It is that time of year! Our election ballot is loaded with propositions and the No-on–10 campaign is sowing a small crop of political signs across lawns in town. (That’s what $75M in landlord money buys.) What’s a tenant to do? Plant a Yes-on–10 sign, right? But there is no Yes-on-10 sign available. So we must fashion them from the opponents’ signs as one self-starter on Reeves has done. But…is it lawful for a tenant to post a lawn sign on the landlord’s lawn? Yes it is!
Every tenant should be voting Yes-on–10 this November. So long as a state law can prohibit extending rent control to every building built after 1995, tenants in California will never see equitable tenant protections. Tenants in condominiums and single-family homes are also denied capped rent increases. That’s why we have endorsed Proposition 10 on the November Ballot.
But we have an uphill battle ahead of us.
Proposition 10 went down in a resounding defeat: a projected 65% of voters across the state either didn’t appreciate the virtues of rent control or didn’t know what they hell they were voting on. The chickens did twenty percentage points better than did the tenants this election season!
Renters Alliance contacted the Yes-on-10 campaign about getting some yard signs. We’re seeing No-on-10 signs pop up here and there and maybe some tenants want to fly the yes-on-10 flag. But we heard no reply from the campaign. Then we contacted the media arm of the campaign. Then came a reply:
We do not have any yard signs but do have window signs/placards. Would that be alright?
Yes, we said – we can make our own signs. The media handler put us in touch with a staffer for the placards. Here’s what we heard from the staffer a week before election day:
We are out of posters now too. If that changes I will let you know. So sorry.
We’re up against a $75M campaign from the landlords and yet a tenant can’t even get a yard sign to promote Proposition 10?
Now, some tenants may wonder whether they could even post a lawn sign advocating for Proposition 10. Read on!
State Statute Gives Tenants a Voice
State law explicitly allows a tenant to post a lawn sign advocating for Proposition 10 (or for any other cause or candidate). “A landlord shall not prohibit a tenant from posting or displaying political signs,” the law says. However the sign must relate to a candidate up for election, an initiative or referendum measure, or a impending vote by a public commission or elected local body. Here’s the relevant bit from the Civil Code:
Political signs may be posted or displayed in the window or on the door of the premises leased by the tenant in a multifamily dwelling, or from the yard, window, door, balcony, or outside wall of the premises leased by a tenant of a single-family dwelling. – Civil Code § 1940.4
The only exceptions concern sign size (six square feet) and regulations promulgated by the locality or community association. The Code continues:
If no local ordinance exists or if the local ordinance does not include a time limit for posting and removing political signs on private property, the landlord may establish a reasonable time period for the posting and removal of political signs. A reasonable time period for this purpose shall begin at least 90 days prior to the date of the election or vote to which the sign relates and end at least 15 days following the date of the election or vote. – Civil Code § 1940.4
Sure seems like the issue has been litigated to a fine point!
Local Ordinance Preempts State Law
Because the Civil Code defers to localities in the regulation of political signs we have to have a look. Here Beverly Hills is a bit more of a stickler than the legislature. The spirit of political speech is there:
It is the purpose and intent of the council to provide minimal regulations regarding the posting, display, maintenance, and removal of yard signs in order to protect the first amendment rights of persons posting yard signs on their property while protecting the health, safety, and general welfare of the general public and maintaining the aesthetic qualities of the city.
However the city has its concerns:
Yard signs tend to be impermanent, flimsy, and vulnerable to the elements. Because of the tendency of yard signs to proliferate, creating litter, visual blight, and traffic safety hazards, the council hereby adopts the regulations set forth in this section. – BHMC § 10–4–806: YARD SIGNS
The city helpfully summarizes the rules as follows:
A maximum of five yard signs, each measuring a maximum of 150 square inches in area, may be maintained on any one lot in any single-family or multi-family residential zone;
- Freestanding yard signs may not exceed four feet in height, measured from the ground;
- Yard signs cannot be placed on the parkways between the sidewalk and the curb;
- No permit is not needed to display a yard sign;
- A permit is required for the distribution of more than 10 signs.
Which got Renters Alliance to thinking that the 10-sign limit poses a challenge (not least because there are no lawn signs to be had). HOWEVER, bring us a No-on–10 sign and we can refashion it using Yes-on–10 campaign placards. Or do what this self-starter did. Make your own!