The Coast News Group

Encinitas to settle ACLU lawsuit

ENCINITAS — The city of Encinitas has entered into settlement negotiations with the ACLU over its lawsuit against the city over its campaign sign regulations.

The City Council last week emerged from a closed session and said it had authorized the city’s legal counsel to take action. Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear, in her weekly newsletter to supporters, added that the authorization was given to work on a settlement.

“On one First Amendment litigation issue, we’ve authorized settlement after the ACLU sued us over our sign regulations,” she said.

The announcement comes after the council in August authorized the city attorney to defend the case.

The ACLU filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Encinitas resident Peter Stern on July 30, arguing that the city’s ordinance infringes on the constitutional right of free speech. The suit comes nearly a year after it formally demanded the city change the campaign sign ordinance.

The Encinitas City Council emerged from its closed session on Aug. 26 and announced it had empowered City Attorney Glenn Sabine to defend the city against the lawsuit.

Encinitas officials changed the sign policy to specifically avoid the type of accusation being levied by the ACLU. The City Council, in March 2014, amended its policy 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.

The ACLU, in a recent news release, said that the restrictions still limited a homeowner’s constitutional right to unlimited political speech.