A&A: Is holding a public meeting inside a gated community a violation of California’s Brown Act?

Q: A California city is holding city council meetings with the Property Owners Association (POA) in a POA building inside a gated community. The POA claims they will allow public access. However, the public would have to drive into the community and be stopped and questioned by a private POA security guard at the gates. Vehicle registration and a valid driver’s license are usually required. Is this a possible violation of the Brown Act? 

A: The Brown Act specifically provides that members of the public do not have to sign in or provide personal information to attend a meeting of a legislative body. Cal. Gov. Code § 54953.3 (“A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.”). Requiring attendees to show license and registration in order to attend the city council meeting likely violates the Brown Act’s prohibition on requiring attendees to fulfill “a condition precedent” to their attendance. 

More information about the Brown Act, including your options for enforcing the Act as a private citizen, can be found here on this website.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner 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.  No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.

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