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San Diego Supervisors Consider Idea To Regulate Free Speech Activities

Photo caption:

Photo by Megan Burks

People cool off at Waterfront Park in front of the San Diego County administration building, March 16, 2015.

Large groups conducting political activities at the Waterfront Park outside the County Administration Center could be relegated to designated free speech zones under a proposal to be considered next week by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

A report by county staff said that since the Waterfront Park opened last year, it has become a popular venue for people who wish to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech. They gravitate to the busier sections of the park, like recreational areas and walkways, the report said.

Groups of 200 people or more involved in free speech activities would be required to obtain a First Amendment Activity Permit and conduct their event in one of several designated park zones that would not interfere with government operations, according to the proposal.

If such a group does not acquire a permit ahead of time, they'll be offered a chance to relocate to a free speech zone. If none is available, they'll have to leave to park, according to the report.

"To ensure the continued safe and compatible use of the park and County Administration Center by all users, it is important to achieve a balance of the recreation/civic use of the Waterfront Park and the ongoing business use of the County Administration Center and free speech activities," staff wrote in the report.

Groups of under 200 people won't require a permit unless they bring tables, chairs, amplified sound equipment, booths, staging or other equipment, according to the proposal.

Staff said individuals and groups have exercised their First Amendment rights as public speakers and via artistic performances, musical performances and distribution of handouts, pamphlets and other forms of written communication.

The proposal also includes amendments that would apply to all county parks and involve commercial photography, noise levels and a ban on posting materials on park property.

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