In Northern California in 1972, a nucleus of five common interest development homeowners together with a small group of concerned professionals formed an organization in San Jose called ECHO - the Executive Council of Home Owners. Forty-three years later the effort of these pioneers has led to a dynamic organization at the forefront of leadership for common interest housing interests in the state of California.
Today, ECHO's membership has grown to more than 1300 homeowner association members representing over 100,000 individual units and 325 business and professional members. Beyond serving its own members, ECHO works to strengthen its representation by pursuing working relationships with other Common Interest Development advocacy groups. In this spirit, ECHO joined resources with the Council of Condominium Homeowner Associations (COCHA) in 1999.
In the early 1970s, condominium and planned development projects were not only the "new thing" in housing, they were also spreading like a forest fire. The factors that caused this growth also caused some of the problems that became the motivating forces in the forming of ECHO. The FHA had no CID experience so a deaf ear was turned to the problems of the common interest developments. The California Department of Real Estate and the legal profession were also of little help in those early days. This left the owners, their associations and their boards of directors no place to turn for help except to themselves.
Out of simple necessity, ECHO was conceived as a non-profit organization of condominium and planned development homeowner associations. The Articles of Incorporation were filed on July 11, 1973, with the primary purpose to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas between homeowner associations and for the growth, education and development of boards of directors and officers of automatic membership homeowner associations, planned developments, and condominiums. The original goal of ECHO to protect the common interest development homeowners and their boards of directors remains unchanged today. ECHO's commitment to reach and teach as many board members as possible remains intact. ECHO was and still is an owners' organization.
Underlying most of the discussions during ECHO's early years were hopes and prophecies of laws and standards yet to come. And over the years the laws did come. The California Corporations Code was drastically amended by 1980. The collapse in 1984 of Condominium Association Management Specialists, Inc., known as CAMS, resulting in the loss of huge amounts of association funds, provoked a deluge of financial disclosure legislation. In 1985, an entire section of the California Civil Code, Title 6, the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act, was put in place to collect in one place the statutes that governed the operations of all types of homeowner associations. And the pace is still accelerating. In 1991, recognizing the growth in size and complexity of CID housing and its governance issues, ECHO continued its tradition as an industry leader by establishing its own CID legislative advocacy office in Sacramento.
Since its adoption in 1985, the Davis-Stirling act has been amended 66 times. ECHO has watched this legislative intervention vigilantly, and works continuously on behalf of California CID homeowners to influence and improve any changes. In 1991, recognizing the growth in size and complexity of CID housing and its governance issues, ECHO continued its tradition as an industry leader by retaining its own CID legislative advocate in Sacramento. Then in 2006, in response to the yearly flood of new legislation, ECHO augmented its efforts in Sacramento by establishing its first Political Action Committee.
From those five founding associations in 1972, ECHO association membership grew to 175 members in 1980, 500 members in 1988, and is now 1,350 in 2013. Business and professional membership has kept right in step as CID housing has grown, reaching the current 325-member level. Everything else about ECHO has grown: the newsletter from 8 mimeographed pages in 1974 to the 44-page, full-color ECHO Journal magazine now mailed each month to 7,500 people; the office from 100 square feet to 1700 square feet today; the Annual Seminar from 30 attendees at the first event to nearly 1,000 today.
The simpler world of the past has evolved into a complex arena of laws, time frames, rules and regulations that must be met to keep associations functioning within the law. Managing, financing and maintaining associations has become extremely intricate. Without ECHO there for the past three and a half decades, homeowner associations throughout the state of California would have had much less direction and even less protection than they now enjoy.