By Mike Hodgson
Sex offenders who committed crimes against children will have a hard time finding a place to live in Grover Beach if the City Council gives final approval to an ordinance amendment increasing the size of protected areas.
The council unanimously approved the revisions on a first reading Monday. The amendment must come back for a final vote, likely at the next meeting March 17, before it can be enforced.
Currently, child sex offenders are prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of the city’s 13 designated parks, schools and day care center.
The revised ordinance introduced this week would increase the prohibition zones to 2,000 feet.
Those overlapping zones will cover almost the entire city except three small pockets at the far southern, northeastern and northern ends.
One pocket consists of mostly agricultural and industrial land east of South Fourth Street and south of Highland Way to the city limits.
Another pocket is made up of mostly vacant land south of El Camino Real, north of Atlantic City Avenue and east from the Laguna Court dead end across North Oak Park Boulevard to the city limits.
The third and smallest pocket is a triangular residential area near Estuary Way and North Second Street.
Police Chief Jim Copsey said when the city first adopted the ordinance in 2007, questions were swirling around the state’s recently passed Megan’s Law, which established a 2,000-foot prohibition zone around day care centers, schools and parks.
So the city chose to be less restrictive, adopting a 1,000-foot zone, until the validity of the state law had been affirmed.
Copsey said the amended ordinance will bring the city’s zones into line with the state zones but will have more teeth, because there are no penalties for violating the state law.
As a result, the state law is rarely enforced, Copsey said. But the city’s ordinance does provide penalties and therefore can be enforced.
Copsey said the ordinance still will not apply to sex offenders who were living in the prohibition zones prior to the 2007 effective date of the initial ordinance.
He also noted that while the ordinance will prevent sex offenders from living near parks, it can’t prevent them from visiting parks.
“Keep in mind, too, that our ordinance still only affects those sex offenders that have committed crimes against children, those children under 18 years of age,” he said.
The amendment also adds a provision requiring child sex offenders to obtain written permission before entering a school.
“That’s currently state law, but there are no actual penalties for that,” he said. “So if we have that in an ordinance, we can directly deal with that if there’s a violation ... where somebody shows up at a school and they’re not preauthorized, if you might say.”
Until now, the ordinance has come back to the City Council each year for review to see if any areas needed to be added or revised.
Copsey said the amended ordinance will only come back to the council if a new park is added, which isn’t likely, or there is a change in state sex offender laws.
The city’s 13 areas surrounded by prohibition zones include Grover Heights Elementary School, Grover Heights Park, Ramona Garden Park, Grover Beach Elementary School and Dandy Lion Day Care..
The rest of the list includes Mentone Basin Park, 16th Street Park, Fairgrove Elementary School, South County Skate Park, Costa Bella Park, Golden West Park and Pismo State Beach.