The Sea Ranch Association Community Manager Prospectus: 1st Draft

Qualified candidates awaiting their interviews with the Board of Directors

Dear Everyone,

We think there might have been some misunderstanding surrounding the Community Manager Prospectus that was shared on the TSRA website last week. The Sea Ranch Reader editors wrote it. The characterizations of “environmental idealists” and young, rich families that work in “tech” and have unrealistic expectations for living at The Sea Ranch were mere jokes. We were having some fun.

There is an earlier draft of the prospectus that is much more “over the top.” The powers-that-be edited it down so much that the version that was posted almost read like a real prospectus (save those two crazy parts about environmentalist wackos and rich young families that ask for too much and tax our resources).

Here is the first draft, for your enjoyement. We apologize for any misunderstanding.

THE SEA RANCH READER

NONPROFIT EXECUTIVE SEARCH

CAREER PROSPECTUS MAXIMUS

POSITION: COMMUNITY MANAGER & CEO, THE SEA RANCH ASSOCIATION Sonoma, Nothern California

ORGANIZATION: http://www.tsra.org

ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND

An Extraordinary Community. The Sea Ranch Association (TSRA) is the governing body of an opinionated community of over 2,200 homes and lots along 10 miles of Sonoma County coastline, approximately 100 miles north of San Francisco. The Association seeks a Community Manager whose keen sense of style, design, appetite for the “good life” and social prowess is matched by her exceptional operational and leadership skills.

The basic premise of The Sea Ranch is to “live lightly on the land”, according to one of the early business people or architects involved in The Sea Ranch’s development. Fortunately for you, most of those people are long-gone and the meaning of that phrase is open to interpretation. In fact, whenever you make a controversial decision in this role, you can always counter your opponents with, “my decision is consistent with the ‘live lightly on the land’ ethos that defines this community.” Try arguing with that!

Conceived in the 1960s, The Sea Ranch was once a pretty radical idea. The plan was to have a common architectural style that either blends into or highlights important aspects of the landscape, rather than dominate it. The original landscape architect apparently envisioned a “kibbutz”-like “new town”community here… but nothing too woo woo. This was never a place for hippies, which was made clear by Barbara Stauffacher’s supergraphics and visual designs for the TSRA. Her designs and use of Helvetica were a direct reaction to all of the mediocre psychedelic art in the Bay Area at the time. This wasn’t a place to come and do weird stuff. It was a place you came to read, paint or draw, play some music, play some tennis, and take a swim. Maybe a take hike or a run. And most importantly, not annoy your neighbors with your bad taste.

Nowadays, The Sea Ranch is a relatively conservative community of upper-middle class and lower-upper class residents that like to take pictures of animals in their yards. Newer residents are amazingly tolerant of rocks with inspirational words painted on them and hidden along trails. While some of the newer homes occasionally appear in places like Dwell or The New York Times, between us and you, they’re not all that interesting architecturally—especially not compared to Condominium One, the cluster houses or some of the stuff that William Turnbull or Obie Bowman once did. One of the newer homes that gets a lot of press is on a golf course, for crying out loud. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

We also want to be super clear about one thing, which we’ll repeat throughout this prospectus: The Sea Ranch is a managed landscape. So you can’t let all of those environmentalist wackos tell you that “living lightly on the land” means letting trees grow wherever they want. It’s called The Sea Ranch, and not The Tree Ranch, for a reason.

The Sea Ranch Association is a mutual-benefit not-for-profit organization governed by a 7-member Board elected by the homeowners that are willing to vote on any of the candidates that throw their hat into the ring. The Board is supported by three homeowner committees advisory to the Board: Finance, Planning, and Utilities, and by an autonomous Design Committee.

The annual budget of TSRA exceeds $10 million, most of which is spent on research, legal fees, and maintaining the cypress hedgerows along the homes that, frankly, probably require the least amount of financial support while the rest of us that are further away from the ocean have to pay out of our own pockets to manage the commons near our homes. We suspect that the staff is about 60 FTE. But we haven’t seen an org chart for a while and are just taking the interim Community Managers’ word for it

The gap between our annual budget and homeowner expectations is worthy of a short article in the Harvard Business Review, and further amplified by several factors that will require the patience of a saint for you to manage.

