By Mike Sprague
SANTA FE SPRINGS - The City Council Thursday voted 5-0 to repeal a 2010 law that doesn't allow registered sex offenders to come within 300 feet of day-care centers, libraries, schools and parks.
City Manager Thaddeus McCormack said the council didn’t have a choice after a state appellate court in January ruled that state law preempted a city of Irvine law prohibiting registered sex offenders from entering city parks without written permission from its police chief.
The state Supreme Court later declined to review the case.
In his opinion striking down the Irvine law, Justice Richard Aronson wrote, ”We conclude the state statutory scheme imposing restrictions on a sex offender’s daily life fully occupies the field and therefore preempts the city’s efforts to restrict sex offenders from visiting city parks and recreational facilities.”
Santa Fe Springs hasn't enforced its law for about a year while awaiting a decision from the court, McCormack said.
The city still has Jessica’s Law (Proposition 83), which was approved by California voters. The law bans registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any public or private school or park, McCormack said.
“It’s a bit regretful that we can’t add our own restrictions,” McCormack said.
“(But) “I think the health and safety of residents of Santa Fe Springs are still going to be maintained and protected,” he said. “It’s an area where the state had weighed in and we defer to the state.”
McCormack said the city was threatened with a lawsuit from California Reform Sex Offender Laws if it didn’t repeal its law.
Janice Bellucci, president of the group, praised the city for its action.
“We are very encouraged and commend the city for repealing the ordinance that violates both the state and federal constitutions,” Bellucci said.
Bellucci said ordinances like Irvine’s and Santa Fe Springs are unfair and don’t make people safer.
The laws restricting where sex offenders can go also give families a false sense of security, Bellucci said.
“Less than 2 percent (of registered sex offenders) will commit another sex crime, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,” she said. “(Sex) offenders are more likely to be a family member, a coach or a member of the clergy.”
Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper, whose city provides police services for Santa Fe Springs, said he understands the rationale for repealing the law and doesn't expect any problems because of the presence of Jessica’s Law.
He also couldn't remember anybody in past years being charged with a violation of the Santa Fe Springs law.