This is the first major election since the Davis City Council changed the city’s political sign rules in January, and the change in policy has led to some serious confusion among apartment managers.
As part of the ordinance passed in January, the council added the following language to city code: “Not withstanding any lease to the contrary, no landlord or lessor shall prohibit a tenant lawfully in possession from posting political signs.”
The ordinance says tenants are allowed to post political signs in windows, on balconies or on the door of the living unit.
Some managers have told their residents that the ordinance does not apply to them and that they must take down their political signs due to clauses in the lease prohibiting signs in windows and doors.
In an Oct. 27 letter obtained by The California Aggie, the manager of Aggie Square Apartments instructed residents to remove any window signs immediately, pointing out a clause in the lease regarding posting signs in windows and on doors.
This letter raised questions among a number of residents who said the new ordinance allowed them to post political signs.
Janna Buccieri, chief operating officer of Davisville Management Company (which manages Aggie Square), said the clause was included in the lease after some residents posted swastikas in their windows. Because managers did not want to allow offensive images to be posted in windows, they created a blanket rule so everyone would be treated the same way, Buccieri said.
Due to questions about the policy, however, the managers have now agreed to allow political signs.
“We know this is a huge election that people really care about, and we want them to be able to express their views,” she said.
City attorney Harriet Steiner said the new ordinance supersedes any lease that prohibits tenants from posting signs.
“The purpose of that ordinance was to permit tenants to put [political] signage in their windows and yards … and to prevent landlords from prohibiting tenants to put signage up,” she said.
The main source of confusion seems to be the first part of the sentence in question, “not withstanding any lease to the contrary.”
“Notwithstanding means ‘despite’ or ‘regardless,’ so it means that if you have a lease and it said you can’t put up signs, you shall not be prohibited as long as they are within the guidelines in the rest of the ordinance,” said deputy city manager Kelly Stachowicz.
City councilmember Lamar Heystek has been particularly passionate about making sure apartment and rental property managers are treating tenants according to city code.
“The practice of some landlords of curbing the presence of political signs went unchecked until just recently, so the new law will take some getting used to,” Heystek said in an e-mail. “We certainly need to do a better job of informing tenants, property owners and management companies of the law so that everyone can be in compliance.”
Stachowicz said if students feel their landlords are not recognizing this clause they should contact the city. Tenants should call the city’s code compliance line at 757-5646 and include information on how urgent the problem is, which helps the city have a specific record of incidents. Tenants can also contact the city manager’s office directly at (530) 757-5602.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.