Because we are in the middle of nowhere, The Sea Ranch presents a more complex management challenge that we expect you will enjoy very much. For example, we operate our own water company, sewage treatment plant, and monitor more septic systems and leech fields than we can count. We provide high-speed interwebs to residents via a wholly owned subsidiary of TRSA. We have a “security” service that has pledged to defend the CC&Rs with their lives. We also have a privately owned, on-site lodge and golf course that either has to or doesn’t have to follow our rules, depending on who you ask. We have 50 miles of roads. We have 50 miles of trails. Twenty-three hundred acres of commons. We have an airstrip. We have an equestrian center. We have two places where people can grill stuff. We have place to park RVs. We have two playgrounds. We have three pools and an ongoing battle between people who play tennis and people who play pickleball. We have to let strangers walk on some of the trails here because of the flippin’ Bane Bill. Someone keeps stealing all of the clocks at Moonraker pool. On some days, it feels like half of our homes are being rented by bozos and that we live in a nightmare resort community. People keep leaving glasses and hats all over our trails and aren’t coming back to get them! You get the idea. There’s plenty of fun things to oversee.

The next community manager will have much to accomplish:

  • Remote communities have been affected by the pandemic and The Sea Ranch is no exception. Recruiting qualified staff is a challenge when their salaries require them to live in a tent, car, or with 3+ roommates in the current housing market here. Maintaining levels of services during the pandemic when all services, including retail, social, educational, and health services are already limited because of the Ranch’s rural location, has been difficult. During the pandemic, about 20 people with kids moved here and, although we have never met any of them and they generally keep to themselves, we suspect they are rich people that either had equity in or were executives at technology companies. We also suspect they have unrealistic expectations and push will our resources to their absolute limits. It’s just that don’t have any evidence yet. Even worse are the hundreds of people under 50 who recently moved here. They’ve run businesses, but never a household, let alone a homestead or farm. They are the worst kind of volunteers, since they have never gardened, don’t know how to use a chainsaw, and think that picking up trash is waaaay beneath them.
  • Ever watch Whale Wars on Animal Planet? Some of the volunteers on the Sea Shepard live at The Sea Ranch and have aligned themselves with a bunch of older, grumpy Earth Firsters. These environmental radicals ran the board of directors here for years and are hell-bent on not logging some of the newer growth forests up along our ridge line. They’re irresponsible dreamers that can’t get with the program. That’s why it’s very, very important that you work with us on tree stuff, not them. We’re the reasonable “pragmatists” that know exactly what to do with the trees here. You got that?
  • The pandemic has also increased tensions found in most homeowner associations among residents with different priorities—long-timers vs. newcomers, people with fixed incomes who are retired vs. those on fixed incomes who are not retired, old vs. young, the weak vs. the strong, people who think the renovated Lodge is “fantastic” vs those who like it, but recognize it’s still a little tacky, etc. The most notable divide currently is between a dying group of old-timer epicurean and intellectual Sea Ranchers and a newer group that is decidedly more middlebrow. The former tend to have good art on their walls and had some social connection to the founders and architects of the early The Sea Ranch. The latter have okay art on their walls, probably went to business school, and don’t remember why they got into this mess here at The Sea Ranch in the first place. Their battles are real and you will have a great time watching them.

Any experienced candidate who considers the Community Manager position will appreciate the challenges that lay ahead. The impacts of the pandemic are in evidence everywhere and, again please keep this between us, it was actually a fantastic time for home valuation at The Sea Ranch. Even if you don’t like all of these rich tech bros taking over with their armies of children, and just sold your home, you still sold somewhere between $400k and $1M more than you would have in 2019. People here are flush!!! And probably fewer people will complain about rising HOA dues in the coming years! You have a blank check! You want to build a new pool, build a new pool! You want larger offices, go for it! But, ahem… sorry, we got off track. With every dream job comes its opportunities and challenges (wink wink).

