Wave it goodbye -- for now:
Couple's flag may again flourish
Article Courtesy of Sacramento Bee
By Andrew LePage -- Bee Staff Writer
Published May 15, 2002

A home association forces the pole's removal, but a bill would allow its return

Theodore White said he knew he was violating his homeowner association's rules when, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he proudly erected a 14-foot flag- pole in the back yard of his Sun City Roseville home.

White, a retiree and U.S. Navy veteran, says he was overwhelmed with patriotism and wanted to see his U.S. flag fly "a little higher and freer" than the one attached to the front of his house, as permitted by the rules.

The Sun City Roseville Community Association, which sets the rules for about 3,100 homes for those 55 and older, bans

Mary Jeanne and Theodore White tried to get Sun City Roseville's homeowner association to reverse the ban on free-standing flag poles, but they failed. Rather than pay fines up to $500 a day, the Whites removed the pole on Monday. 
Sacramento Bee/Leilani Hu 
free-standing flagpoles, though welcomesthose mounted directly to a home's front and rear outside walls.

White and his wife, Mary Jeanne, were warned last week that if they didn't take down their version of Old Glory in the back yard, which fronts a golf course, by Friday they'd face potential fines up to $500 a day.

The Whites caved, removing their free-standing flagpole Monday.

"I'm disillusioned and disgusted with their decision," Theodore White, 69, said of the association's board of directors, whom he lobbied to reverse the ban. "But other than that we like it here."

Starting next year, however, the Whites could legally reinstall their flagpole to display the U.S. flag if state Sen. Dick Monteith, R-Modesto, is successful this summer in winning approval for his flag bill. It would prohibit homeowner associations -- in which an estimated 7 million Californians dwell -- from restricting citizens' ability to display the American flag. The law makes no mention of other flags.

The only restriction now listed in Monteith's bill applies to cases where the U.S. flag poses a threat to public health or safety. An aide to the senator, who's running for U.S. Congress, said Monteith will also consider amending his bill to include a formal definition of what constitutes an American flag. That's to allay the concerns some have about people going too far by, for example, painting their home to resemble a U.S. flag -- a big no-no under many homeowner associations' design guidelines.

Monteith's staff says that since Sept. 11 the senator's office has received complaints from a handful of Californians statewide who are angry about their association's threat or decision to enforce rules restricting how, when or where they can display the U.S. flag.

Monteith's bill would effectively amend the 16-year-old Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act, the main body of law that governs homeowner associations. The bill would also clarify within a separate, 13-year-old existing state law -- one giving Californians the right to fly the U.S. flag -- that this right cannot be superseded by homeowner association rules.

Monteith wants to ensure that, "Just because you join a homeowner association doesn't mean you surrender your right to display loyalty and patriotism via the American flag," explained Andrew House, Monteith's legislative director.

Under state law, a homeowner association can't prevent someone from displaying the flag of the United States, said Sandra Bonato, an attorney with the Executive Council of Homeowners, a nonprofit organization representing homeowner associations and their members statewide. However, she explained that state law also doesn't state that an association is prohibited from reasonable regulation of how, when and where the flag is displayed.

Her organization supports the Monteith bill so long as the senator amends it to include a specific definition of what constitutes a U.S. flag.

Bonato noted that homeowner association board members often know their association rules inside and out but fail to recognize all applicable state and federal laws. She said such board members would benefit from having the Davis-Stirling Act amended to clearly state the degree to which an association can, or cannot, regulate the flying of the U.S. flag.

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