review committee.

Separate Approvals. Because an association's architectural committee and a city/county building department are separate jurisdictions, an owner must separately get approval from each. In other words, obtaining a building permit from the city does not confer approval by the association. An owner must separately submit plans to and receive approval from the association and vice versa.

Code Compliance. Ensuring compliance with state and local building codes is not a duty of an association or its architectural committee. Board and committee members are volunteers. Unless a member is an architect or former plan checker, board and committee members have no expertise in building codes and no jurisdiction over their enforcement. Code compliance is the duty of the city or county building department, whichever one is applicable.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC