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Federal Lawsuit Challenges San Diego Sex Offender Residency Ordinance

A San Diego Police Department vehicle, December 11, 2010.

Photo by Nathan Rupert / Flickr

Above: A San Diego Police Department vehicle, December 11, 2010.

A federal lawsuit was filed Monday challenging a city ordinance restricting where registered sex offenders can live in San Diego, an attorney said.

The legal action comes a week after the San Diego City Council declined to rescind the ordinance.

"The San Diego city residency restrictions are unlawful because they are inconsistent with recent court decisions, including a landmark decision involving San Diego County," said plaintiffs' attorney Janice Bellucci.

In that case, the California Supreme Court found that 97 percent of available rental housing in San Diego County was unavailable to sex offenders, Bellucci said.

The newly filed lawsuit — which identifies the plaintiffs only as John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2 — is the 26th in which residency restrictions have been challenged in the state of California, according to Bellucci.

The lawsuit alleges the city ordinance is an "arbitrary, politically motivated act imposed by a local government in response to popular sentiments, based upon misinformation, which seeks retribution against plaintiffs and other registrants who constitute a socially outcast minority."

Gerry Braun, a spokesman for the San Diego City Attorney's Office, said he could not comment on the lawsuit until he had more information.

The city of San Diego measure prohibits registered sex offenders convicted after April 13, 2008, from residing within 2,000 feet of an amusement center, arcade, child day care facility, library, playground, park or school.

On Aug. 1, City Attorney Mara Elliott told council members that the city's Child Protection Act hasn't been enforced since 2009, "because there are substantial concerns over the legality of the ordinance."

Numerous cities around the state have rescinded their restrictions on sex offender housing and at least 40 municipalities have been sued, Elliott said.

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