Fair HOA voting at risk in CA – SB 391

In April of this year I urged support (CCHAL in Calif. stands up to CAI) for CCHAL’s (Center for California Homeowner Association Law) opposition to California’s SB 391 that would allow online vote counting with no meaningful homeowner oversight. Another defeat of fair elections as expected in a community claiming to be democratic. At that time, Marjorie Murray CCHAL President, wrote:

“’The Community Associations Institute (CAI) and the property managers (CACM) are still “stretching the truth’ about SB391 (to put it politely.) CAI and CACM keep publishing ads saying  ‘SB391 gives HOAs the right to hold teleconference meetings during an emergency.’ This is FALSE.”

Yesterday Murray wrote in her urgent call to action email,

“SB391 is a dangerous bill – it’s being marketed by the association industry as one that “engages homeowners in governance” when what it really does is strip owners of the right to transparency and accountability in elections.

“SB391 IS NOW ON THE SENATE FLOOR AND WILL BE VOTED ON NEXT WEEK.  BE READY TO PHONE YOUR SENATOR TO URGE ‘NO ON SB391/MIN!”  Please PHONE, don’t email.”

Get with it Californians! Your voice is needed as legislators pay attention to the widespread  voice of homeowners affected by the bill.

CCHAL in Calif. stands up to CAI

The California homeowner activist group, CCHAL, with Marjorie Murray as its president is moving in the right direction.  In its email distribution urging homeowners to contact their representatives to OPPOSE SB 391, CAI is called to task and criticized for its support.

“’The Community Associations Institute (CAI) and the property managers (CACM) are still “stretching the truth’ about SB391 (to put it politely.) CAI and CACM keep publishing ads saying  ‘SB391 gives HOAs the right to hold teleconference meetings during an emergency…’ This is FALSE.”

We need more advocate leaders and homeowners to speak up strongly to force CAI to defend its statements, if they dare, or to shut up!  Silence only helps CAI to increase its stature before legislatures, the media, and the public. Victory is ours by not remaining silent!  

(See If only advocates would stand up to CAI).

CAI knows its defending the indefensible. Do you know that?

HOA Constitutional Government

CA’s SB 407 is another law providing constitutional rights

I was reminded of  my oversight in not mentioning California’s SB 407 (law in 2018) when referring to California’s constitutional rights legislation.[1]  SB 407 dealt directly with free speech issues while SB 323 dealt with extensions to fair elections.

Thanks to Marjorie Murray, President of the very active homeowner rights organization, Center for California Homeowner Association Law (CCHAL).[2] CCHAL has long fought CAI-CLAC, the voice of the collective CAI legislative action committees in California. (CAI-CLAC opposed SB 407).

CAI-CLAC is very slick in presenting a positive face to naïve homeowners and those seeking info on HOAs in California, known as CIDs. The title of its CAI Government Affairs Blog email release of March 2, 2021 reads, “Grassroots Advocacy Initiatives Are More Essential Than Ever.”  But many readers may miss the important appeal as stated in the email:

“Each year, CAI advocacy leaders engage with and encourage members across the country to connect with their elected officials and advocate on behalf of the 73.9 million Americans currently living in community associations.”.

This is a misrepresentation and a misleading assertion that CAI speaks for all persons living in an HOA in California. NOT SO!  (See HOA homeowner membership in CAI is a mere 36%).  As I’ve repeatedly urged others to do, such statements must be challenged and rebutted.

Notes


[1] See Substantive HOA member rights advances in Arizona.

[2] Murray commented: The California legislation that re-affirmed the First Amendment rights of association owners was SB407, sponsored by the Center for California Homeowner Association Law and carried by Senator Bob Wieckowski. 

Now law, it affirms the rights of homeowners to assemble peacefully, to communicate freely with their neighbors on matters of mutual concern, and to invite others onto the association campus.  It was signed into law in 2018.  CCHAL organized a public forum on the bill after it became law and videotaped the forum. Here’s the link to the text: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB407;

How authoritarianism operates in an HOA

The HOA legal structure and scheme is basically authoritarian in nature: strong central power, limited political freedoms, no accountability, and under the rule of man, not law. 

