This is a question for an attorney. I am sure that something can be worked out but you must let the HOA know your intentions and get them to agree to any changes in payment in writing. I don't know the laws in CA but here in CO you could be subject to a lien on your property and the HOA could foreclose if they chose to do so, if you didin't have a written agreement allowing you to take longer to pay the assessment. Don't dither call them yourself and see if you can come to an amiable agreement- if not get an attorney involved ASAP.
Since it will ultimately be your HOA that takes action on any unpaid fees or assessments, your best approach may be to address this with them. You may find by speaking out that you are not in this alone and that the association may be able to make some kind of concession for hardship cases.
Get involved in your HOA and know what is going on. There can be a lot of things that get approved because just a few of the regulars show up at the meetings.
Remember you are one of the people that allowed a 4000.00 special assesment either through voting for it or not attending the meeting to offer a different solution.