SAN MARCOS — The City Council has voted to start the process of repealing its sex-offender residency and loitering restrictions after receiving a letter threatening a lawsuit if it didn’t repeal the rules, which courts have ruled unconstitutional elsewhere.
The San Marcos City Council’s July 25 vote for the first reading of the repeal was unanimous.
Voters in 2006 approved Proposition 83, better known as Jessica’s Law, which prohibited registered sex offenders on parole from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. San Marcos, following the lead of a number of cities, in 2007 enacted its own local ordinance that prohibited all registered sex offenders, not just parolees, from loitering within 300 feet of where children congregate.
But in the years following the ordinances, a number of studies and reports have shown that the restrictions have negative effects, including isolating and increasing homelessness among sex offenders, which makes it harder for law enforcement to monitor them.
Courts have ruled that the 2,000-foot residency restriction was unconstitutional in San Diego County and the 300-foot loitering prohibition, adopted by a number of cities, was unconstitutional overall.
The state’s Sex Offender Management Board in 2016 in its annual report recommended “against all current and future use of blanket residency restrictions by local jurisdictions,” and said that state authorities would stop imposing the restrictions in the wake of court rulings.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has also informed its contract cities that it would not enforce sex offender loitering ordinances.
According to a July 25 city staff report, the city recently received a letter from the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offender Laws threatening legal action if the city didn’t start the process of repealing its rules.
City staff said that a full repeal was the prudent step to take.
“Mindful of the growing data from the State and experts in the field suggesting that sex offender residency restrictions could have the unintended consequence of threatening public safety in our community, as well as careful evaluation of the recent case law decisions which raise questions regarding the City’s authority to enforce blanket residency restrictions, it is recommended that the proposed Ordinance be adopted to repeal SMMC Chapter 10.44 in its entirety,” City Attorney Helen Holmes Peak wrote in a staff report.
The City Council must vote on a second reading in August before the repeal takes effect.