At the Santa Clarita City Council meeting coming up on May 14, the City Council will consider an urgency ordinance to repeal Chapter 11.74 of the Santa Clarita Municipal Code relating to sex offender residency restrictions.
In November 2006, Proposition 82 (“Jessica’s Law”) was passed by California voters. Jessica’s Law prohibited registered sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a public or private school or park where children regularly gather. Additionally, it authorized local cities to enact ordinances that further restrict the residency of any registered sex offender.
Based on that authority, the City of Santa Clarita (in similar fashion to other California cities) adopted an ordinance (Municipal Code Chapter 11.74) which prohibited any registered sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a school, park, library or child care center. The City’s ordinance also restricted sex offenders from living with each other in the same residence, or unit of a multi-unit building.
Recent case law has found sex offender residency restrictions are unconstitutional for two reasons.
– First, the California Supreme Court found the restrictions to be unconstitutional because they were too restrictive in terms of where the sex offenders could live, and thus violated the basic constitutional liberty rights of the sex offenders. (Note that the City of Santa Clarita’s current ordinance is even more restrictive than the laws that the California Supreme Court found to be too restrictive.)
– Second, the California Supreme Court found that the effect of the residency restrictions was actually the opposite of its intent. Referencing a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation report, the Court found residency restrictions increased homelessness among sex offender parolees, putting the public at risk because the offenders are more unstable and more difficult to supervise. The residency restrictions, “hampered efforts to monitor, supervise, and rehabilitate such parolees in the interests of public safety, and as such, bears no rational relationship to advancing the state’s legitimate goal of protecting children from sexual predators.”
Another report issued by the California Sex Offender Management Board, also concludes that the evidence suggests that residency restrictions have the unintended consequences of increasing homelessness among registered sex offenders, thereby actually threatening public safety. The report similarly found that convicted sex offenders who are homeless are not only more difficult to supervise than those who have established residences, they are also more likely to re-offend and less likely to receive critical rehabilitative services.
In March 2019, the city of Santa Clarita was served with a lawsuit, challenging the City’s residency restrictions for sex offenders based on the same issues raised in the California Supreme Court case. In addition, based upon case law, the California Department of Corrections and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are no longer enforcing the residency restriction limitations of Jessica’s Law for registered sex offenders.
In light of the California Supreme Court’s determination that restrictions similar to Santa Clarita’s are unconstitutional, the pending lawsuit, and the fact that the residency restrictions are not being enforced by either the California Department of Corrections or the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, City staff is recommending that the City Council repeal its sex offender residency restrictions.
The Department of Corrections will still enforce restrictions on a case by case basis for certain categories of sexual predators. In addition, the California’s Sex Offender Registration Act, also known as Megan’s Law, is still in effect. This requires anyone who lives in California after being convicted of a sex crime to register with the police of the city or county where they live.