The Coast News Group

Retired sheriff’s deputies to assist in downtown Encinitas

ENCINITAS — When the city starts enforcing its stiffer rules on alcohol-serving establishments this month, two retired deputies will be leading the way, thanks to a recent pilot project between the city and the Sheriff’s Department.

The City Council unanimously approved the “960 Rehire” agreement, which will authorize the Sheriff’s Department to hire the retired deputies, who will perform nighttime inspections, document compliance and investigate complaints associated with the city’s deemed approved ordinance, which takes effect Sept. 9.

The program’s name refers to the 960 hours the retired deputies can work a year, the maximum the state allows retirees to work. In Encinitas’ case, the contract is prorated to reflect the start date, Oct. 1. Each deputy will work 720 hours and be paid $28,800.

“For a council member who has been pushing for the hiring of additional law enforcement, I think we’ve come a long way,” Councilman Mark Muir said. “I want to thank staff and the Sheriff’s Department for coming up with a creative pilot project.”

Acting City Planner Roy Sapa’u said the retired deputies are better suited to handle the issues in downtown’s rowdy nightlife scene than the city’s code enforcement because they are trained, sworn officers who carry guns.

And it’s cheaper, too: the 960 deputies cost $38,400 for a full year, compared to $40,000 for a half-time code enforcement officer.

Deemed approved ordinances give cities more latitude in enforcing nuisance rules and revoking business licenses on establishments that are subject to less restrictions due to their grandfathered status.

In the case of Encinitas, the ordinance would target all alcohol-serving establishments that are open after 10 p.m., or 41 of the city’s 131 alcohol-serving establishments, making them subject to tougher noise, trash and other nuisance standards.

Establishments that violate the new rules would be subjected to a warning at first, but subsequent violations would result in fines of $500 and $1,000 and an administrative hearing after a second offense to determine if further action — or revocation — is necessary.

The council unanimously approved introducing the so-called “deemed approved” ordinance at the June 28 council meeting.

Previously the council voted against taking the step in 2014, opting for a proactive enforcement approach.

But the council said at its meeting that the measures weren’t enough to combat the mounting issues of noise, disorderly behavior and public nuisance associated with what some local residents have called an “out of control” nightlife scene in Encinitas.