City’s ban is ‘unconstitutional’

The City of Agoura Hills repealed its ordinance prohibiting day laborers from soliciting work in the public right of way on the heals of a federal ruling that struck down a similar law in Redondo Beach last year.

In September 2011, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Redondo Beach ordinance preventing day laborers from gathering on street corners in search of work was unconstitutional.

According to the court, the Redondo Beach law regulated “significantly more speech than is necessary” to achieve the city’s goal of improving traffic flow and safety. Among other things, the ordinance was too broad and could also apply to food vendors, charity car washes, children selling lemonade on sidewalks and and Girl Scouts selling cookies.

Agoura Hills is one of many cities throughout California with similar regulations.

“This ordinance is unconstitutional and we need to remove it from the books,” said Candice Lee, assistant city attorney for Agoura Hills, at a meeting on May 23.

In 1991, Agoura Hills passed an ordinance prohibiting day laborers from soliciting work, business or monetary contribu- tions from any person traveling in a vehicle on local roadways. The law also prohibited vehicle occupants from soliciting employment or business in exchange for money or goods from a person who is within the public right of way.

When the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a civil rights organization, challenged the ordinance in state court and lost, Agoura Hills stepped up its laborer citations and forced a decline in the number of men seeking work on the streets.

But when a federal court declared a similar Los Angeles ordinance unconstitutional in 2000, the Agoura Hills law lost its clout and the day workers returned. The sheriff’s department cut back on the number of Agoura citations.

But because the Agoura Hills ordinance still contained provisions similar to those in the Redondo Beach law, the Agoura City Council voted last week to repeal its ordinance to avoid potential lawsuits.

The repeal will not eliminate other laws that affect day laborers, however. Municipal Code Section 3210, which prohibits solicitation in unauthorized locations within commercial parking areas, remains intact.

Agoura Hills Councilmember Harry Schwarz said city officials will still consider updating the municipal code to address ongoing concerns about the public health and safety associated with day laborers.

“I don’t think the city has anything against day laborers or people who hire them. We’re not trying to stop them from doing their work. But health and safety concerns must be addressed. There is a certain amount of liability that goes with laborers being on the side of the road and impeding traffic,” he said.

In 2006, the Agoura day laborers began organizing their ranks boosted their requested fee to $15 an hour.

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