The Grover Beach City Council is wise to repeal an ordinance that prohibits certain sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks, day care centers and similar locations frequented by children.
The council’s decision was the direct result of a lawsuit filed by Frank Lindsay, who was convicted in 1979 of lewd acts with a minor under 14.
Based on advice from its legal staff, the Grover Beach City Council agreed Tuesday to begin the process of repealing its ordinance — a condition of a settlement agreement with Lindsay.
State restrictions will still be in effect; those prohibit certain high-risk sex offenders from living within a half-mile (2,640 feet) of schools and similar protected locations.
The state law also is more lenient in that it allows offenders like Lindsay to petition a city for relief if they can’t find suitable housing.
Some background: Lindsay has been living in Grover Beach for years, but after he was attacked inside his home, he said he no longer felt safe living there.
Lindsay wants to move, but because of the city’s restrictive ordinance, about 99 percent of the city if off-limits to Lindsay, his attorney said.
Lindsay’s lawsuit claims that Grover Beach’s restrictive ordinance violates his constitutional rights — a contention given credence by a recent state Supreme Court ruling. In that case, the court ruled against San Diego County, which also had a 2,000-foot residency restriction.
They aren’t alone. Over the past decade or so, many communities have passed highly restrictive ordinances in an effort to keep children safe from predators.
Unfortunately, those have had unforeseen consequences.
Especially in small communities, it can be almost impossible to find housing that is far enough removed from schools, day care center and parks, putting entire cities off limits.
That can lead to a concentration of sex offenders in communities that aren’t so restrictive.
Another problem: Families that may be willing to provide housing, supervision and support for relatives who are newly released from custody may not be able to do so, because their homes don’t meet the location criteria.
That can force an offender out of a supportive situation and into one of isolation and uncertainty.
Even worse, when it’s too difficult to find housing, sex offenders may give up and live on the streets, making it impossible for law enforcement to keep tabs on them.
As the court ruling in the San Diego case pointed out, blanket enforcement of residency restrictions has “hindered (plaintiffs’) access to medical treatment, drug and alcohol dependency services, psychological counseling and other rehabilitative social services available to all parolees, while further hampering the efforts of parole authorities and law enforcement officials to monitor, supervise, and rehabilitate them in the interests of public safety.”
Again, we believe Grover Beach is on the right course in repealing its restrictive ordinance, rather than fighting the lawsuit.
We strongly urge other jurisdictions to review their policies on residency requirements for sex offenders to ensure they aren’t unwittingly creating a worse law enforcement problem by driving offenders underground.