Pell Place condominium complex
Upon entering the pristine Pell Place condominium complex in the Del Mar Highlands of Southern Calif., you’ll take in the beauty of the landscape, groomed and cared for to produce a look that is natural to the environment. What you won’t see are square-shaped shrubs and chopped-off trees. Instead, beautifully placed plant material, suited for the climate and properly pruned to produce a natural look. Residents of Pell Place appreciate this styled landscape as they enter and exit the complex, enjoy strolls around the property and utilize the outdoor amenities. Upon the need to choose a new vendor to service their landscape maintenance, the Pell Place HOA Board took residents into consideration when surveying three vendor selections. The HOA Board had specific requirements in choosing a landscape maintenance service vendor, and their decision paid off when they brought Benchmark Landscape, an industry-leading commercial landscape maintenance and installation company based in San Diego on board in December 2009.
The Pell Place HOA Board is currently highly satisfied with Benchmark Landscape, both for the communication they provide and the detailed care put into each and every facet of the property’s surrounding landscape. Pell Place HOA Board President, Joanne Bautista, stresses that with any landscape maintenance company, they should provide a property account manager who is personalized and very familiar with the property. Pell Place is commonly owned and there is a small amount of landscape that the residents have to enjoy, so it is important that the landscape management company takes great care in the work they perform. Every month, the Benchmark manager assigned to Pell Place walks the property with select board members and the property management staff to identify such things as potential problems with the irrigation, plant material and any potential safety concerns. Benchmark employees also attend board meetings, email frequently and host lunch meetings with the board.
“Not only should your landscape maintenance manager take you on a monthly walk-through of the property to identify potential problems and needs,” said Joanne Bautista, Pell Place HOA Board President, “they should also educate the board about the plants, turf areas and other elements of the landscape seen along the way. Benchmark provides us with this information, and the education is invaluable to me – I can take this information back to the board who in turn can educate residents.”
During the selection process for a new landscape maintenance company, the board was particularly interested in the skills, experience and training in water management Benchmark Landscape provides. In fact, once Benchmark was hired, the company went to task on a complete irrigation inspection and identified any broken irrigation components, recommending repair and specific tactics to save water. Benchmark also identified areas where irrigation upgrades could be done to improve the efficiency of the irrigation system. A new rain sensor that shuts down the irrigation controller during rain events, was installed by Benchmark shortly after they took over the landscape maintenance. Making regular adjustments to the irrigation system in order to fit the weather and time of year began when Benchmark took over. This practice is continuing on a regular basis. As a result, Benchmark helped Pell Place save approximately $10,000 on water bills in 2010 compared to the water usage in 2009. The board is overjoyed with the consistent savings on water costs compared to years past due to Benchmark’s water management specialty.
Over the course of the contract and since Benchmark took over landscape maintenance at Pell Place, there hasn’t been one complaint from residents regarding the landscape, said Bautista. One resident asked about what he thought was over-watering of the dog park area, but the water schedule was assessed to be just at the right level. When Benchmark had taken over the landscape maintenance, it was after an abnormal San Diego winter, where in a lot of frost either killed or damaged some plants around the property. The board wanted to be sure that these plants would be replaced or come back to life. Benchmark replaced some of the plant material with more heartier and drought-tolerant choices, and has been in the process of bringing damaged plants back to life with careful nourishment and proper irrigation and placement. There are numerous pots throughout the courtyard areas and larger contained planters in the parking lot that have self watering systems, which is an alternative to piped irrigation systems. These systems require close monitoring to test the moisture level in all of the planters and pots and therefore provide supplemental watering as necessary. None of the pots or planters have a drainage system, so during the rainy season, they fill up with excess water. Benchmark spends a lot of time siphoning the excess water from the pots and planters so that the plants do not drown. Other amenities of the property include a putting green, three fountains, three courtyards with one or two built-in bar-b-ques per each courtyard. Benchmark performs their work in the middle of the day when most residents are at work, avoid producing early morning noise and of course use natural pruning techniques that help encourage healthy long-lived plants. The natural appearance has also helped to provide a softer, lush look to the community.
With the saturation of landscape maintenance service providers in California, it is important to know how to choose the right one to do the job correctly and efficiently. The Pell Place HOA Board relied heavily on their property management firm, Prescott Management, to give them recommendations for landscape maintenance providers who would do high-quality work and provide consistent communication. Prescott Management provided the board with some suggestions and the board considered proposals from three different vendors. Benchmark visited a board meeting and presented multiple pictures of their current properties, provided references and was available to answer every question the board had during the presentation, as well as offer to take their questions anytime thereafter. Bautista stresses that references are the most important thing to acquire when choosing any vendor. She also said that Benchmark’s references “glowed,” with direct comments to the expanse of knowledge Benchmark possess about horticulture and water management. The board was impressed with Benchmark’s desire to know what the board’s priorities were for the property and with how well they fit with their philosophies of good customer service.