CAA Files Suit for Revised Alarm Ordinance in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO – The California Alarm Association (CAA) and an individual alarm system owner have filed suit against the city and county to hault its revised alarm ordinance.

The county’s board of supervisors in mid-February adopted changes to the city’s ordinance to mandate alarm monitoring companies collect licensing fees from alarm system users, even those who are technically customers of alarm installing companies. Alarm companies would also be held financially accountable for any uncollected fees and could be criminally prosecuted, according to a letter the city sent to alarm companies in late March.

At press time, a superior court hearing for a preliminary injunction had been set for May 21, says Arthur Fine, an attorney with Los Angeles-based Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, the firm representing the alarm industry.

Fine says the ordinance would force alarm companies to act as tax collectors. “We believe this is a tax for two reasons. The money is not earmarked to go to the police department but to a general city fund. Secondly, this tax is not proportional to the expenses that are to be incurred in connection with alarm systems.”

Fine says the amended ordinance also violates California’s Alarm Company Act. Under the act, municipalities can require alarm company operators to obtain business permits, require customers to obtain permits to operate an alarm system as well as permits for false alarm activation and responses. “[The act] cannot require an alarm company to bill and collect license fees and remit them to local municipalities,” Fine says.

According to the lawsuit, the ordinance also violates the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law. Instead of holding a public hearing, the matter was referred to the city’s finance committee, which took longer than its 30-day timeframe to make its decision. Additionally, the three-member committee inadequately represented the 11-member supervisory board, Fine says.

CAA President Patty Hartman says the city of Oakland has already stated that it will institute an ordinance like San Francisco’s if it goes into effect.  “This is a critical time in our industry to prove cities right or prove them wrong,” she says. “This will help other states understand why we believe this action is illegal.”

The city estimates it costs $3 million to administer alarm systems and respond to alarms. It projects it would generate $6 million from licensing fees and false alarm fees under the amended ordinance.

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Security Is Our Business, Too

For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Commercial Integrator + Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add to your bottom line.

A FREE subscription to the top resource for security and integration industry will prove to be invaluable.

Subscribe Today!

Get Our Newsletters