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SoCal Man Told to Take Down Condo Christmas Lights

It was just a few strands of Christmas lights but even a single light is one too many

By Paul Krueger and R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, Dec 17, 2013  |  Updated 12:08 PM EDT
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A man who lives on a well-known La Jolla street says his homeowners’ association made him take down his Christmas lights. NBC 7’s Monica Dean reports on the legal aspect of this issue being debated in communities across the state.

A man who lives on a well-known La Jolla street says his homeowners’ association made him take down his Christmas lights. NBC 7’s Monica Dean reports on the legal aspect of this issue being debated in communities across the state.

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A Southern California man has hired an attorney after being forced to take down Christmas lights outside his luxury condo.

Michael Cardenas of La Jolla, Calif., said he was forced to take down the Christmas decorations on the outside patio of his unit in the 939 Coast private residences.

It was just a few strands of Christmas lights. But even a single light is one too many for the Homeowners' Association governing the ocean-front building, Cardenas said.

According to Cardenas, the board told him the lights are prohibited because they are considered a modification to his home. He was ordered to either take them down or face a fine of $100 a day.

“This is what we are disagreeing about. The lights here, in this patio, and these two right here,” Cardenas said as he showed the strands to NBC 7 News on Saturday. “This is what they considered potentially offensive? This is what we are talking about."

The battle over holiday decorations began in October, with a few Halloween decorations Cardenas put up.

When the disagreement continued over Christmas decorations, Cardenas hired an attorney

Cardenas took down the display last weekend. But he still plans to fight the rule, which he says was written "after" he strung the lights.

He feels he should be allowed to hang the lights since they're on his private patio.

There's a similar dispute in a community 40 miles east of Los Angeles, where police issued a curfew and placed other restrictions on a festive neighborhood display that has attracted thousands of visitors.

One resident of that Rancho Cucamonga neighborhood, Kim Earle, says critics need to "lighten up."

"The residents feel that the city would rather have this go away, and we don't want it to go away," Earle said.

Back in La Jolla, Cardenas now says he might pay the fine and turn the lights back on.

Karen Frostrom, attorney who is an expert in land use, said condo associations usually have the law on their side when they restrict public displays of any kind.

"You can speculate away about whether it's for religious equality reasons or someone, Scrooge, wrote their rules. For whatever reason, if that's their rules, that's their rules," Frostrom said.

NBC 7 made several attempts to contact the management at the 939 Coast building for comment on this story.

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