San Diego

Federal Lawsuit Challenges San Diego's Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

Plaintiffs of the lawsuit claim the exclusion zones imposed by the ordinance exceed the total land area of the City of San Diego.

A federal lawsuit was filed Monday saying San Diego's residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders are unconstitutional and in violation of state and federal laws.

The San Diego City Council voted 5-4 last week to keep the city's Child Protection Act despite the potential for a lawsuit. 

Under the ordinance, a registered sex offender convicted after April 13, 2008, is not allowed to live within 2,000 feet of a school, park, playground, library, day care, amusement center or arcade. 

The City Council was asked by San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott to rescind the ordinance saying it could lead to a lawsuit against the city. Elliott said 97 percent of registered sex offenders in the area are unable to find a place to live because of the ordinance's restrictions

Councilmembers rejected Elliott's proposal.

On Monday, a federal lawsuit was filed claiming, the San Diego Residency Restrictions are an arbitrary, politically motivated act imposed by a local government in response to popular sentiments."

The plaintiff, identified as "John Doe", and his attorneys claim that under the San Diego law, sex offenders are banned from living in 2,000-foot zones around more than 700 parks and schools and 400 facilities or businesses that cater to children.

"When all relevant properties are considered, the aggregate size of the exclusion zones imposed by the Ordinance exceeds the total land area of the City of San Diego by more than 50 percent," the claim states.

The City Attorney's Office spokesperson Gerry Braun said the ordinance was brought before the City Council on August 1 but defeated by the majority of the council with no votes from Councilmembers Chris Ward (District 3), Chris Cate (District 6), Lorie Zapf (District 2), David Alvarez (District 8) and Georgette Gomez (District 9). 

Elliott told the council at least 40 municipalities have been sued by similar ordinances. 

Council Member Chris Cate responded and sent us this station, "As chair of the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, public safety has and always will be, paramount. I will not support a proposal that will put the safety of children and families in our neighborhoods in danger." 

Council Member Ward was traveling and unavailable for comment, according to spokesperson Lucas O'Connor. 

NBC 7 has reached out to the district members who voted to keep the restrictions in place for their reaction to the lawsuit. We'll post their responses when they are received. 

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