City Council repeals sex offender residency restrictions, says decision will not change current monitoring practices

Santa Clarita Councilmen Bob Kellar (front) and Cameron Smyth comment before their decision to repeal sex offender residency restrictions on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. Tammy Murga/ The Signal

The Santa Clarita City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to repeal sex offender residency restrictions after a state Supreme Court ruling deemed similar ordinances unconstitutional.

Council members reiterated that the decision would not change how the city deals with sex offenders.

“The council’s action tonight, if they choose to repeal the ordinance, does not effectively change how we deal with sex offenders in terms of monitoring and restrictions that are currently being enforced,” said City Manager Ken Striplin. “The restrictions that are in place and have been enforced, and are currently being enforced, will continue on moving forward.”   

SCV Sheriff’s Station Captain Robert Lewis (right) and Lt. Justin Diez share how they monitor sex offender registrants under Megan’s Law during City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. Tammy Murga/ The Signal

Their vote approved the introduction and adoption of an “urgency ordinance” to annul Chapter 11.74 of the Santa Clarita Municipal Code, which reads that any registered sex offender is prohibited from residing within 2,000 feet of a school, park, library or child care center, based on Proposition 83, also known as Jessica’s Law, which California voters passed in 2006. The ordinance also prohibits sex offenders from living with each other in the same residence or unit of a multi-unit building.  

City staff recommended the City Council repeal its ordinance for three reasons, according to the agenda report: the state Supreme Court’s 2015 determination in that similar ordinances are unconstitutional, residency restrictions are no longer enforced by the California Department of Corrections or the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and due to pending litigation.

That lawsuit was brought by Janice M. Bellucci, a civil rights attorney who has sued 34 other cities for failing to annul their ordinances after the court’s ruling. After learning about the City Council’s vote, Bellucci said Tuesday, “The impact of the City Council’s decision is that we will file a motion to dismiss the case. It will happen within the next seven days.”

City Attorney Joe Montes said the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has not enforced restrictions since 2011, but there are still laws regulating the activities of sex offenders. For example, he said, the California Department of Corrections enforces the requirement that a sex offender cannot live within a half-mile of a school if the victim is a child, nor can they enter a park without a parole agent. The Sheriff’s Department, under penal code, can prohibit the entering of a school without permission from school officials.

The most commonly known federal law in place is Megan’s Law, which requires offenders to register their residency information with local law enforcement agencies and allows online public access to that data. The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station uses this law to monitor offenders.

SCV Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Lewis said the station registers offenders every Thursday and provides biannual address verifications, although it’s not required by law.

On May 10, The Signal compiled a map of address-specific sex offender registrants in the SCV who are listed on the Megan’s Law website.

Councilman Cameron Smyth suggested bringing forward at a future meeting an alternative ordinance that would comply with the law but allow for enhanced monitoring of sex offenders.

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About the author

Tammy Murga

Tammy Murga

Tammy Murga covers city hall and business for The Signal. She joined in the summer of 2018, previously working in Northern California as an assistant editor and reporter for the Lake County Record-Bee. In 2016, she graduated from Mount Saint Mary's University, Los Angeles. Have a story tip? Message her on Twitter or at [email protected]