Sacramento – The California Senate tonight approved a bill by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) to enhance protection of political free speech rights for residents living in the state’s 52,000 common interest developments and 5,000 mobile home parks. SB 407 targets abusive practices that curtail the residents’ abilities to assemble and communicate on political issues. It was approved without opposition and now heads to the Assembly.
“SB 407 prevents homeowner association (HOA) boards from denying basic political free speech rights to millions of Californians who live in these communities,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. “It is wrong to prohibit residents from going door to door to speak to their neighbors about issues that affect the HOA or the local community. People are being fined and threatened with legal action just for trying to raise awareness about voting rights within their complexes.”
The bill would provide that the governing documents of a residential common interest development cannot prohibit a member or resident from peacefully assembling or meeting during reasonable hours and for purposes relating to common interest development living, association elections, legislation, election to public office, or the initiative, referendum or recall processes. It would also allow canvassing and petitioning the members and distributing information about these topics.
"SB 407 is a common sense measure with bipartisan support that guarantees First Amendment rights for residents of common interest developments and mobile home parks,” said Amie Fishman, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. “All California residents should have their political speech protected regardless of where they happen to live.”
The Center for California Homeowner Association Law, the bill’s sponsor, has received complaints from residents about HOA boards’ abusing their power and infringing on the residents’ rights. One Orange County board supporting a local ballot measure, blocked opponents from using a common area facility for a meeting. In another example, a Solano County homeowner was issued a cease and desist order for inviting neighbors to an event he was hosting with a candidate for mayor.
SB 407 is also supported by the Golden State Mobilehome Owners League, the American Civil Liberties Union and the California School Employees Association.
Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which includes southern Alameda County and parts of Santa Clara County.