Industry politicking likely faced a few uncomfortable silences at the 2009 RealShare Apartments Conference held October 8 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, where both the National Apartment Association and the California Apartment Association were represented on the attendee roster as well as on the speaker’s docket. While NAA president Doug Culkin provided the keynote address via a national apartment market update, CAA CEO Tom Bannon moderated a panel on industry leadership.

Why the possible tension? Last May, CAA members voted to cut ties with the national trade association, and CAA was largely absent from the NAA’s annual educational conference and expo. Although at that time, there were thoughts that the split might be temporary, it appears both associations have hardened their stance.

While the California association still has no official comment explaining the reason for the split, members of the association who asked to remain anonymous said there had been a growing disparity between the larger, regional multifamily firms in CAA and the average NAA member who was perceived as smaller in size and regional focus. There were additional disagreements over the requirements and trajectory of certain educational components at NAA that California association members found onerous. “In the end, there was a cost issue, a difference in opinions, too many small members, non-agreement on the education,” says one member. “NAA wasn’t willing to change for California, so they decided to pull off.”

After the CAA split, the national association board voted to keep California multifamily companies in good standing until the expiration of their current memberships or the end of 2009, whichever came later. California Apartment Association senior vice president of communications Eric Wiegers says those offers have thus far largely been ignored. “A vast majority of CAA members voted earlier this year to withdraw from NAA for various reasons,” Wiegers said in an email to Multifamily Executive. “Very few CAA individual members (15) have asked to retain their NAA membership through the rest of 2009.”

NAA has also made overtures to Southern California regional apartment associations in an effort to have them directly affiliate and announced in late September that charters had been approved for the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, the Apartment Association of Orange County, and the Apartment Association, California Southern Cities. In total, NAA says the three regional associations bring 170,200 units back into the national fold.

Culkin says that with the prospect of an NAA and CAA reconciliation growing increasingly unlikely, the national association has added a full-time staff in California and will begin seeking out similar charter opportunities across the state. “I’m not sure if there is a sentiment that they are going to rejoin,” Culkin says. “Obviously, California is a huge market, and we have since added a full-time staff out there. We’re very glad to see the three affiliates we recently chartered are in, and we will be looking for associations in the northern half of the state as well. Obviously, we want to have a presence in the balance of the state, and we are certainly working towards that.”