A lawsuit was filed today in federal district court challenging an ordinance recently adopted by the City of
Grover Beach. The ordinance prohibits California sex offenders (“registrants”) from living within 2,000 feet of any school, park, or day care center. This is the first lawsuit to be filed challenging a city’s residency restrictions after the California Supreme Court’s decision which declared such restrictions unconstitutional.
Civil rights attorney Janice Bellucci filed the lawsuit on behalf of Frank Lindsay, who has resided in Grover Beach for 18 years. According to Bellucci, the city’s residency restrictions effectively “banish” registrants from Grover Beach and violate the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution.
Plaintiff Lindsay is also the victim of a violent vigilante attack in 2010 at his Grover Beach home during which he suffered serious wounds. Due to that attack, Lindsay desires to move from his current residence and establish a new residence in Grover Beach.
In the lawsuit, Bellucci states that the ordinance imposes burdens on the families of registrants, does not protect children, fails to provide sufficient notice to registrants, and is “a politically motivated act… in response to popular sentiments, based upon misinformation, which seeks retribution against ‘a socially outcast minority.’”
The lawsuit states that, of the land parcels in Grover Beach that are not included in the residency restrictions (about three percent of the city), “well over half of that land is zoned ‘Retail Commercial,’ ‘Open Space,’ ‘Urban Reserve,’ or some other non-residential use” leaving registrants with very few, if any, locations in which to reside. Combined with landlords’ reluctance to house registrants, many would go homeless. According to findings of the California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB), homeless registrants pose a greater risk and utilize more law enforcement resources than registrants with residences and employment.
Penalties for a single violation of the new Grover Beach law include “a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or by imprisonment for up to one year or both” and additional offenses – one-per-day – if a registrant has not relocated after thirty days of notification.
To justify the new restrictions, the Grover Beach City Council relied upon false information including that “sex offenders have recidivism rates as high as forty-five percent.” This information is inconsistent with state and federal government statistics which state that registrants on parole re-offend at a rate of only 1.8% and 5.3% overall.
A recently released CASOMB report cites Dr. Karl Hanson, the preeminent researcher of sex offenses, stating that a registered citizen who has not re-offended in 17 years is no more likely to commit a sex offense than someone who has never been convicted of a sex offense. In Lindsay’s case, that time period has expired.
The California Supreme Court recently decided that residency restrictions could not be applied to all registered citizen on parole because their blanket application violated the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the Court ruled that residency restrictions may not be imposed in a manner that deprives registrants of their liberty interests, including the right to be free from arbitrary, oppressive, and unreasonable laws that bear no rational relationship to the state’s goal of protecting residents. (Taylor, 60 Cal. 4th 1019, 1042)
Subsequent to the Court’s decision, the County of Riverside as well as the Cities of Downey and El Monte have begun the repeal of their residency restrictions.
Lawsuit Filed against Grover Beach for City Ordinance – keyt
Grover Beach sued for sex offender restrictions – Santa Maria Times