It is that time of year! Our ballot is loaded with propositions but the No-on–10 campaign is leading the way on big spending — a reported $75 million that buys a lot of political signs on lawns across town. What’s a tenant to do? Make a DIY Yes-on–10 sign! Even better when it is fashioned out of the landlords’ signs. This is like asymmetrical guerilla conflict, right? But is it legal for tenants to post our signs 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, many tenants in California will never see real tenant protections. Those in condominiums and single-family homes can also see unlimited rent increases. Even mobile home dwellers have it better in California.
That’s why we have endorsed Proposition 10 on the November Ballot. But we have an uphill battle ahead of us and the troops are not looking ready.
Renters Alliance contacted the Yes-on-10 campaign about getting some yard signs. But we heard no reply from the campaign. Then we contacted the media arm of the campaign. Thus came the 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 that staffer a week before election day:
We are out of posters now too. If that changes I will let you know. So sorry.
So sorry indeed! We’re up against a $75 million campaign to defeat our proposition and yard signs are in short supply? If we had them we could post them!
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 clerk 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.
So we can plant some yes-on-10 signs but we don’t have them. What to do? Well, follow the lead of these self-starters. Make your own!
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.