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Encinitas settles ACLU campaign suit

ENCINITAS — Encinitas will change its campaign sign regulations to allow an unlimited amount of political signs at any time of the year as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union, according to a city staff report.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU last year on behalf of Encinitas resident Peter Stern, who said that the city’s regulations, which it had recently adopted, infringed on his constitutional rights to free speech.

Encinitas officials changed the sign policy to specifically avoid lawsuits. The City Council, in March 2014, amended its rules regarding signs to allow homeowners to have up to two signs on their properties prior to the election season. Previously, the city’s rules did not allow for any signs to be erected 30 days prior to and three days after an election.

The ACLU wrote the city in September 2014 demanding it be changed to allow people to post an unlimited amount of signs, saying that anything less would infringe upon a person’s constitutional right to free speech.

On Wednesday, the council will vote on introducing an ordinance that will lift all restrictions as to the time and amount of campaign signs a consenting property owner can have on their property.

As part of the settlement, the city will pay the ACLU’s $59,000 legal tab.