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City Council to consider repealing sex offender residency restrictions

The Santa Clarita City Council is scheduled Tuesday to consider repealing its sex offender residency restrictions in light of pending litigation and a state Supreme Court ruling.

At its upcoming regular meeting, council members will look into introducing and adopting an “urgency ordinance” to repeal Chapter 11.74 of the Santa Clarita Municipal Code, which states that any registered sex offender is prohibited from residing within 2,000 feet of a school, park, library or child care center. The ordinance also prohibits sex offenders from living with each other in the same residence or unit of a multi-unit building.

“This ordinance is required as an urgency ordinance based upon the pending litigation,” reads the urgency ordinance that council members will look to adopt.

To repeal this section of the code, at least four council members would have to approve, according to the city staff report.

This recommended action comes after the Law Office of Janice M. Bellucci, representing a plaintiff listed as John Doe, filed a lawsuit against the city on Feb. 25. The civil case challenged Santa Clarita’s distance, density and concentration restrictions for sex offenders based on the California Supreme Court “In Re Taylor” decision in March 2015, which struck down residency restrictions for those on the sex offender registry after ruling that Proposition 83 was unconstitutional.

The proposition, titled the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act, is also known as Jessica’s Law, which voters approved in 2006. The law is well-known for requiring registered sex offenders to be monitored by GPS devices while on parole and for the rest of their lives with the intent to better protect the public, including children.  

Reports such as the 2011 “Homeless Among California’s Sex Offenders” by the California Sex Offender Management Board concluded that these restrictions don’t prevent crimes against children, but rather they increase the likelihood of re-offense as offenders are left with little to no housing options and fall into homelessness.

Bellucci, a civil rights attorney who has sued 34 other cities since 2015 for failing to repeal their ordinances, said she and her team have been looking at the areas in Santa Clarita where registrants cannot live under the current ordinance.

“There’s at least 50, K-12 schools, three public libraries and more than 30 parks with a 2,000-foot distance limit,” she said. “That means most of Santa Clarita is off limits. (The ordinance) breaks up families and can end up breaking or sending people far away (because) it’s not just Santa Clarita, it’s other cities in Los Angeles County.”

Belluci said Santa Clarita was given three years to repeal its ordinance via a letter her office sent out, “but they didn’t. Sometimes it takes a lawsuit to get a city’s attention.”

She added that other cities have since repealed their ordinances’ sex offender residency restrictions and she hopes Santa Clarita will, too. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department no longer enforces residency restriction limitations during the parole period, but may on a case-by-case basis.

If the city repeals the residency restrictions, the lawsuit will be dismissed, said Bellucci.

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