CCHAL[1] argues be careful of   “’rules’ put in place in the name of ‘health and safety.’  Yes, some – but not all – may be necessary, but the pandemic creates an environment for putting in place some repressive rules too.” And reading the Golden Rain proposed rules, yes, in my opinion also, they are repressive.

 1. Pay a $500 deposit to get the ball rolling;

2. Apply for a permit at least three days before a planned protest;

3. Pick a maximum one-hour time slot during the day for the demonstration;

4. Ensure all participants social distance and stay out of roadways;

5. Plan on paying for any damage and cleanup costs;

6. Host protests only in an area bounded by three roads.

Proposed only rule 4 can be argued as in the interest of members health, safety and welfare as the GR CEO stated to the East Bay Times “This comes back to safety.”[2]  Rule 5 comes across as intimidation as this topic is already contained within the governing documents, and assumes violence will occur. According to the article, indicating another overly broad sweep at restrictions, GR’s intent was directed at dealing with protestors, as occurred in May in regard to BLM, yet the rules apply to any gathering of members. Rules 3 and 6 appear to be arbitrary restraint on free speech.

Rule 1 is punitive and is in violation of California law enacted in 2017, SB 407,[3] as pointed out by CCHAL. In general, the GR board/trustees seem to have ignored the law and cannot say that they didn’t know the law.

According to East Bay, “Golden Rain CEO Tim O’Keefe told the committee that the Davis Sterling Act doesn’t apply here because the foundation is a private organization, not a ‘common interest’ area like a homeowner’s association.”  That’s an unbelievable and irresponsible falsehood by the GF CEO!  In the 2017 directly involving Golden Rain, the appellate court held,

The court found that GRF is an ‘association’ subject to the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act (Civ. Code, § 1350 et seq.) (the Davis-Stirling Act). fn. 1 We agree, and affirm.”  (Golden Rain Foundation v. Carol Franz, 163 Cal.App.4th 1141 (2008). (Plaintiffs were Leisure World members).

HOA members should understand that the common defense of BODs is “upon advice of attorney,” and in this case we hear that “the proposed rules had been reviewed by the organization’s attorney.”[4]  Are you aware of attorney rules of professional conduct?  You would be surprised what they have been getting away with as I inform readers in my post.[5]

Two things stand out in my mind, from years of studying and analyzing BOD motivations and defenses, many times supported by the HOA attorney’s opinion: these HOA boards/trustees are rogue BODs functioning with complete disregard of the laws.  HOA members BEWARE of your BOD and the opinions of its attorney!

Relevant sections of SB 407 include:

4515.  (a) It is the intent of the Legislature to ensure that members and residents of common interest developments have the ability to exercise their rights under law to peacefully assemble and freely communicate with one another and with others with respect to common interest development living or for social, political, or educational purposes.

(c) A member or resident of a common interest development shall not be required to pay a fee, make a deposit, obtain liability insurance, or pay the premium or deductible on the association’s insurance policy, in order to use a common area . . . .

(d) A member or resident of a common interest development . . . may bring a civil or small claims court action to enjoin the enforcement of a governing document.  The court may assess a civil penalty of not more than five hundred dollars ($500) for each violation.

There is no legitimate justification for GF’s proposed rule changes except to assert its power and control over the members. In general, including GR, HOA boards are authoritarian and supported by too many members who are authoritarian followers.  In order to successfully deal with the unjust powers and authority of BODs,  the legislators, the public, and HOA members in particular  need to read and understand the social and political culture of HOAs. Visit my posts on authoritarianism in HOA-Land.[6]

References


[1] Marjorie Murray, email letter of July 26, 2020,  Center for California Homeowner Association Law (info@calhomelaw.org).

[2] Annie Sciacca, “Want to protest at Rossmoor? Schedule it during business hours,” East Bay Times, July 10, 2020.  

[3] Chapter 236, California Revised Code (2017), SB 407. http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB407

[4] Id.

[5] See my post,  A lesson in professional conduct for HOA attorneys (2020).

[6] George K. Staropoli, HOAs undermine principles of democratic America (2020); Authoritarianism in the HOA-Land Nation (2020).