30 June 2008
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This month, however, found Long Beach caught in the quagmire of a sex offender housing scandal. Probably the first case of many to come, a landlord evicted (some legally, some evictions questionable) an entire building (14) of tenants only to replace the tenancies with recently paroled registered sex offenders. It seems that 290 offenders (sex offenders) were given government issued housing vouchers.
What is a city to do? Prosecute the owner? Unfortunately, there is no legal guidance on this. What are neighboring apartment owners to do? How can they protect their tenants from wayward 290 offenders?
We worked tirelessly with the Councilmembers and the City Attorney’s office to create a new ordinance which will hopefully protect the neighborhood, the tenants and the value of the buildings. The new ordinance adds beaches to the places where children congregate (as per Jessica’s Law making safe zones 2,000 feet from schools, parks and libraries). In Long Beach, this will make a big impact on available sex offender living sites.
The ordinance limits sex offenders to one per residential building – be it an apartment complex, house or duplex – and creates “residential exclusion zones” in a 2,000-foot radius around child care centers, parks and schools where sex offenders aren’t allowed to live. The law also says property owners or their agents may not knowingly rent to more than one sex offender, and no more than one sex offender can stay in a single room at a hotel, motel or inn, among other restrictions.
The amended version approved by City Council also includes new rules that no more than one sex offender may stay in a hotel, motel or inn, even in separate rooms, and that the operators of these businesses may not knowingly rent to more than one sex offender at a time. The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been known to place parolees in hotel or motel rooms.
The Long Beach ordinance builds on existing state laws that prevent convicted sex offenders released from prison since November 2006 from living closer than 2,000 feet from K-12 schools or parks. Registered sex offenders on parole also aren’t allowed to live together in a single-family dwelling unless they are legally related by blood, marriage or adoption. However, that will now apply to multifamily buildings.
Our advocate Ron Kingston has addressed some areas of enforcement questioned by the City Prosecutor.
We applaud the City for taking the lead in a difficult situation. AACSC hopes to take this ordinance to other cities as a way to provide a safe harbor for landlords while allowing landlords to follow Megan’s Law requirements.