Political Signs = Free Speech for Condominium Residents
San Francisco – The ACLU has reached a settlement on behalf of a San Francisco condo resident who challenged an attempt by a homeowner's association to force him to remove political signs from his windows.
"What good are rights if they're only on paper? What good is a law if it's going to be ignored? I want people to be aware of my story so that they know they're free to exercise their rights," said Dr. Elliot Greg Kamin, a local optometrist whom the ACLU represented.
Kamin, who was born in Russia and came the United States as a child, posted two signs in a window of the condo he is renting near Ocean Beach – one in support of a judicial candidate and the other opposing San Francisco's Proposition L, known as the "Sit/Lie" ordinance. To his surprise, the Ocean Beach Homeowners Association threatened to impose steep fines unless Dr. Kamin immediately removed the signs.
In California, the free speech rights of condominium residents are protected by a law passed by the California legislature in 2003, Civil Code sec. 1353.6, stating that homeowners associations "may not prohibit posting or displaying of noncommercial signs, posters, flags, or banners on or in" property that belongs to a condo owner.
Facing a potential court order requiring it to obey the law, the association entered into a settlement with the ACLU by which the association voluntarily agreed to allow Dr. Kamin immediately to post his signs. Pursuant to the agreement, Dr. Kamin was permitted to put up his two signs immediately, without any fear of triggering onerous fines. The homeowners association had previously rejected prior requests by Dr. Kamin and the ACLU to respect the free speech rights of Dr. Kamin.
"Particularly at election time, it's important for Californians who own or rent a condo to know that the law protects their right to post political signs in their own windows, and that those who manage their property must respect this important and basic right," said ACLU attorney Linda Lye.
The ACLU in California was instrumental in the passage of the law. A similar law exists protecting the free speech rights of residents of mobile homes.
The ACLU of Northern CA continues to receive calls and complaints from California residents who seek to display political window signs.