By Anne Lowe

FREE SPEECH – A San Francisco homeowner’s association recently avoided a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) by withdrawing its ban on the posting of political signs by a condominium resident.

Dr. Elliot Greg Kamin, who is represented by the ACLU of Northern California, posted two political signs in a window of his condominium and was immediately threatened with fines by the Ocean Beach Homeowner’s Association if he did not remove the signs.

According to an ACLU announcement of the settlement,

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.