A coalition of prominent civil rights, housing, and domestic violence groups is urging the San Jacinto City Council to reject a proposed nuisance abatement ordinance that would have a devastating effect on some of the city’s neediest residents. The ACLU of Southern California, National Housing Law Project, Western Center on Law & Poverty, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, and Alternatives to Domestic Violence have sent the city council a letter of opposition as the council prepares to vote on the law at its Tuesday, August 21 meeting.
“This is an ill-conceived law that will have an extremely harmful effect on law enforcement and the very people it’s meant to serve,” said Clarissa Woo, director of policy advocacy at the ACLU of Southern California. “The proposed ordinance explicitly says that ‘only a small percentage’ of rental owners allow their properties to be used for illegal activities -- so why so broad a law? We urge the city council to use a more focused approach and not burden city staff, police and residents who need their help.”
The nuisance abatement ordinance would expose tenants or owners of single- or multiple-unit dwellings to fines and other penalties after calling police more than five times in any 12-month period. In practice, though, the ordinance as it now stands would penalize people simply for calling the police. That would be especially harmful, for example, to victims of domestic violence, who often log repeated calls to law enforcement agencies because of their abuser’s continued behavior. The groups say the law quite conceivably would force victims to choose between requesting police assistance or facing eviction and homelessness. It would also disproportionately harm people with mental health disabilities, many of whom have repeated contact with law enforcement. And because the ordinance as it now stands defines both a single-family dwelling and an apartment complex as a single property, it would punish innocent apartment dwellers who call police once if four calls had already been logged at the complex as a whole.
“Alternatives to Domestic Violence would ask the council members to give additional consideration to the unintended consequences of this ordinance, and its impact on the lives of domestic violence victims and their children,” said Eliza Daniely-Woolfolk, chief executive officer of Alternatives to Domestic Violence.
The San Jacinto City Council is expected to take up the ordinance at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 21, at 625 S. Pico Ave. in San Jacinto.