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Grover Beach to loosen sex offender ordinance

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Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals neatly summed up the attitude of City Council members as they move toward relaxing the city’s residency requirements for convicted sex offenders.

“It’s not something we are thrilled with doing,” he said. “But it is bringing us into compliance with state law.”

Shoals and the members of the council voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance that would repeal the city’s residency requirements for sex offenders at a Sept. 9 meeting. The city restricts offenders convicted of sexual crimes against victims 18 and under from living within 2,000 feet of certain restricted locations, such as schools, parks, and day-care facilities. In June, Grover Beach resident and convicted sex offender Frank Lindsay sued the city over those requirements. 

Lindsay, who was convicted of lewd acts involving a minor in 1979, was looking to move from his home to another residence within the city after he was attacked and beaten in his current home by a stranger in 2011. But Lindsay claimed that the city’s residency requirements were so restrictive that finding a new home in Grover Beach was impossible. According to the lawsuit, less than 1 percent of the city is available to house registered sex offenders under the current restrictions, amounting to an unconstitutional “banishment” from Grover Beach.

The eventual repeal of the city’s residency requirements will settle the lawsuit between Grover Beach and Lindsay, according to City Attorney David Hale.

Lindsay’s lawsuit was filed on the heels of a recent California Supreme Court decision that shot down similar residency restrictions in San Diego. Since that ruling, Riverside County and the cities of Downey and El Monte have begun the repeal of their residency restrictions.

“This decision is important because it recognizes that residency restrictions do not increase public safety, but instead decrease it,” Janice Bellucci, Lindsay’s attorney, said in a press release.  

While the city will likely nix its own residency requirements, sex offenders in Grover Beach still have to comply with state residency regulations. Also known as “Jessica’s Law,” the state prohibits serious sex offenders designated as high risk from living within half a mile of schools or other places where children gather. However, this only applies if the victim was younger than 14.

At the meeting, Shoals and Grover Beach Police Chief John Peters reassured residents that the GBPD would make sure the city’s sex offenders remained in compliance with the state’s residency requirements. At the meeting, Peters said 18 sex offenders currently resided in the city. Despite those reassurances, resident Sharon Brown remained concerned.

“I’m distressed to hear that we’re essentially ignoring public safety, perhaps,” she said. 

The repeal is slated to come back before the City Council for a second reading at their next regular meeting.

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