RESPONSIBILITIES

You will be the big cheese here. The CEO. The Captain. The Sea Ranch monarch, selected by God to serve as sovereign ruler of the community (if you are into that sort of thing). You will be the embodiment of everything that all of us think this places stands for.

You will have the vision of Al Boeke, the wisdom of Larry Halrpin, the pragmatism of Joseph Eshrick, the whimsy of Charles Moore, the oratory style of Donlyn Lyndon, and the sassyness of Barbara Stauffacher. 

You will be a biologist one day, a CFO on another day, and a confidence woman the next.

You will be severely hated on in the TSR Listerv. Your competency and decision making will be second guessed on a daily basis. And you will be expected to handle it with grace. You will smile warmly and thank those nasty bastards for their “constructive feedback.”

Specifically, the Community Manager will:

  • Develop an encyclopedic knowledge of every homeowner and tree at The Sea Ranch so she is prepared to discuss any tree proposal, in detail, when you she is accosted on the trails, lodge or any other public area.
  • Manage a futurist team so she can foresee any potential threats to the community, from pandemics, interest rate changes, and other unpredictable cultural zeitgeists.
  • Be well-liked by everyone.
  • Have an insane level of business acumen. You will be able to rattle off financial statistics at a moment’s notice. You will be able to manage the worst talent out of here. You will know every single job that those 60 people do, and like an sous chef, jump in a and fill that role if you have too— whether it’s cutting down a tree, designing a sign, or driving around in one of the security vehicles and calling the sheriff when shit gets real.
  • Be available to do Google searches and take notes during BOD meetings

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS

Ideally, the candidate will have:

  • Impeccable taste. Professional experience as an architect, interior designer, landscape architect and art historian.
  • Experience leading a community. Mayor or cult leader experience is a must.
  • Experience blowing a lot of smoke without anyone noticing. You can’t just tell the people who volunteer to pick up trash that you need them because “they’re so good at it.” You need to kill with kindness and come across as sincere.
  • As a non-profit, you’ll have to hide our windfall profits somewhere very clever. Experience with money laundering, using shell companies to obfuscate what’s really going on with P&Ls, etc., will be very useful.
  • Experience as an entrepreneur. You should have sold at least one company, ideally with EBITDA of over $100M at a 5x earnings.
  • Experience as a professional writer, since your communications skills will be tantamount to your leadership. Doesn’t matter to us what that is, but at least one paying job as a journalist, or at least one novel or non-fiction book (not self-published). If you haven’t published anything, we will also accept someone with a bachelors or masters degree from a top-tier communications program (e.g., Syracuse University, USC, etc.).
  • Experience as a senior software engineer or CTO, so you can oversee all of the tech projects that never get done here. We’ve heard a rumor that technology is changing everything. Plus, we have a suspicion that most of the newcomers here work in “tech”, but we don’t really know what that means and don’t want to come across as naïve. So we’re hoping you can talk to them for us and figure it out.
  • Experience not getting things done while appearing to be working very hard. For example, we will need to recruit and retain top-quality staff at The Sea Ranch. But we can’t offer salaries or housing support to recruit top-notch talent because that would mean raising our HOA dues, which we also can’t do. So, you’ll need to appear to be making progress without actually doing anything. Doing a lot of interviewing but no hiring, for example. Or hiring an outside search firm. Creating an org chart with a lot of empty names. Those are all acceptable.

EDUCATION

Lifelong learning and educational achievement appropriate to the complexity of the position. Advanced degrees in biology, chemistry, physics, communications, business, public administration, law, art history, English, history, anthropology, visual arts, psychology, philosophy, sociology, computer sciences, political science or their equivalents, a plus. No degrees in sports management or exercise science, please. Twenty years or more in a chief executive and/or chief operating position a plus.

SALARY

Given that you are a unicorn that could succeed in just about any executive role, we think $200,000 should be more than enough.

%d bloggers like this: