A&A: Community Association claims parks are private; city says they’re public

Q: I am doing a story on the Community Association, which operates and maintains a number of parks that were dedicated originally to the county and then the city. The parks are considered public by city officials, but the association says those parks are private. My question has to do with the Brown Act. If the community association, a public benefit nonprofit corporation, holds board meetings to discuss these public parks, are these meetings considered open meetings and subject to the Brown Act?

Curious for an answer.

A: The community benefit corporation, like any other nonprofit organization, will be subject to the Brown Act only if it was either:

(1) created by a governmental body in order to exercise governmental authority delegated to it, or
(2) both receives funds from and and shares a board member with a local governmental agency.

Govt. Code section 54952(c)(1).

Thus whether the Brown Act applies to this particular entity will depend on how that entity was established and is governed. In a previous case, a court ruled that a Business Improvement District was in fact subject to the Brown Act when a city created a special local assessment district, collected assessments from local property owners, and provided by ordinance that the programs paid for with those funds will be governed by a non-profit association. (Epstein v. Hollywood Entertainment District II Business Improvement Dist., 87 Cal. App. 4th 862 (2001).

I hope this information is helpful.

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.